My Father Appoints Me A Member Of The Bar

Dear Michael and Caroline,

Back again we now go into our house, home to so many memories, key to so many secrets, back we go to discover ourselves anew.

Let’s go down to the den, at the second lowest level, to the recliner where my father watched TV and, more often, napped. There he would lay, sleeping, snoring away, tired from working all the time, tired, too, no doubt, from everything else, from being a son, a brother, a husband, a father. No wonder he needed a nap.

And as he napped, all I might think was, it’s another opportunity missed, another chance for us to talk, to play, to hang out. He sought refuge from us all, political asylum, and sleep turned out to be the only neutral country that would take him in, a zone of his own, the better to zone out.

Now let’s step lower still, down to the basement, where for a while we set up a ping-pong table right alongside the washer and dryer. My mother and I played ping-pong there, probably pretty often, too. She had played as a girl, and grown into an accomplished player, winning tournaments and maybe a trophy or two, and she played well all right.

But what I remember most affectionately about those contests with her had nothing to do with the swiftness of her serve or the smoothness of her backhand or her sharp reflexes on return shots. No, it’s how much fun she had playing.

She would laugh as we played, a laugh here and a laugh there, whether she scored or missed. She simply delighted in the sport. Ping-pong remains among the few activities I can recall my mother and I undertaking enjoyably together.

Back to the den we now go, because there, in the mid-1960s, my father built a bar. Where other men would have bought a piece of furniture to serve as a bar, my father actually constructed one from scratch. He appointed me, then maybe 11 or 12, to be his helper.

P.S. – See Part 2 tomorrow.

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