The original Joe the Plumber….Here is a photo of my Father “post” Janice. Ya see Janice would never allow the Harley and certainly not the pony tail. Practically children themselves when I was born — they were both 23 — they were thrust into adulthood while still, in many ways they were kids. I believe my father’s midlife crisis missed all the typical marks. There was no Rogaine, no convertible, and unfortunately for me, no round-the-world family cruise. His path to middle age can be summed up all by the sudden loss of his teenage love Janice Vesloski.
Dad was a hard worker, spending my younger years as a business owner – J and J Heating (Janice and Joe). A plumber by trade he later worked for Pall Corporation in East Hills. The business went under sometime in my Elementary school years. Mostly because or at least I think Dad’s love of Miller beer.
Dad’s drinking got worse and worse and came to a head sometime my freshman year of High School . I was told many times that “Your father has to want to do it for himself. When he hits rock bottom, he’ll make changes.” Well Rock bottom hit and Mom sat us all down and said “Daddy’s going away for a little while.” And she sent him to a rehab program in Upstate New York. I still have the letters he sent me from there. He asked me to take care of my Mother and my siblings and that he was getting better for us. Shortly after he came home his new passion was educating himself on Employee Assistance programs for those with drug and alcohol addictions in the workplace. He started a counseling center in Sea Cliff to help those who were trying to become sober and his life’s work after that surrounded the AA program, the 12 steps and taking it one day at a time.
Through the years I watched my dad throw himself (compulsively, I may add) into many passions. Once, he invented a new product he called “the chum buddy” in our basement, a fishing lure that he and my Mother would drive around the Island and sell (I can still smell the plastic being drilled out). He had tee shirts made and even got some vanity plates for his Chevy van.
Some may call him Cosmo Kramer…though eccentric, Kramer was friendly and kind-hearted and filled with quirkiness – Pretty much sums up Joe M. Unfortunately what I often saw was his inability to transform those passions into a measurable result. I always wished my dad given more time to his purpose — why he did what he did, why he wanted what he wanted — his passions may have resulted in a more favorable and desired outcome. There was something he was always looking for… I think he still is still looking…..
Dad always taught us very important lessons here are just a few:
- How to make a mean clam chowder and english muffin pizzas.
- A fresh unwashed tomato from the garden is best shared with your Dad.
- Farting is always funny. Even at the dinner table. Actually, especially at the dinner table.
- You can be mad at someone and still love them at the same time. This can be very confusing.
- Marry your best friend.
- Religion was praying to God the Yankees would get the win.
- Swiss cheese is to be eaten on wonder bread with mayo and fresh tomato.
- My father taught me about JUSTICE. “One day you’ll have to teach someone, and I hope they give you grief, just like you did me.” and I did.
- When you turn 18 and your eligible to vote – Vote for the vowel. If the man’s name running for office ends in a vowel its likely he is Italian and he is the one you should pick.
- Listen to your Mother.
While my childhood was often filled with anxiety and tension, there were nevertheless some beautiful times with my father. Looking back, what I can be most thankful for are the lessons I’ve carried with me.