Wilbur Frank McNair ~ May 8, 1919 – October 11, 1974

dad and dog

My father died forty three years ago today. Do we ever stop missing those people we love and lose? In memory of him, I offer this paragraph from my essay “Finding my Father and the FBI,” recently published in my brand new book out from Side Street Press, And These Are the Good Times, and before that, Chicago Literati.


It’s true that my dad was followed by the FBI. He was a card-carrying Communist who was a union rabble-rouser in the forties and fifties. To some, that meant he was a national threat: not true, not really. He was a bad father to his first batch of children, and—mostly—a better father to his second; this is true. The file, what I can remember of it since I can’t find it, pieced together bits of his life, mostly from years before I was born. Those bits don’t add up to the father I knew, the suburban dad with an organic garden who worked a day job in an office wearing a tie and who mowed his lawn while wearing shiny work pants and black socks and dress shoes on weekends. My dad didn’t abandon my family or steal 500 bucks from his boss or plan in secret meetings to overthrow the government with his Commie friends. My dad took the train to work. The Skokie Swift. He sometimes left the office early on summer days to go to a Cubs game. He wrote books with titles like How to Get a Higher Paying Job Now and New Careers for Teachers. He had nothing to hide, nothing the FBI needed to know.


→I will be doing a brief reading as part of Essay Fiesta at the Book Cellar on Monday, October 16 at 7 PM, and a longer one with the poet David Trinidad at Women & Children First on Thursday, November 1 at 7 PM. Hope to see you. And as always, thanks for reading! ~ PMc←


TBT Memory ~ My First True Love


When I was five, I found a kitten on the street. I called my folks at work when I got home from school (kids, even five-year-olds, could return to empty houses in those days) and told them my boyfriend gave me a kitten, I would keep it in a drawer in the garage, they never had to see it, I would feed it and take care of it, please, please, please let me keep it. When my dad got home that evening, I took him into the garage where I had indeed put the kitten in a drawer, and the pretty marmalade thing looked up at us, mewing and wide-eyed. My dad picked it up, the kitten a tiny ball of fluff in his big papa bear hand. I carry this image with me, fifty years later. Cat in hand.

I named him Puddin.

The cat, not my dad.