Posts tagged “Dad”.

Mister Blazak

My father was a CPA and had a variety of clients, whom he visited in person about once a month. One was Mr. Blazak, who had some sort of metal manufacturing plant in Newark, NJ. He sent this t-shirt home with my Dad one time and I have had it for years.

Mister Blazak

A simple shirt from a simpler time.

I don’t even remember Mr. Blazak’s first name. But I do remember that when my father was close to retiring, as was Mr. Blazak, my father was essentially let go by Blazak Junior, which my father was expecting  because when the younger generation takes over a family business, they often do not want  their father’s people in place. They usually want someone their own age.

Well, even though my father was expecting this and also expecting to slow his own business, Mr. Blazak was very upset. After Blazak Junior lowered the boom, as it were, Mr. Blazak came into the office, crying, and apologized to my father profusely, since he probably had Dad doing his taxes for decades.

After my father died, I wrote to some of the clients I knew he had had for decades to let them know Dad had died. I got a letter a while later from Mr. Blazak’s daughter, who told me that her own father had predeceased my father, and that in the few years since my father’s tenure as their CPA, they had had several accountants. None of them had done as well as my father. Additionally, she said she had worked for her father’s company, and that Dad had taught her a lot about keeping the books well maintained.

These are two things I have heard now several times now about my father. That he knew every penny that had from month to month, and that he helped teach the bookkeepers at his clients’ offices how to keep things in order. I heard that as recently as this year, when I visited one of the clients who has a tire store. The bookkeeper there has been there for, oh, four decades. My cousins have also told me this, as he was the CPA for two of their businesses also.

In cleaning up the many decades of clutter here in my house, I came across some more evidence of what a good person my father was. One client, not listening to his advice, had undocumented workers in their plant. The owner was fined and sent to prison for about a year. Not only did my father not abandon him, he wrote a letter of reference for his client to the federal government, citing his clients many fine qualities and their close personal association that ran for decades. This client’s mother would send Lebanese spices home to Mom via Dad. She and the entire family were invited to my bar mitzvah. Not all of Dad’s clients were invited, btw.

Most of Dad’s clients had small businesses, and had more than one generation working in them. And of course, my father and his partner had maybe one part-time employee. There’s a lot to be said about the virtues of having your own small business and how you relate to others. To this day, I am personally still benefiting from these associations. My tire man and my mechanic are both former clients of my fathers. I have benefited from having good work done, and the very occasional break. When it comes to a lot of things, I try to stick with what Dad might have done. That’s usually worked out for the best.

Except for Allstate. They’ve really been very difficult. But then again, nothing horrible ever happened to the house while Dad was still alive.

I always appreciated my father’s virtues while he was alive, but I feel like I am appreciating them more deeply, ten years after his death, and wish I could tell him how much all of that means to me.

ROTT: The One that Got Away

1000islandsFor some reason, I was overly fond of pennants, and my old room’s decor, before I slathered the walls with posters of all the new music artists I loved after graduating college, were these souvenir pennants, to show where we had gone on family vacations. I took all of the pennants down in a fit of “this is so uncool” pique in 1985, but I never tossed them out.

I am now tossing them out. Photographing them is much much easier. Except for a few vintage ones made of real felt, these are a styro-board mystery, and there’s no one  to donate them to. So out they will go.

I posted a gallery of them on Facebook, but the one vacation we too that was very different was right before I went to college. It was less glamorous than most of our vacations–we spent a week in a cabin on a lake in the 1000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence river, suspiciously close to Canada, where they lure you in with maple syrup and then brainwash you with bilinguality and the metric system. It was not completely primitive. A TV pulled in good enough reception for me to catch my daily fix of The Edge of Night. I mean, Gunther was on the loose. I couldn’t miss a minute.

I have maybe gone fishing three times in my life, and at least twice, I was the once who either caught the most, the biggest, or the only fish on the trip.

My father had polio when he was six and was left only able to walk using canes. But this didn’t stop him from doing anything he really wanted to do. Sportswise, he was limited to either gambling in Vegas or Atlantic City (and never losing that much, since he was an accountant) and swimming and fishing. As a kid, Grandma hired an off-duty lifeguard to carry Dad into the water and he would scare her to death by swimming out very fa, reducing Grandma to a frantic dot on the shore, waving her hands  and indicating he should head back in.

It’s easy to see why Dad liked swimming so much. The combination of gravity and legs robbed of their muscles made Dad less independent than others. So being able to swim on his own must’ve been very liberating. Gambling at a craps table gave him a sense of excitement. In the late 1940s, a car with hand controls was presented as a gift by Grandpa, because Dad spent many years enduring bad treatments and pointless operations and long separations from his parents and siblings while at the hospitals, waiting for these ill-conceived but well-meant surgeries. When a surgeon in 1995 asked me if I knew why there was a leg muscle in Dad’s abdomen, I knew exactly why.

Anyway, that week in 1981, we went out several times to go fishing. I know I caught at least one fish that fed us one evening–although I know very well that someone else took that fish off the hook. Late in the trip, only Dad and I went out in the small motorboat to go fishing.  We were armed with a depth map of the immediate area. This let me fully utilize my cartophilia (love of maps). We went to a quiet area around one of the 1000 islands, and we waited a bit. It was later in the day–not the time you are supposed to fish. You’re supposed to fish at first light, when I am usually heading to sleep these days.

At one point, there was a tug on the line. I thought it was a mistake at first, but it pulled again, and got stronger. I cannot remember which of us held the fishing pole, and which of us held the net, but a very fat, large fish soon emerged to the surface, fighting every inch of the way. Just as the net was being put under it, the fish broke the line and got free.

Oddly enough, this is probably the only truly exciting anticipatory moment my father and I ever shared. That, and rushing home from Baskin Robbins to see if Ronald Reagan was going to choose Gerald Ford as his running mate (this is the last time I watched a Republican National Convention, btw). We talked about that fish for quite some time. It is probably a better story that it got away, actually. In retrospect, I can see how exciting such an event would be, if you felt you couldn’t really do everything you ever wanted. But Dad pretty much did anything we needed him to do with us. He played baseball with my brother in the backyard, and tossed frisbees to us, and quite frankly, it was a pretty normal childhood.

So much emphasis is placed sometimes on what didn’t happen, instead of what did. And I sometimes wonder if Dad envied that fish, or hoped we would have caught it. I think if anyone valued the concept of independence, it was Dad.

The fishing poles are still in the basement, along with the tackle box. Bought once, used for a week, spending an eternity in the basement.