I wrote this post 13 years ago. Today, Dad is 99, and he is at the VA Hospice, where they are keeping him comfortable until he expires. The downfall of our relationship is that I am extremely attached to this man and I am finding it difficult to let him go.
Besides being one of the most handsome men on the planet, my Dad is also one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever met. I realized he was handsome when I was five years old. I told my Mother, “If you weren’t married to Daddy, I would marry him.” Of course, all girls who love there father and receive his love think that their Daddy is the best looking man in the world, so my statement isn’t really that stupendous. As I grew older and realized that some other girls were afraid of their fathers for one unwholesome reason or another, I knew that I did have one of the best fathers in the world.
He was strict. Make no mistake about that. He was never brutal to my Mother or to me. If he chastised me, he turned around and gave me a quarter to go buy candy at the corner store, which may have been bad parenting, but it sure left a sugar hole in my heart for him.
I suppose the one occasion when I knew my Dad loved me, unconditionally, was when my Mom told him that I was six months pregnant when I was only 16. I thought he was really going to crown me. But we sat on the couch in the living room and he grabbed my hand, at a moment when I thought my life was surely about to end, and he said, “We’ll work it out together.” From that day to this, 41 years later, I am convinced that some angels got together and delivered me to this angelic man. All my metaphysical reading convinced me that my Dad exemplifies the Ascended Masters. He keeps a good sense of humor and never lets life’s pitfalls get him down.
Now, I knew that Mom and Dad weren’t getting along, from a very young age, probably around 10 or 11. They split up when I was 13, a very fragile age for a girl. But Dad always let us know where he was and that we could contact him at any given moment. And, at 57, I still can pick up the phone and call him just to talk, to make a loan that I always repay or to get parenting advice to use on my two adult children and their offspring.
The one thing that I hold my Dad responsible for is introducing me to music. Our house was always filled with the sounds of jazz, blues, and classics when Dad was home. Mom was more of a finger-popper, but the pop music didn’t play when Dad was there. It was Ellington, Basie, Ella or Brahms, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky. Now, Dad worked as a postal railway clerk on the trip from Manhattan to Boston. So, he would be out three days straight and home for three days. When he was out, we were jitterbugging. But when he came home, it was strictly the serious music playing on our huge ebony wood Grundig stereo.
Our house was super clean. Both of my parents were sticklers for cleanliness, which was, of course, next to godliness. Neither was very religious, yet they maintained a high moral constitution. We were taught not to steal, lie or cheat at a very young age. Education was at the top of their list for us kids. My brother and I attended St. Clement Pope Catholic grammar school in Queens, New York. Both parents saw to it that we did our homework and got good grades. The result for me was a scholarship to the diocesan high school, Bishop McDonnell, in Brooklyn. I even went to a Catholic college, LaSalle, in Philadelphia, where I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Communication.
Today, my father is 86 years young. He walks every day and is married to a woman younger than my daughter! He has great vitality, eats right, minds his own business and takes the news with a grain of salt. Dad always keeps up with what we are doing, though he is not meddlesome. I believe this is one of the most important lessons I have learned from him. Live and let live!
There were a few reasons why I realized that my Dad was better than a lot of other Dads. First, he was always there for us. He worked hard. A military man, he was very disciplined and that spilled over into my life. He taught us how to cook, clean, read, comprehend and regurgitate what we had learned. Mom taught us how to really clean, but seeing Dad wash dishes and clothes, clean the floors and paint our house every other year, really reinforced what Mom taught us. I believe the downfall of every person on Earth is that they didn’t have both parents to reinforce good values.
I credit my parents with working hard to give us the things that we needed to be comfortable enough to study our lessons. As I grew older, and especially since I divorced my own children’s father when they were very young, I realized that the values instilled in me by Mom and Dad would get me through this life, no matter how hard the challenges I would face.
The second and most impacting reason why I love my Dad stems from something that was happening to a little girl on my block. We didn’t find out until she was in her twenties, but her father was molesting her, since the age of 10. When I learned about this, I was numb. She died in her early forties from an overdose of heroin, after giving birth to a heroin baby. It was tragic. We were like sisters and I never really understood why she was always so sassy and sarcastic to everyone around her, until I learned about her molestation. Her mother died when she was only 16. Then, her brother died in his thirties from alcohol abuse, but I really think he died from heartbreak that his father was doing this to his sister. So, from the moment I found out about this activity, I began to reflect on the way my Dad treated me. I knew I was blessed.
I was so close to my father as a little girl that, when he would come home from his postal run to Boston at 1 a.m., I would still be awake, waiting for him. A few times, I spent the night with my neighbor, who shared the driveway with us. I’d hear my Dad walking up the driveway and I would jump out of the bed and run home, just to hug Dad. He would always welcome me with open arms. He was strict, but he knew how to love me and that’s all that mattered to me then and now. Only of late did my friend tell me she would cry when I would leave. But she had a great Dad, too, so I think she understood.
