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A Poignant Reminiscence







The seventh anniversary of my father's death is rolling around soon. I was going through some old pictures today, making me reminisce about him, my youth, and the unusual circumstances that surrounded my mother's untimely demise, inspiring me to share this tale. Perhaps someone who reads this might be encouraged to try and save a relationship, rather than throwing it out into the cold.

Money had always been a hot topic of conversation in my household as I was growing up. My parents were constantly fighting about it. I hated their yelling at each other and sometimes would hear my mother's pitiful crying while she was attempting to fall asleep, lying on the couch in the living room after not wanting to share the same bed with my father any longer. She began to submerse herself in her own activities, during some of which I would tag along, like going to the bowling alley or frequently at a couple of bars. Joining and participating at the local Women's Moose Club began to take up quite a bit of her time away from home. I never saw her being unfaithful to my father, but I certainly saw a lot of men coming on to her.

Her late nights became less tolerable for my dad, after the outings became more numerous and constant, until one evening he evidently didn't want to put up with it any longer and threw her clothing into the side-door vestibule of our house after changing the locks on all the doors, including the one which led into the kitchen from the entryway where her garments and other belongings were cast. At least the lock for the outside door which opened into that side vestibule remained keyed the same as it had always been, to allow my mother inside for retrieving what was hers. Everything was in a huge pile, which not only included her outerwear but her undergarments as well, along with mass quantities of footwear, her jewelry box, make-up kit, deodorant, hair dryer, denture case and toothbrush. Her record albums and forty-fives were tossed in there for good measure. I'll never forget that night when she came home early for once, and a battle ensued after he refused to let her into the house. She was begging him to open the door, for which he refused and went to bed. I was only thirteen at the time and totally terrified over the situation. I went into the kitchen to let her in, for which my father flew out of his room after me to prevent that from happening, and stood guard in front of the door until she had grabbed a few items and left.

While I was in school on the next day, my mum came back for the rest of her things and moved in with my brother, who had been married for a couple of years. She stayed with them until getting a job and a place of her own. I visited her at a diner where she had become a waitress, and at Sam's Saloon, where we would sit at the bar and have a few drinks. My fascination with Brandy Alexanders started during those clandestine rendezvous, during which she let me taste her cocktail from time to time while the bartender was facing the other way; but I had to otherwise settle for a "Roy Roger's," which was ginger ale on the rocks with a maraschino cherry. She had moved into a room at a boarding house, which I never got to see. I don't think she wanted me to go there, as I was never invited. We would only meet at public locations which was alright with me. I was familiar with cheap, dreary, dingy rooming houses, of which her brother ran one once as a caretaker; we would often visit him, as he also lived there. The rooms were dark, smelled musty and old like an abandoned shack in the woods, and at best weren't at all attractive.

A few months after she had become settled into her new digs, my father and I returned from a trip to Canada at the last part of the summer, the year in which I had graduated from Catholic grammar school. It was the end of the long, labor-day weekend following my father's yearly jaunt to Québec, a big family tradition, when he and his five brothers would rent a space for an amusement booth at the regional-township fair, which contained a spinning-wheel of fortune, where people would bet a dime on a number to win one dollar in return if their number came up. The brothers usually made out pretty well by Sunday evening when they dismantled the game corral. I always enjoyed going up with him, as my cousins and I had the run of the fair for the whole weekend; and we always had a blast multi-sampling every one of our favorite rides, eating all the scrumptious, carnival junk food; and riding horses from the stable on the fairgrounds that rented hacks per the hour. Upon arriving back at home, my uncle—Mum's brother—awaited us in our driveway to be the bearer of bad news. She had been rushed to a hospital and was in extremely critical condition.

I stayed home from school the following day, on which I was scheduled to begin my freshman year at a brand-new parochial high school, and took the bus to visit my ailing, hardly recognizable parent at the county hospital, several towns away. She looked like a skeleton clad in a hospital gown, wrapped with a thin layer of skin underneath from her having lost seventy pounds over the past weekend from what was soon found to be cancer of her uterus, discovered the following day on which she was operated with the hope of saving her life. Back in those years, if a patient lasted more than a week past having been laid open, their chances for survival were quite good. However, she lapsed into a coma, two days after the operation, and died two days later. Her attending physician admitted to us after pronouncing her dead, that when the surgeon went in initially to explore, the decision to close her right back up was immediate, for she was too far gone.

My relationship with my father waned considerably after my mother was buried, and I became very bitter, blaming him for her unforeseen death. Any respect that might been left for him and the money he had so dearly loved, had turned rapidly into scorn. I tolerated living with my old man, as I had no choice, and left to be on my own after I graduated from high school. Money was of no value to me and I lived a meager life, moving from job to job while spending everything that I made, until completing study at a Connecticut school of broadcasting that changed my life forever, giving me a career for which I became aggressive enough to pursue. I moved from my hometown to follow my dream, and it wasn't until ten years later, after having lived in five different states while working for at least a dozen radio stations in between, that I returned to the east coast from California and slowly began turning into my father. Marriage and a new baby boy soon followed and started me to realizing that my father wasn't such a villain after all, and there were always two sides to every story. He eventually moved back to the place of his birth in Québec. We became best of friends, visiting one another at least twice a year, until I had the heart-wrenching task of moving him into a nursing home, due to his complications from Parkinson's Disease, which ultimately did him in.

Now that my pop is gone, I often miss his words of guidance, something for which, when I was much younger, would make me tune him out with a deaf ear; but later in my life was valued and just a phone call away. Today, I splurged on a new camera lens, an expensive investment for basically a hobby, and wondered what my father would say about the expenditure, now that I am in early retirement. A sudden, passing thought, spoken with a French-Canadian accent said, "Don't worry, Michael; go for it. You only live once."

"So be it," I said, and now hope to capture some great pics with it, maybe even make a little money as a result.

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