My father’s primary loves were his family, his pets and his television store, in varying order. No doubt that love toggled, depending on which source offered the most pleasure, the least annoyance.
Although I was less appreciative as a teenager, now I cherish the Saturdays and summers I worked by his side in “the shop.” There, I had a front-row seat to watch him operate in his favorite his territory.
His sense of humor was wry, often edging on rude. Since he was impossible to insult, he assumed everybody had the same thick skin. His guileless smile and kind heart enabled him to get away with more than the average proprietor.
I blanched when I heard him greet a customer: “Mrs. Finegold, what happened? You got so fat! Did you leave any food for the rest of us?”
“Such a kidder,” the woman said, laughing and hugging him. I don’t think he was kidding.
He was also a fan of practical jokes, whether on the playing or receiving end. One night my parents went for dinner with another couple. Outside the restaurant, someone had been sick on the sidewalk.
“Doesn’t say much for the food here,” Dad said as he gallantly scooped up the mess with his white silk scarf.
“Leon, what are you doing?” his friend gasped. “Not your nice scarf!” Dad eventually ‘fessed up to his prank: he’d brought along his own novelty store rubber vomit.
Trust was another strength my dad possessed. He’d hand over big-ticket items based on a handshake. Only once did a customer give him a bad check. After repeated and patient attempts to settle the bill, Dad drove to the customer’s home and took back his new TV. Solved! Um, he might have climbed through an unlocked rear window to retrieve it, but why sully this sweet tale with borderline B&E.
That same trust went for payment plans. Customers could have their new TV if they verbally promised to make regular payments. He accepted a few dollars each month until the bill was paid.
These scenarios were ordinary events during my childhood and teens. As an adult, I have a renewed admiration for my father’s view of humanity. A person’s age, culture, gender and income was irrelevant; my dad had respect for everyone. By the time he retired, he’d sold TVs to several generations of customers. I never grew weary of hearing their praise for him through the years.
Besides humans, he treasured animals. When my mother phoned our nearby pet store to find a remedy for our pet turtle’s filmy shell, the store owner said, “And by the way, Donna, your skunk’s ready.”
“That’s funny, I thought you just said skunk.”
“I did, the one your husband ordered? Flower has been de-scented and can come home now.”
“Over my dead body!” Mom said and quickly hung up the phone. Who surprises his wife with a skunk? We’d already sheltered and rescued a plethora of critters under our suburban roof, from dogs and cats, chickens and pigeons, to rabbits and rodents.
This weekend, do something special to celebrate your father. But don’t surprise him with a skunk. Brunch and a new gag gift should do the trick.