by G. Jack Urso
|My old toy Volkswagen Beetle.|
In the summer of 1969, at the end of the school year, and just before I was to have started kindergarten that fall, I sat on my parents’ bed playing with a small blue Volkswagen Beetle. Herbie, The Love Bug had just been released, but not having a toy version of my own to play with, I settled for pretending the blue one I already had was Herbie. My parents’ blanket was ribbed with raised lines that made for a perfect track.
My dad came in and placed a couple items on his dresser, a clay ashtray and a small brightly colored painted stone, gifts made in school by my brother and sister, Joe and Annmarie, respectively. I became immediately jealous. I wanted to make something in school to give my dad, but I didn’t want to wait. So, I picked up what was my most prized possession at the time, my little blue Volkswagen Beetle (see image above), and presented it to my father with the pride of a martyr being led to their fate. OK, perhaps it was because I just happened to have it in my hand at the time, but I really liked that toy car. I soon regretted my decision and entertained the thought of asking for it back, but I quickly forgot about it. I had lots of toy cars.
In any event, my parents divorced. As happens with divorce, families often scramble for a place to land. I moved between five addresses in the five years after the marriage broke up, bouncing between parents like a ping pong ball. My dad made at least seven moves between various addresses, getting remarried along the way. As it happens with frequent moves, much gets lost or left behind. I have absolutely nothing left from my youth except for an old beach blanket from the Summer of 1973 when we went to Miami, and just one other item.
My father died on June 15, 2002, the day before Father’s Day, and some thirty-three years after I gave him that small blue toy Volkswagen Beetle, so this day always seems a little extra empty to me. His death took six months and was agonizing to witness. It was like watching him slowly fall off a cliff and not having the strength to pull him back.
After the funeral and all the dust had settled, I found in the top drawer of his dresser my toy blue Volkswagen (see image above). It felt like being reunited with a long-lost friend. I didn’t know he kept it all these years.
Another item of my father’s found just a few years ago is an old Father’s Day gift from 1972. My folks separated briefly in 1971, so the following year my siblings and I got him a small statue of a father and son together with the words, "It's Great To Have A Dad Like You," as a gift for Father’s Day — fifty years ago today (see image left). Perhaps as a bit of emotional blackmail to keep the folks together, but alas, it did not work.
There is a bit of sadness whenever I look at these relics of my shared past with my father. Not just because it is a reminder of my childhood and my father’s love, but also for the family that was split up, for the home that was lost, for the years I cannot get back, and for the memories that claw at me as though they only happened yesterday.
|The Old Man and I, August 1978, in Lake George,
Joseph A. Urso Jr. 1934-2002.
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