Sins of the Father – con’t

The wad of money bulged in my pocket. It was a modest sum, but in this time, it was a fortune. I knew it wouldn’t last long, but at least it would help carry them through the years my father would be away at war. Between my contribution and my father’s regular installments from Europe’s front lines, my grandmother could breathe a bit easier, pay her rent, feed her children, and perhaps save some for the future, at least until my father returned home.

Rose Rizzo sat across the table from me now, my father by her side. It was just the three of us for the moment, so I took the opportunity to tend to the business of my visit. “I have something for you, an inheritance of sorts.” Their blank faces watched me with nothing more than cautious anticipation for whatever it was I would next say. I pulled the wad of $500 from my pocket. It wasn’t much to me, but to them, it was the equivalent of about $8500, a fortune to a poor Italian family struggling through The Depression. I figured it was as much as I could do without causing a ripple in reality. They must still struggle, there must still be strain, but I knew that this would give, at least, temporary relief; giving them hope for the future.

I put the sum on the table, all bills were printed in 1940 and purchased at auction. The look on their faces was pure shock. I knew further explanation would be requested, but it was my duty to avoid too many questions. I broke the silence with, “It’s what my father asked me to give to you. He was a fortunate man, and asked that his wealth be sent to his family. This is your portion.” Rose slowly reached to touch the stack of paper, as though she was checking to see if it was real. Her eyes met mine and tears tumbled down her plump cheeks. Her features were weathered for a woman in late forties, only a few years older than myself, a stark representation of what hard times can do to the body. She slid her hand to mine and touched my gently, words of thanks were on her lips, although they were unintelligible. I smiled, tears now running down my own face. My father, a man of little emotion, was smiling like I had never seen. “It’s a miracle,” he said, “a true miracle.”

I smiled and sniffled, “There are a few conditions, though.” Their look of shocked joy turned to concern and skepticism. I heard my father say what he always said, “There’s always a catch.”

“Nothing too restricting,” I assured him, “All my father asked was that you not tell your husband – your father,” I gestured to Sonny, “nor anyone else. This money is for you, Rose, to use as you need it. It would be in your best interest if you pretended like it didn’t exist and carry on as usual. It’s for your peace of mind. When your husband doesn’t bring home enough to pay the bills, you can rest assured that you can make up the difference. Save it, buy a house one day, and live life.”

I looked at my dad, whose smile had returned, “You are her angel. It’s life as usual for you. Pretend as though this doesn’t exist and continue to do what you are doing. You’ll know what to do with this in the years to come,” my words sounded almost cryptic, even to myself, but how else was I to say it? Nothing could change, he would still go to war, he would still return, he would tend to her, and she would still die long before my birth, but at least the years would be a bit easier and the abuse she endured from her husband would, perhaps, be a bit more tolerable knowing that she didn’t need him.

After a time, it seemed that Rose began to accept that this was, in fact, her money, and I would not reach to take it back. She put the money in the pocket of her housecoat and folded her hands in front of her. Her original polite countenance had returned and we picked up our idle conversation. She was exactly the woman my father had told me, kind, considerate, loving, and full of laughter. We talked for about an hour or so about life and I took the liberty of telling them a bit about myself, as an introduction of sorts. Impressed as they were with the education I was afforded and the experiences I had, they couldn’t remotely comprehend how different life was for me…in my time. To them, all the things I shared were a fairy tale, and honestly, looking around at the paltry apartment, it seemed as far-fetched to me as it was to them.

***

I made my way down the stoop, it was dark now, and the lighting was poor. The Brooklyn street was so old, but yet newer than I knew it to be. My heart was torn between breaking and overwhelming love and satisfaction. I knew that I had done the right thing and although leaving my father again tore me apart in a way worse than the day he died, I knew what was to come for him, and at least he could rest a little easier knowing that his family was safe.

I walked along the street, I had only a few blocks before I reached my destination, but before I made it too far, I heard someone yell, “Hey!” I stopped as I heard the approaching footsteps and turned to address them. My dad was running after me, a sight I had never seen, since he was already a severe asthmatic and 51 when I was born. Before I had a chance to say a word, he said, a little breathlessly, “I don’t know who you are, or how this all came to be, but I wanted to say ‘Thank you.'” I smiled at him and before I even knew what I was doing, I reached out and hugged him. “It’s the least I could do,” I said.

“You don’t know what you have done for us. You’ve changed our lives,” he said, catching his breath, and I think I detected a little flutter of emotion in his voice.

