My Father was what they used to call a Man’s Man. He was a tough guy with a great smile and everybody noticed him when he walked into the room, and some people thought he looked like a gangster. He was a Depression child of immigrant parents who were lucky that they survived the Armenian Genocide. His parents wanted their children to be Canadian and not to be looked at as foreigners, so they tried to speak English as much as possible, though Armenian was also spoken. As was the case for the majority of Depression children, he did not finish high school, and when the war broke out, he like so many Canadians volunteered to be soldiers in the United States of America, to be a citizen, because his parents were denied that privilege when there were quotas in place. He was a paratrooper and he used to joke that he never landed in a plane until the Eighties. After the war, he got married and they ended up living in an Armenian section in Southwest Detroit, where I was raised. It was a very colorful life with plenty of characters that had nicknames, they all had nicknames, and they could have been Damon Runyon inhabitants. All of the men had learned to be men from the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and other rogues that were manly with a twinkle in their eye.
I was the eldest of three children and even though I was totally immersed in this lifestyle that was second nature to me, I guess I became more “American” and I had the chance to graduate from high school, which was not the norm for the generation before me. My Mother had passed away when I was in the Tenth Grade and his whole lifestyle changed and in looking back he made quite the adjustment. We were never like the families on black and white television, but he did all that he could and he did a grand job. I was a bit of challenge to him, but I mostly knew my place, but I remember that I wanted a graduation party and I started to make the plans without consulting my Father. The old Armenian Church in the neighborhood had originally been built as a Masonic temple and it was a grand structure. In the basement of the building there was a coffee shop where the old men used to play cards, smoke and drink and on the far side from them, there were several rooms that the youth organization had, as a place for socialization. In between the two sets of rooms was the basement banquet hall, in fact the banquet hall on the main floor was where my parents had their wedding reception years earlier. My Father was not pleased with my commandeering the basement banquet hall and making plans, but he still ended up cooking up a storm for all the people that ended up at the party.
As I look back at my insubordination in creating this party, he could have said “no,” but he did not. He was not pleased with his goofy kid, but he put out quite the spread of food with the able assistance of my Aunts and my Grandmother. We even had an Armenian band that was cobbled together for the occasion. There was Molson Canadian beer, at that time I am not sure if I even knew there were other brands being made, there was Canadian Rye; Canadian Club for the guests and V.O. for the family. There was even wine for that pain in the arse kid that caused this whole mess. We had some Chateau Eyquem which sounds like a much more famous chateau, but this wine was from the Cotes de Bourg. The Cotes de Bourg was originally going to be part of the larger Cotes de Bordeaux, but it ended up with its own Appellation. The Cotes de Bourg is more known for Merlot, and this wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. My Father grumbled about the party for years, but I think (I hope) that he still enjoyed the moment. He was singular in his demeanor and all that met him, remembered him and most with good memories. I guess that it was fitting that since he was with me when I first arrived that I would be with him when he left.