Camp with the Kids

My adult children and grandson were waiting for me curbside at Bangor Airport.  They had all arranged to gather at LaGuardia to fly up together for their exclusive week with Dad at camp. My son-in-law Peter was on his cell catching up with business as my daughters waved me over.  After quick hugs and hellos, everyone piled in the Bronco, anxious to get to camp–but not before our planned stop for lunch at Governors, a family restaurant which is part of a chain exclusive to Maine. 

                A family week together at camp has become an annual event for the past several years. When we are all under one roof again it is immediately like old times, though we have had our separate homes for years now.  Shared meals and campfire stories of times past and plans for times to come reconnect us and deepen bonds. 

                I planned to take everyone to Sucker Lake for fishing and a cookout.  Kara and Peter opted out for yoga and conference calls.  Brooke and Billy drove with me in the Bronco over the snowmobile path to the entrance of the lake area.  A bumpy ride but the Bronco handled it as advertised.  Greg met us there with a portable battery-operated motor for the rowboat moored at the shore.  The motor was silent so the quiet of the lake was maintained as we traveled the short distance to a small island for a barbeque.  Greg started his campfire while I waded into the water for a few casts.  Billy tried his hand at wading and casting alongside me and I noticed he was more confident in his technique this year.

                Lunch was a typical Lenny picnic menu:  hamburgers with mustard and relish.  The appetizers and dessert were catching a bass, so after a few bites I rushed everyone into the rowboat to find a spot where the fish were waiting for us. 

                We maneuvered over to a promising-looking cove and before long Brooke and Billy caught several mid-size fish.  Dad landed a few but the exercise was to have the kids experience the lake and its surroundings.  There were no camps along the lake shore, no signs of anyone else.  Just pure wilderness.  Truly a heavenly place.

Father’s Day

Growing up in upstate New York in the 1950s, what I remember most clearly about Father’s Day are the homemade gifts that we worked on for weeks in advance in shop class, before school closed for the summer. One year I labored over the construction of a tie rack, designed like a cowboy holding a long stick, over which the ties would drape in a row.  Like my father even wore ties?  Anyway, that was the task for all of us kids, to come up with something that showed great effort for our fathers.  By the time I was in high school, shop class long behind me, my mother would choose a Father’s Day gift from the family.  Despite her frugality, a week before Father’s Day my mother and I would take the bus downtown to buy dad a gift—usually something he could wear to work, like winter gloves or a flannel shirt—all on sale during the summer.  Afterward, we would walk over to dad’s parking lot and wait for him to close up. Then we would all ride home together, his present hidden in mom’s shopping bag.  

My mother’s gift to my dad on Father’s Day was to cook his favorite meal for dinner- beef brisket with sides of baked potatoes and roasted carrots, followed by chocolate cake.  Before sitting down to eat, my dad downed a shot of whiskey.  Then he dug into mom’s dinner like it was his last supper.  No restaurant could offer the same level of satisfaction and happiness as his favorite meal homecooked by my mom.   Whether the children attended this sumptuous meal on Father’s Day was beside the point with dad.  My sister usually found a reason to drop off a present and skipped out on the dinner.  My brother always seemed to be somewhere else—college, law school or selling something.  With mom in the kitchen, I was usually my dad’s sole companion and of course I watched what I said and how I responded to any questions he threw at me.  “Yes, school was fine.” “No I was not looking forward to summer because I am not going to camp.”  That one was my attempt to get him to agree with mom that I have two weeks away at Camp Seneca.  Usually between the first and second helping dad would be amenable to discussing the camp request which usually was about the cost. 

During my teens dad wanted me working the parking lot during the summer to cut down on his payroll.  I learned my negotiating skills by trading off hours at the lot for two weeks at Camp Seneca.  I was being paid, ha ha, and the salary was to be applied to camp fees.  Years later, when I got married and headed to law school, my mother presented me with a passbook to a savings account in my name with the notation, “Parking Lot Money.” My gosh my dad had kept his word.  I think there was $2,500 in that account.  My folks were real savers. I can almost hear my folks today, seeing the presents kids lavish on their father for Father’s Day: “Save for a rainy day, Lenny.”

Mother’s Day, May 11, 1958

May 2022

I think back to my last Mother’s Day with my mom, Rebecca Ackerman. I did not realize the significance of that Mother’s Day outing in 1958 until many years later. I was off to college in August, and after that graduate school, then marriage, starting my own family in New York City and then my parents moved to Florida for retirement. It would be our last Mother’s Day, with all of us together, to celebrate it with her, before she passed away in Rochester, New York in 1997.

