No, Freddie cant say he mourned
when his father died and his fathers third wife found Freddie's number
and gave him a call to give him the news. His father had been responsible,
worked hard, saved his money, put Freddie and his brothers through college but
when his mother died and all the boys had grown up and left home, his father
disappeared. No forwarding address. After a while Freddie didnt think
that much about him. So he was surprised when this widow he didnt know
called and told him his father had been hit by a truck that ran up on a
sidewalk and flattened him. Declared dead at the hospital.
Freddie didnt mourn his mother
either when she had died although he had spent two years taking her to the best
doctors hoping one of them would save her from cancer, not realizing that back
in those years there was nothing doctors could do for a cancer so severe and
caught so late, certainly not the big-time surgeon who said that he could. He
was number one at a teaching hospital and wanted to fatten his mother up so he
could operate on her again so all the residents and interns could watch and
learn from him as he attempted to do the impossible.
His mother was terminal, the first
doctor had said following the first of three operations two years earlier, but
that doctor was an immigrant at a small hospital. There were bigger, better
hospitals in Chicago and Freddie took her to the best in the city. Finally his
mother, in her last days and when she weighed about 80 pounds, said, No
more operations. She died two weeks later in the middle of the night
right after Freddie had called the hospital to ask about her and heard the
usual mantra, Your mothers vital signs are stable. They never
said she was dying.
But after the funeral Freddie sat for
three hours and sipped Cokes in his apartment and watched a movie of his entire
life run through his mind. Like Freddie's father his mother did everything a
mother could do but she wasnt any better effectively than his father had
been although Freddie would bet no mother ever made better salami sandwiches.
He ate three or four at a time and took them and everything else she did for
him for granted. Thats what a mother was supposed to do. He was too smart
to know better.
Freddie had been a kid reared in a
neighborhood of immigrants. The other kids, by and large, had parents who drank
too much, fathers who didnt work, mothers who played canasta all day and
let their kids make their own sandwiches if they could find something in the
One kid had come to love sandwiches made
with dill pickle slices and ketchup because thats what he used to find in
the fridge. There was always salami and liver sausage in Freddies fridge.
In comparison, Freddie had it made but he was always too smart to know better.
Besides Freddie, three other boys in his
neighborhood went to college at a time in life when if kids went to college
their parents had to have the money to send them because there were no loans
and only geniuses got scholarships. The only jobs kids could get then were
paper routes on bicycles and paper routes didnt earn tuition.
There were no fast-food restaurants
where a kid could at least earn minimum wage. In fact, there was no minimum
Freddies first job as a dishwasher
in a greasy spoon paid forty cents an hour and as many hamburgers as he wanted
for lunch. He always ate at least three with a milkshake. The owners wife
didnt like that but Freddie didnt get fired. He was 14 at the time.
It was the summer between 8th grade and high school. Who knows what they would
have had to pay an adult to wash dishes. Probably a dollar or more an hour. Big
money for unskilled labor at that time. Businesses paid what they needed to get
the job done and often that wasnt very much.
All the material things in life a kid
could reasonably expect Freddies parents made certain he had on time. But
otherwise they were inadequate as parents although neither they nor Freddie
knew it at the time. As Freddie told the doctor much later in life, he never
recalled being hugged or kissed by either one of them although perhaps as an
infant one or both of them might have done that, his mother especially, he
thought, because she would smile once in a while. But hugging, kissing or
smiling was not really his fathers style.
It wasnt until much later in life,
as a husband and father himself, that Freddie came to realize that when it came
to love - real love - he was missing some component other people seemed to
have. Not just romantic love because sex always got in the way of that. But
other kinds of love - what parents felt for children, what brothers and sisters
felt for each other, what grandparents seemed to feel for everyone. Freddie
didnt feel anything like that, never had and thought it was odd when he
witnessed demonstrations of love in other families. Worse, he didnt know
something was missing in him until very late in life. But it was too late then.
What had happened had happened and in some respects Freddie realized he was
lucky to have been sent to an institution rather than a prison.
He hoped one of these doctors would be
able to figure out what was the matter with him but all they had said so far
was that he had an affective disorder since childhood. But even if they could
help him with that it would make no difference, really. He would never get out
of the institution and besides, even if he did, where at his age could he go?
His kids didnt want to see him because they had found their mother.
At times, usually in the middle of the
night, Freddie felt like apologizing to everyone involved. Almost. He had more
sessions to go with the doctor. Maybe something would kick in and hed
start writing letters. The doc said hed give him the stamps if he ever
wanted to do that. But Freddie didnt feel like apologizing yet and he
really wouldnt know where to send the letters even if some day he wanted
to write them. What the hell could he possibly say? Sorry wouldnt help
anything as far as he was concerned. Besides, most of the time he wasnt
sorry and he thought he should be by now.