Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lies My Father Told Me, Too

As Moishe Keeperman the oldest, at age 6, you helped your widowed mother, Lillian, who spoke only Yiddish, raise her four kids up-and-out of the Great Depression.

As Moishe Keeperman you played the violin until the night your mother broke it over your head for missing a three-cent lesson from Rabbi Schimmelstein, and then tied you up naked in the bathtub and called all the neighbors from the tenements into your railroad flat to witness your punishment.

As Morris Keeperman you were an all-NYC track-star (see here, in this hallowed tin can, all this weighty, jingling brass, can you even lift it?) the pride of the new DeWitt Clinton High School’s first graduating class.

As Monte King you became the night manager, if only they knew you were a Jew—oi—you think you know from tsuris, don’t ask—gevalt—if they would have caught you—of the prestigious downtown New York Athletic Club. Someday you promised, “I will tell you about the stock tips they used to give me, but maybe it’s not such a good idea to tell you. We'll see.”

As Monte King you bootlegged whisky--what else?--for Dutch Schultz, ran a floating crap-game on Harlem rooftops, ran numbers for bookies, and hustled shopping bags downtown with your dutiful, worshipful brothers, for pennies apiece.

As Kewpie Keeperman you lived for 6 years off the ponies, yourself running up and down the East Coast from Narragansett to Hialeah, wiring money home to us weekly.

As Monte Keeperman when Ma resigned from the OSS and applied for a gig at The Treasury Department how you had to go straight, so you bought a newsstand on a busy corner of the Bronx and raked in a fortune reading the Morning Telegraph and getting paid for sure things from an endless stream of winners and losers: 10% of the winnings, 0% of the losings. Piecework, horse sense, whatever.

As Monte  Keeperman you closed the newsstand after 12 years and became the financial officer of a corporation from which you retired at age 62, and bought a house down the street from Monticello Raceway for which you paid at a Sullivan County bank 32,000 silver dollars that you had collected during your years selling newspapers and had tossed quietly into a bucket.

As Monte Keeperman you saw your wife retire and get a nice plaque from Dick Nixon for her nearly 40 years of service to her country, so you bought a condo in Palm Beach for yourselves.

As Monte Keeperman you went bowling for nearly 20 years in air-conditioned Florida bowling alleys three times a week, averaging an ABC-sanctioned 200+ until one day seventeen years ago tomorrow you left Don Carter Lanes, lit a Camel regular in your 100+ degree spanking-brand-new white Mercury Sable and choked on the smoke until your heart stopped. When I got the phone call I was at the Low-Tor Bowling Alley 1,200 miles away getting ready to pick up a spare for my team, "The Mixed Nuts".

As Ronald Keeperman what I know that is not a lie is that you were getting ready to drive that car home with the one-arm you did not lose in 1942, four months before I was born. Given all that I’ve actually seen you do, I have no reason to believe that your proud son would not have picked up that spare—had he stayed another minute at the lanes. We miss you every day, Pop.