Perhaps I've told it to you in person. But I don't see it here on Net Cotton Content. So this might be news.
So One Day,
I was walking home from the school bus stop, a couple blocks from home. I was maybe ten years old.
I was a good kid. I was doing whatever good kids do. I was walking home via the nicely manicured alley. Possibly I was dragging a stick along the fences.
Good kid stuff.
"Hey, You. Come here!"
Shouted some fellow from his doorstep.
"What are you doing there?" he shouted accusingly.
"Nothing, mister," I answered.
I don't remember the ensuing conversation. It was short. He demanded to know my name. I moved quickly on home. (No more dragging sticks along fences. That kind of behavior can get a guy in trouble.)
Father Enters The Picture.
My father, Arthur J. Isaac, Jr., of blessed memory, was a very respectful fellow. He did the right thing. All the time.
When he met my father, my first boss in New York City said, "Artie is the most ethical person I have ever met."
My father replied, "We Isaacs like to maintain a high ethical standard. It makes those around us nervous."
That was a typical Big Art sandwich: ethics on wry.
Anyway, my father told me that he received a call at his office today. A neighbor had complained about me.
I pled my case: "What? That's unbelievable. Daaa-ad. I swear didn't do anything. He was just yelling at me."
"I know you didn't do anything," Dad said. "You are a good kid. But when an adult complains, you have to go apologize."
"We have to go to his house and apologize. I'll go with you. It won't take more than a few minutes. It's the right thing to do."
So We Go. I Say I'm Sorry.
I remember this part vividly. We walked up to his stoop, knocked on the door. He comes to the door, opens it, and we three are standing there awkwardly. My father says, "Artie wants to say something to you." I say: "I'm sorry."
And the fellow snorts dismissively. And slams the door without a word.
That was it.
Until about 15 years later.
I was 24 years old, living in New York, at my first office job.
A large envelope arrives in the mail. From Dad! He was a great writer and -- whenever he corresponded -- it was a pleasure to read.
The big envelope had two enclosures:
1. A smaller envelope. See the photo. (If you are reading this via email subscription, and you cannot see the photo, it's time to visit here.) As you can see, it's from my father and it says, in capital letters, underscored: "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL LETTER IS READ."
2. A letter from my father. Here it is. You can click on it to enlargen the image:
Reread that first sentence. In the first sentence:
- He is the hero. (Brave compositional choice.)
- Latin appears. (An erudite, emotional deflection. And our argument over my taking a second year of Latin -- I was against -- was the only argument we ever had. All the way to fisticuffs, if you can imagine that! I took a third year at college.)
- He humbly implies he will someday issue a full apology for his life. (Wasn't necessary.)
- The father works hard to praise the son. (He knew I was not an extensive reader. And anyone who has read a fortune cookie has read "To err is human.")
One sentence. Awesome.
This Was All Out Of The Blue.
I had forgotten about the incident. It had not haunted me. I might have been upset that day, but the experience disappeared into the week.
Not for my father.
All right, Dad. You have my interest.
It seemed that anything could be in the inner envelope.
This news clipping from 1984 was inside the envelope. (Click on the image to enlargen.)
All good dads have bad days.