Sunday is Father’s Day (meaning there’s still time to get a tie he’ll never wear). It’s also the final day of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. My late father loved golf so much that we kids could get away with lame gifts such as golf balls, or even tees.
But golf also frustrated him. It does that, even to world class athletes. Remember O.J.’s herky-jerky golf swing? And yet he was always on the course. In fact, when he vowed to find Nicole’s “real killer,” some assumed it might have been a caddie.
The last time I saw my father was 20 years ago. He worked as a volunteer at former Assemblyman Tom Hayden’s office on the Third Street Promenade.
One day I dropped in unannounced to invite him to lunch, forgetting that my dad wasn’t exactly Mr. Spontaneity. (The older I get, neither am I.)
We went to Zucky’s (fittingly, now a bank). After lunch I walked him back to Hayden’s office where we said goodbye. My dad passed away that night, so that was our final goodbye. I think about it every Father’s Day.
In reminiscing, I realized that I’d probably be writing more about what my father and I didn’t say as much as what we did. In his book, “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw chronicled men who survived the Great Depression and WWII, and were often stoic. When I became an adult, it seemed unnecessary to talk to my dad about the past. And yet, 20 years later, there are so many questions I’d like to ask.
When I was in high school my father wasn’t thrilled about my ambition to be a writer. As sports editor of my school paper, my hero was the late Jim Murray, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the L.A. Times. When I recall the quality of Murray’s prose compared to what’s in the Times today, well, I sound just like my father.
As it happened, my dad knew a sportswriter for the L.A. Examiner and he arranged for a meeting between him and me. But the writer apparently had a drinking problem and the meeting was canceled.
This only confirmed my dad’s view that sports writers were drunks. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t offer much encouragement about my going into the field (writing, not drinking). So, when I occasionally sneak in a column about sports here, now you know why.
For 30 years, my dad owned a men’s store in Los Angeles in a predominately Jewish neighborhood that became predominately black. In the last years, his store was often robbed, sometimes at gunpoint. All that stress resulted in my dad having numerous heart attacks. (A pack a day of Camels didn’t help, either.) And yet, my dad refused to let a negative word be uttered in our house about black people, not even in jest. (Cigarettes, however, that was another story.)
Under the heading of “things you wish you’d have said while your parents were alive,” was an event that occurred when I was 10 years old. My family is Jewish and this happened on Yom Kippur, the holiest of holidays for Jews, the Day of Atonement. At 10, to sit through the long services at Temple Isaiah, felt like verbal water boarding.
Our rabbi, Albert Lewis, was tall and dignified, and had a booming voice. To me, when he spoke, it was like God talking, or a reasonable facsimile. But it was unusually hot that day, and I was wearing wool slacks that made me feel like I had ants in my pants. God or no God, I wanted to be outside, playing baseball. That is, until rabbi started his sermon.
The sermon was about the evils of racial segregation. Rabbi’s delivery was so compelling that I temporarily stopped day dreaming about catching fly balls in the outfield. Our temple was on Pico across from Rancho, a public golf course.
Rabbi noted that while blacks were allowed to play there, the Men’s Club was completely segregated.
He was angry with our congregation that we had done nothing about discrimination that was right in our own backyard. When rabbi got angry, his voice got deeper and louder. I always suspected that thunder and lightning could not be far behind.
But suddenly rabbi changed his tone. Apparently one of our congregants had recently sponsored a black member into Rancho’s Men’s Club. As rabbi added more details, I slowly realized that he was talking about my father!
Shy by nature, my dad was embarrassed by the attention. But I was filled with such pride that I can remember every detail as though it was yesterday.
To this day I’m saddened that I never shared my reaction with my dad. I suppose I just did. Maybe there’s still time for you.
Happy Father’s Day.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.