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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A lost story.....

one I'll never forget...

We tend to forget that our parents, our aunts and uncles and our grandparents and even our ancestors once felt the very same things we have felt. That stir of excitement over a new idea. That brightness of hope. That tingle of a first kiss. That feeling of love. Of lust. That joy of friendship. That surge of pride and emotion at the sight of something spectacular.
As we bumble through our days, we lose sight of the fact that our father's heart was once young and his hopes were once high. That our mother had other loves, had her share of broken hearts and broken dreams and didn't always do the right thing. That they, as 2 people, shared more than raising children and having dinner at the end of the day. They led lives that were filled with things that had nothing to do with family or jobs or children or obligations. And, we often don't stop to think that they have many more stories to their lives than the ones they've shared a million times over. There's always a new one to remind us that yes, they were once like me.
The other night, my father and I were figuring out the coverage time for all of the inaugural events so that he would be able to watch all of it. He thought we might have to set up to tape some of it. But, I was adamant--he needed to watch it live. To soften my stern directive, I explained how important it was that all of us watch this historic event--him, Vince, Toni, me--everyone. I went into my little speech about watching history and how important this particular inaugural day was. "I've watched history," he told me with a laugh. "Yes, I know, but this something very different," I pointed out. "I've seen presidents before. I've seen inaugurations before. Don't forget, I guarded Roosevelt. I shook his hand." he went on...telling me a piece of information I've heard a thousand times over the years. "Yes, I know. But this is the first black president and it's happening in your time.He is your president!" I told him...trying to impress upon him that he could skip The Young and The Restless just this one time. "Well, I have nowhere else to go! If I have to watch it and since I can't go there, I guess I'll watch it all day on TV," he relented. "You would not want to go there! That's for sure! It's cold and there's so many people!" I told him. As if there was any remote chance he would have ever given thought to going.... "I would have went for Kennedy," he said wistfully. "But, it was snowing something fierce. Uncle Pat and Sarah went. Not me. I had you girls and my job and your mom wouldn't hear of it," he told me. I had never heard this before.
At that time, my uncle (my dad's brother) and his then girlfriend--Sarah Kirk--were major Democratic politicos in Pittsburgh. They ran with all the local politicians--calling them all by their first names and living in the world of old-world-politics. They talked politics--Democratic politics--morning, noon and night. When they came over, when they called, when you ran into them, at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, at Easter--it was all Democrat, all the time. Even as a little girl, I would hear the grand stories of their days with Davey Lawrence and Joe Barr. They took me to visit Davey's burial place at Calvary. They would say things like "you know, when we were at the Hilton bar with Davey...", "Hey, I'll give Judge Alpern a call about that," and "Pete and Eugene had a fight the other day and I told them to cool it. So, we went for a drink..." That's the way it would go. And, they were staunch Irish Catholics. They never missed mass on Sunday morning no matter how many whiskies they had with the Priest or the Bishop the night before. So, it was no wonder that Uncle Pat and Sarah would go to see Kennedy inaugurated. I'm sure they considered him one of their own. And, I am positive they felt they had a hand in getting him elected. He was their boy. They had portraits of him in their Shadyside apartment on Walnut Street. And, they affectionately called him Jack.
But, my father--that wasn't his world. He was not a man to go to inaugurations and talk politics. He was the man who went to work at his administrative job for 40+ years and drowned himself in booze after losing his wife of only 15 years and being left with three little girls to raise. He was not a jet setter. He was not like his brother. He would no sooner go to Washington PA let alone Washington DC. So, this idea that he even would have given even a remote thought to going to see Kennedy inaugurated was almost too much to believe.
"They made it through the snow. It took them 12 hours to get there," he told me. "They couldn't get close to anything because they got there so late. They were promised good seats too," he went on to tell the story. "So, they sat in a bar and watched it on TV. Your mom said they saw the same thing as her. But I didn't see it. I was at work," he continued. "You couldn't tape it back then and they didn't replay it over and over again. So I didn't see it all. Just some pictures and some films." he explained. As he was telling me, I was imagining my uncle and Sarah in the bar--smoking their cigarettes, drinking their whiskey and telling everyone about their connections back in Pittsburgh and about their good seats that they could have had. "Did they ever get to any of the parties?" I asked my father. "I don't know. They probably got too drunk to leave the bar," he half-laughed. "It's too bad you couldn't go," I sympathized. "I wouldn't have had the money to sit in that bar all day," he told me. "And, they had to stay for a few days because of the weather and they were too drunk to drive I guess. I couldn't have afforded that. I had a family." he said matter-of-factly. "I never heard this story..." I told him. "Well, we can't ask Patsy to tell us now, " he said with a bit of sadness...referring to his brother's dementia without saying it. "Yeah, and if he drank that much, he wouldn't have remembered it anyway," I said, trying to lighten it up a bit since my father has a very hard time dealing with his brother's disease. "The story is lost, I guess, " my father shrugged. "But I would have liked to see Kennedy. He was the good one." he quietly told me. "And I almost did. I could have seen Kennedy."

Yes, he saw Obama.

Tune in tomorrow when I tell you the story of my father, the snow storm and the pretzel's a 50 year old story. It's not lost.

Yes, it's all part of the celebration.....


Anonymous said...

ok, that was a wonderful story and I love hearing of the "old days" should write a book of your father's memories or at least write a journal for your family so they are not lost. How wonderful that you still have him around to hear this things and that there are still some "new" things you dont know about.
I love your father and I have never met him...just by your writing about him makes the rest of us love him. Your family stories are wonderful and I would love to hear more!!

Thanks for sharing!!
Jill from NY

Debbie said...

Well you have done it , reduced me to tears sitting at my desk at work. Maybe because I know all the people , or maybe because I have those 51-almost 52 year old menopause hormones , or should I say lack of hormones. Well said my friend.
Love, Debbie

Anonymous said...

Like Debbie (who I remember!), you have me reduced to tears at my desk! Your blog has changed my life, Judi. Just like you changed my life for so many years. I didn't miss it or think about any of it until I read these stories of yours. You were always a good writer (ALWAYS!) and now your gift is giving me tears instead of the A's I got when you wrote my papers. Who would have thunk it?
I just want to say it now because I never have told you how much you have meant to my life before and how much you mean now. Happy 50th my dear, sweet blue-eyed friend. I hope you are happy in your life. I love you. Thank you for this piece of you. Now I know how much I miss you.
Much love from an old friend

Kathy said...

That was a wonderful story. I could actually visualize your uncle and his girlfriend sitting in the bar watching the inauguration. How sad for your Dad to have to watch his brother disappear. You should write his memories down and yours too to pass down to your kids, so they won't be forgotten.