I want to wish all Atlas papas a happy, happy day. We love our fathers and wouldn't be half the women we are without them. I penned this love note to my Dad last year:
I was closer to my Dad than anyone. There was no one like him. He came up the hard way and made a success of his life the hard way. Poor and fatherless, he took responsibility for his younger brothers and basically assumed the position of head of household while still in junior high school. He worked at every kind of job and business. I heard he even had a dairy truck for awhile.
When I knew him he worked 16 hour days. A workaholic, he always wanted what was best for my three sisters and I. He worked mightily and always figured it out, whatever obstacles were thrown his way. And there were some mighty challenges thrown at him.
The man was rarely home. Always working. In my early teens, I went to work with him weekends and split session and I saw him in action. His pace unrelenting, he did everything - despite the size of the business - from ordering a dozen gross zippers, to pattern cutting, to designing jacquards, sewing samples ......... I am talking everything. So it was a michaya to tiptoe around the house Sunday mornings in the winter time, so papa could sleep until all hours. Not spring and summer though. Uh uh -- then he would be out by six am to play his 18 holes and spend the afternoon playing gin, nursing a Johnnie Walker on the rocks. And always with a cigarette dangling our of his mouth. Salem after Salem. It's why I love the smell of cigarettes, still.
I loved him. He did everything. I never saw a repairman in my house -- ever. He fixed everything. Boiler, burner, electric, plumbing, refrigeration - all of it. And he called me to ride shotgun. Always. I would hand him the tools, listen to him cuss like I sailor and he'd Rube Goldberg whatever he was tackling. And it worked.
He built a factory in the toughest part of Brooklyn, East New York, and employed well over 100 folks in that neighborhood. They adored him, respected him. They'd invite him to their homes, their family get togethers. They trusted him and went to him with their problems. And he help solve them. I speak Spanish fluently because I worked with him, for him and I wanted to be able to communicate with everyone the way that he did.
And just like in the house, he fixed everything in that shop from knitting machines to candy machines, elevators to carburetors. He learned. He had the first computer, an IBM mainframe and what a pain in the ass that was. He didn't care. He thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. We were going IBM and that was it. I had to learn to do the billing on that damn thing and it was always breaking down and losing data and wouldn't it all be easier, dad, if we could just do it by hand? "No!" He spent hours fixing that baby too.
I could always call him whatever fix I was in. A particularly vivid memory was when I was driving on a flooded Belt Parkway some ways before the Linden Blvd exit and there was a huge "puddle" under a span and I thought, "oh, I could do this" though no other vehicle had attempted it, but I was 17 and knew better. Needless to say the water started coming in through my windows and I literally had to get out of the car through the drivers side window (I didn't realize the road dipped there). Soaked, I made my way up the embankment and started knocking on doors to use a phone to call my Dad. No one would open their door of course but finally a little old lady let me use her phone (the good old pre-cell phone days, eh?). Anyway, I will never forget, not 15 minutes later, seeing something far off in the distance coming towards me. It was my father's white, convertible Eldorado driving backwards (almost speeding) down the Belt Parkway to come and rescue his reckless daughter (he couldn't access my location the normal way because of the flooding). There was no one else on the Parkway west of the flood so he took the ........initiative. And while it's not an important story it is one of thousands.
He liked me best. And I was not a favored child in that household but he liked me best. He was a workaholic so wasn't around a lot but when he was he always took my part. He stood up for me - an unpopular position to take in that raucous house. Right or wrong - he backed me (and would take me aside later and admonish me if he thought I got it wrong). He got me - and I was not an easy kid.
I learned everything I know from him. He was benevolent and philanthropic. He was unambiguous and his life lessons still resonate with me everyday. He walks with me everyday. He's on the blog. He didn't suffer fools or full of shitniks (that's his term that I use and love), and he was unafraid. And ......... so am I.
It was special to be "Ruby's Geller's daughter".
There was no one like him. He was a tough guy. And I loved him.
I miss him like hell.