I marked the 20th anniversary of my father’s death this month by observing his yahrzeit on the ninth of Adar, and my memories of him remain vivid.
Over the years, there have been many times when I’ve had a feeling that Ike was thinking about me, either because of a dream I had or because a solicitation letter from a charity that he supported suddenly arrived in the mail addressed to him.
I think of him often – during the holidays, on his birthday (Aug. 11; he was born in 1918), during family celebrations and especially in the spring, at the start of baseball season. My dad and I did a lot of bonding at the ballpark watching the Red Sox, and we both enjoyed spending time at spring training in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when I was working in Florida.
I cherish those times, which is why the rest of this column is a letter to my dad as a way of updating the former linotype operator at Philadelphia and Boston newspapers on the news – family and otherwise.
It’s been two decades since we last talked, and I miss you every day. Our bonds grew deeper in my 20s and 30s, when you visited me while I was living in Florida.
The first time you stayed with me, in 1978, while I was in a high-rise apartment complex on Route 1 in Titusville, Florida, stands out. I had been there almost a year, yet in the week or so that you visited, you met more people and made more friends than I had.
During that same trip, we had a blast going to a couple of Red Sox exhibition games. I can’t remember if the Sox won, but I do recall our trip home from Winter Haven, the Sox’s former spring training site, when we got lost and saw more of central Florida than I knew existed.
Our bonding over the Sox continued, most notably in 1986, when we spent a Saturday night watching Game 6 of the World Series in a hotel room near Newport, where we had traveled for the next day’s Ocean State Marathon.
With the Sox one strike away from winning that World Series against the New York Mets, we had started to high-five each other – until it all fell apart in what remains, to diehard Sox fans, five traumatic minutes. The Sox in that time blew a 5-3 lead and the Mets came back to win the game and tie the series 3-3. (The Sox lost the championship two days later, when the Mets took the decisive Game 7.)
As you likely know, since I suspected that you had something to do with the Red Sox’ miraculous comeback from trailing the New York Yankees 3-0 in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Sox finally broke the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” by winning that year’s World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. I was sad not to be able to share that victory with you.
You’ll be happy to learn that the Sox also won titles in 2007, 2013 and 2018, although they’ve finished last two of the past three years.
Our other sports teams have also done well since we last spoke. The Patriots added more Super Bowl wins to their legacy, winning six and losing three others with Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady, however, left the team for Tampa Bay in 2020, and he just retired – for the second time in a year.
New England fans have been spoiled as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and came agonizingly close to winning titles in 2013 and 2019. The Celtics won it all in 2008 and lost the NBA title in both 2010 and 2022.
Besides sports, the world is a really crazy place right now, but I wonder if it’s any crazier than it was in your lifetime. You lived through a worldwide depression and fought valiantly while in the Navy during World War II. The 1950s were rife with antisemitism and racism, the 1960s brought the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, race riots and multiple political assassinations.
But two things are surely worse in 2023 than 60 years ago:
• The two major political parties are so divided and broken that their more zealous adherents would rather demonize their foes and wish them dead than work together to solve our problems.
• There’s far more deadly violence now, as mass shootings by people brandishing automatic weapons – meant for use by soldiers in war and not by civilians in schools, colleges, stores, arenas, churches and synagogues – have long ago reached a crisis point.
Despite those bleak realities, you’d no doubt tell me to count my blessings and be glad that my loved ones are healthy. And you’d be right, because I’ve been blessed.
Lynne and I have raised two smart, capable daughters. Arianna, who was just shy of 7 when you passed, is thriving in New York City (don’t worry, she’s not a Yankees fan, like her mother). Alana, who was nearly 2 when you died, will be a college graduate in May.
If I had one more minute with you, I’d thank you for being a supportive dad as you helped me get started in the newspaper business. You also told me to relax more, and since I retired, I’m doing more of that, besides volunteering to help causes that I support.
In addition, your longtime support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund inspired me to raise money for the American Cancer Society for the last 25 years.
So, Dad, thank you for your service in World War II and thank you for the sacrifices you made to raise me. You were a real mensch, and that’s why I’ll always miss you.
LARRY KESSLER (email@example.com) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at https://larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.