As Father’s Day approaches, (written Thursday, June 18th) I am reminded of one of my father’s standard lines which characterize his positive attitude on life, for which I am eternally grateful – because I inherited it. My father would say that every morning that he woke up was a good day. Ultimately, my father would die a few months past his 87th birthday, having lived longer than either of his parents and his seven siblings. A child of the Depression, born in 1919, he spent his formative years not playing Little League baseball as I did, but rather selling newspapers and hot dogs at Fenway Park in Boston. Upon his return home, his mother would hold out her apron, into which my father would pour his day’s earnings. At that time, life was not so much an adventure as it was finding a job/way to make money so the family could eat. His mother/my grandmother worked for a caterer, and at the end of her day, she would bring home remnants of her day’s/evening’s work: food that was discarded before the meal (chicken wings were not so highly regarded then as they are now.) My father/the Lourie family ate chicken wings often. And throughout his life, my father was happiest when eating chicken wings. The experience did not weaken him; it seemed to make him stronger and more grateful for what good fortune fell upon him later in life. In fact, all he ever wanted in life – aside from the obvious things, was “a hot meal and clean sheets.” His upbringing and the hardships he endured seemed to simplify his life.
Another story he would tell – with a smile – was concerning the bathroom in the tenement building where he lived with his nine other family members: it was down the hall, outside of the apartment in which he lived. There was no toilet paper; toilet paper cost money, money which they didn’t have. There were, however, catalogues (Sears, Montgomery Ward, etc.) that were mailed and thus were free. Tenants would cut the pages into squares and hang them in the bathroom on a nail convenient to the commode. My father never complained about this; they were too poor to complain. Occasionally though, staples were not removed from all the squares. Unfortunately, my father, like many other residents I’m sure, found out a bit too late. I imagine there was some pain and suffering, but my father always laughed when he told this story, as much for others’ benefit no doubt as it was for his.
And so too do I try to make people laugh when I am asked to share my cancer stories. I do this because my father always found the humor in things. And before I realized what I was doing and/or why I was doing it, it became clear that unbeknownst to me, I had been following a family tradition and one I am most proud to be continuing. This is not to say that being diagnosed with “terminal” cancer is a wonderful opportunity to find humor and attempt to make people laugh. Nevertheless, I’m not going to be negative. After all, I am my father’s son. Of that I’m positive.
One of the other things I’m super-positive about was how helpful my father would have been had he lived to see me diagnosed with cancer. He would have been my biggest booster, my 24-7 support staff, my unwavering source of encouragement, my inspiration, my up whenever I was down; a man anyone would be lucky to call dad; although I actually called him “Beez,” the nickname given to him by his fellow knothole gang members (Benet was his given name). Whatever good fortune I’m able to experience going forward though, I’ll do so with gratitude and the acknowledgment that none of it would have happened without having had the father I did and hearing about the life he led. Thanks for everything, “Beez.” I’ll see you Sunday.