Dear Dad,

Happy 86th! Boy, that’s a lot of years. I still see you as 59.

I was reading an article in Friday’s paper and thought of you. It was a story on the fiftieth anniversary of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. Remember how you’d complain that Van Dyke was trying to steal Morey Amsterdam’s show?

Anyway, they quoted him as saying “The wonderful thing is we knew at the time it was special.”

I was trying to think (since then): which experiences have I had that I knew at thetime were special?

“Sol’s Boys,” for one. There wasn’t a moment, through years of wins and trophies, that I didn’t feel like a champion. (We all did). It wasn’t just the titles—it was more than that. There was a swagger, a glow about us that said “We’re it!” Cocky? Perhaps…but not conceited. We just played better in rags than all the other teams did in uniforms, and WE KNEW IT.

Looking back, I see why Wieder’d growl from time to time. It wasn’t that he feared a loss. No, he held this firm belief that with our talent and our mechanics, bad things should just never happen. Alan thought—and made us feel—-that ball diamonds were our sanctuary. He demanded purity in his play and ours and if, for example, someone (Godforbid) missed a cutoff man, his slam of the glove to the mound proclaimed “We’re BETTER than that!”  Once, actually, I remember he grooved a pitch—had just released it from his hand—and before it got to the batter he had already shouted “Oh F _ _ _!”  

Yeah, Sol’s was the right collection at the right time with the right karma. We knew we were special.

I had the same feeling a few years back on stage. “Laughter On The 23rd Floor” was set in the writers’ room of the old Sid Caesar show. Cast as young Mel Brooks, I spent eight weeks with some true characters. Even the rehearsals were fun—madcap clinics—and we knew early on something special was baking. The first play in oh so long where I actually urged friends attend, it really was that good. For two months I rushed to the theater (think: airport), then lingered over coffee as other actors drank, night after night, joke after joke. Indeed, when the final curtain fell, I knew well how unique the experience had been. We all, I suppose, sensed we might never pass that way again.

And then there’s us, Dad. Me and you. Special.

Don’t know when first I felt it. Perhaps the mid-60’s, when you lived out-of-town. I recall writing you, often, and your notes right back. To this day my closet’s cluttered with letters addressed to “Bruce and Hal” that begin “Dear Hal and Bruce”…on hotel stationery (Imperial 400), or the backs of sales reports (Academy Of Home Study, in green….Highlights For Children, in white)…

Or maybe it was the college years. One minute I was a freshman in East Lansing and you, a teacher near Detroit. Then, as quick as one might say “Did you really buy your tickets from Tody Smith?” there I was in Columbus, and there you were, transferred to central Ohio. It always felt right.

I knew it was special, Dad, when you lived on campus and it didn’t bother me. When my friends, selling for you, even agreed to get haircuts for Upper Arlington.

And I knew it was special when we’d play cards with Walt, and you’d weight the payoffs. (3 cents/point for you, 2 for Marc…1 for me). Or when you played too, with The Jersey Girl.

For that matter, I knew it was special when I called you from the army in Texas and told you my engagement was off. It was a Tuesday, Dad—April of ’72…and on Friday you showed up on my doorstep in San Antonio. Arm around me, you spent the weekend espousing words you’d preach a thousand times more in the course of my lifetime: “Some day, Little Boy, we’re going to look back at this and laugh.”

And, Dad, I remember so well those next few months. Harriet has shared that when The Jersey Girl and I parted, you acted like she’d broken up with you…that you couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want your son. But you know, Dad, in all the time, before, during and after those days, I never once heard you utter a negative word about her …me…anything. Indeed, phoning you, announcing our re-engagement, your response was immediate.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“We’re elated,” you averred, and then, to confirm your support: “And besides, we need her for the card game.”

It was amazing, Dad, how much you loved my friends. From Stuart and Bobby and Alan to Raisin and Mark, from Glassman and Fischer to the guys in Harold’s grade…to David, to the lodge brothers you knew to the one’s you met through me…from how you accepted every ounce of me: smiled when I smiled, hurt when I hurt, and cared when I cared…and …all of it, on a two-way street.

I knew in every conversation we had about everything nuance we shared, that not only did you love me unconditionally, but that you knew I LOVED YOU unconditionally. And I sensed, too, that you knew how special it was.

Ermine says it’s OK to think about the past but we shouldn’t stare at it. I buy that. This letter, though, is not about our past; it’s about us. There isn’t a day, even now, that I don’t sense you with me…that I don’t feel your presence.

A quarter century later, that’s pretty special.


2 Responses to “FROM ME TO YOU”

  1. alan wieder says:

    One of your sweetest posts — needless to say I love the Sol’s Boys stuff. Funny, now as low-thirty somethings, my kids talk about The Glare. Right now though I am seeing your dad — in the car, apartment, the diner on High Street.

  2. bob says:

    Reading this today for me is perfect since I plan on visiting my father’s grave this afternoon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Our South Euclid group had or have some very special dads. All very different and I truly believe other than Crazy Jack all very loving of their children.

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