Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rant #627: My Dad's Day

I am happy to announce that today is my father's birthday.

He turns 80 today.

I can't tell you how much I look up to my father as the patriarch of my small but vibrant family.

He has truly done it all in his 80 years, and still has lots to do in the future.

He grew up on New York's Lower East Side, the first child of my grandparents. They had come to the United States from Europe and my dad was the first of four children they would have.

My father was very smart, and also an excellent athlete. He skipped a grade or two, played basketball in school, but education was almost secondary to work.

My grandfather owned a butcher shop on Delancey Street, and my father worked there at a very young age, and continued to work there as an adult.

He went into the Marines, and was a cook. After his tour of duty ended--he was supposed to go to Korea but never went due to a mixup of orders--he returned to the butcher shop.

By that time, the family had moved to Queens. Subsequently, my father met my mother, and the rest is history.

I was their first born, and I think since the moment I was born, I looked up to my father as my ideal.

He was a hard worker, supported my family as best he could, and he took a chance in life--a major chance--and it paid off handsomely.

He had driven a cab on occasion even while a butcher, but at the prodding of a friend, he went into it full time.

My grandfather's store was about to close, due to a changing neighborhood and the city's plan to build a roadway right through the store on Delancey Street, a plan that never came to pass.

But he left the butcher business to drive a New York City medallion cab full time, and he still does--at 80 years old.

In fact, today, right as I type this, he is driving a cab, picking up passengers and taking them wherever they want to go.

At 80 years old.

No, he doesn't own his own cab anymore, and works for a fleet.

No, he doesn't work five or six days a week anymore, just three.

But he works, he is strong, and he could go on like this for many years to come.

He loves his family, his days off, his TV, and his work.

He and my mother will be married 56 years in January, and they might very well be married 56 more years for all I know.

My parents are grandparents to five kids, one girl and four boys. They love their grandchildren dearly, and are very involved in their lives.

They know my father as "Zaydy," a Yiddish term of endearment meaning grandfather. My father wanted to be known that way to honor his own grandfather, who spoke very little English but was a highly intelligent man, a man of dignity.

As for me, I look up to my father as someone I have always aspired to be. Sure, we have had arguments and haven't seen eye to eye on everything, but I believe if I could be like him, I will be a better person.

I have tried to pass on these attributes to my own kids, with varying degrees of success.

They are still young; I don't know if I have been successful, and won't know for years to come.

Anyway, here's to my dad, one of the most important people in my life.

Another 80 years of vim, vigor, spit and blood, sweat and tears.

That is how he would want it to be anyway.

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