David

David was an unlikely role model.  Alcoholic,  unable to hold a job for long,  drifting from sibling to sibling dependent on their love of family to put him up in their homes.  They were a good sort, his brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles.  And so they put up with David.  And his nieces and nephews got used to him as a sort of flawed authority figure.

But here is the thing about David.  He was not lazy.  He worked hard wherever he was.  He was an easy guest that fixed things, made food, and kept a low profile.  He watched over us kids, and while we thought he was a bit grouchy,  we respected him.

David was also a reader,  and that was probably his biggest gift to me.  He read voraciosuly,  and he and my Uncles Andy and Bobby would discuss the books in front of the kids.  TV was not really a thing for us.  Maybe some football, or a movie like the Wizard of Oz.  But generally, we consumed books.

David was also a walker,  somewhat common in a city like New York,  but even more common in our family.  Most of my Aunts and Uncles did not own cars.  They didn’t even have drivers licenses.  You took public transit or you walked.   Taxis?  That was for rich people.

I don’t know what made David like he was.  He fought in Korea, so it could have been something, a scar, or a nightmare he carried from that experience.  I will never know.

And so I became a walker.  And I became a reader.  And I learned that books were something to be discussed and debated.  And I learned to be a polite guest and to always lend a hand.

Not a bad legacy from an alcoholic, unemployable, drifter.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved

Dad

I liked the darkness.  The smell of sawdust from the game table.  Blue or magenta glowing lights back-lit a wall of liquor bottles.  Rough women and rougher men. No one wanted to talk to a kid. They had serious drinking to do and the world’s problems to solve. I had to entertain myself.  There was always a TV with a ballgame on if all else failed.

On days with my father,  we went to the Worlds Fair.  We went to the beach.  We went to his job driving a city bus.  But the days always ended the same way;  sitting in a bar where he drank himself stupid before driving me home in that Chevy Bel Air station wagon.

On bonus days,  where I was just being babysat,  I could stay at the home of some woman he was shacking up with.  Once,  staying at one of these places, I was bored and made some friends with the local kids.  Older, they encouraged me to throw a rock at some other boy.  I opened up his forehead.  Everyone split and I remember the kids mother complaining to my father.  The was the last time I saw my father and when I was a little boy I assumed it was because I had been bad and thrown a rock at a boy.

I still have a hat that he bought me from the NY Worlds Fair.  He had my name embroidered on it.  He spelled it wrong.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved