PAYING THE COST

A reader commented last week “James, you had a very difficult childhood/teenage. Your father obviously had some issues.”

I disagree with the first statement.  Leaving aside the fact that my Dad had divorced and remarried twice by the time I reached my 18th birthday, I think my childhood was often charmed, even privileged.  As you can see from my picture in last week’s post “WHEN A CHORE IS NOT A CHORE PART 2,” Dad and I had a lot of fun together.

The Father who took that picture is the man I miss terribly today.

It was only in my later adolescence that ominous signs about Dad became known to me from the new vibrant presence in our lives, Gloria.  Like any child, I refused to believe at first that my Dad could have had issues.

BOOMERANG IN THE AIR FROZEN

 

This blog ostensibly concerns my Father, Bernard, who passed away in 2006.  But I take many diversions along the way.  Today’s post is mostly about his 2nd wife, my Mom.  She is a spry 83 year old woman who brags about her ability to walk around the parking lot in front of her Assisted Living Residence “23 times” every day.  She is very specific about that number.

OK, so what do you do with your aging Mother when you bring her home for the weekend?  In my case, I take her for long walks.  Makes sense, right?

This past Sunday, I brought her and my cousin, Lise (visiting from Quebec City), for an excursion to the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.  It’s a stunning modern memorial to, in my opinion, the greatest President of our Republic.  Our very own Great Leader, the handicapped patrician who led our country through its darkest hour to supreme victory and ascendancy to superpower status, militarily, economically, and culturally.  FDR.  Now we have a Washington, DC-style monument in his honor, right here in the middle of the East River.

I CAN’T STOP MY LEG!

On Saturday night, November 15, 1975, I was a senior at Choate School.  Some buddies and I had signed out that weekend to go to Boston, ostensibly to look at colleges.  Which we did of course the next day.  But mainly it was a weekend to blow off some steam.  One of my pals, John Helmick, kept an illegal car near campus and so off we went off that afternoon driving north on I-91, joined by Neal Collyer and Tom Trimble.  CB Radio was in vogue and John impressed us all with his ability to talk to the truckers.  “This here is Orange Crate,” he drawled in his Des Moines accent, “how it be looking over your shoulder?”  Trucker-speak for “any highway patrol passing out speeding tickets around here?”

After settling in at our Copley Plaza Hotel, grabbing some pizza, and a six pack of beer procured, someone had the foresight to turn on the boob tube late that night.  To our amazement, we tuned in right at the beginning of Robert Klein’s legendary “I Can’t Stop My Leg” skit.  It was one of the first episodes of Saturday Night Live.  Playing a ridiculously amped-up blues musician, Klein’s gag was to bounce his leg up and down in an exaggerated way while singing “I Can’t Stop My Leg” repeatedly.  Without warning, the leg does stop in the middle of the performance.  “It stopped!” he shouts in put-on shock.  Only to start up again.

Here’s the only version of the skit available on YouTube; it’s filmed right from the monitor with a low-grade phone, but you get the idea:

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN 1949

On November 17, 1949, Bernard Olcott and his dashing first wife Patricia Terry of Larchmont, New York spend the evening out on the town. It looks like the wide striped banquet seating of El Morocco but Pat tells me that no, they only hung at The Stork Club or 21.  In any event, this is one of my favorite pictures of Dad, earnest, engaged, and involved.  And looking sharp!

Pat was the first of 5 wives and 5 divorces.  The next wife was an import, a young lady from Quebec City, Canada, my mother Michele.  Number three was another import, this time Graciela from Guayaquil, Ecuador, mother of my sister Victoria.  Like Pat’s, that was another short-lived marriage, lasting about 3 years.  Dad returned to domestic varieties for the last two.  Gloria from Bay Ridge and Stony Brook, Long Island, mother of my sister Blair.  And ending with Rosemary from Washington Heights, NYC (and raised in Metuchen, New Jersey).  Dad was a romantic, to be sure, but he was worse than clueless after marriage.  In fact, there is a strong argument to be made that he was just plain misogynist.  For example, he never ever spoke about his own mother, a mysterious lady named “Patricia Regas.”  I use quotes because she was a Lithuanian immigrant (like his Dad) and I have no idea about what her real name was or anything.  At all.  But more on that later.