My father died on his 60th birthday. It was a normal December morning. I got ready for school, he got ready for work. My mother drove him to the train station as she had each morning for his ride into the city. From what I was told, he got to his office, told someone he wasn’t feeling well and asked for water. The co-worker returned with the water and found my father dead on the floor. An autopsy revealed he died from a massive heart attack, a conclusive coronary. Although my father died before 10:00 am, my mother and my future step-father (more about him later) didn't tell me until after I had attended a Christmas party with a friend. I'd went through the school day and had fun at the party while my father lay in a New York City morgue.
Since I was only seven years old at the time, the full import of his death and the subsequent happenings weren’t what I was thinking about. I only knew my daddy wasn’t coming back. It was the first time I questioned and then doubted the concept of God. The thought that another young girl, in her late teens or early twenties was also going to miss her father never entered my head during that time and for years afterward. When I was 19 I found out that my father had been married before and had another daughter. The divorce from her mother had been acrimonious. I'm clueless as to whether or not my father kept in contact with his other daughter. I know I never met her, nor do I have any recollection of meeting my paternal grandparents. I do know that her name was Dorothy. Did she marry? Was she still in New York? Did she know about me? I'll never know now. 1972 was long before the internet was invented. My mother and half-sister had very little information about her or my father's first wife. She would be in her 70's if she were still alive.
My father was a salesman. At the time of his death, he was top salesman for a woolen mill in New York City. He was a champion roller skater and bowler. He was such an elegant and skilled skater that he gave lessons. I unfortunately did not inherit that coordination or grace. To me, he was a quiet, somber man that expressed his love with material things, not hugs and kisses. I was a very late in life child. Both he and my mother, I believe, just weren’t really sure what to do with a baby/child at their age. When I learn about “older” parents, I cringe. Even though I know that more mature men and women of this era will probably not be at all like my parents, I just don’t think having a baby at 45 and 53 is good, especially if there are no close siblings. My knowledge of my father is limited. My mother was secretive to the extreme and my half-sister has offered very little in the way of enlightenment that was unbiased.
One thing I do know for certain, father was a chronic alcoholic. This could have attributed to him being known by his first name and treated like a rock star at several well know New York City establishments like Luchow's. Also at a couple local restaurants that had full bars and where I spent many an evening with my parents. My mother, while not an alcoholic, never met a Manhattan she didn’t like. The fact that so many nights were spent in restaurants is why I believe I can’t remember my mother cooking things other than Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, hamburgers and creamed potatoes. I survived the rides home with a tipsy driver (my mother) and sloshed father - filled with restaurant food, second-hand smoke and Shirley Temples. Life seemed okay. The fact that my parents were “old” didn't matter much when I was a child.
It wasn’t until after my father died when my half-sister, brother-in-law and infant nephew moved in with my mother and me that I began to wonder a bit about my family. I found, looking back on things, that although I had no way to express what I was feeling, I just KNEW things were off more than a wee bit.
With a built in babysitter, my mother went back to work. She also was apparently a man magnet (and had been since she was young!) because she started dating. DATING! I was about 8 years old and MY MOTHER. WAS. DATING. It didn’t really hit me that she was going out with having a grand ole’ time with men until she brought Johnny Ballard home to meet me.