“I had a hero for a father. Anyone, and fortunately there were so many, who knew him briefly or over long periods, felt that a bright and quickening impulse had come into their life. He had uncommon courage, unfailing humor, a penetrating, ever-curious intelligence, and over all, a matchless grace. I remember him with love and wonder.” *

It wasn’t that my father was always right. I knew better. It was that my father would never hurt me. It wasn’t that I’d accept his words at face value; it was that I’d accept his actions. He was, quite simply, my hero.

I never feared with him. Not really. For whatever reason…maybe it was the twinkle in his eye, perhaps his gentle con…but I always felt safe.

—-Like after supper in the 50’s. Beside me he paced, probably panting, as, sans training wheels I wobbled past the WInograd pricker bushes. “You’ll be fine,” he would urge, and I pedaled on.

—-Or at Little League: one night in particular.

“Don’t worry. He won’t hit you!”

Had the man not been watching? On the mound for the Orioles was Chuck Piccuta, an imposing twelve year-old. Pitches had been bouncing all over the place—some (I swear) cracking the dark green Negrelli backstop and a few even hitting my teammates. Once he spoke I stepped in.

—-Or perhaps the most memorable:

It was the 80’s. Overcome by fear I was in panic mode thinking I’d totally screwed something up. I wasn’t even drinking then, but nightly, restlessly I was playing the “What if?” game until finally, finally, I decided to share. When the pain gets great enough, we tend to do those things.

“Can you get out of the house?” he wondered by phone.
“I suppose.”
“Then come to Columbus. It’ll be good for you.”

‘Can’t recall what I told my wife, but I did hit the road. Truth be known, whatever issues I had with New Jersey, one thing she always got, always facilitated, was my sync with my father. It blends together, though. We may have gone together; I may have road solo. We had kids then—and I just don’t know…

What I do remember though, is the talk…with my father…at Fogels. There, at East Broad and James, in that poor excuse for a deli we sat—the two of us— over coffee.

“What if?” I was asking. “What if?”
At a two-top we spoke. (He’d moved two together to give himself room). But we were sitting alone and I picture it—that moment that will live in infamy—like it just went down.

“I promise you,” he told me warmly, in words that I’ll hear forever “No matter what happens, EVER, they won’t cut your balls off.”

He wasn’t laughing and he wasn’t crying. He was promising.

And within years my father was gone, but his promise wasn’t.

In the thirty five years god gifted me, my Dad made me laugh, smile, shine, and believe. And above all, he made me better.

  “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”    — Mitch Albom

*  Adapted from comments by Charlie Bartlett, a friend of JFK.

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