My dad was a tremendous positive influence on me.
He was quite aware and an excellent teacher.
Compassionate, creative, he helped me create and grow a strong moral core.
The Polon family was always concerned with the contradictions inherent in living in an imperfect society. We were culturally Jewish, yet we were atheists. Solidly left of center, however open to other values. We were also willing to examine our own inconsistencies.
My parent’s house was filled with The New York Times, books by Carl Sandburg, and I recall the Golden Bough by Sir James Frazier (all the volumes!). Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead. The Fifty Minute Hour (which started my successful lifelong use of psychotherapy to move past emotional roadblocks). My mother introduced me to The Golden Notebook, and movies by Satyajit Ray. They both loved Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs. Of course Jackie Gleason was on each Saturday night. They appreciated Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.
Al, as we called him, was fascinated by intelligent games of Chance. He loved Bridge, and other card games. He also had a passion for spectator sports, especially horse racing both Trotters and Straight Up. He introduced me Dashiell Hammett and film noir before it was called that. We lived quite close to The New Yorker Theater, the premier revival film house of the 1950s and 60s. [I believe the owner was Daniel Talbot, however this is a digression.]
In 1953 My Dad received some devastating news. Previously he underwent a surgical procedure — a sympathectomy, just after I was born This was supposed to lower his blood pressure. It did for a while but not for long. 7 years is hardly an acceptable bargain for all the pain and suffering from the removal of his nerves of his middle torso. Especially since the expectation was for a permanent improvement.
He realized that he could not go through another round of failed experimentation. He decided to take the family to Europe for an extended stay. It was an incredible adventure. Al bought a Citroen, and we drove around the continent and saw the clash of cultures first hand.
The cultures, and the view while driving were more than I (as a five-years-old) were open to experience. However many memories are retained, all of them good. I recall the beach at Cannes, and a certain Austrian (I believe) funhouse, and the many great meals in unusual places and restaurants.
However his mother Rose died suddenly however and Al flew back to the States in a rush without us. When he got back to NYC his doctors started him on a new blood pressure lowering drug (surpersill ?spell).
It worked fairly well. He still had tremendous difficulty standing up since his nervous system was surgically compromised. But he lived for 20+ years. Unfortunately at the age of 54 he came down with colon cancer, and the Barium test was unhelpful (it missed the growth). Remember this was 1970s. He died in the early 1970s.
During my youth, and especially as I became of college age I grew more rebellious. This was the late 1960s, and I was looking for a fight, so I fought with all authority figures. A problem I retained for many years. I fought with him often, but my household could accept conflict. We were all quite strong willed.
I remember when the Kubrick film 2001 came out. We saw it as a family. And we also saw Mike Todd Jr.’s Smellovision film about China (boy did my mom freeze, since it used the AC system to distribute the aroma). Such was life with an extraordinary man, my Dad.