I believe that my relationship with my father is the most important relationship I have ever had. I’ve been looking for him in other men. I came close with my last husband (I’ve had four), who is from Gambia, West Africa. He is Sunni Muslim and is very austere, no drinks, no cigarettes, no vulgarity, and he is very, very clean. It took me one year to realize that he was cleaning my floors every Saturday morning, while I was on the computer learning HTML! We are divorced and he is remarried with a beautiful little girl who is my goddaughter! Wow, that’s an accomplishment in itself, to remain friends with an ex-husband. But he is so much like my father and it is impossible to be angry with him about anything.
Just before my mother passed, she told me that my father is a good man. She said, “If I knew then, what I know now, I would have stayed with your father.” Now, they were like a bull and a matador. My Dad is Taurus and Mom was Virgo. So, they argued a lot! But, as they grew older, they calmed down a lot. I think, if they’d stayed together, they would have eventually gotten over their differences. Mom was diabetic and an amputee. About two months before her passing, I visited her at the nursing home, where she was cared for. I saw Dad hand her a piece of paper. When he left, I asked her what it was. She told me it was her alimony check. Wow! I was amazed because they’d been divorced for 18 years and he was still paying her alimony! I’ve had four husbands and haven’t gotten one alimony check yet!!!!!!
At that moment, I had even more respect for my Dad. He is a man of honor. It was difficult for my parents because my Mom came from a matriarchy, just her mother and her sister. Her Dad passed away when she was only three years old. On the other hand, Dad was from a patriarchy. His father raised him and his two brothers. Their mother was sickly. She lived on an out island in the Bahamas, while Poppa brought his sons to Florida, where he had a lawn service and raised them with a very stern hand. They said that Poppa was mean, but I believe he was just concerned that they grew up to be honest, upright men. They each had families. My older uncle and his wife adopted a daughter, but she died very unhappy, shortly before her father passed away, after leaving his wife for another woman. The middle brother has two children with a German woman who had a daughter when they met. Their children are accomplished, but he lives like a hermit, far away from them.
My Dad married a woman from Honduras who is 43 years his junior. She loves him very much, unless she’s a very good actress. I asked her how they met. She said she put an ad in a magazine or newspaper asking men to write her a letter. She said the letter my Dad wrote was the best one she received. He was in his seventies, then. He told me that the doctor told him he needed to have a woman to relieve his prostate. Sounded like a good reason to me (smile)! She takes good care of him. She has him doing Yoga and eating all the right foods. He has her taking vitamins and they both are aglow. I remember reading love letters that my Dad wrote to my Mom when they were in service and he was in Italy. They were just beautiful. I guess women love that sort of thing and he’s good at it.
I’m happy that my father is happy because, all my life, he’s been there to make sure that I have what I need to live in peace. I know his time is coming to an end. Longevity runs in his family. One of his aunts lived to be 103. Another lived to be 106. His father’s last wife just passed away at 101. So, there’s reason to believe that, with the tender loving care that his young wife gives him, and with the way that he lives – no smoking, drinking, vulgarity, stress – there’s a chance that he’ll be around for another 15 years, which will be fine with me.
I love picking up the phone to report something wonderful that has happened to me, like recently, when I first flew a plane, which really didn’t make Dad very happy. I told him I wanted to get my pilots license. He told me to “stay cool and on the ground!”
When I was in my early forties, I got the opportunity to travel to Europe to sing. I spent eight years in eight countries singing my heart out and, of course, the music in my heart came from my Dad’s long-playing records. I would call him every Sunday from a phone booth to report the concerts I had just done or was about to do. He was always very encouraging. He never intimated that I should stop singing and come home to attend to him. He’s strong. He’s independent. He’s kind and very loving and I am one of the luckiest women in the world to have a Dad like him and I make sure I tell him so, at every opportunity.
One last note, on May 7, 2003, we celebrated my Dad’s 83rd birthday. It was Dad, his wife, and me. It was a lovely afternoon and we had lunch. At 4:30 p.m., they left. At 5:15 p.m., my phone rang. It was my daughter. She was crying. She could hardly tell me that her husband of nine years had just been in a car accident. He passed away 45 minutes later. He was 37. The tragedy was that my daughter, who was alienated from her own father, had married a man who took loving care of the three children fathered by three separate men. The middle child, a boy, lived with his father, but the older boy and younger girl didn’t know their fathers. So, her husband was a very, very special man. He loved her and her children as if they were his own. The little girl was his. She was only two when the couple married. She was 11 when he passed and she was a REAL Daddy’s girl. His loss was devastating to us all.
I am one of the lucky ones and I try to extend extra love to women and men who are not so lucky. This is what my parents taught me and my brother to do. My brother has a non-profit organization, The Children’s Coalition, Inc., that is devoted to helping at-risk children find their artistry in photography, videography and computer technology. I am ever grateful for the angels who brought us to Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright.
So, every year, since then, I’ve had two men on my mind on May 7th – my Dad and my son-in-law, who treated me like Queen-Mother! Men are wonderful beings. Their upbringing makes them who they are and the way they treat their children makes us who we are.