Growing up, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. It was the one day of the year my family went out to dine at a restaurant. My parents were Orthodox and would not eat out unless the restaurant was kosher and the only kosher restaurants in town were delicatessens. Hence, they rarely dined out or travelled. The one vacation trip we took as a family, with my sister and her husband, was to Atlantic City in 1949, when I was still small enough to share a room with my parents. Every night of the trip we went to the same, possibly the only kosher restaurant in Atlantic City. Dinner always started with half a cantaloupe, followed by a typical heavy kosher meal of pot roast, potatoes and hearty soup, and it was summer, probably 87 degrees outside.

But on Mother’s Day, the rule was broken, and we would dine out at a non-kosher fish restaurant called Spring House, which is still in business all these years later. It was a momentous occasion for the family. My parents would dress in their formal High Holiday clothes, I would be in a starched white shirt and long pants. Despite all the excitement and preparation, my parents were not
very comfortable eating in a restaurant. Dad could not read the menu in English and relied on Mom to choose his food. Mom, being the chef at home, knew what she wanted before she sat down. They would start with coffee and then order a fish course, usually cod. She was always conscious of cost and knew Dad would question her later about the price of everything that was ordered. She would caution my sister and her husband, both of whom dined out a great deal, to be prudent in their meal choices, knowing that she would have to account to my father for any extravagances. Alcohol was never ordered. Jt was coffee start to finish. I knew to be careful when ordering. I did not like fish as a child and chose the least expensive one. I would eat a few bites, saving my appetite for the ice cream dessert.

Other than on Mother’s Days, my dine out experience in Rochester was limited to Eddie’s Corner, a luncheonette across from Ben Franklin High School, and to Critic’s, near the Paramount Theatre where my mother took me as a youngster to the movies on Saturdays. Mom did not drive, so we took the bus downtown. After the movie we waited for Dad to close his parking lot for the ride home. My parents were not always strict about my kosher diet and occasionally took me after school for a hamburger at a local barbeque, Don and Bob’s, though it had to be surreptitious, my father always parking away from the entrance to avoid being spotted at a non-kosher burger stand. As a teenager, where to go on a date was limited. None of us, my friends or I, had the resources for anything elaborate. After a high school ballgame, we might go to Bay-Goodman’s for pizza and Orange Crush. It wasn’t until I left home that I became an experienced restaurant-goer. When I married and moved to New York City, it opened up a new world, one I never could have imagined as a child sipping my soda at the counter at Eddie’s.

When I remember Mom on Mother’s Day, I think back to those once-a-year lunches at Spring House and how much they meant to her, despite breaking the kosher rule and the money pressure from my father. On that morning in 1958, my high school fraternity brothers delivered a red rose to each of the mothers of current members and to those whose sons had graduated the previous year. After that, our house descended into the usual chaos, with five people trying to get ready and only one bathroom. Dad of course got to go first, even on Mother’s Day, and I, the youngest, was last. It was sign up and soap up quickly. Nothing was ever easy growing up at 144 Navarre Road in Rochester, New York. My warmest memories are of Mom. I remember, before we left the house to go to the restaurant, my mother clipped the stem and pinned the rose to her dress, above her heart.

Fishing Paradise Valley with Kara

March 2022

As anyone reading my columns know, I have long had a special fascination with the state of Montana–its history, its landscape and its unparalleled opportunities. Last night I watched the final episode of the Paramount television series, 1883, which follows a frontier family on their long journey to Montana. To my surprise, Paradise Valley was their last stop– the final resting place for Ilse, the main character. I know Paradise River Valley well from several visits over the years, including a fishing trip with my eldest daughter, Kara, in 1992. Kara had avoided the trip her sister Brooke and I took to the Bob Marsha It Wilderness Area in Montana a few years earlier. Our enthusiastic reports afterward of our many adventures may have swayed her, as had the photos from another trip with my nephew to the chalk streams in Yellowstone. This time, when I had the itch to go back to the Valley, Kara was all in. She wanted to experience it for herself-to see “Big Sky Country” and to learn flyfishing.

