It’s hard to imagine my father’s thoughts in the dark car as he headed out to Bethpage after dinner for his second job. Bethpage is on Long Island, in Nassau county, a fairly long jog east from Queens. The roads were not as good back then, the Long Island Expressway was narrower and did not extend as far, and I picture him tooling along bumpy, unlit roads at about 45 miles per hour, the stretches he did on the highway. This would be after a dinner spent snarling, sometimes shouting, at his children, a pair of merciless pricks who took time out of their war against each other to gang up on their father.
“I work two fucking jobs so these ingrates can give me shit…,” he is muttering to himself as he backs the car on to the tree lined street where he has situated his children’s cozy childhood. Then he drives the twenty odd miles over dark roads to an office in Bethpage. He parks his car and walks up the steep staircase to his second floor office in that little structure. His small office, which looks somewhat like an attic, takes up the whole second floor of the house, or maybe the third. He sits at a desk and begins making phone calls in a circle of lamplight. At least that’s what he did the night he brought my sister and me with him to Bethpage.
“There is somebody else you should contact,” says the skeleton of my father, “you should be in touch with Rom, the artist formerly known as Peanuts. You know how to reach him and you know what a good guy he is. He’ll give you another point of view, will shine some needed light on these dark musings of yours. I didn’t just sit at that desk making phone calls, I visited each Young Judaea club in Nassau-Suffolk region. I drove out to Smithtown and Riverhead, wherever a few Jewish kids got together, I was an ambassador and organizer to high school aged Jews on Long Island. I was director of Nassau-Suffolk for years, you don’t think I made a few friends?”
I have no doubt you did. You had Donnie Ingram and Artie Friarman, to name just two. Rom, I’m sure, has a couple of good stories, remembers you as a great guy, a funny and straight shooting bastard, no doubt.
“Which I also was, mind you,” said the skeleton, holding up a finger.
Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.
“Look, Elie, you’ve got to stop this neurotic shit already and start taking steps. You have to take steps, Elie,” said the skeleton of my father, from his grave outside of Peekskill.
Steps, yes. There are steps to be taken.