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Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare: 2018 Program
A reading and discussion series for Baystate Health employees. This program is supported by Baystate Library & Knowledge Services and the Mass Humanities foundation.
I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION of a time when I was not afraid of my father. He was critical of everyone and everything, and especially of his children.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 9, 1906. One night when he was a baby, his father shot himself through the head with a pistol. The boss of 'the printing shop where he worked had fired him that morning for corning in late and hung over. His friends believed it was an accident. They said, "He didn't mean to kill himself. He was just cleaning the gun."
Two years later, Billy, a thin and silent little boy, was walking with his mother, whose name was Daisy, and a gentleman friend of hers on the beach at Coney Island. The man had made Billy a little boat, out of a wooden box, to float around in. They watched the midday sun glisten on tiny waves and seagulls squawk and flap around the barnacled pilings along the fishing pier. Old men squatted on dirty tackle boxes and boys dangled their brown legs, holding out lines, waiting for a catch. Laughter shrieked from the boardwalk behind the beach, and in the distance music from the merry-go-round came and went amid the tumbling roar and screams from what was, in my father's time, the world's biggest roller coaster. That day his mother pushed the boat from the beach, then pushed it again farther out. The man had gone to buy them lemonade. She pushed till Billy started drifting off in the changing tide. Her companion returned, scowling at Daisy, and he quickly took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants, and waded out to the box to guide it back to shore. But in the time it took him to get there, my father, who watched his mother on the beach, knew she had tried to kill him. She left home soon after that, and he never heard from her again.