I was delighted with her change of heart and vowed our time together on this trip would be special. We left New York and landed in Bozeman, Montana, rented a car at the airport and drove west on Highway 90–a long stretch of road running east-west–turning off at Route 89 into Livingston. The town of Livingston is at the northern entrance to the Valley and at the time, some 30 years ago, it was nothing more than an old run-down movie theater, a vintage hotel, a grocery– and one of the best fly­fishing outfitters in the west. We stopped in town to stock up on groceries and fishing supplies and then headed to our home base. I had secured a comfortable, furnished cabin to rent near the trailhead to the mountains. Our view from the cabin picture windows was the magnificent Gallatin Range –the western flank of Paradise Valley, which is the natural gateway to into Yellowstone Park.

Kara, surprisingly, made dinner that first night – I think her mom gave her some cooking lessons before we left. Afterward, we stepped out onto the deck to observe the evening sky. Millions upon millions of stars formed an elaborate tapestry of bright, twinkling lights. With no noise pollution, the distant howls in the mountains drifted across the Valley toward us, as if the coyotes were close enough to be in our backyard. Maybe some of them were.

Fishing was to start the following day with a float trip down the Yellowstone River, so we went to bed early for a fast start the next morning. I slept like a baby and awoke to a glorious, cloudless dawn. We met up with our guide, a young, long-haired fellow who was pleased to teach Kara, a city girl, how to cast. Kara had deliberately smudged up her brand-new wading pants so she would not look like a complete novice. She needn’t have worried because she took quite easily to casting in the first lessons at the bow of the drift boat. She had soon mastered those 11 to 2 swings essential in tossing a fly. Right off the bat she hooked a cutthroat trout on the bank. Excited as all hell, she kept crying out “Dad look at me!” The thrill of that first fishing experience has lasted nearly 30 years. Only yesterday we talked about our upcoming summer trip to camp in Maine. She and I and her husband, Peter, will fish for bass on East Grand Lake and take a float trip down the Baskehegan River.

These days, Yellowstone Park draws bigger crowds, and the town of Livingston has grown to accommodate them. Montana in 1992 was like a walk through the old west. Dinner on our last night was at a saloon, with cowboys in jeans and dirty boots and large hats that stayed on indoors. The next day, we stopped for lunch in Bozeman, where we would catch a connecting flight. Before going to the airport, we had a little time to stroll the wide main street, passing horses tied up outside where parking spots might normally be. We saw girls in denim with big hair and big belt buckles that represented star rodeo riders. Overhead the blue went on forever. Montana’s moniker “Big Sky Country” was apt.

Camping with Brooke

March 2022

Recently I started watching an excellent television series called “1883”. Set in Montana during frontier days, the show called to mind a trip I took almost 40 years ago with my youngest daughter, Brooke, then 13 years old. It was summer of 1985. We ventured out west to Choteau, Montana, for a stay at Circle 8 Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property at the entrance to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. Brooke, the youngest of my children, was easy to coax into a 10-day camping trek on horseback, with a group of strangers who, like me, were looking for adventure. She was as dauntless at 13 as she is now in her S0s. We were a great father-daughter team for this type of excursion. My late wife, Judie, and my oldest daughter, Kara, would have nothing to do with such a trip. Their outdoor adventure during that time would be a stay at the Westbury Hotel in New York City with shopping outings on
Madison Avenue. I had learned of the Montana trip through my board membership at the Nature Conservancy in East Hampton, New York. At the time, I knew little of that part of the country, but the trip seemed like a terrific, once in a lifetime opportunity for us to learn about it.

The flight out to Great Falls, Montana was uneventful. We were met at the airport by a Circle 8 Ranch van for the three-hour ride to Choteau. During the drive, we chatted with the other passengers who were some our camping companions to be: an older couple in their 80s from California, retired but still active outdoorspeople, and a young family with two children-the father was an investment banker and fly fisherman. There would be ten total in our group, a mixture of city folk, suburbanites and country dwellers, all with one thing in common: the desire to experience and be tested by nature and the elements in some of the most beautiful country in America.

Orientation began almost immediately on arrival at the ranch because we were setting out on horseback the next morning. The planned trek was five days out and five days back through the magnificent Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. We would pitch tents at day’s end and cook our meals by Bunsen burner. One of the cowboy guides advised us not to unpack all our luggage, as there was only room for the bare necessities. Brooke and I went through our suitcase and left behind most of our clothes, keeping only underwear, socks, jeans, shirts, rain gear and dop kits. Pack horses and mules were already loaded on to the trailers for the ride to the entrance to the reserve. They would carry the tents, food, medical kits and cooking utensils.

