Friday is my dad’s birthday. It’s been eight years since he left the world we know, but that won’t stop me from celebrating. I usually make spaghetti and meatballs and we play 500 Rummy after dinner. Growing up my grandmother would start planning her only child’s birthday the week before. Every year it was pretty much the same. The night of his birthday we’d go to Enzee’s on Ritchie Highway for dinner, eat pasta and watch as my dad opened his present of a shirt and matching tie we’d bought at Buchman’s on Light Street. Afterwards, we would go home and play cards. It was simple, predictable, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
One of my dad’s birthdays was particularly memorable. Summer days were much longer back then, they slowly evolved into night and not many of us noticed. We continued on what we were doing no matter the time of day. In the evening my grandfather would haul out our portable television set, attach it to an extension cord and put it on the top step. Our neighbors did the same thing. The block was lined with people sitting out watching TV on their aluminum folding chairs. Mom would give my sister and me a bath and do our hair in braids and then sit us on the steps much like the television. I sat in my Pop-Pop’s lap while my sister stayed closer to the screen. It was her job to change the channels.
It was a night much like all the other summer nights. Mom sat reading a book, my grandmother crocheted, and Dad was in bed because he wasn’t on summer vacation. He had to work the next day even if it was his birthday. Pop-Pop had just unplugged the television and we’d barely walked into our kitchen when Dad barreled down the steps and raced out the front door. I’d never seen him move that fast. Mom, my grandparents, and I all rushed to the front door to see what was happening. Dad was in the middle of the street, kneeling on the back of a man who was crying.
“You trying to steal my car?” Dad shouted. We couldn’t hear the man’s response, only his sobbing. Dad pulled him up by his hair and whipped out a pair of handcuffs, seemingly from thin air. Where did they come from? Dad was only wearing pajama bottoms and a tee shirt! Mom tried to shuffle me back inside, but I wasn’t missing this.
By the time Dad dragged this man to our steps, a shop owner from the corner shop appeared with an explanation. It seemed this young man worked for the shop owner and he’d sent the man to retrieve something from his car. He gave him the keys to a black Cadillac. Dad’s Cadillac was dark blue. The young man mistook Dad’s car for his boss’s car. Everyone was invited in for coffee and some sort of sweet treat my grandmother whipped up. Dad went to bed uninterested in making amends and claiming the young man was still a punk. No one really knew what kind of shop the guy on the corner ran. It wasn’t long after that the shop closed.
Happy birthday, Dad. I hope wherever you are you’re enjoying spaghetti and winning at cards.