Remembering a dad who took the time to teach and inspire

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A Father’s Day moment in time. I was in the fourth grade and doing poorly in social studies. I asked my tired dad who came home late if he could please help me. I whined about a big test the next day and  told him honestly that I didn’t listen to the teacher and I was sorry. I knew how to make him say “yes” to me. He never gave me a “no.” 

He put on his favorite blue terry cloth robe and opened a large bottle of Coke. 

“It’s gonna be a long night tonight , but by tomorrow you will love American history,” he said.

We started reading my text book with the beginning of the War of Independence. He explained to me why America was unique in the world, and why the Founders wanted freedom from England. He made George Washington come alive and Ben Franklin a folk hero.

He started every explanation with “in other words” and made me able to relate to each  paragraph in the text. We read about the wars from 1776 straight through to the Civil War. He explained the horror of slavery to a 10-year-old who couldn’t grasp  the concept of one man torturing another because he owned him.

We read about all the battles and the final surrender of the Confederacy, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Reconstruction of the South and its meaning today. I couldn‘t believe there were still separate facilities for people of color in the South.

The text read through World War I and finally to Pearl Harbor, which brought us in as participants of WW II. He read of the Great Depression and the fall of the stock market. He told me he stood on bread lines before Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. He was convinced that FDR, as he was commonly referred to, had saved America. He told me stories of people he knew in the Bronx who had nothing to eat and would beg for food. There was no help for them. He inspired me to be interested in the news and never let a day go by without looking through the newspaper.

We read the textbook until 5 a.m. He then took off his robe and got dressed to go back to the city on the train.

Needless to say I got a 100 on my test, and on every American history test through high school. That one night aroused a patriotic spirit in me that has never faltered.

My closest friends today ask why politics is so important to me. They ask me why I never stop talking about the news. My interest was peeked one night 57 years ago when my conscientious dad took the time to inspire me. 

As I got older, I watched his sadness at the slaying of the Kennedy brothers — John and Robert — and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a mournful time for Americans. We watched the travesty of the Vietnam War on television every night. The rise and fall of Nixon and to my father’s surprise the election of Reagan. Bill Clinton was someone he admired. We would discuss his attributes at the pool in Sunrise, Fla., after he retired.

He was my personal political pundit before it became popular to be one. My mentor and best friend.

Thank you dad for all of that and for that one special night in the fourth grade. The night that truly changed my life.  

Weinberger is a North Woodmere resident.