My Best Friend…My Dad
Author: Rich Muller
My dad’s 92nd birthday is today. I sit here and think “where has the time gone?” I think back of all the awesome times that I shared with my dad. My dad was a photographer (long before the digital age and the internet) and he would work a lot of weddings, take portraits, and snap pictures for organizations such as the local Little League or the Boy Scouts. We used to go on these road trips just about once a week, in which he would have to drive about an hour and half away to deliver pictures to a Boy Scout camp in North Jersey. He had this Ford Galaxy which he called his “sacred cow” that he loved and always took special care of. Under his driver’s seat, he had a cassette player, and he would play all this German music; the polka, beer hall, German bands, etc. He would blast the music all the time and I even got pretty good at “singing” the German lyrics. The rides home were always glorious. We would stop by the huge railroad station in Princeton to watch the trains come and go….man, how I loved watching those things whiz by! Then we would go to out to this diner and I would always get the same thing to eat….a cheeseburger, fries, and homemade lemon lime soda..hmmmm! I can still taste it to this day.
My father was an only child and he never, I mean, NEVER played sports or knew anything about athletics. He always was found reading a book and listening to symphonies but when my brother and I started playing Little League, he always came to our games, watched, and of course, took pictures. He used to take the pictures in such a way, that when he had the film developed, the pictures looked like baseball cards. We had our own baseball cards!!!!! Now THAT was AWESOME!! All the kids in our neighborhood used to congregate at our house and we would play baseball, literally, all day. It was such a spellbinding, magical moment when, for that one short time, my dad came out and tried to play. We thought that was the coolest thing ever….even if he wasn’t that good 🙂
My dad had his own little Photography Studio in a sleepy, seaside New Jersey town. It was always a magical time when I walked into his shop, viewed all the pictures that he took, smelled the chemicals from the Dark Room, saw his set-ups that he would use for his photo shoots. In the autumn, every Saturday after the local high school would finish their football game, they would have a parade down Main Street if they won. It was a wonderful experience sitting there in front of his shop watching the players, cheerleaders and the band while drinking an ice cold soda. On most Saturdays my brother and I would meet him at his shop and we would go across the street and eat awesome pizza or baked lasagna then play Pac-Man while we were waiting for the food to come out. It seemed like everywhere we went, everyone knew my dad and he knew them. It was really sort of cool. After church each Sunday, we would go to the bakery in town and get freshly made Jewish rye bread. Man, was that GOOD! The bread would still be warm from coming out of the oven. The crust would be nice and crispy and the bread itself, moist and chewy. Then we would go to his studio and watch cartoons and eat snacks while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. On our way home, he would tell my brother and I to make sure that we ate a lot during the Sunday dinner so that my grandma and mom wouldn’t get mad.
Since we lived around the ocean, my dad would take us fishing around some boating piers and occasionally fish at the beach itself, surf casting. But most of the time, we fished by the piers trying to catch Snappers (or baby bluefish) around dinner time and stayed there until the sun went down. There was nothing better in life then to sit by those piers, drinking a Welsh’s grade soda, watching beautiful sunsets and watching the moon and stars begin their nightly dance. We would find sticks and try to hit the Jellyfish to watch them glow (that’s what they do when they get touched at night).
So, here I sit today, my dad’s 92nd birthday, smiling to myself remembering the many special times that I shared with him. Today, his photography studio is gone, the bakery sold out years ago, the diner is no longer there, the Boy Scout camp was disbanded a long time ago and all of my neighborhood friends have all moved away. He lives by himself in a retirement home reading books and listening to symphonies just like he used to do. My love and admiration of my father will never go away and will forever be in my heart…..for my father will always be more than my dad….he will eternally be my best friend.