My father was restless. He liked to go places. Whether it was World Series tickets or PGA passes, Daddy was forever after the means of admission. Any event deemed big, any venue that glittered—Daddy wanted to go there, be a part of it–experience the sparkle, encounter the spin.
As such, my parents traveled—a lot—jet-setting here, Love-Boating there.
In fact, Daddy adored cruising—the drama of ship board dining, the theater of midnight buffets and ice sculpture display.
So, while many American “Pan Am” fans are reminiscing about the golden era of air travel, I’m experiencing a travel nostalgia of my own, looking back at a time when my parents took Caribbean cruises, when Mommy had big, helmet-shaped hair and Daddy wore wide ties, had deep pockets.
During the early part of the 1970s, my parents traveled aboard the S.S. Emerald Seas and later took us kids on the same ship. I wasn’t aware of my parents looking so glamorous at the time, but, clearly, they seemed to sparkle, Mommy, sunburned in white, Daddy, handsome and tanned.
In this picture taken, I believe, aboard the same ship, my parents relax in casual comfort.
Here, all dressed up, they greet the captain.
I mentioned in a previous post, that my parents tended to travel with the same people. Here they are pictured with “Dale the Whale,” Dale’s girlfriend Dorothy, and another couple I don’t recognize.
Below the same group enjoys dinner.
In 1975 my parents cruised aboard the S.S. Doric with Dale and Dorothy–a couple they traveled with so frequently that sometimes even us kids were included. I remember once my parents instructing my brother, who was about four at the time, not to refer to Dale as “Dale the Whale” and, by all means, not to mention the word “fat.” Tyce, apparently so focused on not using the forbidden words, forgot, leaned over, and, obeying the letter but not the spirit of my parents’ request, asked, “So Dale, how much do you weigh now?” So much for kids attempting adult conversation and making a whale of a mistake in the process.
Daddy, clearly, liked to have a good time. In this costume he folded his arms up over his head inside a painted pillowcase that created a hat. If you look closely, you can see tiny holes that allowed him to see.
As evidenced in the photo below, Daddy was willing to do just about anything, including dancing in a tutu, if it meant a good laugh.
The following year, 1976, my parents cruised aboard the Carla C. with Emilio, and his wife Joanne.
Later in his life, Uncle Emil was my father’s closet friend, and he and Joanne, the couple my parents traveled with most frequently. If I manage to interview any of the remaining”I” brothers, it’s likely to be Emilio who will meet with me. (Emil is the older brother of Bobby “I”–currently the underboss of the Pittsburgh crime family.)
However, what struck me most in my perusal of these particular photos, was not so much their imaging members of organized crime, but more the travel documents I found in the photo boxes themselves, ones that help me understand my father a bit better.
Regular readers of my blog will know that Sara and I lived last year in Haiti–one of the islands my parents visited during their 1975 cruise aboard the Doric.
My mother has long told the story of my father’s refusal to go ashore in Haiti, as the deplorable poverty he saw there sickened him. However, when I read a description of the Haiti tour offered to those traveling aboard the Doric, I understood my father’s refusal more clearly.
More specifically, the “Program of Shore Excursions” describes the opportunity to visit Petion-villle, the Port-au-Prince suburb where Sara and I lived. Its characterization of the town as one “boasting beautiful villas and luxurious hotels” might have offended anyone who witnessed the horrible poverty apparent in the port itself. Anyone saddened by that poverty, anyone with even half a heart, would have found it unsavory to visit the stomping ground of the Haitian elite, when it stood in such stark contrast to the poverty everywhere else in the country. Though I don’t know for sure what Daddy was feeling, I’d like to think he recognized the hypocrisy inherent in spending even 9 US dollars to visit the rich when their wealth stood in such stark contrast to the struggle of the poor, whom the elite were willing to keep hungry and desperate and sick.
So, although Daddy was restless, though he wanted to live large and spend big, I also believe he had a huge heart, one that despised arrogance and hypocrisy and greed. I believe Daddy cared about those who suffered needlessly. I believe he didn’t want to show off his own wealth in a place where poverty was dire, where people were hungry and dying.
I had always assumed my father refused to visit Haiti as a way to hide from poverty, out of cowardice, perhaps. However, maybe I was wrong. Maybe Daddy did care. Maybe he cared deeply.
And maybe this is partly what writing a memoir will do for me—allow me to reevaluate judgemental attitudes I’ve held against my father in the past, allow me to reconsider and reflect, to see my father with new eyes, to know he might be proud that I had lived in Haiti. That I had gotten off the ship and fought for the poor, wanted to make a difference, not so much to live large as he had, but to give what was hard to give and live in a place that pained me as it had him. Maybe mine is a different way of living large–living large, as in living deep.
Perhaps, Daddy would be proud of me, as I now am proud of him, proud to be his daughter, proud to love his larger-than-life fight–proud to know him anew.
(To read the first post in this series, click here.)
(Note: If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I’m writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family. To read a post called “Kids Make the Best Bookies,” click here.)