A Flash of Memory

Art by Rob Goldstein
Marked Man

 

My Father always looked old to me.

He was 41 when I was born.

When my Father was amused his left eyebrow shot up.

He reserved his smile for The Big Picture and the life insurance
salesman who came every Saturday to chat and drink coffee.

My Father said he had nothing against blacks, but they weren’t the same as whites.

He was oblivious to the fact that to almost everyone in our Southern Baptist
neighborhood, Jews were Black too.

Why did an Orthodox Jew choose to live among racist anti-Semites?

My Father bought a house among them the year of my conception.

Was he stupid?

Was he defiant?

Maybe he felt he had earned the right to live where he pleased.

He was a vet who risked his life for an idea called American Democracy.

In this flash of memory four members of the John Birch Society arrive one Sunday night to give my family a presentation.

I listen in horror as the leader describes the communist chinks who play
football with the dead babies of white people.

“They kick ’em and thow ’em like they was footballs!”

The John Birch Society

After the four men leave my Father’s left eyebrow shoots up.

He looks at my Mother and says: “I didn’t know the Communist chinks played football.”

*

My Father kept a uniform in his closet.

Was he an officer? I can’t remember.

It looked like an officer’s  uniform.

Art by Rob Goldstein
Public Domain

Later, when I was six and alone in the house I tried on the jacket.

It smelled of  Old Spice.

*

I realized in yesterday’s therapy session that my Father must
be the source of the way I understand my duty as a man.

He took me to Temple and drove me twice a week to
choir practice and Hebrew School.

I was even in the Jewish Boy Scouts.

I believe that everyone around me is an extension of God’s will.

I believe that if you are born to this Earth then you have a right
to a share of God’s abundance.

These values must have come from my Father.

When I was born my parents were typical members of the
prosperous working class.

But there was something wrong with my parents and it became
clear to the leaders of Charleston’s Jewish Community.

In this flash of memory a social worker takes me and my Sister
to Foster care, but I don’t remember why he was called.

Rob Goldstein (c) 2016