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A Father’s Day Story
6/16/2013 9:57:07 AM

The most important part of dad’s life was his family, his wife and his children. From my perspective he loved mom without reservation from the day they met until the day he died and he had no choice but to leave her behind. In the weeks before dad died he and I spent every Friday night together and literally talked all night long. He once told me he wasn’t afraid to die, he just hated that us kids wouldn’t have a father anymore, even though “us kids” were in our late 40s and early 50s.

I have a sister I’ve never met. Her name is Mary Theresa and she was the first born in our family. Mary Theresa died before she was 10 days old of a hole in her heart. If she was born today instead of 72 years ago, she no doubt would have survived after surgery. This photo is of dad and the second baby born to our family, my sister, Carol Ann. It’s so obvious how happy dad was to finally be a father.

It took mom awhile after dad died to start looking through his things. When she finally went through his wallet she found a tiny, yellow, well-folded piece of news print, Mary Theresa’s obit from the newspaper. Mom had no idea that dad had carried that little piece of news print with him for 56 years but when we thought about it we realized, knowing dad as we did, of course he would.

I know this may seem like a sad story, but I love it because it's a peek at the wonderful man dad was and how lucky I was that he was my father.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops … Love you.

Esther Williams and the Prospect Park Pool
6/7/2013 10:39:09 AM

When I was a kid growing up in Troy, NY, my older sister, two brothers, assorted friends and I would hike from our apartment in the Griswold Heights housing project to Prospect Park. Troy had almost two dozen neighborhood parks, but Prospect Park was unique because it was home to a public swimming pool. It was a huge pool with concrete steps leading to 3 feet of water at one end. At the opposite end was a long springy diving board that in our childhood fantasies became Captain Hook’s infamous plank and we took turns walking the plank as dramatically as possible before stepping off into 8 feet of water and our demise. In my memory the Prospect Park pool was large enough to accommodate every kid in Troy and on a few of those sweltering summer afternoons it sure felt like every Troy kid was in that pool. 

Of course, we didn’t walk the three or four miles from our home to Prospect Park following the city streets, we walked the “as the crow flies” route; from home, down a sloping hill covered with tall grass and underbrush to Spring Avenue. From there we’d hike up a steeper hill following what remained of an old grass covered dirt road until we reached the top of Prospect Park hill. Often when we reached the top of that hill we’d drop down on the grass to catch our breath and look out at the 20 mile panoramic views until the stiff, dry, just-mowed summer grass began to prick at our bare legs and prod us on. At the end of the day, after spending the whole afternoon in the pool, we’d drag our sunburned and weary little bodies’ up and down those hills all over again, this time anxious to get home.

The reason I’m writing about Prospect Park Pool today is because Esther Williams died yesterday. She was 91 years old which means many of you reading this may not know who she was. Esther Williams was a competitive swimmer, winning three gold medals at the national swimming championships in 1939 and a place on the 1940 US Olympic swim team. Unfortunately, because of the onset of WW2, the 1940 Olympic Games were canceled. As a consolation prize (her words) she became a movie star. Because she was a beautiful woman and a talented athlete a whole new movie genre grew around her … the water extravaganza, filled with scenes of synchronized swimming and death defying high dives.   Her neck was broken during one of those dives but she recovered and continued on with her career, becoming known as The Million Dollar Mermaid.

Now, back to Prospect Park Pool. As a child I loved to watch the old Esther Williams’ movies. My friends and I would sit in the parlor and watch them on our black and white TV. We’d roll around on the floor mimicking the synchronized swimming routines, confident we could easily recreate them once we got to … you guessed it … Prospect Park Pool. It wasn’t as if we didn’t try. I can’t even guess at how many gallons of chlorine laced water we swallowed as we slowly sank to the bottom of the pool still holding our perfect synchronized form. Or how many times our graceful and perfect dives off the Prospect Park pool diving board ended in perfect belly flops. 

Esther made it look so easy.

45th Anniversary of RFK assassination
6/5/2013 10:28:34 AM

President John F. Kennedy assassinated on November 22, 1963.

Reverand Martin Luther King assassinated on April 4, 1967. 

Senator Robert F. Kennedy assassinated on June 6, 1968. 

The assassination of President Kennedy was the end of my innocence. As a child growing up in the ‘50s my life was very sheltered. Politics was something men argued about the same way they argued over the Friday night fights or the last Yankees game. Back then the President of the United States was perfect and in our Irish-Catholic household John Kennedy, the first Irish-Catholic president, neared sainthood. Watching President Kennedy’s assassination replayed over and over again on the news, then watching Lee Harvey Oswald shot in front of me on live TV made me feel vulnerable out there in the world for the first time in my life and I as 17 years old.  

In my memory JFK, MLK and RFK were shot one right after another.   In my memory MLK and RFK were shot the spring after JFK was murdered. In reality there were years between the shootings. Maybe I remember the murders the way I do because each shooting was so traumatic to me, each shooting made me, as a citizen, feel more vulnerable.  

Each of these shootings changed our political and cultural landscape, changed our world. Maybe because these assassinations shook me to the core and destroyed my innocence it feels to me as though these murders were the beginning of the long destructive road that has led to the almost casual violence we see in our world today.

All of these thoughts come to mind on this 45th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s death; rest in peace, Bobby.

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