Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tony Boots

Because he worked a second job in a shoe store to help support his family, my father Anthony earned the colorful nickname “Tony Boots”. My Dad had a little Ralph Kramden in him; he was always looking for a get-rich quick scheme to supplement his modest income. Picking stocks was his specialty. Market experts kept tabs on which stocks my father bought so that they could rush out and sell. My long-suffering mother always rolled her eyes when Dad picked up the financial pages. Slow horses were another hobby of his. When we moved down the block from Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, I half expected to be evicted from our house any day. In real estate, his motto was “Buy High, Sell Low".

Although Dad may not have been the most astute financier, he was a good father...quick to tell a joke and enjoy a drink. He was a good-hearted, hard-working guy who almost always wore a suit and tie. Tony loved his sleep and stayed in bed until my mother practically rolled him onto the floor. In an effort to save time, he put his socks and belt in his jacket pocket and put them on when he got to work. Tony did his fatherly duty too. On the day I left to report for army boot camp, he walked with me to the subway station. As I was about to go down the steps, he pressed two condoms into my hand and said: "I guess by now you know what these are for". (Sex education was a brief affair in the 1960s.)

My father loved baseball, the New York Yankees in particular, and Joe DiMaggio above all. He liked the way Joe went about his business, quietly with no hot-dogging. Dad would watch the Yanks on TV, dutifully opening a quart of Ballantine Ale, in support of the team's sponsor. He kidded with the neighbors, who were mostly loyal Brooklyn Dodger fans, about how the Dodgers were perennial also-rans to the Yankees in the World Series. Tony was good at inserting the needle, especially after a few beers. Of course he never left the house when the Dodgers finally beat the Yanks in the '55 series...his victims would have hung him from a lamp post.

I will never forget one Christmas when I was around 12 years old, I dropped a hint for a new Don Larsen model Rawlings baseball glove that was in the window of Davega's sporting goods on Pitkin Avenue. It cost a lot of money, and my expectations for getting it were not high. Imagine my surprise when the very last gift I opened that Christmas turned out to be my glove. Only when I grew older did I realize what sacrifices my family must have made to get it for me. Thanks for everything Pop, especially for teaching me what it really means to be a father. 

(Originally published September 26, 2008)


Children's Craniofacial Association

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