In the morning, we had a quick breakfast and met up with our group and the guides, then were transported to where the horses were waiting for us, ready to go. Once everyone was settled into their saddles, we ventured off, into the wild. We had no phones as cell phones didn’t exist then, and though we were as prepared as we could be with rations and supplies, we were, nevertheless, truly alone in the ever-deepening wilderness. The cowboy guides all carried revolvers and rifles to ward off predators and grisly bears. There was no venturing off alone, even to the “latrines” off the campsite. This was no casual walk in the woods, but a total immersion experience in nature.

After the first day on horseback, I was unable to stand up. That evening I took a “bath” in bengay, which only helped a bit. Brooke was a trooper on her horse, Cody, who was excitable but steady on the tough trails up and down the mountains. She only cried once, and it was during a hailstorm that tested all the adults as well. After a few nights of camping, we became accustomed to the routine but when the cowboy guides asked if we wanted to spend a couple of nights in one place to relax from the riding we ALL said yes.

Despite the hail we encountered, the July weather in Montana had been very dry. The cowboy guides constantly reminded us about the risk of wildfires. The cloudless skies ensured our portable solar powered sun showers provided plenty of warm water when it was time to clean up. Most days the weather was clear with views for miles. The majesty of the mountain range along the Continental Divide is something I will never forget. We trekked in areas of such magnificent flora and fauna it was as if we were passing through an impressionist painting. I brought a fly rod along and at our campsites, always near a stream, Brooke and I would cast into the crystal-clear mountain water for trout. There were a few nibbles, then caught and released. Fishing in that idyllic environment instilled in me the sense of joy I feel every time I engage with the sport, no matter where I am casting my line.

Living apart from the civilized world for that brief time left lifelong impressions. Brooke and I strengthened our father-daughter bond, and for Brooke it was also a maturing experience. Her love of the outdoors that she always had, having grown up in East Hampton, deepened, as did her respect for nature. These days Brooke and I continue to share active, outdoors experiences, most often in Maine at my fishing camp, where she visits regularly with her own young family. Now we impart our love of nature to the next generation. For me, the trip to Montana was the beginning of what became my passion for flyfishing throughout the world, as well as for simple walks in the woods, always in search of fresh water and wild fish.

Conversations with My Father

February 2022

The headlines in the New York Times today of the impending invasion of Ukraine by Russia opened up a flood of memories from my childhood: the radio playing melodic cantatorial music in Yiddish on Sunday mornings, my father listening intently while he read his Yiddish-language newspaper. It was the one day of the week he was not working his parking lot. I remember seeing him sitting there, listening to the music, his face wet with tears. I must have been five or six years old at the time and was shocked as he was not one to show emotion outside of his fiery temper. Cautiously, I asked why he was crying, and he responded, his voice twisted in pain: “You don’t know how lucky you are to have been born here!” He’was born in Ukraine, and it wasn’t until years later that I was able to piece together some of my father’s history. Few words were ever spoken in my family of the past. It was simply too painful. I learned that the letters so faithfully exchanged between my father and family members still in Ukraine – his father, mother, siblings, nieces, nephews–stopped after 1941, his entire family there having perished at the hands of the Nazis.

My father had grown up in a shtetl village called Kupel in Podolia. It was a region with a tumultuous history, and at various times in the first half of the last century was divided and claimed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, Poland, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Axis Romania. In the chaos following the Russian Revolution in 1917, there were pogroms, during which Jews were targeted by the White Russian Army, and Jewish youths were kidnapped to use as cannon fodder. His older brother had gone to America before the pogroms, and was settled in New York. So in 1918, at the age of 12, my father concluded that if he were to survive, he would have to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He fled Ukraine on foot, hiding out and stealing food from farms along the way. He made his way to an unknown port and stowed away on a ship, ending up in Argentina, where he lived and worked for the next five years, all the while planning and saving to get to America. His immigration documents, preserved in the U.S. National Archives, show he listed himself as a “salesman” in Buenos Aires. At the age of 17, he went to the American consulate in Buenos Aires and applied for a visa to the United States, signing a document entitled “Declaration of Alien About to Depart for the United States.” This time he went as a “passenger” on a vessel called The Hamburg, as listed on his Alien Registration Form, which was completed upon his arrival at the Port of New York. From there, he made his way to Rochester, set up a business as a “proprietor of a parking station” and the rest is history.

