Senior Memoirs- My June 18 presentation
CHORES AND JOBS
One of my chores as boy growing up in Astoria, Queens NY was not a happy one. My Dad was an alcoholic. He was a baker who worked nights. Dad would leave home in the evening and work through the night in an Ozone Park Bakery. In the morning he would take the bus and subway home and go directly to O’Brien’s Tavern. He would remain on a bar stool most of the morning and then come home, often in a high state of inebriation. Then his belligerent behavior would dominant our small apartment until he went to sleep in the early afternoon.
There were days when he did not come home. My mother would then send me to O’Brien’s to get him. This was not a pleasant task. Dad did not appreciate my pleading with him to come home. He was a thick headed German who was not about to let an eight year old kid tell him what to do. I had to utilize tact and diplomacy … I learned the art of getting someone to do something they don’t want to do. As I got better at it, the time required to get him to leave the saloon diminished.
I dreaded the final stages of the retrieval. On some days he was so drunk that he could hardly stand up. On occasion he would stumble down the street and almost fall on his face. He usually brought home two large paper bags filled with bread, rolls and cakes. I had to help carry them from the bar to our house. When the weather was nice, most people in our neighborhood were out on the street. In these days before air conditioning, many people sat on the front steps; other folks just watched or “hung out the window”. My friends played on the sidewalk and in the street. It was humiliating to struggle and hold my father upright as we lurched along the sidewalk in full view of my friends and neighbors.
Our apartment was on the second floor. This meant that he had to climb the front “stoop” and the make it up the stairs to the second floor. There were days when he accomplished this with great difficulty.
In later years my Dad obtained a baker’s job in an Astoria bakery. The long commute was gone and his drinking subsided. He became less difficult and I got to see another side of him. When he was sober, he was a sensitive and gentle man. I, however, was imprinted by my experience as a “retriever”. To this day I find it difficult to sit on a bar stool or spend much time in cocktail lounges or “watering holes”. I am not an abstainer, but I make certain that no one in my family will ever have to be disgraced by having to “retrieve” me.
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