I was Walter’s only son: four-year-old Bosco.
It was an endearment my gregarious father bestowed upon me, because I painstakingly pumped and stirred chocolate syrup of the same name into tall glasses of cold milk.
In exchange, I sat in awe as he gulped his coffee and savored his soggy Shredded Wheat. We loved each other, our playfulness, and kitchen table excesses.
Since Tom and I arrived at our Arizona home three years ago today–six days after a heart attack in St. Louis in 2017 on my sixtieth birthday–I’ve walked frequently with Walter’s memory.
Especially when I step aboard the treadmill to strengthen my heart muscle and consider that we both survived heart attacks in the same city.
In addition to Walter’s World War II army trunk, uniform, dog tags, Army Good Conduct Medal, honorable discharge papers, and war-time letters he saved from his parents and sisters, I am fortunate to possess disparate pages of my father’s poetry … along with the American flag from his funeral.
I’ll never forget the December day in 1993 when two stone-faced soldiers folded and pressed it into a triangle and handed it to my mother. In turn, she gave it to me.
There is one more keepsake from Walter, which Tom and I carried with us when we came west: this electronic GB Means Good Beer advertising sign. Walter the salesman salvaged it from his days peddling products for Griesedieck Bros. Beer in the 1950s.
In the early 1960s, before his first heart attack, Dad turned on the sign when company came over and we ventured into our basement.
Long after he died, the sign’s magical light-and-color wheel spun and bounced a range of hues on a knotty-pine shelf downstairs at my mother’s Missouri home. Then later, on top of my refrigerator in my Mount Prospect, Illinois kitchen.
Strangely, somewhere on the road between Illinois and Arizona in 2017–as I was mending from my heart attack on the passenger side–the wheel disengaged. Probably one too many bumps on the road, though it was cushioned in our backseat.
I wasn’t sure the sign would ever spin again, but in 2018 I found a trusty repairman named Bob in Phoenix. He opened the back of the rectangular sign and tinkered with it. He told me he could reconnect the wheel to the track. I left Walter’s beer sign in Bob’s capable hands.
Bob called two days later to tell me the sign was working again. The following afternoon, Tom and I paid him and thanked him for his time and trouble. We brought the sign home.
We found a suitable place to display it on the top of our bookcase in Scottsdale high above my desk.
I plugged in the sign. I turned on the switch. The wheel turned. The blues, reds, greens, and purples bounced.
Just as Walter had in our Bosco days.