Years later my father retired to Miami, exhausted after years of working outdoors during Rochester winters. I would visit with him and accompany him on his various errands. Jn the Cuban grocery he would negotiate over a cantaloupe in fluent Spanish. In the kosher butcher shop he would speak Russian or Polish, depending on who was working the counter that day. He was also fluent in Yiddish and English. I asked my dad how he knew so many languages and his unforgettable response was, “Lenny, when I would wake up in the morning as a child, I would hear my parents speaking and depending on who was in control of the border at the time determined the language of the day. Some days it was Russian, other days Polish or German. I learned to speak with the occupiers.” The only consistent language of the father’s youth was the one spoken in his home between family members, their language of comfort: Yiddish. The cantor singing Yiddish songs brought tears to my father’s eyes, as he sat in his favorite chair on a Sunday morning, as he recalled a youth long ago in a country far away.

Some Lessons of Covid

February 2022

The lessons of Covid are many, and the sheer numbers are staggering- of lives lost, long-term health compromised, jobs disappeared, economies ruined. It all paints a tragic picture of our age. On a smaller scale, the effects of life under Covid are more personal, yet just as powerful. My interest is in the individual. How has Covid affected those close to me, both in terms of behavioral changes and mental health-often the same thing? The answers I get vary as much as the people of whom I ask the question, though there are underlying similarities. The common theme seems to be the reduced level of human interaction and the losses associated with that.

My recent conversations on the subject with friends have been revealing. There is talk about the emotional strain of coming out of the pandemic only to be faced with the prospect of new variants, preventing any chance of a return to “normal.” The issues run deeper than having to forego a long­anticipated trip, or planning celebrations with family members. Especially now that some of the travel restrictions have eased, people are getting around more. But there is a general uneasiness and the habits of quarantine and living under the threat of a new variant linger. One of my friends said she has watched more television in the last two years than in the rest of her 70 years combined. She expressed regret that she wasn’t spending more time reading or painting or perhaps cleaning out old closets-­something more active and productive. Motivation is sapped away by the endless protocols that have also protected us. Social lives have been scaled back, friendships sustained by video conference or phones, or not at all. loneliness may be a pandemic on its own.

Last month I visited some of my oldest friends, a couple who live in New York City. The husband, a retired physician, is less active due to health issues than he was pre-pandemic but his wife of 50 plus years lamented about the lack of socializing. Her indoor tennis and card games were cancelled. Though she knows things have opened up a bit, she now spends more time cooking and cleaning, out of habit. People have gotten out of the routine of socializing. Face to face contact with friends and family has been curtailed and is only slowly making a comeback. While in the city, I noticed the restaurants were packed despite the close seating and the wet, chilly weather. Many restaurants have the enclosed, individual outdoor seating, constructed of plywood and decorated with artificial plants. There were mostly young people out and about, presumably all vaccinated–a New York requirement for indoor dining. I was pleased to be able to do my usual New York City routine: a haircut and shave at my barbershop on Lexington (everyone masked), followed by a stop at Hunter College bookstore for a slow circuit around the stacks (again, everyone masked). I vowed to keep up my old New York City routine as long as I can.

While in Manhattan, I had the opportunity to sit down with my 11-year-old grandson, Billy, to ask him about his thoughts, observations, reactions -and those of his friends-to the changes brought about by Covid over the last couple of years. “It is so, so different, Grandpa, learning at school instead of zoom class at home,” he said. “School is normal!” During quarantine, he continually complained about the lack of socializing and he spent a lot more time on his phone. Fortunately, his school recently reopened-with protocols in place-providing convenient cover for meetups with friends during lunch break and between classes. Playdates are happening more frequently now, except of course when a family member tests positive. Though he and his friends miss the socializing during school shutdowns, he admitted that, “When school is closed, we can sleep in later,” pointing out one of the few positives. As attractive as it might seem to sleep late every morning, Billy said he would gladly get up early to go to school and be with his friends, rather than hanging out in bed the extra hour. Traveling to and from school on the bus is also an opportunity for socializing. Billy attends a private school on the West Side so he “commutes” from his home on the East Side. He uses the time to catch up with his friends and plan activities. Schoof bus time was sorely missed by him during quarantine. Many of Billy’s friends from last year’s public school are being home schooled since the parents found the school system’s response to Covid so chaotic and disorganized. Private schools were open sooner and their closures have been more limited. It will be some time before we understand the long-term effects, if any, of the Covid disruptions on children, but my talk with Billy was a hopeful one, and a reminder of the resilience of youth.

