ROSCOE WAS ALWAYS QUIET

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When you think of your parents, what comes to mind first?  Are they attractive, smart, compassionate, tall or short, thin or, eh, just slightly overweight?  What is their eye color, hair color —do they still have hair?  When I think of my Father, I think of three things.

RoscoeBFirst, his name.  Roscoe.  Know anyone with that name?  No?  Ever HEAR of anyone with that name?  No.  How about Roscoe Lee Browne, actor in theater, film, and TV until his death in 2007.  Great voice —James Earl Jones great.  How about Roscoe Karns, actor in film and early TV?  Remember “Rocky King, Detective”, running from 1951-4?  Too long ago?  I guess I’m dating …Dad.

Second, my Father was a fine athlete.  Grew up on a farm and learned to play horseshoes.  Dating Dad again, I guess.  He swam well enough to teach Mom, when she was a teenager and they dated.  Taught me, too, later.  He wasn’t a pro athlete, though.  When he was in his 20s and 30s, baseball did not have a minimum major league wage of $500,000.  Neither did football or basketball.  Golf, Dad’s best and favorite sport, was played by amateurs in bowlcountry clubs and a small circuit of pros.  He busied himself, when time permitted following work, repairing cars, and fixing everything that was broken, with swimming, horseshoes, miniature golf, and bowling —a 180 average after a surgeon sliced the tendons in his wrist to shreds.  Might have been pro in that, too.  Never complained, though. Not ever.  In comparison, John Wayne was a wimp.

Third, my Father was always quiet.  Always.  Al-ways.  Quiet as the grave, Dickens would have said.  He was a man of few words.  My brother and I used to joke that Dad would cemeteryconsider John Wayne a Chatty Kathy doll for boys.  But while Dad didn’t talk much, he did .  He got by with a variety of facial expressions, gestures, and short sentences.  As a son, you learned to pay attention.  He did not speak unless it was important.  And he repeated nothing, ever.  If you missed something, it was your loss.  But his expectations were always fair.  If he didn’t KNOW you could do something right, he didn’t request it. And when your chores were completed, properly and on time, you always got your allowance.  As he said, once, and followed through with action every time, “you get what you earn.”  That was the golden rule.  Some of his peers would say, “He was fair to a fault.”  My brother and I knew better.

Once, Dad did surprise everyone with an opinion unique for a white man.  It was expressed firmly, with just a sly bit of humor, and, as is always true with humor, contained a large grain of truth.  The family was discussing the various social ills of our society during dinner.  Dad was eating.  What were the problems facing the United States in the 1960s and 1970s and what gave birth to them?  Dad stopped chewing and interjected: “Most of this country’s problems are the result of the Indians’ poor immigration policies.”  I looked at my brother.  He looked at me.  We both looked at Mom and she looked back at us.  We all looked at Dad.  He had resumed eating.  Good thing our attention had not wandered.  We would have missed the moment —never to be repeated.

When an occasion arose at which many men would speak, what was Dad’s reaction:

1) Going to the hardware store.  No need for a list or discussion.  He’ll pick up what’s necessary when he gets there.

2) Composing a “to do” list.  Too many items to discuss/list.  He’ll do the important stuff automatically.

3) Discussing current events.  Maybe tomorrow if something is still important.  Don’t hold your breath.

4) Discussing the price of any and everything.  If it’s important, he already knows.  Discussion is a waste of time.

5) Discussing a book.  He reads a local newspaper and Popular Science magazine.  It will suffice.

6) Discussing neighborhood gossip.  You’re kidding, right?  If you have time for gossip, you’re not doing your job, chores, or homework.

7) Discussing restaurants.  Nothing to talk about.  He eats at home.  Unless, Mom wants to “go out.”

8) Discussing our family’s week vacation at the NJ seashore.  NO discussion necessary.  If a vacation will occur, Dad and Mom will arrange it and inform family, friends, and neighbors when necessary.

9) Discussing buying a car.  There is always a (relatively) new one for Mom; a used one for Dad —or kids, if he thinks it’s for an important reason.

10) Attending a funeral for an extended family member or friend.  His suit is always pressed.  He would arrive on time, stop in front of the casket, pause for a surprising amount of time, pat the deceased’s shoulder, talk to no one (“What was I supposed to say?”), and —later— at a restaurant/church basement sip A beer.

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11) Discussing a movie.  My parents went to see the film entitled: “The Bridge at Remagen.”  It starred Ben Gazzara.  It was about an important battle in Europe in WWII. Dad had always gone to such movies.  He was very interested in this film because he had fought in this battle, just as he and other American troops had liberated the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.  When he arrived home from the theater, I asked: “How was the movie?”  Dad kept facing forward as he walked through the living room and into the kitchen and replied: “It wasn’t like that at all.”  Mom, later, told me he’d said to her: “I’m not going to any movies like that again.”  Remagen was in theaters in 1969.  Dad died in 1999.  He never saw another “war movie.”

*****

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About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures above...it's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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