Saturday, April 08, 2006

It Happens Every Spring

I tried to call my mother when I got home tonight, but there was no answer. My guess is she was down in the rec room of her building, playing bingo and winning a fortune off the other "senior citis" or at least enough to get to "the AC" (Atlantic City) this weekend. "Oh well," I thought, "maybe she's watching the game, so she wouldn't really be listening to me anyway." No one in my family can truly focus when there's a game on, so don't call, you'll just get frustrated. My next thoughts were of "Yankee baseball," immediately followed by one word, "Daddy."

Over the course of his life, Domingo Abreu-Fuste was many things to many people: husband, grandfather, friend, compatriot, lodge brother, dental technician. He was my daddy and so much more. A brief catalog of who (and what) he was to me:

Sharp Dressed Man: (check out the photo!). While most men shed the suit and tie on the weekend, my father saw Saturday and Sunday as the opportunity to throw on his finest. Unless we were going to the beach or the Palisades, he was "dressed." He owned a closet full of suits (I specifically remember a grey one) and enough ties to, well, when he passed away, my mother handed us a bag full of ties so that the men in the family could each wear one. Everyone at the service could have worn one, there were so many. He'd let me help him get ready most of the time. I was his little valet, picking out a tie or cologne. My scent preferences were Polo or Halston for Men (NEVER Bowling Green by Geoffrey Beene, ugh.) I'd button the top button on his dress shirt and help him into his suit jacket. Then I would stand on the bed behind him to make sure everything looked right. Forget about Cary Grant and George Clooney (for just a moment), THIS man set the bar for how men should look, for me anyway. He took his jeans to the dry cleaner for crying out loud! No wonder I nearly burst into tears at the Men's Wearhouse last weekend while suit shopping with Mike. All those beautiful suits. I couldn't take it. I bought my very own grown-up suit last weekend, too (at Filene's not Men's Wearhouse, smart ass). It's grey with a pink lining. He'd love it.

The Originator of Bling: I don't remember ever seeing my parents wearing wedding bands. I'd have to double check with my siblings, but I believe they didn't have them on when they were removed from their home in Cuba, so the rings probably still belong to the government. Once they were settled in the states, they made up for it, big time. My father loved a good piece of jewelry and was as tasteful as he could be about it. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, watches. How many watches, you ask? My mother wears one, my siblings and I each have one and there are probably more waiting to be given to my nieces and nephews when they are old enough. The highlight of his collection? A thick gold chain with a "pendant" of Saint Lazarus. And when I say pendant, I mean it was the size of a parakeet. Believe it.

Iron Chef: Although he didn't cook at home very often (an occasional Sunday lunch after a late night at the Club), my father was an excellent cook. His dental lab was equipped with a stove in the back room, in order to "cook" the molds, so it wasn't unusual to walk in and find a pot of something good (steaks, fried pork, spicy goat) cooking on the burner right next to the dentures (fear not, amateur health inspectors! Many of us have lived to tell the delicious tale.) My father was known to entertain friends who stopped by his office after regular business hours with a cold beer and a hot meal. The game would be on, of course, which leads me to...

Superfan: "Reggie! Reggie!" Those words, as chanted by her husband and children, drove my mother up a wall throughout the late seventies. Poor woman. All she wanted was to watch her Spanish soaps (Christina Bazan, anyone?) in the next room in peace. Since there was no chance of that ever happening, my mother eventually came to her senses, gave up the soaps and gave in to baseball, specifically Yankee Baseball. Generally speaking, my father was what I like to call a tri-state loyalist. We lived in New Jersey, so he rooted for all the area teams (Giants, Jets, Devils, Rangers, etc). Whether or not he even understood football and hockey was irrelevant. And yes, he even rooted for the Mets in '86, but we all know that if one must choose between two evils, one must always choose to root for the team that's NOT BOSTON. But his love for his Yankees, well, that's a different business altogether. Whenever the Yankees won a championship, any championship, my father was first in line at Modells the next day to buy a t-shirt and a hat. No fair weather fan was he, oh no! My father suffered and celebrated through every season. When my parents moved into senior housing and discovered they might not be able to get the YES network and watch every single game of the season, my father walked up and down Bergenline Avenue to every TV and electronics store until he found someone who could provide him with his Yankee fix. Champions or not, in sickness and in health, Daddy remained faithful to the pinstripes. I remember watching the Old Timers game with him in the hospital shortly after his first surgery. When we moved him to the nursing home for treatment, the only thing he really wanted was to be able to watch the games, so we got him a TV and a radio, so he could watch in English but listen in Spanish. He held on until the post-season and let's just say my siblings and I made sure he went into the next life prepared. My father's love for his team lives on in his children and grandchildren. I don't think it's any coincidence that Aaron Boone hit that dinger on October 17th, two and a half weeks after my father's death (also my sister's wedding anniversary). I like to think it was my father's gift to us. He was telling us that as long as the Yanks are playing, he'll be around.


Ia said...

Ok, I hope you don't mind me adding to your post but I wanted to help you understand some things from before you were born & remind you of some other things. BTW...YIKES on the wallpaper!!!

Sharp Dressed Man: He not only sent his jeans to the cleaners, he also NEVER wore anything without ironing it, undershirts & all. Which explains a lot about us (Pete being found having his shoes shined in the park at 7 years old when the Ferris Wheel fell in Camajuani & everyone was going nuts looking for him...did I mention is was evening?) Daddy always used to say Mami was initially attracted to him because he was the only black man who only wore "Dril cien" (Drill 100) linen suits, which was like wearing Armani here. He wore something moments after buying it because in case he walked across the street & got hit by a truck he didn't want someone else wearing his new stuff...see Superfan.

Bling: They didn't have wedding bands for exactlythat reason, most of our jewelry stayed behind, however, as soon as they could they saved up & he bought his & hers matching solid gold watches with their initials "D.A" on the clasp, bought us name bracelets (which sadly Pete lost & mine was stolen) with our "American" names (Peter & Mary) on them. There was a man (El Moro) who came to our house every Saturday morning to collect payment on the jewelry until they were paid off. Sort of a Home Shopping Club with lay-a-way..

Iron Chef: He made an AWESOME arroz con pollo & could whip up a meal with whatever we had int he fridge...however, Mami is the queen of desserts!

Superfan: Here is my favorite part, his LOVE for the Yankees was so powerful that he turned Mami (a former Mets fan...although she WILL deny it today) and my husband who was a DIE HARD Cincinnati Reds fan into Yankee fans. As for me, I bleed navy & white pinstripes. He enjoyed every win & suffered every loss but NEVER ever waivered. Laughed hysterically when Billy Martin would kick the dirt at an ump, when Mami would cringe every time Reggie! Reggie! would spit ut the side of his mouth & cried like a baby (that's another post) when Munson's plane went down & they had to play a game the evening after his burial. He went to The Series in '79 & sat in the bleachers (took my brother, I'm still bitter about that ). That Boone home run? He was with me...literally, I was holding his picture inmy hand (along with Thurman Munson's & wearing a Billy Martin shirt...I tend to bring out the dead for my games), I cried like a baby after that home run, kissed hi picture a million times & tend to point the picture towards the screen during the games. Nuts...I know. When he was really ill we had gone to Modell's & bought him a long sleeved Yankee Shirt which he never got to wear...we put it in with him, you know? so no other guy comes to wear his new stuff. Now if he only showed up for these recent games...I'll be happy.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have met him.