Family Matters

Family Matters

Tough Love: They Don't Make Fathers Like They Used To

By Steven Friedman

March/April 2010

"Come with me," my father said before leaving our apartment, and then again in the taxi when it stopped in a neighborhood I'd never been to. Taking a taxi seemed odd when our 1954 Plymouth was parked right there on Church Avenue, near our Brooklyn apartment house.

It had been a rough night. My 17-year-old sister, eight years older than I was, hadn't gotten home until very late—in fact early that morning. My father was waiting for her. Only a few words were exchanged. I could hear the anger in his voice and her pleading: "He was only a friend! Nothing happened!" And then the taxi ride in silence. ­­

The taxi door opened, and my father said to the driver, “Keep the motor running.” My father motioned, and I followed him up a path to the doorway of a brick building. He knocked, and when the door opened, without words, he hit the man, still in his pajamas, with a sharp right hook to the jaw. The man, much bigger, reeled backward. My father walked away, down the path, back to the taxi, with me following. It was dawn, and we went home.

My father must have assumed that my sister had been violated in some way, even though she'd told him that "nothing" had "happened." Since she tended to hang out with older guys and often kept our parents in the dark about her whereabouts and activities, it made sense for him to be suspicious. Also, she hadn't gotten home for hours beyond her expected return—something that always set my father off.

He was all scowl…

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