My dad suffered a great deal for his work, helping our country, and even facing the McCarthy Commission. He was really a great guy. The nicest man I ever knew. The biggest heart. The kind of guy you'd say was too nice to be in business. (He was told that many times.)
My grandparents were Orthodox Jews from the Ukraine. Both sets of grandparents came over here and settled in Philly just after the turn of the 20th century, thus avoiding the holocaust. My Grandpop Isaac, a man of short physical stature, but great height in his senses and forward-thinking and warm smiles at me, lived to 100. he was clearheaded and sharp right to the end. He fled Russia to avoid being drafted to fight the Russo-Japanese War. My Grandpop Isaac was a great tailor. He would take the train to NYC, into the garment district, to sell his stuff. He did this into his 80s. I still wear the coats he made in the 1940s and 1950s. They are pristine. Not a stitch has weakened or pulled. The linings are still perfect. Incredible. Grandpop Isaac was my mom's father.
My dad's father, Grandpop Harry, had a grocery store. He was about 6'4", just like my dad, and the warmest smile I have ever seen...to this day. Really.
My dad was the youngest of three children, and the only son. His mom used to iron his underwear. 'Nuff said about the importance of the son, the culture, etc. Oof.
And speaking of the culture... Education. My dad took some Mayoral Scholarship Test when he was in Central High School in Philadelphia. He was one of two people citywide to score a full ride to the University of Pennsylvania! (A mere 400. (YES, 400 DOLLARS) a year, back in 1940. His parents' store was small and supported the family, but they could never have sent him to college without that scholarship. While at Penn, he was on the crew (rowing) team and the chess team, he earned another free year, and got his Master's in Electrical Engineering. Sadly, his family always wanted him to be a doctor or a professor, and he had to endure hearing about how Jewish men do not become engineers - at the bi-weekly family dinners at his sister Anne's house. I heard that alot growing up.
One of my dad's jobs out of grad school was an engineering stint at Bell Laboratories in Baltimore. There he defended a black man who was called the n word by a co-worker. The offender informed my dad that they were below the Mason-Dixon Line, and "you can call 'em what you wanna call 'em when you go home up north."
But engineering is what my dad loved. He opened up a small storefront on Ogontz Avenue, doing RF testing, and was living his dream, struggling, but doing ok on his own, when the McCarthy hearings stripped his security clearance, because he was labelled a communist by someone who dropped a dime on him in Baltimore. He lost all of his government business, his military business. Suddenly, he was a Jew, and thus a communist. Jewish clubs he belonged to in college suddenly became marxist associations. (That Ted Cruz fucked up bullshit about commies in congress and the similar Michelle Bachmann accusations made so flippantly, gall me like you can't fucking imagine!)
He also worked on the development of the earliest radar systems, calibrating radar equipment by bouncing beams off the water towers at Coney Island, from across the bay waters in Sandy Hook point, NJ.
My dad's early radar work and experimental work with microwave radiation left him with severe lifelong hearing problems, and he wore two hearing aids his entire adult life. They never worked very well. He seemed to miss out on half of life around him. I'm sure his work had a little something something to do with the cancer he got later in life as well. How stupid and naive would I be to think otherwise?
He told me stories of the earliest microwave ovens, which did not yet have the interlock, so they would just run and run with the door open, just like your gas oven at home! The lucky chefs' arms would essentially cook, as they reached in for the dish, their forearm hairs crackling and skin tingling!
My dad's radar development work was deemed too important to the war effort (WWII), and thus he was not permitted to go overseas to fight, or even to enter the military, though he was born in 1920, and was of prime fightin' age. He spent World War II in NJ, developing radar.
I always figured the fact that he didn't serve in WWII couldn't have helped in his defense of those ugly charges of being anti-American.
The years went by, and with the help of friends and contacts, and my dad's inhuman hard work, he built a good-size small business, an engineering service business and a business manufacturing shielded enclosures. It did well enough to buy a house and send two kids to any college they wanted to go to (with loans, of course, though sane loans. Not like today).
My dad was a complex man. He loved Nixon for his support of Israel, and wrote a couple of letters to Nixon about supporting some missile system. He even got a hand-written response from Kissinger! But my dad was a lifelong Democrat - before and after Nixon -and had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. On vacation, he couldn't pass up an old couple that needed help and someone to stay with them until their grown children came to get them (that pissed me off bigtime that we missed the arcade that day, the 10-year old fucking brat that I was). My dad took care of so many people, and worked himself into the ground, with the weight of so much on his thinning frail shoulders. His once tall big frame withered from 220 pounds down to 175, from prostate cancer, heart problems, and probably depression as well. I am proud that the day before he died, I made him go to the hospital. A 66 year old man with his medical history, sweating nonstop, and feeling like he's jumping out of his skin, should not just sit in his favorite chair and rest. I was fortunate enough that the last time I saw him alive, was when I ran back to him after our small family was at the elevator. Visiting hours were over, we thought everything was cool and stable, he was smiling and alert and comfortable. I ran back to him just to tell him I love him. He gave me that warm familiar smile. The hospital called around 5:30 the next morning. Aortic aneurysm, tore toward the heart.
Next time I saw him was the last. He was in that same bed sitting up the same way, but his head was back and he was dead. He was all waxy. It was the first time I had ever seen a dead person. It was weird and awful. Sadly, I have seen two more loved ones in similar repose since.
Anyway, I love my dad, and I just want you guys to know that. He died when I was only 26...a very YOUNG 26. I grew up so late. He never knew the man I became. Not a glimpse. I write now, for one. This place is like family to me, in many ways. My dad's name was Albert. His sister called him Ab, as in Abbah.