If you Could Read my Mind, Love

"If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell/Just like an old time movie 'bout a ghost in a wishing well...And when you reach the part where the heartache comes/The hero would be me..."

That old Gordon Lightfoot number reminds me of my dad. I remember as a fourth-grader hearing that song in an old diner in Norwalk, Connecticut, on a Saturday morning and admiring a package of butter rum LifeSavers in the cashier counter window. Dad had just bought our breakfast, and he managed the to read my mind and buy me the candy, too.

My dad was a telephone installer at the time, and he had taken my work so I could see what he did. I spent the morning in the front passenger seat watching him climb poles, work his magic, come back to me, and move us along. My father is an epic man in every way. He curses loud, talks in big pictures, lives well, enjoys a drink, and means every goddam thing he says. He also means well, though you're better off if you don't have to prove it. He is, in a very big way, not politically correct.

At six-foot-two with a flaming red crew cut, he was a giant. Watching him defy gravity and make phones work was magic to me; he had a job better than any other man's job in the world.

As an installer in Norwalk, dad worked in the bowels of creation and in the shi-shi homes of the famous and rich--though rich, he would tell you, often did not go past the public rooms downstairs. Some of your favorite actors slept in shabby beds in ugly rooms upstairs. Appearance was everything for some, and dad knew for which ones. We never ate in the restaurants where he worked. He knew too much. For years after he moved into a different phase of his Telephone Company career, he never failed to say, "If they knew what they were eating--the cockroach shit..." when we passed the Cobbs Mill Inn or the Three Bears. Dad was a great leveler of all society, to be sure.

My father is as tough as nails. He made himself out of nothing with a mother who was less than nothing haunting his every step. So he knew a bad day and a tough break and he expected you to deal with yours and shut up and get over it and move on and God Bless America. Amen.

Except for the kids with the bologna. One day he was installing phones at the home of three little boys in South Norwalk. Their mother was nowhere to be found. There was an awful smell in the house that turned out to be fried bologna. The kids were dangling the pieces of sandwich meat into the toaster from a fork and heating it up for a hot lunch.

Dad took the kids out to lunch at a diner in Norwalk. Then he brought them back. While he was on the Bell System clock. Without the mother's knowledge or permission.

At the time, dad would have told you he didn't give a shit--in just those words: I don't give a shit. Those kids were hungry for decent food and he fed them.

Could you do that nowadays? Could you give a guy on the street a quarter if he asked for it? Or a few bucks? What are the limits. I say, be epic and buy lunch. Give a shit, just like my dad.


  1. What a nice article for your Dad! I'd be proud to read such from my daughter.

    Gordon's a poet:

    If you could read my mind love
    What a tale my thoughts could tell
    Just like an old time movie
    bout a ghost from a wishin well
    In a castle dark or a fortress strong
    With chains upon my feet
    But stories always end
    And if you read between the lines
    You'll know that I'm just tryin to understand
    The feelins that you lack
    I never thought I could feel this way
    And I've got to say that I just don't get it
    I don't know where we went wrong
    But the feelin's gone
    And I just can't get it back

  2. Thanks, Greg. Lightfoot is extraordinary--and apparently eternal. Seems he's been around forever. He'll be performing at the Warner Theatre in Torrington next month. Everybody at least passes through Connecticut!


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