This coming Sunday is Father’s Day, and I was unbelievably lucky to have had Dave Ross for my father. When he died in 2002 at the age of 91 years and 20 days, part of me died also.
Dad always had my back, and a couple of examples should amply demonstrate his love for me. When I ran for mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, my opponents tore down my signs all over town. Being raised in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where he was the only Jew in an all-Italian neighborhood, Dad did not believe in turning the other cheek. Even though he was in his 60s at the time, and it was pouring outside, he stood for hours in the back of a pickup truck and ripped down every one of their signs. Nobody was going to play dirty with his son and get away with it.
When I was in third grade, I needed Dad’s help, and as always he came through. Third grade was especially important to me because I missed second grade altogether, spending most of it in the hospital on a polio ward. My third grade teacher was Miss Burke, and I loved her. The first report card came out in early January, and I did quite well except for one subject — you guessed it — self control, which I flunked.
My parents met with Miss Burke, and they all encouraged me to behave, so I tried. I sat at my desk with my hands folded and not a peep came from me, until one day Miss Burke needed to absent herself for a few minutes. Victor Thomas, a classmate of mine, made a paper plane and flew it across the classroom. I admonished Victor, “Miss Burke wouldn’t like what you’re doing.”
Victor then said something that I found quite troubling: “Burt is Miss Burke’s pet.” I, of course, did what any red blooded American boy would do under the circumstance, and I picked up a chair and was about to deposit it on Victor Thomas’ noggin when, lo and behold, Miss Burke returned to the classroom and let out a scream.
She ran down the hallway to fetch the principal, Mr. Dolan, who was tall, strict and, by the way, loved his scotch. Mr. Dolan entered the classroom and took a few long strides before grabbing Victor by the ear and escorting him out of the room. Now, you, my reader, might ask why Mr. Dolan punished Victor not me, and the reason is simple — Dave Ross knew full well that Mr. Dolan enjoyed his scotch, that I might have some difficulty adjusting after missing a grade, and so for Christmas, Dad bought Mr. Dolan the biggest and finest bottle of scotch money could buy.
You might say this was all unfair, and I say “au contraire.” This was living proof, if ever there were living proof, that there is a God in the heavens above! Thanks, Pop! Without you, I would never have graduated from third grade.