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July 15, 2022

(after endless editing)

As with all families, there are patterns we live in,including my early suburban life. My father’s morning walk down to the commuter train to Manhattan was the ritual. I do not recall him ever having a sick day in the years I lived with him.

My father’s rigorous dressing each weekday, and the Sundays he went to church, was a full half hour. First shaving and putting on boxers and an undershirt, no matter the weather. Then garter belts were strapped on, to keep the socks up, then the starched shirt with its fold-over French cuffs and cuff links, suspenders, the collar pins to push the Windsor tie knot out, cuffed pants, a vest and gray flannel suit with a pressed handkerchief set in the suit’s jacket breast pocket, slightly visable, and often used. From September to June, then, often a seersucker suit until August. And the black Oxford Wingtip shoes with the holes in their applied pieces. His pocket watch fob and chain inset into the tiny vest pocket and the daily ritual as complete.  

Virtually all clothing was from Brooks Brothers, as were the hats he always wore – brown or black or, with pinstripes, straw, even after the Kennedy inauguration, where the new president eschewed hats in defiant youthful expression. 

My father’s return from New York City each day meant a family train pick-up, then drinks, dinner, yelling and stamp and coin sorting those five days a week. The weekends were their own pattern. Perhaps no shaving, no formal dress. Just breakfast, chores or stamp and coin sorting, then drinks, dinner, yelling, and sleep. 

But Sunday afternoons in the fall were different. The pattern had a weekly break.

My father would lie upon his side of his bed, and tune in the New York Football Giants, on the local broadcast TV station, perhaps the CBS affiliate, prior to the advent of the American Football League, The screen sitting atop a tolling cart shown black and white images upon our Zenith TV with the tuning-fork silent flicker that triggered remote channel changing and volume control – complete with rabbit ear antenna set upon the set’s top.

As with dressing, eating, sorting stamps and coins, smoking was continuous. Commentary in the play of “Spider” Lockhart, Willie Young, or Fran Tarkentonwas continuous, too. I lay upon the end of the bed, and watched with my dad. When I was seven I even saw the team, distantly, at Hackley Day Summer Camp one summer, as they practiced there, marveling at the flexibility of Willie Young. Two years later I then urinated next to the team’s First Round draft choice in 1965 as a nine year old, my first day at Incarnation Camp. I have no idea why he was there, but as he peed he said “My back teeth were floating” to my deep admiration.

My mother had Buffalo family, who knew the wee school I attended. I saw the brochure – it had an image of football. I had seen some games on TV, and I once went to a game with my Dad at Yankee Stadium.

So football was a thing my father and I could share when he was not drunk, or dressing, or screaming.

I had zero connection to anything more physical when raking leaves in autumn, as my parents were similarly detached from anything but coping. But I liked what I saw in black and white those afternoons. I then saw an NFL film on that TV that described football positions. Based on that I determined that I should be a fullback, not knowing my glacial speed. When I shared that with a friend they looked at my “Husky” body and soft physique and unsurprisingly laughed heartily.   

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