Tag Archives: Father’s Day

My Dad’s Best Stories From His Days in the Navy

To celebrate Father’s Day, I thought I would share some of my dad’s best stories from his days in the Navy, where he served on the USS William R. Rush.

He served in the Navy from Aug. 30, 1955, to Aug. 8, 1958.

He was not quite 17 when he signed up so my grandfather had to sign the enlistment papers.


Dad joked that when he was in the Navy, grandpa went to the Russian embassy to buy war bonds so he would be on the winning side.


He recalled a drill when they were ordered to put on life preservers.

Most of the crew was smashed drunk but one sailor was sober and insisted on taking a closer look at the life vests.

They were from WWI and when the sober sailor threw it in the water, “it sank like a stone” because all the cork inside the old vests had dried out.


To serve on a destroyer like the Rush, you had to be easy-going because you slept 18 inches apart, he said.

He joined the Navy because he wanted to travel, get three meals a day and escape an unhappy home life.

“I hit it just right,” he said, noting that if he had re-enlisted, he could have been ensnared in Vietnam.


His ship was in heavy, heavy seas — the worst of his tour — and dad was fearful.

He said, “I got on my knees and prayed to God to keep me safe. I swore to Him: ‘I’ll give up smoking. I’ll give up drinking. I won’t see those girls in the bars in Barcelona.’

“Well, human frailty being what it is, we got through the rough seas and what did I do? I smoked, I drank and I saw those girls in Barcelona!​”


Dad was like 19 and there was this black Southerner who saw dad was fearful and holding on for dear life, and he goes: “Mele, you got religion? Because if you don’t, you better get some tonight!”


I got his naval enlistment and discharge papers from the military: What training he had, where he did his tours, etc.

But the highlight was his application in which he listed “fishing” as a hobby.

So I went to my old man, and I was like: “Che cazzo è?” (More or less like WTF in Italian slang.)

I asked: “Dad, you grew up in the Bronx and the closest watering hole was a puddle in your neighborhood or Orchard Beach or City Island, which was a bus or train ride away.  Where did you getting this ‘fishing’ shit from?”

He listed fishing because it was related to water and he thought it would look good on his application to the Navy!


He did three cruises in 1956, ’57 and ’58.

He went to Cuba twice, Spain, France, Scotland, Turkey, Greece and Jamaica.

He described the ship as a “radar picket” — an expendable commodity for torpedoes or mines.


He recalled a chief who was an insomniac who went out on the deck of an aircraft carrier at 2 in the morning to drink coffee.

He drifted into the active flight deck and one of the hooks they use to catch landing planes somehow struck the chief in the temple and killed him.

Dad said even though he was not there to witness what happened, it left him badly shaken but another officer told him: “It was his time to die and you have to accept that.”


He became known as the “Ginger Ale Kid” because he was fearful of getting caught drinking underage (sailors were warned they would do civilian AND military time if they got caught) so dad was relentless in not drinking and stuck to ginger ale.


On the chow line some sailors would say of the food: “Just like mother used to make. That’s why I left home!”


The World According to My Dad


Father’s Day Roundtable


Despite Their Flaws, Fathers Still Find Success

A funny thing happened on my way to Father’s Day 2017.

I became a grandfather thanks to my stepson and his wife.

The thing about becoming a grandfather is that it brings you sharply back to when you were a first-time parent.

That moment is filled with an overpowering brew of emotions, among them anticipation, hope, fear and pride.

I recall well holding my first son 24 years ago, bringing him to the window of the hospital suite and telling him about the trees and the clouds in the sky.

But from the moment you take your newborn in your arms, you are destined to screw things up.

You’re human, so you’re fallible and flawed. That your parenting will be less than perfect is inevitable.

But here’s the thing: No one tells you that as you begin your journey as a dad.

You start out in a state of high expectations.

You think you are going to be the embodiment of all the best TV  fathers — some combination of Andy Taylor (“The Andy Griffith Show”), Ward Cleaver (“Father Knows Best”) and Howard Cunningham (“Happy Days”).

And then expectations meet reality: As a parent, you can feel sapped of time, energy and money, which can bring on guilt, doubts and feelings of inadequacy.

Am I doing a good job? Do I spend enough time with my kids? Are they socially engaged with others? Do I do enough to stimulate their curiosity? Am I setting a good example?

This is especially reinforced when you start comparing yourself to other dads.

