Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Tire King of Long Island

My grandmother liked to announce to her friends that her oldest son was going to be a priest and her youngest a doctor.   This was fine with my father until he was old enough to notice girls.  He started to get very uneasy about disappointing his mother, who was, shall we say, formidable.   Then came the party for the sons of a friend who were young Jesuits bound for the missions in the Philippines.   It was a proud day for the Carnegie Hill Catholics, young men marching off to do the work of Christ.   Grandmother introduced my father and his brother to the young Jesuits with her routine introduction:  "This is Tom, my youngest son.  He is attending Notre Dame and is going to be a doctor.  This is Jim, my oldest son.  He attends Holy Cross and is going to be a priest."   The Jesuit abruptly interrupted her.  Something only a Jesuit would dare to do.  Something only a Jesuit could survive.   "Eleanor, the vocation to be a priest is the boy's decision and the boy's decision alone."   My father gave a silent prayer of thanksgiving.   My grandmother never said another word about the priesthood.   Perhaps if there'd been more Jesuits around to counsel ardent Catholic mother's the Church would have had less trouble with priests who chose the wrong vocation.

Jobs were hard to find during the Depression.   My father found one working in a garage pumping gas and fixing flat tires.   He worked out a way to change a flat truck tire in 5 minutes when it usually took 30.   He was happy working with his hands.   His mother wasn't.   One day she announced you're starting at Fordham Law School next week.   I never applied to any law school.  I've taken care of it.   My father said he was never happy as a lawyer.  "Who knows, if I'd have stood up to mother, I might have been the Tire King of Long Island."