Saturday, June 16, 2012

The dad days

This is my father. I don't know a lot about him, frankly. He was an orphan for a time, but the details on this are sparse and a bit murky. He was a cook in the army. I know this not because he told me exciting stories about his time in the war, but because his United States War Department cookbook is right here beside me.

My father has been gone since before I made it out of grade school. Between that and never becoming a dad myself (sorry, Otis, dogs don't actually count on these human holidays), Father's Day has been off of my radar for a very, very long time.

Then this old photograph turned up in the inbox the other day. It was sent to me by my brother Joe and it is the most perfect shot of our dad that I could imagine. He is standing behind the counter of our fountain service store in Brooklyn. It too shut down long ago, but the store is the archive of all the important memories of our father that we have. It is where he spent virtually every day after settling down to start a family. And so it is the one place where my brothers and I got to see him for extended periods. (The first exhilarating seconds that I pedaled a bicycle solo elapsed on the uneven sidewalk in front of the store, left to my own devices by dad's hand during a brief lull at the counter.)

By the look of things in this frame, it is summer. Dad is stationed at the Snow Cone machine, syrup bottles at the ready. To his left, the ice cream cone displays (two sizes of wafer, one sugar) are fully stocked for use. The sleeves of dad's always-white button-down shirt are elbow rolled for comfort.

Not visible in the picture, but surely present, are the wonderful people my mother relied upon to look after her husband should he falter. Somewhere in the store, I guarantee, is an aunt or an uncle, a niece or a nephew, a cousin perhaps, possibly a neighbor or a family friend who is prepared to step behind the counter and lend assistance if called upon.

These people may not be visible to you, I should say. Like dad, they are as clear as they can be to me, especially on a holiday such as this.

Happy Father's Day, everybody!


Fred said...

Great photo. There seems to be a day-date calendar hanging from a shelf. Can't make it out, however. I'm guessing 1959.

Mister Meatball said...

If the year ends in a "9" (I couldn't tell), it'd be '69, definitely. The "Miracle" would be in the works, and the year after that dad was gone.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful old photo, Mr. Meatball. My dad also was an Army cook and went into that profession after he left the Army. I lost my dad when I was a teenager...I miss him all the time.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Great, warm and thoughtful story. I can picture it all--but of course the exact faces of the peeps only you can see. :)

You are a terrific writer, Meatball. Maybe you should write a memoir.