Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happy 74th Birthday Dad!

I am the man I am because of the man he is.  Words could never be enough thanks for the memories, the lessons and the love my Dad showered upon a shy toehead in faded Toughskin corduroys and Jox sneakers who was happy just riding beside him in his Brox Bros milk truck on a cold Saturday morning getting free candy from the store owners in West Roxbury.

He taught me about sports and he taught me about music.  I was in the first or second grade when he showed me how to play a football card.  And I still remember the sign he hung on the fridge in our Keene Street kitchen that Tuesday morning, letting me know I had won $15 because the Steelers, our favorite team and the final game I had picked on the card, had won Monday night after I went to bed.

As you all know, I have a pretty obsessive fixation on REAL country music.  Not that shit Rascal Flatts pukes out all over their CDs.  I'm talking steel guitar, stand up bass and a little banjo and mandolin.  I thank my Dad for teaching me Hank Williams and Johnny Cash; for teaching me the Clancy Brothers and the Stanley Brothers; and for teaching me Dave Dudley and Red Sovine.  With Dad and Uncle Bill on the geetars and Uncle Mike pickin' the banjo in Grandma's basement of Milan Ave in Pittsburgh, I learned about Luke the Drifter and the Rank Stranger.  I look back fondly on those days riding around in the big blue Caprice, listening to trucking songs coming from the 8-track player.  From Give Me Forty Acres to Tombstone Every Mile to Hello, I'm A Truck, those songs were my childhood.  I wanted to be a truck driver, lookin' at the world through a windshield, livin' on Rolaids, Doan's Pills and Preparation H, for cryin' out loud!  And I especially remember sitting on a stool, chin high to the bar of The Oaks in Tewksbury where Dad tended bar, sipping a Coke with a cherry sitting atop the ice cubes, and hearing Walk The Line and I Saw The Light on the jukebox.  So yes, to those friends of mine now who have been force-fed Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels and Merle Haggard over the years, maybe now you understand.

I pretty much only remember two things as a semi-shitful ballplayer when I played on the Oaks of the Olivera Little League.  I remember the opening day parade down Gorham Street and I remember Dad taking the whole family out for subs after each game.  I loved those long trips to Pittsburgh, even when the muffler dropped off the Caprice on 290 in Worcester with 11 hours still to drive.  Not to mention, those bean suppers at the Salvation Army and visits to Camp Wonderland in Old Orchard Beach were wikkid pissa!  

I'm not going to bullshit everyone and say it is always gumdrops and sunshine growing up... I mean, he hates the Sawx and Pats with all of his might.  And he roots for those goofornuttin Penguins and truly believes Pittsburgh is blessed by the hands of God himself (yeah, you do).  Oh, and there was that time Jimmy and I pissed him off so much that he put his hand through our bedroom door on Fremont Street, surprised to learn that door was really painted glass that tends to tear your forearm to shreds when you bust through it!  Oh, then he was REALLY pissed.    

My dad wears his heart on his sleeve and there can never be any doubt what his family means to him.  Lots of you who know me well, also know that, hidden behind the Harley t-shirts and F-bombs, I am quite a crybaby.  Hey, crying is just what I do when something hits me close to home.  And I don't apologize one minute for it, nor will I ever hide from it.  I cried when Benji died and I when Radio lost his mother.  I cry at work when I get revved up for somebody whose rights are being ignored.  I cry when the families of fallen firefighters walk onto the green grass of Fenway Park.  And ya know where I get that?  I hate to rat out my Dad... but I'm sure he doesn't care either.  It's who he is.  He cried when we gave him a Hudson Bears football jacket 10 years ago, one that matched his grandson's jacket.  And cried again this year when he was given a framed family photo of his children and grandchildren.  

So happy 74th birthday, Dad!  I love you bunches and will talk with you later today!

Said perfectly, and with the steel guitar to boot.....