“Well look at him,” you think. “He’s a soccer coach and Boy Scout volunteer and he takes his son camping and and and…”

It becomes a vicious cycle: The more doubtful or guilty you feel, the greater the sense of inadequacy. And so it goes to the point where you feel farther and farther away from the parenting utopia you think you should reach.

I can’t speak for all dads, but I know to this day I harbor so many wouldas, shouldas, couldas about raising my sons.

I look back and think I should have given more of my time but I either was too busy with work, not getting enough sleep or feeling the strain of my first marriage disintegrating.

So, like with everything else in life, you do the best you can. You fall down, get up and put one foot in front of the other.

And do you make mistakes – some of them awful and regretful? Yes. Yes you do.

But here’s the thing, despite your shortcomings and through some combination of grace, luck and gargantuan support from family (in my case, my second wife), things turn out well.

My “boys,” who just turned 24 and 19, are well regarded by others and valued at their jobs. They’re funny and caring and hard-working.

Sure, they have hang-ups and flaws — would it kill them to take out the garbage? — but they have grown into impressive young men.

So on this Father’s Day, hats off to dads everywhere.

You might not be perfect but if you’ve worked hard and tried your best, chances are the kids are all right.

Related content:

The World According to My Dad

On Father’s Day, Recalling a Son Growing Up

A Father’s Day Poem

Reflections of a Godfather on Father’s Day

I’m the only About Men Radio member who is unmarried and childless, but I do have four godsons.

The first was born with some complications. I remember being in the waiting room with my brother reassuring him that everything would be OK and praying.

I may have also offered whatever was needed, such as blood or bone marrow, not really knowing then if they were needed.

My nephew and the incredible medical staff got his fever down and a few days later he left the hospital.

I guess that’s why I was chosen to be his godfather — because I would’ve given up anything to save him.

As time passed, I’d always thought of myself in that “protector” role.

Several years later, I was teaching him to ride a bicycle without his training wheels. I made sure that he had a helmet and pads and while he pedaled, I ran alongside to make sure that he would be OK.

My second godson was born on the evening of a nor’easter.

My sister-in-law, whose labor had started, asked me to go to New Jersey to watch the older two children.

It took me a few hours to get out there as roads were flooded. Cars were submerged on the FDR. I safely made it to their exit and to their home and a few hours later my nephew was born.

I had put the other two in their beds and told them a bedtime story until they fell asleep. They were afraid of the thunder and I kept reassuring them that it would be OK.

I conked out on the rug in their room because I was reading with a flashlight and didn’t want to wake them.

I awoke the next morning with a blanket on me. My brother said that the kids insisted that I had a blanket and stuffed toy because I had kept them safe.

A few months later, I was helping my brother paint their home and was behind a bookcase when I thought I heard my nephew say in a gurgle, “Where’s Uncle John?”

I popped out and said, “Here I am” and he began to laugh.

My sister-in-law looked puzzled and asked me if I knew what he said. I said didn’t he just ask, “Where’s Uncle John?”

Years later the kids wanted to go trick-or-treating and my godson dressed as Darth Maul.

My other nephew was Luke Skywalker, and my niece was Queen Amidala. I donned my Darth Vader costume and chaperoned them through the neighborhood.

My third godson was born to my ex-wife’s sister. I only had about a year’s contact with him because my wife and I divorced.

My fourth godson is the youngest and he’s the son of one of my fellow AMR posse members.

I haven’t had a great deal of contact with him apart from seeing him at family gatherings and on Christmas Eve. I hope this summer there may be some more opportunities to see him.

Although I don’t have the same day-to-day stories as my fellow AMR members, I have a few that I have shared with you on this Father’s Day.


The World According to My Dad

For Father’s Day, I thought I would share some of my father’s sayings and pearls of wisdom.

As the oldest child, I have been exposed to these the longest of my siblings and thus they are part of my DNA.

What follows is a blend of Borscht Belt kitsch and Old World philosophy.

Think of it as the World According to My Dad.

About his mental health:

I’m not well you know.

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Bad jokes:

You know why electricity is cheaper in Lower Manhattan? It’s near the Battery.

When I die, there will be a sign outside our building and do you know what that sign will say? Apartment for rent!

I got called for a Charles Atlas ad. They want me to be the model for the “before” look.

You heard about the couple that planned to elope? The girl called it off at the last minute. You know how the guy knew? She threw a cantaloupe out the window.

If I go bald, I’ll just comb my eyebrows back.


How can you tell the bride is pregnant at a wedding? The guests throw puffed rice.

