In honor of the anniversary of what would be my Dad Gerald’s 75th birthday, I would like to share a lesson learned so long ago. I was in 3rd grade, living on 5th Ave. in Kitchener, Ontario. Conditions were as close to a domestic lifestyle as one could imagine given the obstacles my Dad had overcome. His domestic partner, Patricia Fragomeni was a raven haired kind lady and the closest stable Mother figure we had known of late. At school one day I was invited by a friend of mine Ralph to go out and eat dinner that evening. When I arrived home, Pat was cooking at the stove. I let Pat know about Ralph’s invite. She thanked me for letting her know and asked me not to be home too late.
I arrived at Ralph’s house full of enthusiasm.In hindsight it was a bit odd that Ralph’s mom was preparing dinner. As Ralph grabbed his coat, I verified with him that we were going out to eat. With a quick hush from Ralph, he simply herded me out the door. Ralph assured me we were going out to eat. Soon we arrived at the local A&W drive-in. Ralph ordered two chicken in a box dinners to go and off we went. We chowed down in a nearby thicket, I thanked my friend as we each headed home.
I had only been home about an hour, sitting in my room when I heard my Dad call me to the front room. There standing in the doorway was Friend Ralph and his parents. I greeted them but the look on their faces told me this wasn’t a warm and fuzzy social visit. I was especially concerned with my Dads serious facial expression. Straight to the point Dad asked if I had taken 20 bucks out of Ralph’s moms purse. I was stunned and my 8 year old mind went numb. I pleaded that I knew nothing about it. All the Adults expressions shifted from serious to that of disbelief while Ralph avoided direct eye contact with me. The last thing I would ever do was to intentionally embarrass my Father much less do it by lying. As my denial continued, my accusers persisted. Could this actually be happening? My hero, my Dad, standing before me as I was being totally forthcoming , not believe me?
I was in a fog. I saw Dad slip Ralph’s parents 10$ and close the door behind them. As the door latched, I stood there on edge not knowing my fate. Even at 8 years old, I couldn’t remember a time where my Dad hadn’t treated me a person, talking to me as such, with respect as well as expecting the same in return. “Raymond, I will ask you one last time, did you take that money?” I explained the dinner invite etc.. He said he believed me and said I could go back to my room. The evening went on and the incident was never mentioned again. To this day I am thankful for the lesson learned that day. As I strive to break chains that bound my father and presented obstacles in my life’s journey, I can only pray that I maintain the anchoring chain of empathy, trust and respect demonstrated so many years ago. I love you Dad and Happy Birthday in Heaven. Amen