Today, like every Father’s Day, I’m reminded of the house on Monterey Drive in New Hyde Park that my dad bought for our family six decades ago, when I was 5.
While we lived in Hempstead, Dad worked as an engineer at Sperry Gyroscope in Great Neck. One day, he saw signs for homes being built in “Holiday Park.” That could mean a three-minute ride to work. We looked at different models and fell in love with the high ranch. Dad put down a deposit.
Dad, known as Al, spent lunch breaks watching our dream house progress and chatted with the construction workers. It was to be completed before school began, but a cement workers’ strike delayed it. After the strike, Dad convinced the workmen to finish his property first.
On Sept. 30, 1961, we were the first family to move into the development. No trees, no grass, no other people.
Dad built a basement workshop. To earn extra income, he repaired televisions, record players, radios. He landed a job at Grumman and worked on the Lunar Module for the 1969 moon landing.
Methodical, like a true engineer, Dad had a pocket protector. When my son, Jeff, was in fourth grade, he wore a pocket protector for his school picture. He thought that’s how you got dressed up. Like my dad.
My daughter, Laurie, was 10 and Jeff 8 when Dad passed. They thought he was the greatest. Jeff recalled saying, “Pop is going to take us to the toy store and said to bring my wallet.” At the store, Jeff told him, “It’s better to use your wallet.”
After I graduated from Herricks High, Dad said I needed a job. I was hired for administrative work at Sperry after Dad had returned there. He said, “If you need to work, work near where you live. God doesn’t give that time back to you.” We were still in our beloved house, but now the area was called Manhasset Hills.
We drove to work each morning in his 1965 Chrysler Newport. We’d bump into each other in the hallway. Sometimes, Dad would come over to my desk. Or we’d call each other on an interoffice phone.
During summers, Dad took us on many car trips, including Hershey Park. A homebody, he enjoyed maintaining his house. He mowed the lawn, and when he got out the edger, it was my job to follow him and clean up.
Dad was a big part of his grandkids’ lives, too. I moved close by, to Stewart Manor, and Dad visited during his lunch breaks. If he snoozed, Laurie and Jeff would put their stuffed animals on “Pop” to keep him cozy. If we discussed playing games, Jeff would say, “Pop says technology is more important.”
When Mom broke her hip in 2018, the dream house had to be sold. Arriving in Syosset for the closing, my husband and I spotted a familiar building. “Look,” we exclaimed, “that’s where Dad worked!” And that’s where the deal closed. Dad engineered the purchase of his home for $32,000 and, now, watched over its sale for more than 25 times that amount. I felt his presence.
Dad died June 19, 1989 at age 66, only a year after he retired. The last time I kissed him was on Father’s Day. Our house on Monterey Drive has another family living there now, but Dad will always be with me.
Reader Nancy Lulli Dunn lives in Commack.