Guest Writer: My Mom tells "Stories About my Dad"

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The two week vacation continues. Due to drop-outs it looks like I’m one story short right now but I’ll figure something out. Today’s story is quite fun, for me at least, and well worth the two hours it took me to edit it (mom, what was up with all the backslashes, periods and parenthesis? Yowza!)– it’s my mom talking about her dad. I already talked about Poppy a little bit but, being that I never met him, it’s more fitting coming from her. Please, enjoy. I did.

__________________

Hello, everyone. My son is Jason Rodriguez and he finally asked me to write a story for his web site. As most of you know he is a wonderful, talented, sarcastic writer. Did I also say brilliant? And he’s my son.

Anyway I really can't write but I can tell you a little about my dad. My dad was a World War II corporal in the army. Never bragged and only 4 years ago one of my cousins that is a Vietnam vet looked into my dad’s service history. He had 12 medals including two Purple Hearts and one Silver Star. Growing up I used to say, “Dad, did you get any medals?” because I knew that he was wounded twice. He used to say, “Does it matter? I didn't fight for our country for a piece of metal.”

So I always left it alone.

He was not a big man. I bet he didn't measure 5'4 but he was a giant in my eyes. When he got out of the service he got a job for a while as a mechanic with a little shop in Red Hook. They said he was one of the best mechanics around. He loved Harleys; he could take them apart and put them back together without a manual. I don't think he ever got paid for his jobs, but he didn't care.

In 1949 he opened one of the first bar and grills in Red Hook. It was called "Gabe’s Bar and Grill - Where Old Friends Meet”. It was a huge bar with a back room that now would be condos for sure. We use to have our holidays dinners there in the "back room". My dad was a very generous man; he lived for the day alone. We had a big family as it was but always had at least 3-4 families with us in the back room for the holidays.

Everyone came to my dad for a "favor", as he called it. “Jackie, 15.00 for my rent, please.” He never chased anyone down for the money owed him that was “other people’s” job in the neighborhood, he would say, not his. They used to pay my dad back with weird things. First it was a dog. Then he had his own pigeon coop in the yard. People that flew pigeons used to give him someone else’s pigeons if they caught them. Ducks were a common pay back in the middle of Red Hook. My dad built a huge dog house in the yard. One day it was raining and after the rain stopped and I was looking out the window and out came three dogs, cats, ducks, two rabbits and a pig. It was around Easter time, I remember, and we had a nice dinner that holiday.

I'm the youngest of 5 and when I was 6 my mom wanted to go on a vacation with us. My dad was always tied to the bar. He told my mom find a place. Well, she did. It was in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. He dropped us up there on a Monday and left my mom, with 5 kids, who didn’t know how to drive. They were cute wooden bungalows. We went for the whole summer at a cost of about 300 for the summer, and that was considered a lot.

By the 2nd summer most of Red Hook was going up there. Some would rent for a week or two and some family members stayed the whole summer. The men would come up for the weekend. It was lake-front property and it was the best times of my childhood. Two times a summer my dad would rent a big bus and invite some kids from Red Hook and their parents up to play baseball against a team from New Jersey. The owner of Brief’s Cottages used to go crazy. She did come to like my dad a lot, though; after all, he kept her in business.

There were over 30 cottages and one year she was selling and my dad wanted to buy them. His brother-in-law talked him out of it. Too bad Jason could now be a very rich kid. Oh well…

My dad always made sure we had what we needed. He truly lived just for the day. He loved his kids...and died too young...I sure wish my dad was around now. He would read this and say, “Peggy, why are you writing all that stuff about me? I just did what I had to do for the family.” Jason, you can kill this story but it’s all true. Wish my dad was around now to see you and Elizabeth. Well, he actually is.

I love you,
Mamadukes

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