My dad died today. On Father's day. This morning. He was very old and I knew he didn't have long.
My dad was a show biz dad, so it's fitting he should die on the day that was his day. Right on Father's Day. Center stage.
My dad was abused as a child, and he never hit us and never swore in front of us. My dad played music for showgirls every night and he never cheated on my mother and he had no addictions, except chocolate.
He worked in the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan, playing lead trumpet, for seven years until I was 13. Before that he was on the road with big bands like Woody Herman. When he was very young he was in a trio with his mother, a piano teacher and his older sister on trumpet. He played drums. They played Grange halls in Maine during the Depression. And after the Latin Quarter closed he moved to Las Vegas where he was the lead trumpet at the MGM Grand hotel until he retired.
He went to New England Conservatory of Music on full scholarship, but did not like classical music. He was a jazz baby, so he transferred to Oberlin and graduated from there, summa cum laude.
On one of his early tours he played in a band that supported Louis Armstrong's band. He used to ride on the bus with Louis and listen to his stories. My dad never had his father around much. His parents were divorced, and I think Louis Armstrong was a hero and creative father figure to this skinny, big eared white boy. One night the second trumpet in Louis band was out, and my dad got to play second trumpet to him.
When he played at the Latin Quarter he would bring me home pictures from Mickey Rooney signed to me. And there would be stories about the head liners--Mickey and Judy Garland, Tony Bennett and so many I can't remember now. The most memorable was Henny Youngman week, because there would always be new jokes in the house. I was the only eight year old in school saying, "Please, take my wife" and expecting a big laugh.
At times he would wake us up when he came home at 3 in the morning and pack us all off to Chinatown in Manhattan for an all night feast. Or he'd take us out to look at the stars and point out Orion and the Milky Way. I think he just wanted to share his life with us. He wanted to bring us along. And he did. He made wonderful memories for us. Some people do that.
I would go to the Musician's Union on Wednesday afternoon with him sometimes. I remember the big rose carpet and all the characters. I had a Broadway Danny Rose childhood. Woody Allen played the same tour as my dad, so no wonder.
We didn't always have an easy time, he and I. I was my mother's girl, and they never had a good marriage. But later in life I wrote him a letter. One I know was very hard for him to read, and it changed our relationship completely. The love for me, the desire to have a relationship with me became so clear. And wordlessly. He never sat down and talked to me. He was from New England, after all. But he did something better. Something so few of us can do. He just changed. And he got softer and softer as time went on. And he kept that devilish sense of humour, and he flirted with my step mother right up to the end.
He found the love of his life. He made his living and raised a family with his creativity. He was a good and moral man, and a loving and patient father. He had that laugh, and he taught me how to swim.
He gave me the ocean.
Thank you, Dad.
Love you always.
You live always in my heart.