I used to eat meat. In fact, I was known in the family for eating hamburgers. My mother delights in telling the story of how upset my dad got, and continued to get on the occasions, not at all that often, when he took us out to eat at a “real” restaurant. One where you could get a thick juicy steak. “And Milan would ask for—a hamburger.”
There were other firsts when I disappointed my step-father. Like the time he took me fishing with him. In a boat. On Medicine Lake. His favorite escape (besides drinking). Like the time he took off from work to come to a football game and I never got off the bench. He never let on about being disappointed. But deep down I knew.
My Dad did love to fish!
The real disappointment was that we never developed a father-son bond. He tried. But an alcoholic has a hard road. I remember another first. He lay on his death bed in a nursing home. He was only in his late fifties and had never recovered from a botched surgery where they damaged the nervous system somehow. We had been estranged for the past year or so. He grabbed my hand with his shaking one and said in his feeble voice, that sounded like he was a little drunk, “You’re a good boy, Milan.” I still couldn’t respond.
A few days later he died. It was 1976—in the spring. I remember because Linda and I were married that spring.