DAD’S REAL WIFE

This week we go into why my Dad is famous, at least in the patent profession. The next three posts are about his greatest number one hit in the charts. And it’s big!

As you know by now, dear reader, Dad was married five times to five different women. But in a certain way, Dad was really only married once. It was not to a lady wearing a dress and lipstick (though there were more than a few of those around) but to a business soon to be called “Olcott International & Co.” It was his life, and his masterpiece, just as the Mona Lisa was to Leonardo da Vinci. (He greatly admired Leonardo and thought of himself easily as da Vinci’s equal). He could share this one true wife with no one and he guarded her with a jealous Latin-blooded fury. (As I and others would haplessly come to learn).

DAD AND HIS NEST: FAMILY DYNAMICS, PART 2

Later in life, Bernard Olcott (left) was definitely ascendant in comparison with his older brother Edward (right).

Given what Dad said, together with Michael’s move out of Richmond Hill, he very well may have been a bit of, as we say in the 21st century, a “troll.” Meaning that he was prone to saying outrageous things, just for the delight (and the attention) in seeing other people’s reactions. Such trait was not unknown in Dad himself, especially as he grew older.

So I suspect that Dad did not enjoy that same glowing, beaming face of Michael Olcott that I enjoyed as a kid. On the contrary, it seems that Dad was constantly criticized in his own home, both for real and exaggerated shortcomings. From his Mom and Dad both. That had to be harsh. In such adversity, just like Avis Rent-A-Cars, Dad had to try a little harder.

DAD AND HIS NEST: FAMILY DYNAMICS, PART 1

So, what gives with all those dinners with me, my Dad, and my Grandfather ending in something less than a sweet goodbye? What were the nature of the barbs being flung wide and far, and why so often? Dad himself was a class act concerning his own folks; he never complained to me about them, at least not directly.

A clue to understanding these dynamics has come from my friend, Dr. Giedre Kumpikas, President of the Lithuanian National Foundation and host of the Lithuanian Radio Hour here in New York. She tells me that in the Lithuanian-American community, the eldest son typically occupied a special place of prominence and favoritism.

Michael and Patricia Olcott had two boys, Edward and Bernard, in that order. Was Edward openly favored?

MY GRANDFATHER AND THE DOOR TO THE OLD WORLD, PART 2

For my entertainment, Michael would utter a few worlds of both Lithuanian and Russian.  I would repeat and try to commit them to memory to dazzle my pals back in Florida whom, I was sure, had never heard any words of either.  But it was impossible to remember.  The only word I could grasp was the Russian word for pussycat — “koshechka.”  He grinned widely at me when he said it.

After dinner and just before dessert, Michael would produce a fresh five dollar bill and present it to me, just as the Lord must have presented the tablets to Moses.  And like Moses, I was transfixed by the vision of the prideful face looking down at me from the other side of the dining table.  No one had ever glowed at me like that.  All of a sudden, Dad would nudge me and ask, “what do you say?”  He was a little annoyed as if I had no manners (or had forgotten them).  Immediately, I would snap out of my reverie and say “thank you Grandfather.”

MY GRANDFATHER AND THE DOOR TO THE OLD WORLD, PART 1

In order to understand my father Bernard Olcott the man, we need to turn our attention to a pivotal character in his life.  Just like Andy Kaufman was the comedian’s comedian, Michael Olcott was my father’s father.  And before examining my Dad’s relationship with his own father, let me start with my own direct memories of the man, Michael Olcott. He treated me very differently from the way he did his own son.

Michael passed in the late part of the summer in 1972 so my memories of him are as a little kid in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  My point of reference from those times was as a 7 to 14 year old boy, whose life was split between school in central Florida (Mom’s house) and summers back in New York City (my Dad’s home).  Of course, I accepted my bicoastal existence as normal but, looking back, it most definitely was not.  I was shuttling between one of the most conservative counties in the USA (Orange County, Florida) and the most liberal (New York County, otherwise known as Manhattan).  In the late 1960s.  Need I say more?

FIVE SELECTIONS FROM DAD’S iPOD!

Dad didn’t have an iPod, of course.  But he did have a relationship with music.

When married to my Mom, there was a large wooden cabinet with french legs in the living room that was actually a large monaural speaker.  On top was an amplifier which took a while to turn on (see “tubes“).  It was connected to the speaker and a record player that had a deep and penetrating plastic-type smell that can only be described as “late 1950s turntable.”

Back in the early 1960s, there was no such thing as a “stereo,” of course, but there were high fidelity home sound systems, or “hi-fi” for short.  So Dad had one.  And what did he listen to?  Well, I went plunging around on YouTube and found four tracks from Dad’s presumptive iPod — if he had one — with which to serenade you!

SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, PART 2: FREE PARKING

Above from left, my Mom, Gloria, and I.  Graduation Day at Tufts, May 1980. After everyone left the next day, I fell ill with German Measles and stayed in Somerville for a week to recover.

During Christmas break in 1979, a trip was planned to the family houseboat, which was permanently moored at the Hurricane Hole Marina, under the Paradise Island Bridge on Paradise Island in glistening Nassau, the Bahamas.  I had never been there before but had heard a lot about it from Gloria and Dad so I was looking forward to going.

A day or two before, Gloria went to the Shop Rite supermarket in less-than-glistening Union City, to shop for groceries to bring on the plane to the Bahamas.

“What?!  Bring groceries on the plane?  Are you sure we need to do this?” I asked.

She assured me that supermarkets in Nassau were both terrible and overpriced.  And this is what they had done on previous trips.  I suspected that this was my Dad’s idea but anyway she seemed to be completely on board.  I tried to imagine what a terrible supermarket looked like and immediately thought of Shop Rite.  Could it be any worse?  Besides, I was weirded out with the idea of lugging brown paper supermarket bags filled with chopped meat and such onto the plane.  This was just about the turning point when airplanes came to be thought of as buses with wings.  And board that flying bus we did, complete with our groceries from Shop Rite!