(My mom emigrated from Germany in the 1960s): Winnie was sent here by her government to marry the smartest man in America. She failed in her mission.

I’m going bald because my brains are making my head grow.

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You look good. Who’s your undertaker?

How tall are you? Wow, I didn’t know they piled shit that high!


Con la rosa arriva le spine. (With the rose comes the thorns.)

Basta! (Enough!)

Don’t be a scooch! (Pest/pain in the butt.)


Ah, bah-fungoo!

It was really skeevatz. (Disgusting)

Stop being a gavone! (A pig/someone who is greedy about food.)

About food:

Are you going to eat that?

Are you going to finish that?

Let me just have a little taste.


If you go home hungry, it’s your own fault. (Said after hosting a big holiday spread of food.)

Let me taste it first to make sure it’s not poison.

It would be a sin to let that go to waste.

What did you have to eat?

Just a touch…Whoa! That’s good.


(After giving me a smack in the head): That was for nothing. Imagine if you did something!

Reliving his Navy days:

Attention on deck!

All hands on deck.



I want you to have a clean living: No cigarettes, no booze and no women: It’s clean, but is it living?

The older I get, the less use I have for people.

You know what they say about marriage: The first 30 years are the roughest.

Tomorrow is another day.

Rome was not built in a day.

dad 5

You’re my favorite horse even if you’ve never won a race.

I like to keep a low-profile — by remaining horizontal.

What sins did you commit that you have to work here?

Remember, always shoot for 200 percent, this way if you fall 100 short, you will still have a hundred.

Getting old sucks. I don’t recommend it.

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My all-time favorite Christmas morning photo of my old man and one of my sisters, Lorraine.

Working in a job you don’t like is like taking sandpaper to your soul.

You know if I were not this crazy, your life would be boring.

And finally…

I’m proud of you buddy. Keep up the good work. Love you.

dad 6 dad3

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Father’s Day Roundtable

As fathers, we hardly lead the lives of television characters such as “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver,” or “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”

Unlike television characters, our parenting efforts lack a script.

We make it up as we go along, drawing on what experiences we recall from our parents.

The results are far from flawless.

We stumble and fall. Pick ourselves up and stumble again.

In the beginning of fatherhood, it’s comparatively easy because you are a towering figure of authority in their lives.

You can pretty much do no wrong.

And then they become teenagers and you suddenly have become an asshole.

In this episode of About Men Radio, the four members of the AMR posse who are dads take inventory of how we’ve done/are doing as fathers.

Have we broken our children? Have we crushed their dreams because we took away their iPads for an hour? How do we rate ourselves as dads on a scale of 1 to 10?

As usual, the discussion is brutally honest and funny. Give it a listen and happy Father’s Day!

On Father’s Day, Recalling a Son Growing Up

Maybe it’s because I’ve been a newsman my entire adult life and I’m a chronicler of life events.

It might explain how I had the presence of mind to write down things my oldest son said and did as he was growing up that were cute, memorable or funny.

The first entry dates to when he was 3 ½ years old and continued until he was about 6 years old.

So for Father’s Day, indulge this old man by letting him share with you a sample of memorable “Michaelisms.”

Happy Father’s Day!


December 1996: Michael soaked Daddy while taking a bath. Daddy was not amused and said:

“Michael, I’m not laughing.”

“But I am,” said Michael.


December 1996: Michael came home with a Jewish star he made in school. It was hanging on the Christmas tree when Daddy got home from work.

“Oh,” said Daddy, “you made a Star of David.”

“No Daddy, it’s mine,” said Michael.


January 1997: Michael for breakfast has taken to eating chocolate-covered granola bars. He calls them “gorilla bars.”


January 1997: Michael and Daddy are heading into school. Daddy greets another parent good morning in the lobby. Michael turns to Daddy and says: “You can’t talk to strangers like that.”


Summer 1997: Michael says that heaven is in Disney World.


November 1997: Michael refers to nostrils as “smeller holes.” And told to put away his toys, he announced: “Let’s take a vote!”


January 1998: Michael goes to Daddy’s doctor with Daddy because Daddy is sick. Michael wants to know if grown-ups are good at the doctor’s, do they get stickers?


January 1998:  Michael tells Daddy that he has had the same dream two nights in a row. But forgetful Daddy cannot recall what Michael had told him. (Michael had described the dream in Technicolor detail the day before but Daddy did not retain it.)

Michael says: “Daddy, your brain works slow. My brain works fast.”

He then put his hand to his forehead and then put the same hand to Daddy’s head.

