I never met my father’s father. He died six weeks before I was born. He was a carpenter, a handyman hired by Sears in downtown Manhattan. The family, my Dad was an only child, lived in Brooklyn and only spoke German at home. My grandfather fled Hitler’s brownshirts in the late 1920’s before WWII. His home town became a Nazi stronghold and now is a part of Poland. Luckily Dad got to see it before he died nearly a year ago.
Grandpa retired and they moved up north to another community with many German residents, where they had a tiny home where he made every piece of furniture, indoors and out. When Dad visited decades later the family who bought it after his parents died had every stick of furniture and all his family photos on the walls. He taught their young son how to prime the oil stove, something he did before becoming the first child in his family to ever go to college. His folks didn’t stick around for his masters’ and doctorate.
At college, Dad got through this state teachers’ school by playing his violin and calling square dances. During the summer he worked in the kitchen of a mountain vacation resort. Their menu included “garden fresh peas.” That meant he placed tons of canned peas into a cauldron and added a bit of ammonia per the chef to make them bright green. Voila! Garden fresh peas!
During college I had my summer spell. I was paid minimum wage and made cashier supposedly because I was left-handed and would have messed up the line. No, Dad was president of this august institution, his first summer, so I had to let them take from my pay both room and board so I was making less than $1 per hour and slept in my bedroom in the president’s home and never ingested anything but a glass of water at the restaurant. I got three meals off per week, of their choosing, never an entire day.
The gal who totaled all the bills (all I did was make change and not steal) was 16 and had no hope for an education. Sweet girl. We took a walk after lunch hour (oh, the boys were waiters and made tips, we worked the line). We came near our home and she had to use the restroom. We walked in by the former maid’s quarter off the kitchen, where my sister and I shared a Jack & Jill bath and she said, you use it first. It’s OK, I said, we have four more. OMG, I actually said that. She lived in a trailer.
So, before lunch chef would call out to me (no-one messed with him) “what should we call the halibut today, Dover Sole?” OK, chef. And I wrote it on the blackboard before we opened. Dad did ammonia in the peas, and in order to be paid enough to buy a candy bar in a week I obeyed the chef as well.
Yesterday I found out I was late responding to a jury duty notice. I called in immediately. No-one will ever place me on a jury. Too strict or too lenient, depending upon the offense. I apologized, so don’t have a warrant out for my arrest, and said truthfully that I planted my knees and face in one of their sidewalks two weeks ago and was healing and still having trouble walking because the bruises took up most of my legs and had oozing fluid with which my M-I-L VA nurse was concerned about my condition. My husband went out and bought me a cane, which I am too proud to use.
The court gave me until next spring to recover and report for jury duty. No ammonia, no Dover Sole, just the words of a writer and truth-teller for you today. I am getting better, and my husband likes that I’m getting to paperwork with my feet up and Snow II by my side. He is a bean bag kitty who reminds me of heady volunteering days when I was young. I miss you, Dad. Dee