This is another Father’s Day, one of many, I have spent in my life time giving thought to why no man has ever stepped-up to acknowledge and speak the words. “Hello son, I’m your Dad.”
I was raised by my loving sweet mother who passed when I was 18. I had a so called step-father who came home when he wanted to after months and years of long absences. Then when he got the urge to travel or found a new girlfriend, he’d take off and then return when things, again and again, turned sour in those other relationships. Each time he returned home, I hated it.
Life for my brothers and sisters only became a nightmare. He was a nasty drunk and an excessive smoker. I remember the days when he would send my brothers and sisters and myself off to the local store to get him a pack of “Lucky Strikes, and if they didn’t have them, a pack of Camel’s will do”.
In some ways his irresponsible behavior made me a better and stronger person as I look back. It was because of him and his absences that I begun to work at the age of 8 or 9 years old. I began shoveling sidewalks in the projects where we lived in the winter and raking leaves in the summer. These were my consistent jobs throughout the years to make money to give to my mother whose only true income was the welfare check we received at the beginning of the month and a few dollars she could make from cleaning others homes.
I guess I could say this was the beginning of my work ethics. In between the shoveling and the raking, weather permitting, I’d go out after school and shine shoes in the local bars and clubs. Having to put up with the good, the bad, the sober and the drunk customers, those that paid and tipped well, and those that were drunk and bitter enough to take the shine and then not want to pay the 25 cents it cost.
I had established a shoe shine route that took me out of the projects up 6th St. to Bloomfield Ave and down Bloomfield Ave., Newark, NJ, and ended before I reached Montclair, NJ, an upper class community. I had to pass Dickie Dee’s Pizza on my route each time leaving me with a strong desire for the Buffdog.
I resisted the Buffdog each time knowing my money had a greater purpose. On a good day, I could complete the route in about four hours getting me back home about 8:00 pm.
Almost all the money I made, and some days back in the early 60’s, it was about $30.00, would be turned over to mom to help put food on the table and buy things that were necessary to keep the house going. Yes, I’d say that is the time in my life why and how I got my work ethics. It certainly was not from a non-role-modeling father!
Heck, from time to time as I got a little older, about ten or eleven, I even “ran the number” for some of the local mobsters that lived in the area which involved collecting the numbers and delivering the payoff when necessary.
For those of you who have an active father in your life, my hat’s off to you! For those who don’t, it is not the determining factor as how you’re going to turn out in life.
Live your life with the things my mother taught me…respect, honesty, integrity and have compassion for others.
Find a job in life you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing it, then it won’t become work. May you find many joys in the years ahead of you. Most of all show your children the love and attention they deserve.
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