Thursday, June 16, 2016

My favorite TV Dad (response to Poets & Writers non-fiction Time is Now: Week 25)

I had a challenging relationship with my dad while I was growing up and even into my early adulthood.  Two strong personalities, Italian-heritage, and I understand now, he struggled with PTSD from World War II and growing up in an alcoholic Italian home.

So television in our household became a refuge from reality and, as I respond to this prompt, Danny Thomas from the Danny Thomas show popped into my mind as my favorite TV dad.  As I remember Danny he was funny and urban (they lived in an upscale yet still modest apartment) in NYC.  He had funny friends such as Hans Conrad and a wife who wore dresses with a white ruffled slip.  She always wore high heels, too.  Was she called Margorie or Margaret?  That I don't remember.

But I clearly remember Rusty and Linda and the fondness Danny would show for them even amidst their escapades and mild misbehaviors.  I couldn't imagine Danny taking a wooden painting stick and spank Linda or shake Rusty's shoulders until Rusty's head hurt.  No, Danny wouldn't do that.

My least favorite--although the prompt doesn't ask me to name one--was Ozzie Nelson.  I thought he was boring and stupid.  He wasn't funny and I couldn't understand how he could have two cool sons, especially Ricky. And tho David was less cute he was smart--smarter than his dad.  Maybe that was the point: two boys, and often the mom, Harriet, could always outsmart Ozzie.

Interesting times to grow up in and reflect upon as Father's Day approaches.

And I will not end on a sour note about my dad. He did the best he could under the circumstances of the 1950s.  He worked hard all his life, often in two jobs, with an education six weeks short of high school thanks to his dad who yanked him into the landscaping business rather than let him graduate. If he had that high school diploma, even after the war, I can imagine him using the GI Bill to better his life and the life of his family.

But even without that diploma, dad (and mom who also worked--a rarity for her generation) left his life with more than a wheelbarrow (the sole legacy of his father).  After a near death experience two months before his actual death in August 2014, his first questions to Mark and me were:  Did the mail come? Did I get my Social Security check?

I can't imagine Danny Thomas or Ozzie Nelson asking that question. Sometimes reality outplays fiction.

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