On Valentines Day, from the time I was about five, my dad always brought me a mini box of candy in a heart shaped box, which was decorated with lace and ribbons. He was working in New York at the time. So he would travel by bus, or maybe car and I would sit in my room just waiting for him to walk through the door. At first he would pretend that he had forgotten it was Valentines Day. Then he would hide it behind his back and do a little dance. But eventually, he would reveal what I thought, was the most gorgeous gift anyone could possibly receive.
In the summer my grandparents rented a small bungalow on Long Beach, in NY. My mother and I would stay there all week, and my dad would come on weekends. It was ok during the week because my grandfather was a pro at spoiling his "little jewels." On the weekends, when my dad was there, it was like camp. We would dig all the way to China for crabs, ( that how deep the holes were), swim, and have races along the shore. Just me and Milty, unless a cousin or two appeared with their mothers for some R and R. My brother was not yet part of the picture, and my father was still walking, running, dancing, and vital.
When I was six, when my brother Jeff was born, I was ripped away from my twin cousin Stevie, (we had lived together in the same house from the time we were born). And my dad was diagnosed with MS. My brother doesn't remember Milty walking without assistance. But Stevie and I watched him go from one cane to two canes, to a walker, to a wheelchair. No one ever thought of him as sick. He just couldn't walk. But he never lost his spirit, or his sense of humor.
My parents spent a great deal of time traveling and looking for a cure. And lucky for us, we had enough other mothers to make it easier to be without them. We did not have other fathers. There was only one to fill the void, Uncle Phil. On weekends he would take us horseback riding, to museums (he was a talented artist), out for lunch, to the movies, and anywhere we wanted to go. We missed the active dad we loved, but because we had Uncle Phil, we were never lonely.
On fathers day, especially since they are both gone, I miss them, to the moon and back. I think about all the good times, and I think about the painful episodes, like when I was in college protesting the war and I called Uncle Phil an idiot because he thought the war was honorable. Or when I said vile things to my mother and, because my father couldn't really move, I had to stand in front of him so he could spank me.
Milty and Phil. They loved us despite the fact that we were always making mischief, and we knew were connected by a friendship so deep that it couldn't be explained with words. Being a parent is always complicated. Milty and Phil made it look easy at a time that was very difficult. And I miss having them both in my life. I am comforted by the fact that they are together, eating hard salami, drinking some good Scotch, Milty smoking his pipe, and both of them thinking, “those are our kids -- where did we go wrong?” We’re just Sayin’.. Iris