Earlier in the decade in the years while my dad was still with us, I remember one of those special Fridays when Dad came home early and was waiting for us. That meant one great thing, we were going to Buckroe and ride all the rides we wanted to at the amusement park. Mom never went with us, she didn't want to watch because, with his heart condition, she knew Dad wouldn't follow her instructions. You see, Dad loved roller coasters and other thrill rides of the day like the Bullet. And I do believe that the attendants on that wild ride always gave him priority since they knew he had a pocket full of change. When he was on the ride, the change could be seen hitting the ground below as the twisting up, down and around and around usually shook it loose. The attendants knew that when they picked it up for him and he would wave them off and tell them it was a tip with a smile. I don't know if those rides caused his death earlier than might otherwise have happened, but I know he loved them and wanted to live life to the fullest while balancing his family with his busy medical practice.
It was on our travel home from Buckroe one night that he told the story of taking Mom on the roller coaster at Coney Island while he was interning and she was a nursing student at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. It seems that one of the sudden drops was quite dramatic and Mom was excited, grabbing his tie by mistake and hanging on for dear life. Dad just laughed and said he lived to tell the story. I never brought that up to Mom, but she did tell me years later when I came to see her and it came up as she reminisced about the days when we were all together. When I told her that I knew, she just smiled and said I knew he would probably tell you.
Another thing that happened frequently on Friday evenings came as we were finishing dinner. My classmate and friend, Richard, who lived four houses down the street asked if I wanted to go to the movies. His father, Mr. Gordon, was one of the family owners of a highly successful chain of local theaters and in spring that meant we were off to the Green Acres Drive-In. While we boys watched great westerns and war stories, plus a lot of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, complete with buttered popcorn and a soft drink, Mr. Gordon would do his book work in the office for the week. It was a great treat and he was very nice to me after my dad was gone.
Then, when the early evening was done and I was home, we would all stay up a little later, watching TV and talking about the week just completed. It was great quality time as a family and we loved it, knowing that tomorrow was not a school day and dad would be home with us all day. Oh, I had yard work chores in the morning, but then enjoyed some free time with friends for the rest of the day. We were carefree and footloose and we didn't have a clue how lucky we were. Sometimes, I guess you just have to grow up to really understand just how those days were truly "Happy Days." I hope anyone reading this had such good fortune in childhood as well. It's true that a happy childhood leads to a positive outlook on life.