We all have a father - good, bad or indifferent.
I was born in 1958 and my parents were depression children.
My father, Joseph Robert Makowski went into the U.S. Navy at 17, his dad signing him in, to get out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He traveled the world, got his eight tattoos and did many things about which he would never speak. He came home from his tour of duty in the Navy and at the age of 21 married my mother, who was 19 and they set about beginning our family two years later.
I was his son and he would try to correct all his past mistakes through me. Sometime he failed - sometimes he succeeded. Some things I had to fix on my own.
I can tell you one thing though, twenty-four years after his death, I still am fixated, overwhelmed, and seek consul from him.
Joseph Robert Makowski tried his hardest to make me a man.
He took me into bars in Greenpoint when I was 10 or 11-years-old.
He taught me how to shake a man’s hand and how to look a man in the eye.
He pointed out who the shady characters were and taught me how not to be like them. He schooled me how to deal with them and with people in general. He counseled me not to be a phony, how to just be yourself and be confident.
When I was just 22, my mother woke me up and said, “You need to take your father to the hospital something is wrong.”
That early morning trip would change my life forever and I would need all of his schooling now.
My dad had been preparing me all along to become the man of the house. He knew that I would have to care for my mother and sister when he was gone.
Joseph Robert Makowski was passing the torch to his son.
My father died of heart disease at age of 48, two years after that journey to hospital. I was now the “man” of the house. The grand plan was set. I had to “do it” just like it was all laid out.
So now, all the talks, all his instructions about a veteran’s burial, all the insurance paperwork, the Honorable Discharge papers (DD-214) for the Navy, the 401K money to protect my mother’s future fell into place.
Now was time to be his man!
I was angry, I was honored, and I was confused. I managed to do it though.
I am 48 now, I have a beautiful wife, a wonderful sister and my mother is in a nursing home. I have a 13-year-old boy, who is my best friend, my confidant.
We love the Yankees, play the guitar, eat pizza every Friday, hide ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, and do card tricks.
My father handed this baby to me in a dream, in his swaddle, as he said to me “this is your reward for everything you have learned!”
If you are a father, love your children and try to make up for any mistakes your dad made with you. Be an active part of their life. Above all, make your boys men, real men. We will need them more than ever in the future. Happy Father’s day!
Joseph C. Makowski is Vice President of Special Projects, International Operations of Bear Stearns Securities Corp.