I have many memories about my father and about growing up with him in our apartment next to the elevated train tracks. For 20 years, we listened to the roar of the train as it passed by his bedroom window. Late at night, he waited alone on the tracks for the train that took him to his job at a factory, where he worked the midnight shift.
On this particular night, I waited with him in the dark to say good-bye. His face was grim. His youngest son had been drafted. I would be sworn in at six the next morning, while he stood at his paper-cutting machine in the factory.
My father had talked about his anger. He didn’t want them to take his child, only 19 years old, who had never had a drink or smoked a cigarette, to fight a war in Europe. He placed his hands on my slim shoulders. “You be careful, Srulic, and if you ever need anything, write to me and I’ll see that you get it.”
Suddenly, he heard the roar of the approaching train. He held me tightly in his arms and gently kissed me on the cheek. With tear-filled eyes, he murmured, “I love you, my son.” Then the train arrived, the doors closed him inside, and he disappeared into the night.
One month later, at age 46, my father died. I am 76 as I sit and write this. I once heard Pete Hamill, the New York reporter, say that memories are man’s greatest inheritance and I have to agree. I’ve lived through four invasions in World War II. I’ve had a life full of all kinds of experiences. But the only memory that lingers is of the night when my dad said, “I love you, my son.”
—— By Ted Kruger from ‘A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul’