Thursday, June 13, 2013

Memories of My Dad


Adapted from a 2012 Dunwoody Crier Column
 Because my husband and I only have four-legged kids and both of our fathers have long since passed away, Father’s Day is typically celebrated with just a card from our kids, Tinker, Banjo and Puddin’. This year, though, I’m celebrating by taking a trip down memory lane in honor of my Dad, who passed away the Monday after Father’s Day 30 years ago, when he was only 51.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem that long ago, perhaps because I still think of him so often.
It’s easy to see the traits we three girls inherited from our Dad.  In addition to the olive complexion we sisters share and the dimple in my chin, I’m sure we also got our love of reading from Daddy.  He was a voracious reader, so much so that when he was without a book, he’d pick up our World Book Encyclopedia to read. That’s likely why, to this day, we never visit a doctor’s office or take a trip without books in tow, and we end each day reading in bed before turning out the lights. Daddy would have been like a kid in a candy store at the library sales I frequent. 
Like him, we are all fairly adept at writing.  When I was teaching high school, he began writing a novel, in the style of Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel, a book he particularly enjoyed.  The story began in Greece and moved to New York City.  I still have those handwritten pages and the edits made by the Creative Writing teacher at the high school. Naturally, I thought of Daddy when my first newspaper column was published, and I wished he were here to read it.   I think he’d enjoy my blog too.
 We girls enjoyed his stories of growing up in Brooklyn as the child of Greek immigrants, going to Greek school and constantly getting in trouble, speaking English, Greek and Italian as a matter of course, playing handball, going to Brooklyn College, and skipping class to hang out at the pool hall. Over his checkered career, he managed bowling allies and restaurants, owned billiard parlors, managed the old American Legion Post #1 in Atlanta and even hosted a short-lived TV talk show.
 I guess the common theme was entertainment.  He leased a restaurant at Peachtree DeKalb Airport at one point and had a customer who flew in weekly for the pork chop special.  Daddy loved cooking and entertaining, though we girls hated cleaning up the mess he made.  Somehow, we lost his Mother’s Greek cookbook, but I still cook Greek dishes on occasion and am required by my friends to make Greek salads whenever we get together. I’d say we all got our love of cooking from Daddy as well.  Mother put tasty, home cooked food on the table every night, but it was Daddy who loved throwing meals together with whatever happened to be on hand.
His last Father’s Day, the two of us had one of those philosophical discussions about life’s twists and turns and the choices and adjustments we make along the way. We spoke of my new career in corporate America and me finding my way.  I will always cherish that conversation, as he passed away suddenly the next day. I wish he could have been with us longer, to tell his stories, cook with us and laugh with us, meet our husbands and see how we all turned out.   I think he’d be proud.