I was shocked to learn last year that I did not know what my father’s name was. I had for over 70 years believed that his name was Murray Rubin. My older sister casually told me that his real name was Morris Rubin. All of his siblings had nicknames which they lived with until they died. Other than the youngest one, Irving, they were called and died with their nicknames. I have a picture of my father’s tombstone and it says MURRAY RUBIN.
Those of you whose dad lived long enough to tell them stories of their youth, or remember them until they had reached old age, have an advantage. Since my mom worked as a waitress for 35 years and at her retirement, she did not have the memory of the “old days,” I got few pieces of information about my father.
My sister is older than me by 8 years, yet her memory of our dad, is rather sparse. He seemed to be kind of a drop in father, who spent most of his time involved in his avocation, sports, rather than either working, or spending time with his family. My mom’s stories about my father were skewed by her being left with two children and no money at all. If it were not for grandma, we might have lived in a hovel or on the street. Remember, social services were at a minimum in the early 1940’s.
I did learn quite a bit from two older cousins, both children of the eldest of the Rubin children, Tillie Gromis. What I learned was completely new to me. My dad actually was a professional fighter in small fight clubs in Brooklyn and elsewhere. He fought under the name of “Kid Russia.” I am not aware of how good he was, or why he did not continue to fight. I do know that he used his fists to accumulate some dough. Cousin Marvin told me that you could always count on Murray to take away your troubles for a couple of bucks.
I do know for sure that he had a really bad temper. My cousins and my mother told me that he was subject to rages from time to time. I really don’t need to have any confirmation of that side of him, I was the same way. If it weren’t for some fortuitous circumstances, I might have wound up in the pokey because of my temper.
My dad’s father Sam owned a book bindery shop on Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. I did go and visit the place a few times after he died. When we moved in with Grandma, it was not too far away. It appears that he was not in my grandfather’s favor. Murray would leave work and not come back for a few days. He was traveling somewhere to see a ballgame. I may even have a video of him waiting on line at the 1938 World Series in Chicago, a month before I was born.
He also seems to have instilled a love of sports in me. I have been an active participant in lots of sports over the years. He played semi-pro baseball at Bushwick Park in Brooklyn. When a Negro League team came to play, we was the second baseman on the equivalent of the Washington Generals (the patsy team for the Harlem Globetrotters). At one time, I even had his glove. I did not know its value then, but what does a fifteen year old know anyway.
So, be happy that you had your dad for all of those years. I have many holes in time that I will never be able to fill. When your dad dies when you are four, your mentor becomes yourself.


4 thoughts on “I NEVER KNEW MY FATHER

  1. Arnold – I completely “get” the sadness and feeling of “something missing” and disconnectedness from the early loss of a parent. Although I lost my mother at age 7, we share many of the same feelings. She was an only child of an only child and after her sudden death, she was never discussed. It was as if she never really existed but in my mind…my father never spoke of her and my grandmother didn’t either…and when I became old enough to want to ask questions of my grandmother (since we really seem to reach a “certain age” before that happens), she had already passed on…as had my father. So she remains much a mystery.

    Over my life, I found myself (subconsciously) linking up with mother figures who mentored me in different areas. Each of these women (including Carol) have been a gift. But the longing for that primal connection has never diminished, especially at the milestones of my life.

    I send you a huge hug of understanding!

    • Ginny, I should have figured that you would understand. It is exactly as you describe it. The mystery of who we are is entwined with who our parents were ( and are). You are correct, whe don’t really see that until we have reached certain milestones. I have not been as fortunate as you. I have never found a mentor, or someone who could substitute for the father that I did not have. My stepfather was a good guy, but had nothing to say about any subject. I kind of felt sorry for him. The questions that I might have had for my father went unanswered. I had to fish for them myself. I was lucky that I met Carol and such and early stage in my life. Yet still there is a vacuum. When I hear my contemporaries talk about their fathers, it is as if they are speaking in Chinese. I know that you will understand what I am saying. Thanks for the colliquoy.


  2. Arnold-just came across this as I was checking out your blog-which is amazing, by the way. I was 9 when my dad died. No matter how old I get I never stop missing him…or missing the idea of him maybe. I know that he was a very engaged dad, and loved spending time with his family. You would think I’d remember just a little more but I really only remember bits and pieces. My mom tells me that CJ is a clone of my dad and Dan is also similar to him. I cannot imagine any better men than that in my life. But at 48 years old I still can barely watch the father/daughter dance at weddings. I still calculate how old he would be at every birthday, how long he has been gone every year on the anniversary of his death. I think only someone else who lost a parent as a child would understand this, and your post really touched me. Thank you for sharing with us.

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