We squealed with laughter and fear as we clutched each other’s arms and the sides of our 1957 De Soto Convertible. Dad held the wheel tight, and we went round and round in circles in the empty parking lot at the bottom of our street. Five little neighborhood kids were sitting on top of the back seat. It was 1963 and you could take a lot more chances back then.
Although child seats had not yet been invented, and often we fought to sit in the back window during a family trip, yes, that is right - in the back window, one of the other Dad’s were stuffing the neighborhood kids on top of the back seat and executing figure eights with the top down. It wasn’t just putting us in a giant tire and rolling us down the backyard hill, or the 3 speed on the column SIMCA he taught us to drive in the back yard when we were still in elementary school, (we never hit one single fruit tree, came close to the pool once or twice), it was the way DAD went about his life that made everyone love Harold.
I often told him that when he died I would tell everyone that “he was a hell of a nice guy,” but everyone that heard my eulogy already knew that about Dad.
He could fix anything, and often did for all the neighbors and frequently total strangers. It might not have been the most eloquent solution but it always worked. I had a giant glass jug that had long ago sacrificed its contents of Manishevitz Concord Grape wine to become the permanent overflow tank off my radiator, made me laugh every time I opened the hood.
Dad was a child of The Depression, he knew that life held no guarantees and to appreciate the smallest moments when you could help another human being. He often said of the material world,” you can’t take it with you!”
When Harold was five, he was chasing a ball on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts and was run over by a Pierce Arrow; subsequently he grew up in a body cast at the Children’s Shriner’s Hospital. The only ID he had was a spark plug. The hospital nurses quickly nicknamed him “Sparky.” During one of the many surgeries, he was next to a boy who no longer had the use of his arms or legs. Every morning Harold would lean over to the child’s bed and clean his teeth, all the while he was thanking God that his injuries were so minor in comparison. It was then that Dad learned life was about what God gave you, what you chose to make of it, and how you treated everyone along the way.
Dad never missed an opportunity to make someone smile. He parented through the good times and excelled at being there through the bad times. He listened to our problems, offered solutions where they existed, and when the world was at its’ bleakest, admonished us to just put one foot in front of the other every morning, because there were no other options, he had been there himself.
I was lucky to be raised by such a kind, yet mischievous and
respectfully defiant man. I got this Dad, thanks, and Happy Father’s Day!