“Yes, I do,” I replied simply. “Don’t let this change you, Sonny. You still have work to do and a life to lead. You’re a strong, loyal, and good man. Continue to be those things. Just know that you have a guardian angel watching over you and you will live a long life, with children of your own. If you go forward as things are right now, although perhaps a little easier, you will become a wise man. Don’t change a thing.” He nodded as he absorbed my words. I smiled as I turned to continue my journey home, even though it ripped my heart away from him for a third time.

I turned to continue my journey, but then I paused. With one last glance over my shoulder I saw his handsome face and said, looking at the moon overhead, “Oh, and we will land on the moon one day, you’ll see.” I smiled at him, knowing that only a few short years ago, he told his friend during a street stick-ball game, that a moon landing would never happen.

Chapter 1 – Sins of the Father

It was a scene I had only imagined as a child. My grandmother’s house bustling with people, the smell of freshly percolated coffee piping from her stove-top, the aroma filling the tiny apartment. How this space held her, her husband, and their dozen children, I couldn’t comprehend. My childhood had been the complete opposite – I had my very own room, open spaces to run and play, and our cupboards were always full. Which is why I chose to come here, to create a sense of ease, although not to alter the past too drastically. If I had learned anything from my previous slips, it was that there truly was no way to change the past, but there were elements that could be improved. So, that’s what I was going to do, I would make some improvements.

I sat at my grandmother’s dining room table, covered with the cloth which would one day become my own, my father’s dying words ringing in my ears, “It was you who saved me, Ronnie. Do not hesitate, do not fear, now you’ll have me to watch over you, just as you watched over me.” He squeezed my hand with a strength you wouldn’t expect from a frail, 91 year old, dying man. I had no idea what he was talking about that October night one year ago, but I nodded my head, tears tapping his hospital gown, as I watched him fade away. Sitting here now, I couldn’t decide if I felt a sense of peace or sadness. In a few hours this would all be gone, and I would return to a time when none of these people exist, but right here, right now, they were real.

No matter how many times I imagined it, no matter how many times I rehearsed it, nothing could have prepared me for the moment my father, well, the 17 year old version of my father, came through the door. I heard his voice at first, “Ma! I’m home!” It was a ghost, but unmistakable. I fought hard not to cry as I felt the vacancy in my chest widen and practically consume me.

“In the kitchen, Sonny!” she summoned. He appeared almost as quickly as he died, skinnier than the grown man I knew, and devilishly handsome, his Italian features newer than I had ever seen. He greeted his mother with a kiss before he even noticed my presence at the table. He looked at me for a moment and smiled his welcome, “Who are you?” he then asked, his  New York approach not to be confused with rudeness, only direct and to the point.

I fought the urge to jump up and hug him, as well as the urge I had to never leave, I was about to reply when his mother answered as she bustled about her kitchen, pouring coffee, preparing dinner, and tending to the needs of her infinite number of children, “She’s the daughter of your great uncle, I think. She says she’s a Rizzo, a cousin, on your father’s side.” I smiled and nodded my head, averting my eyes as to avoid any sense of true recognition. As ridiculous as it sounds, I couldn’t help but feel exposed, the family resemblance was obvious, but my features were softer than theirs, the tiny bit of Irish I inherited from my mother was a blessing among the stereotypical Italian noses and dark hair. But my eyes, my eyes were his, and the most revealing.

Funny how the past looks identical to the future, I mused, in an attempt to redirect my thoughts. I suppose it’s rather silly, but before I met Jonah, I could only imagine that the past took place in black and white, like the pictures I had seen. The reality is that October 20, 1941 looked relatively the same as October 20, 2017, with one exception, my father was still alive and I had something to tell him. 

Suddenly, I felt the need to run. Run out the door and back to the rat-infested storage space in the basement of the apartment building a few blocks down. In moments I could be back at Jonah’s time anchor and back to all things familiar. 

Only hours ago, Jonah set the date anchor and opened the portal. Thousands of bursts of electricity were sent through my body through a series of leads, although I had no real idea of how all of this worked. He had explained it to me a thousand times, but I never understood. It was a design by Nikola Tesla, which Jonah improved with modern technology. It was quite simple when you removed all of the mind-bending mathematics. It had something to do with the combination of magnetic fields, psychic energy, and a tiny thing called “electrocution.” It actually isn’t as bad as it sounds, although painful at first, by my third time, I had learned how to focus on the result, rendering the means of my travel, insignificant. 

Tesla nearly died when testing it, but he lived to tell of seeing the past, present, and future, all at once. However this contraption worked, I knew that I trusted Jonah’s genius, even if I was the only one who did. I believed in him. A remarkable scientist, he was, and I knew he was waiting for me right now. No, I had to put all of that aside. I forced myself to regain my mental composure and focus on the task at hand.