Just here on a pass
by Amy Simon
As I took my bow and looked out at the sea of applauding ladies, on their feet, my eyes skimmed the crowd until they landed on the one lone male. My dad. “That’s your daughter? You must be so proud!” But I am the one who is so proud.
I learned to appreciate the arts from my parents, die-hard Depression-era New Yorkers. My mom was a dancer for a while, and had a beautiful singing voice, and she and my dad took full advantage of New York City nightlife. When I was a little girl and we lived in Queens, they acted together in a play at The Queens Community Playhouse.
They moved to Florida, and I moved to Los Angeles. My mom died in 2009. My dad took the most amazing care of her as she suffered through two liver transplants and then years of dementia. Never complaining. “Nothing bothers me, I’m just here on a pass” he had told me, during those care-giving years before my mom died. I asked him how he maintains his attitude. I have never forgotten what he told me.
“When I was a foot soldier in the army, they made me a corporal. We were in the infantry in France. I had an argument with an officer and they took my stripes away. The guy that replaced me got killed in on a mission, in the spot that would have been mine.
“I got to be corporal again, and I got into another argument with another officer and again they took my stripes away. The guy that replaced me got killed in Kaiseloauten, Germany when he stepped on a landmine. One night I was on night patrol but I got pneumonia and the guy that replaced me got hit by shrapnel and died. So nothing bothers me ‘cause I’m just here on a pass.”
My siblings and I take turns visiting him almost every month. For the first year and a half, he just sat in his chair, watching TV, hardly eating, drinking his scotch. Grieving. Then, one week when I was there, he started talking . . . about my mom. He loved her so. They were married for over fifty years.
He lives in a beautiful retirement community with all of the amenities, including entertainment and a theater. I will perform my show here, I vowed, determined to get him out of that chair. I knew it would be the only way my dad would see my new play She’s History! He and my mother flew to Los Angeles years ago to see me in my first play Cheerios In My Underwear, And Other True Tales Of Motherhood.
My dad ran lines with me the weekend of the performance. He loved that. “You got it wrong,” he would say if I missed one single word. He drove limos in New York City, drove lots of stars around, the old-timers and had a story about every one of ‘em: a very nice Debbie Reynolds, Peter Sellers who never spoke, gorgeous Joan Crawford, a very funny Walter Matthau and my favorite story – doing bits with Henny Youngman. He and I have a special bond, this bit of show biz in our blood and a passion for politics and history, a thirst for knowledge and we really talk for hours about things that matter. We never had this when my mom was alive.
After my performance for The Women’s Club, he could not stop saying how much he enjoyed the show. Back in Los Angeles, he would call me, telling me how when he would go to the pool he was treated like a celebrity. “You’re the father, right? That was the best speaker we ever had!”
He is now eighty-eight years young, has all his hair and drives at night. This makes him very very popular with the ladies. He finally started dating and when I visit I find meatloaf and chocolate mousse in the fridge. “From Miriam, or Sheila,” he would say. “Daddy, these women are serious.” He just shrugs.
“When are you coming back? The ladies want to see another show . . . ” he tells me on the phone.
I’m working on it.Tags: Amy Simon, Cheerios In My Underwear And Ohter True Tales Of Motherhood, Father-daughter relationship, Hollywood, Life advice, Performing live, She's History!, Show business, The Queens Community Playhouse, WW2 Veteran