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Alan D Busch

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Member Since: Feb, 2008

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Of the four chapters I posted about two weeks ago, the preface, ch.1, 2, 3, 7 chapter 3 received the most hits at 250. Writing is mostly rewriting, editing, tedious stuff after a while, but hopefully it pays off when the language over which the writer labors for endless hours begins to sing. :)

 Growing Up Together Without My Father

The long and late night escalated in volume and vitriol. Ron and I

snuck out of our bedroom at 3:00 a.m. and positioned ourselves

several inches behind the edge of the top step. Ron lay prone on his

stomach and I lay prone atop Ron, my chin stuck in the crown of his

head. From our upstairs vantage point, we enjoyed both the sights

and sounds of the drama below.

“Gerry, do you know what time it is?” Grandma Jean asked.

 rhetorically. My maternal grandmother, Jean Austin, joined us in

our new apartment shortly after we had moved to St. Louis. It

quickly became apparent Mom was too old to be living with her


 “Mother, are you waiting up for me?” Mom probed accusingly,

fully aware of the truth of the matter.

“What kind of girl comes home at this hour?” Grandma pursued her

line of questioning, notwithstanding its doubtful applicability

to a thirty-one year old woman.

“Mother, I’m not seventeen anymore living under your roof.

Please remember that.”

“Hey Ron, I didn’t know that grandmas could yell at moms?”

“Mom isn’t a mom here but a kid like you and me,” Ron said.

Frankly, his comment mystified me but not for long. Mom grew

up quickly after that. Grandma Jean moved out and into her own  

place one week later. It was okay though, just a block away.

Yes, it is wierd when your mom is dating. Then again, she was

thirty-one years old, quite pretty and very available A good many

gentlemen callers found their way to our front door. Dr. Leslie Rich

for instance: dentist, boat owner, Porsche driver and big tough guy.

He was one of my favorites. Apparently, however, Mom’s feelings

for him didn’t match mine.

“How would you boys feel about changing your last name

to ‘Grossman’?” Mom queried us on what had been until that

moment an uneventful Saturday afternoon.

“Do what, Mom?” Ron asked incredulously. As my older

brother, I let him take the lead here.

“Well,” she began, taken aback by the abruptness of Ron’s

response. ”I thought it might be a good idea if Mr. Grossman

adopted you boys after we’re married.” We knew Mom had been

dating Mr. Grossman, a fine gentleman and successful businessman,

for some time and were not surprised they had become engaged.

“Well, we have Dad and it’s a terrible idea,” Ron retorted,

 an opinion with which I was in complete accord.                   

“I just thought …” Mom said defensively, backing off at Ron’s

vehemence. “Ronald, where are you taking your brother?”

“We’ll be back later before dinner, Mom!  Come on.”                

With that Ron grabbed me by the arm and whisked me away.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Got any money? Ron grinned mischievously.

“I got a quarter.”

“Good enough for a couple of games of pinball.”

“Hey yea!” I happily agreed. “What was Mom talking about?”

“You got me,” Ron answered, holding on to my shirt sleeve.

We stopped and looked both ways before crossing

Olive Street to Nelson Burton’s Bowling Alley where we

spent the remainder of the afternoon. You could get an

entire day’s worth of entertainment from a quarter in those

days. Besides we knew how to rig the pinball machines to win

free games.

Don’t get me wrong. We loved Mom then as we do now fifty years

later, but what she was thinking that day I can’t fathom. Mom never

brought it up again, thankfully.

Dad remained in Chicago. While true we saw him all too

infrequently, can you imagine how such a betrayal would have

crushed him. Do you see? A father’s presence, even if only periodic,

makes a positive difference.

Dad’s influence in my life didn’t wane due in significant measure to

the positive role Ron played. Though only eighteen months older

than I, Ron stepped into some pretty big shoes but somehow

managed to keep them on. He has always been a “step up to the

plate’ kind of guy. Always bigger and stronger than I, Ron became

part of that great tradition of older brothers everywhere who look

out for their “kid brothers”. And you know I rather liked it. Our

relationship was straight out of “Leave It to Beaver”.

Before our parents divorced, Dad had spent a great deal of time at

the office and, very possibly, too much time there, but he believed

strongly that sacrifice made today would benefit us tomorrow.

 This, Ron explained, accounted for his absence at home. 

“You got that? So no sad face if he forgets to load up his trunk,

okay?” Ron admonished me, referring to Dad’s previous visit

when he had forgotten to bring down his usual stash of toys.

“Okay, okay I got it,” I said resignedly. While his absence was

not the worst thing imaginable, we would have welcomed a


Though we saw him no more than four times a year, Dad

compensated for the infrequency of his visits by the quality of

the time he spent with us. Spoiling us terribly became standard

procedure to which neither Ron nor I objected. We did, after all,

have a lot of catching up to do.

Besides the absolutely indispensable stuff like eating and Sunday

morning driving lessons, Ron, Dad and I adhered to a fairly set but

not inflexible routine. Saturdays were always rough and tumble,

two kids against one dad. It was simply loads of fun. I mean what

kid couldn’t enjoy giant kosher pickles packaged in brine-filled

plastic bags, drive-in movies, wrestling in Holiday Inn motel rooms,

pocket billiards, bowling and go-carts?

On one occasion, we even sat through four showings of “Sergeants

Three”, a full-length feature starring Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis,

Jr, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin being shown at the Esquire

Theatre at a time when movie theaters were architectural works of

art. Dad recalled every detail of that long afternoon together when I

questioned him about it forty-five years later.

As enjoyable as our times were with Dad, seeing him once every

three to four months for fewer than forty-eight hours wasn’t

enough. My parents spoke together in Mom’s kitchen over a cup

of coffee on those Sunday mornings just before Dad would head

back to Chicago.

“Do you think they’re talking about getting married again?” I

asked Ron.

 “That’s ‘gotta’ be the dumbest question in the world,” he

responded with typical older brother indelicacy.

God, I hated those meetings. But this one, however, was different

and exciting because Dad, Ron and I would soon be together on the

road, following crooner Nat King Cole’s advice popularized in one

of his most famous songs first recorded in 1946.

Ron and I were indeed fortunate because even though our

parents had recently divorced, they went about their

business of responsibly parenting us as if nothing had befallen

their marriage. To their eternal credit, I never heard either of

them say one unkind word about the other in our presence and,

for that matter, to anyone else. My folks were decent, civil

people. Whatever had happened destroyed their marriage. That

said, I thank them for having never put us in the middle of their

 marital difficulties.

As was pretty much standard practice back then, the courts 

awarded custody of the children to the mother. Given Ron’s

and my capacity for mischief, however, I’m not sure if “awarded”

is the most appropriate term. Comparatively speaking, however,

we were no worse than many other kids our age and probably a

great deal better than most. Dad remained, to his credit, a

conscientious father despite his court assignment as the

non-custodial parent. That’s never been an easy thing to do.


Alan D. Busch

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