My father worked hard every day of his life. His final retirement came at age 89 when he moved to Michigan so I could keep an eye on both of my parents. He was a bookkeeper and office manager for small car dealerships in Philly. He was underpaid, overworked, treated shabbily often. He just kept going, often walking the mile to work and back even at the end. And he often walked to the bank to make deposits on his lunch hour. He was the success story in his very large family. He had managed to go to a two-year business college, which allowed him to escape the fate of his siblings. Almost all of them worked in factories. His first job, which he had until he was drafted, was managing a country club. That was the job he loved. But when he returned from the war, his father-in-law had taken over. So he went to work for the car dealerships, spending very long days in tiny windowless offices. He was a very good father. He never hit us, I can't even remember him yelling at us. And what free time he had he gladly gave us. He loved children so it was a thrill to be a grandfather and then a grandfather. Every August, we spent most of the month together, where he loved playing racquetball with Josh, going miniature golfing, riding bikes on the boardwalk in Ocean City. I could list a hundred good things about him here but you get the idea.The top photo is his remaining siblings in the early sixties except the one sister who ran away as a teenager. Ralph is on the far right, rear row.
A poem I wrote for Dad in the nineties (my Dad never learned to swim)
Antaeus in the Swimming Pool
Like the figure of Poseidon
In the Woolworth's goldfish bowl,
you stand, legs planted firmly
in the three-foot end of Fisher's pool.
Really you're more an Antaeus
among the bobbing toys. Never mind,
I'll be no Hercules. Neither of us sees
something foolish in our circumstance.
Instead, I swim, stomach scraping
concrete, (for I'm too big here too)
between your pillared legs.
Executing figure eights, eyes splayed,
treading carefully so as not to knock
you down or even skim your surfaces.
Neither of us could bear to find you
Helpless in such shallow water, tumbling
frantically, screaming strings of bubbles
among the tiny bodies of your peers.