Posts Tagged ‘Les Green’

You may find this weird, but I only really stopped being resentful about Father’s Day in the past year or two.

Before that, all those holiday ads I would get – gift ideas from a slew of retailers – would send me into a flurry of anger at first, followed by melancholy.

You would think, I gather, that being a father myself would have alleviated the antipathy, but no. I continued to be sad that, unlike my sisters’ daughters, my daughter will never know my father.

I wonder what nickname he would have allowed. His three grandchildren, including the one he never met, were born about a dozen years apart. Would he suggest she call him “oom-pah”, as he did with one of the others, or would the two of them have develop a different moniker for him?

I think it’s easier now because, as a “senior citizen,” as my kind daughter was so helpful in pointing out, I recognize that I haven’t got time for the pain.

Did I ever mention that my parents-in-law, who are pretty swell folks, have birthdays almost exactly a decade apart, in the same respective years? This is mighty handy, I’ll tell you. Any cheat will do.

I have started to embrace the notion of hinting for gifts. It’s not that I really want, and certainly don’t need, stuff. But it’s nice to be remembered.

My sisters started sending me Father’s Day cards fairly early on after I first became a day. One of them sent me one this year, the one NOT in the hospital; she gets a pass. Frankly, it would have never occurred to me to send them Mother’s Day cards, but I think it’s sweet that I receive cards from them.

Meanwhile, my daughter is on her way to high school. People say, “I can’t believe how quickly the time pass.” I think, though I don’t always say, “I can.”

Is it just me, or maybe it’s parents who were already of a certain age, who feel that the time is passing at approximately the correct speed?

I learn a lot from her about the world, but don’t tell her. She might get a swelled head.

If I were a believer in conspiracy theories, I would wonder about this coincidence: on April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech against the US involvement in Vietnam, an address that most civil rights leaders opposed because it could threaten his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson. And on April 4, 1968, he was dead.

It was that speech, which I read only after the assassination, that really fueled my own antiwar sentiment, that U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia was imperialistic and that the war diverted resources from domestic programs created to aid the black poor. Further, “we were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

One could note that the struggle in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 wasn’t the mere bigotry in public accommodations, which prompted the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955/56, but about government injustice that provided sanitation workers, all black men, with substandard wages and unsafe working conditions. And that was the city in which MLK died.

I vividly remember the I AM A MAN signs on the nightly news. The strike began on February 12, but it was King’s presence starting on March 18 that really attracted attention. The labor action didn’t end until April 16, 12 days after MLK’s murder.

I was home when I heard the awful news, and almost immediately my father, the late Les Green, went downtown to try to “keep the peace.” He had been involved with something called the Interracial Center at 45 Carroll Street in Binghamton.

In answer to a Facebook query I posted, someone wrote that my dad “was very involved with the kids who hung out there, talking to them, and a little counseling if needed.” Whatever his role might have been, Binghamton did NOT have any “rioting” that night, as many US cities did in that painful period.

In 1970, I got to go by the Lorraine Motel where MLK was killed. It is now a civil rights museum.

While the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. had an effect on me, his death may have had the greater impact.
***
Fort Wayne, IN tribute to MLK, April 7, 1968

March 12, 1950: Bride Trudy between Les (left, behind her) and Gert (to the right, dark hat); Deana is to Gert’s right

My working theory about relationships among three adult is that, when there’s one person who has a relationship with the other two but that the other two don’t have a natural relationship with each other, it spells trouble.

I’ve been there, getting along with two guys at the coffeehouse we lived at c. 1975, but they inexplicably hated each other. I mean throwing chairs at one another. I was the hinge in the middle, trying to make peace, generally unsuccesfully.

A better example is when I lived with my sister Leslie and her then-husband Eric in the summer of 1977 in Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Leslie was the hinge, trying to keep peace between her spouse and her sibling.

Unfortunately, I know my mother, Trudy, spent years being the hinge in the relationship between her mother Gert and her husband Les, probably since Les and Trudy got married in 1950.

It was fairly clear that Les did not particularly like Gert. One time when we were having Sunday dinner at our house, someone asked Gert if she wanted any peas. She said, “A couple.” Les spooned exactly two peas onto her plate.

Even now, decades later, I experience a mix of mortified embarrassment, amazement at his passive aggression, and a mild amusement over his literalism.

I have to think a lot of that animosity came from Les’ male ego. He was living in a house, 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton, owned by his mother-in-law, where he was paying, as far as I know, no rent, just the utilities, since the house was paid off. His mother and stepfather lived upstairs and paid minimal amount of rent to cover the taxes.

To be fair to my father, though, Gert’s tales, some designed to scare her grandchildren into submission, could be irritating. Her sister Deana, who unfortunately died in 1966, was often my ally, and at least one one occasion said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!”

My dad was SO thrilled when he and my mother bought a house at 29 Ackley Avenue in nearby Johnson City in 1972, when I was off at New Paltz. I even lent them some money for the down payment from the money I had been saving for college, since my Regents scholarship covered my first-year tuition.

Les and Trudy and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. As Gert was alone and aging in Binghamton, it was clear she could no longer live on her own. Leslie and I “kidnapped” her and took her down to Charlotte by train in January 1975, where she had a room in Trudy and LES’ house until she died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982.


My sisters and I are on this Binghamton-specific group on Facebook. This woman that I do not know, in response to my sister posting a photo of our father, asked, “Is that Les Green the musician? If it is he worked with us Read the rest of this entry »

LesGreen.sweaterThis is unprofound: one’s age is frozen in time when one dies. Dad was 26 when I was born, so he was mostly in his 30s and 40s when I was growing up, in his 50s and 60s,when I visited him when he and mom and the “baby” sister moved to Charlotte, NC from Binghamton, NY.

But he was never young, a boy or in his teens or early twenties, at least not in my self-centered reckoning. This picture I don’t remember, and I don’t know how old he was. But I think I remember the sweater. It was a forest green sweater, and it was cream-colored, rather than white. Or so I recall.

He used to paint trees, but they were almost always barren, often in wintertime.

He was a month and a half shy of 74 Read the rest of this entry »

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