Life during quarantine is a good time to reflect on family values and relationships. Confined to a limited space for months at a time, the closeness eventually reveals who we are as a family and what we really think of each other. But what about all those missed dinners and matches and classes and
coffees with friends? What about the lost jobs? A recent article in the New York Times called upon readers to leave any regret behind for the missed opportunities caused by Covid. On the other hand, the book The Myth of Closure by Pauline Boss, explores the idea of “social bereavement” and how with certain losses, closure is unattainable. We grieve as a community over the changes wrought by the pandemic. Sometimes, the loss never ceases. Loss is never perfect. We all experience the phenomenon differently. For me, I deal with the issues of loss and closure by looking beyond and anticipating impact. We rely on science for the facts, and we look to our family and friends for support and understanding, so I stay in touch whichever way I can. Even a zoom call with a friend can make all the difference.


December 2021

I recently had my Mountain Messenger columns assembled into book form, which I have shared with my friends and colleagues.  In return, I have received a number of responses from people which, perhaps inspired by my own personal musings, often include reflections on their own lives.   My life-long friend Jerry, who I grew up with in Rochester, New York, sent me profiles he had written some time ago of his parents.  Fathers were the toughs in our lives.  Jer’s father was tethered to the TV, which was a new invention at the time.  Because of his fragile health, he was home all day, which was unusual for us since most of our fathers worked during the day and in most cases evenings as well.  When we visited Jer, we tiptoed around the house so as not to disturb Jer’s dad. Any noise prompted a serious shushing from Jer’s mother.  Ron’s dad was the owner of a men’s clothing store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Rochester, around Kelly Street and Joseph Avenue.  In the winter he would drive a few of us –Ron, Jer and myself– to school some mornings, sparing us the wait at the bus stop.  The trouble was that he was a chain smoker.   Because of the below freezing weather outside, he wouldn’t let us open the car windows, which always led to a fight between Ron and his dad, and which Ron always lost.  Ron’s dad was typical, in that all the men in our lives were heavy smokers during this era.  Secondhand smoke was unavoidable and probably contributed to health issues for many of us later in life.  I stayed away from smoking until I was introduced to the habit in college and stayed addicted for the next seven years, finally quitting when my father became ill with emphysema.   

Mothers were the main influencers in our lives.  My late wife Judie’s mother was a single parent living in a cottage behind the grandparents’ main house on Rauber Street, with two beautiful teenage girls– both sought after by young, thirsty University of Rochester college students.  My high school prom date was Sharon.  Her mother was another single parent of four– three boys and beautiful Sharon.  When Sharon and I dated, I was never far from the watchful eye of Murph, her brother who was just a couple of years older than myself and who was a linebacker on our high school football team.  When he wasn’t around, her older brother, home from attending law school at Syracuse, was never far.   Sharon and Judie’s moms worked outside the home since they were supporting families on their own.  The other moms were mostly stay-at-home housewives, although I recall Jer’s mom was a saleswoman for Encyclopedia Brittanica and we all bought a set from her.   The stay-at-home moms were there in the morning to prepare school lunches and in the evening to make dinner.  

My mother didn’t work outside the home, but her hands were always full, and I often helped her.  Sometimes it took the form of protecting her from my father’s harsh words, because of the tough fathers, mine seemed the toughest.  Whether he was dissatisfied with his dinner, or furious from the disrespect he felt from my older brother or sister, his temper was easily triggered.  My mother was always defending the conduct of my brother and sister, however insignificant it was in my mind and it led to constant flare ups.  My sister refused to go to college and married young, which caused tension in our family, as education was ingrained in us as paramount.  My brother left for college in his senior year of high school to get out of the house and away from my father.  With my brother and sister gone, my father had only me and my mother as targets for his anger.   I learned early on to stand between him and my mother when she started to cry, a sure sign of an escalation in hostilities.  Standing face to face with him, he zeroed in on me as a target for his anger.  I would lure him away from her until he physically chased me around and outside until we both collapsed from exhaustion. I was always proud that I could outrun him. Even at the end of his life my father was tough on my mother.  By then, she was suffering from dementia, and unable to perform the usual familial duties–such as putting dinner on the table every night– that he expected throughout 60 plus years of marriage.