With that gesture, Michael says: “Here, Dad, have some of my fast brains.”


July 1998: Michaels asks who Dino is. Dino? What do you mean? Michael says: “You know – someone’s in the kitchen with Dino…”


October 1998: Michael tells his babysitter that he watched the Fourth of July fireworks (“America’s birthday”) on TV because he couldn’t look out his window to see America because it was too far away.


August 1999: Michael spots the club Daddy keeps under the bed in case of intruders. Michael wants to know what it’s for.

Daddy tells him if there is anyone who comes to the house who doesn’t belong there, Daddy will greet them with this.

Wisely, Michael asks: “Why would you greet them if they don’t belong here?!”


June 2015: Michael turns 22, and, having just graduated from college, is about to begin his professional career at a job eight hours and five states away from home.

Daddy will miss him.

mike grad


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A Father’s Day Poem

A Father, a Son
(for Jackson)

I — an atomic collection culled from a universe of green stamps and cathode ray tubes
— stay.

You — atoms collected from a different universe of ration books and radios — go first.

Before me, you were.
Because of you, I am.

You made me, a son.
And I made you a father, but
who is this ladder I must climb?
A Priam, who could only love out loud when his son, Hector, died?Joseph of Bethlehem, who had no son of his own?
Maybe Luke’s father, a cripple who believed he should cripple his son?
Or Calvin T. Underwood, whose son would become president and piss on his gravestone?

Some fathers are like that.
And sons?
How few are as lucky Telemachus, whose father chooses him to fight for the honor of their house?
Is this the secret that we share? To weave our love through time and longing? To be, at last, chosen?
Are all fathers like Odysseus to young hungry sons? Absent and traveling?
Never home, homeward bound?

But in this telling, we are the travelers:
hurtling through time
urgent as spring cataracts
slamming the rock.

Fathers and sons must travel great distances to meet as equals —
it is our great romance.
But the ladder is a lie:
The boy becomes a man as the man grows old.

In some long-forgotten sedimentary layer of myself, a cast-off chrysalis, you were the world I crawled, toddled and ran to.
You were the man whose long strides I stretched to match.

The women have their fairy tales of handsome princes.
We have heroes: G.I. Joe, Batman and you —

gone again
to test the water in the tub.


Meg McGuire is the wife of AMR contributor Christopher Mele.

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You Wanna Know What Comes Between Me and My Daddy Jeans?

“Dad jeans” are notable for being remarkably unremarkable.

Urbandictionary.com defines “Dad jeans” this way:

“Jeans that are no longer fashionable and are usually characterized by a tapered leg, high waist or brand name that was cool about 10 years ago. Dad jeans are typically worn by aging men with salt and pepper hair who are in denial that they are no longer hip, have children and drive a station wagon or SUV.”

I was blissfully ignorant of this derogatory term until recently, when my wife made reference to it.

It turned out that I was a dad jeans frequent flier. (“Clothes Really Do Make the Man” and “Daddy Jeans Revisited.”)

In my defense, I like to dress for comfort.

I am self-conscious about looking too paunchy in the poochey, which is why I tend to get pants that are a little looser in the waist.

With my height, though, it means they are saggier in the butt.

But when the pants are tighter in the butt, they tend to be tighter in the waist which, I think, accents my gut.

Hence the dad jeans look.

The last time I gave jeans style a thought was when I was a teenager and I owned — I can admit this now — a pair of Jordache jeans.

Hey, don’t judge! It was the ’80s! Everybody was doing it!

My wife, bless her besotted self, tells me I have a comely tush that I keep well hidden in what amounts to balloon clown pants.

Pedro tells me I could rent out the extra space I have in my pants and easily get $1,500 a month rent for it in New York City.

So as a present for Father’s Day, Meg and my youngest son Daniel, took me shopping for pants.

This trip required that I:

  • Try on each pair
  • And model them for approval from the judges.

I HATE clothes shopping. And the only thing I hate more is having to try stuff on in fitting rooms.

I much prefer to go to the rack or the shelves, find my size and proceed to checkout. Easy-peasy!

jeansThe trip to the mall is featured in our latest podcast, which pays tributes to dads, Father’s Day and, of course, dad jeans.

I will say that as a result of the shopping expedition (and Meg’s
abundant patience and encouragement), I am now outfitted with several pairs of good-fitting jeans.

The lesson I learned?

I will take the time to try on clothes and no longer shop for jeans by the seat of my pants.

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Featured photo courtesy of shutupandwearit.com.