Monday, December 21, 2009

Here Comes Vic

On November 30, 2009 my Dad passed away due to congestive heart failure. There's a lot I can say about my father as I think about his life. Most people at his funeral spoke about their memories of Victor Lapides during the golden years of his life. My brother Michael and I share the most vivid memories of Dad when he was in his 30s and 40s.

Dad always displayed a quick sense of humor and never missed an opportunity to make us laugh. He made up names for everyday objects that I never heard anyone else say. He sprinkled his speech with Yiddish terms but he never made it sound Yiddish. A meshuginah was the nut hanging out on the street corner not the Yiddish term for a crazy person. I loved to drive with Dad on his auto parts truck while he did his his route because he always had funny names for all the gas station owners and attendants. However, he always treated them with kindness and respect. I would wait all day helping Dad on his route until we visited the auto mechanic shop where someone like "Tony Tremendous" worked. In reality, Tony was just some short, overweight guy. But when Dad spoke about him, I couldn't wait to see him.

My father was often daring and fearless. He convinced me to sneak out of Ft. Dix, N.J. Army base on a Sunday morning so he could take me to Atlantic City. There I was with my head freshly shaven, hiding on the floorboard in the back of the car while my Dad calmly drove past of the MP guards. I was technically AWOL but my father made it worth it as we spent the day in Atlantic City enjoying the amusements on the boardwalk.

My most touching moment with Dad was the day he dropped me off at the Irvington, N.J. induction station at 4 a.m. I was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam war, and my father drove me to the Army recruiting office. We said goodbye and I noticed a tear in his eye as he pondered his son's future during a very conflicting time. Even more than my Bar Mitzvah I think that was the day I became a man. I truly left home. I was prepared to fight for my country and I knew my Dad was fully behind me. And I didn't even receive a fountain pen!

Friends always think my love for professional wrestling is bizarre. Yes, I am a fan of the WWE. Do I think it's fake? Let me throw you off a twenty foot ladder onto a card table below and when your back breaks the table in tow pieces, tell me how fake it seems to you. But it was Dad who took me to see professional wrestling at Laurel Gardens located in the Newark Armory. I was probably nine years old wen he started taking me. I loved going with him and my brother. I even brought tomatoes and eggs to the venue to throw at the wrestlers who were the "bad guys." Yes, my father encouraged me as I ran up next to the ring and tossed a raw egg at the Sheik.

My father made sure the family spent time at the Jersey shore each summer or we joined a swim club. Those were precious times that I got to spend with him and my mother. Thanks to my father and mother I have a great childhood growing up in Newark, N.J. I remember every place he took me-the circus, the Roy Rogers rodeo at Madison Square Garden in NY, July 4th fireworks displays, Times Square, Niagra Falls, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. and Sunday evenings at Ming's Chinese restaurant or Jo Rae's Italian Pizzeria in Newark.

Even though Dad did a lot of wonderful things for me, I wasn't such an easy kid. I teased my little brother and hurt him badly on many occasions. This is when I found out what a strict disciplinarian my father could be. At age 11 I broke 21 windows in the neighborhood in honor of "Mischief Night." To me every day was mischief night. I got the whipping of my life for that stunt, and had to stay home on Halloween while my brother went out "trick or treating."

During my teenage years I gave my father more grief-hot wiring my friend's parents' car for a joyride around the streets of Millburn and Short Hills until the police stopped us, getting picked up by a stolen vehicle while hitchhiking and getting busted by the cops or ditching school and spending the day in New York. From the ages of 16 to 19 I spent my weekends at Greenwich Village exposing myself to beat music, art and poetry. I experimented with drugs and read everything I could about LSD experiments before I started using the hallucinogenic myself.

Despite my rebelliousness Dad always showed up with a lecture about how I was throwing my life away. He was right and it took me until the age 23 to learn the truth. And by truth, I mean accepting Jesus. Dad wasn't too happy with his messianic Jewish son. My brother Michael soon followed suit and became a Jewish follower of Jesus. Despite the rift Jesus caused in my family, I always knew that part of my maturity was making correct choices and living with the consequences.

Dad always stayed in touch. He loved it when I called and I tried to do that quite often. I could always make him laugh by reminding him of some funny times we enjoyed in Newark and all the strange people we knew. I would ask him about his odd vocabulary with words like manipretzel and pishocks. He gave my brother and I hours of tear jerking laughter. However, I think he probably thought these words were normal.

I miss my Dad a lot. I couldn't send him a Hanukkah card this year. I won't send him a Father's Day card. These emotions are new and unfamiliar to me. Upon reflecting on Dad's life, I always knew he loved me (even when he spanked my defiant butt when I was a kid). I kept a lot from Dad about my sins and wrongdoings. I also never told him about some horrible events that happened to me as a child. It's okay. I've survived. As he would often say, "Don't worry about it!"

I've been told I am a lot like my Dad. That's okay by me. He was always kind to people and everybody knew his name wherever he went. I hope I take after him when it comes to my treatment of people.

I thank the Lord I still have my mother in my life and my brother along with the rest of the family. My children, my sister-in-law, new daughter-in-law, and my niece and nephew and their families. But no one can ever replace Dad. I want to cry at times but soon I remember something funny he said and my tears turn to laughter. Thanks Dad. I love you and hope to see you on the other side . . . but not too soon.


BaseballGeek said...

Recently found your blog... very sorry to hear about your Dad. This is a tribute that he would indeed get verklempt over. :)

God bless and Merry Christmas!


bluebird said...

Lovely story Louis.. I can picture these things happening, cause of the stories that Mike told me of your growing up.
I can also HEAR your Dad saying, "Don't worry about it!"

I have many of these same feelings, emotions regarding my own Dad..and how much I miss him. It does get a little easier with time, but there will always be those times when something happens and you feel like you should call Dad to tell him. Those split seconds really stink!
I'll pray for you.. :)

elana snyder said...

I have relatives who shares the same name is your father. If you'd like to hear more about it email me at Southwest Rebecca @