Tomorrow, August 20, is my dad’s 101st birthday. He died when he was 96, and it will be five years this coming October. But frankly, I’m surprised Larry lived past 50 with my being his youngest pup.
One of my dad’s favorite names for me (and he had more than a few — most of them good) was maringouin, which is one of several French-Canadian words for mosquito.
And if you allow me to digress for a moment since I haven’t in several weeks, that name came back to haunt me and my youngest daughter Emilie, since the two of us are mosquito bait. We can be camping or at an outdoor function and come dusk, when the skeeters start to nibble, it’s Em and me they make a b-line for. Everyone else would be bite free and Em and I will have a plethora of welts the size of a peach pit.
Now back to my story. Even at a young age, Larry could see I was a pest. As a young pup I lived on Whipple Street (right across from my beloved gargantuan Maple tree in my mémère’s and pépère’s yard). In that apartment there was a double parlor, like just about every other tenement in Fall River.
The further parlor was where the good furniture was placed, giving me the first parlor to destroy.
Well, one day I ventured into the good room. There was a beautiful four-foot long mahogany coffee table. I would marvel at the shine coming off its surface in the sunlight.
My sense of marvel got the best of me and for whatever reason, I chose to slide across it. When I had finished traveling the four feet I looked back and much to my horror, and Larry’s, there was a nearly four-foot gouge from my belt buckle. Not a happy time.
It was in that same apartment where Larry was sleeping one summer morning. He worked third shift so his hours were different than the rest of us. I shattered that morning’s sleep for him with a blood-curdling scream when I fell out of my beloved Maple and mangled my arm. He awoke and immediately ran out to see me. He, my mom and I spent the rest of the day at St. Anne’s Hospital. Actually I spent five days there with a severely broken left radius and ulna.
As I grew older, I remained a pest. I recall standing on the street corner with my pals in my early teens. One of them smoked and he finished his cigarette and dropped it. I picked it up because I always saw others flick a lit butt and I wanted to try. I did a great job — right as Larry was walking by. I didn’t even smoke, but I knew this would draw a lengthy talk.
Later in life Larry told me he always worried about me, especially the times I was playing ice hockey and tackle football. Honestly, I don’t know how he ever slept.
But I think one of my most heinous crimes was when I was in my late teens. I was hanging around with a friend from high school and college and neither of us had access to a car that night. We decided to thumb a ride to North Dartmouth Mall, which had recently opened. We went to see a movie and for the life of me I cannot remember what we saw. Not important.
We had no problem getting there. We were picked up almost immediately on Route 6 just before the Westport/Fall River line, and it was still light out. And allow me to add that times were different back then, plus my friend Tom was the size of Gronk.
Coming home was a different story. It was dark. It was around 11 p.m. And Tom was the size of Gronk.
No one stopped to offer us a ride. That took us by surprise because we were positive someone coming out of the movie would taxi us back to the Rive.
Eleven o’clock turned into midnight, then one a.m. as Tom and I walked from North Dartmouth along Route 6 on the way home. One a.m. turned into two a.m. and by then passing cars were scarce and we knew our fate. We would have to hoof it for the nearly 12 miles home.
Tom lived in the extreme south end of Fall River and I near St. Anne’s Church. We split up at Brayton Avenue and Stafford Road, each of us with another couple of miles to go.
Keep in mind, this was before cell phones. There were, however, telephone booths, but neither of us thought to call home.
When I rolled in about three a.m. Larry was fuming. I explained what happened. He told me Tom’s parents called. He told me to get in the car and we were going to look for him and bring him home. I was exhausted and so wanted to sleep. I dared not say anything of the like.
We couldn’t find him. He had already made it home, and was getting his lion’s share of misery.
I think I got grounded until I was about 40.
But in later days Larry and I would laugh when that story came up, although I swear I could sense that flash of rage in his eyes for a brief instant each time.
Happy birthday Larry. I miss you, and now sense you lived so long because you had to see what your maringouin was going to do next.