My Dad, My Hero

My father, my hero, Norton “Norty” Cuban passed away on July 10, 2018.  He was 92 years old.  He was born in New York City to working class Russian-Jewish emigrants. The middle of three brothers. His father, Morris, sold baked goods door-to-door in the Bronx. They would later move to New Jersey where Morris would open a grocery store.  There was a lot of anti-Semitism in his neighborhood.  The “Bund” would throw stink bombs made of burning film into the store. This drove away the customers and eventually forced the store to close. They would then settle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, living most of their lives in the predominantly Jewish, Squirrel Hill area.

My dad would go on to work different types of labor jobs and in 1944, at 18 years old, was drafted to fight in WWII where he would serve as a Seabee and participate in the Battle of Okinawa. He returned home and settled into his life managing a National Record Mart and chasing girls. He was recalled to serve in the Korean conflict.  He was not happy about it, but did his duty.  A duty in both wars that exposed him to horrors that he rarely talked about later in life, and would bring him to tears every time he tried.

Upon his return from Korea, he went into business with his older brother Marty, operating an automobile “trim shop” called Regency Products.  He would meet and marry my mother Shirley, and eventually settle in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

My dad did not have a college education.  He wanted all of us to have one. We fulfilled that dream for him and for ourselves. My older brother Mark went to Indiana. I went to Penn State, then Pitt Law. My younger brother Jeff earned his bachelors degree from  Southwest Texas State, then his masters from the University of Texas.

My dad wanted each of us to forge our own unique path in life. Mark went on to be an internationally known entrepreneur, sports team owner, and television personality. My younger brother Jeff became a psychologist, then transitioned to sales, and is now is a vice president at a major media network.

I, however, struggled to find my path and identity. Addiction, eating disorders, depression, and two trips to a psychiatric facility were stumbling blocks that I hid well from my dad. I was ashamed and did not want him to be ashamed of me. I hid them as I had hidden during three short-lived marriages. The fear of releasing shame is one of the gatekeepers to recovery. A concept foreign to me in April of 2007 when I finally found long-term sobriety.

A few days after I began that journey, I walked over to my father’s house in tears. He lived just down the street from me. I sat down on his couch. I bawled out a lifetime of pain, shame, and fear.  Things that as a little boy, I kept to myself for the same reasons I hid them as an adult. I did not know what my father would say, but I could not hold it in anymore and I needed to feel loved. I was in that moment, a 13-year-old boy asking for his father’s love with as much fear of the unknown as that little boy.  My father, whose knees had long degenerated from decades of stooping and kneeling in cars and the rigors of two wars, limped over and sat next to me. He held me. He cried with me. He said, “Brian, I love you, move in with me and we will get through this together.”

We did get through it together, along with the support of my now wife and two brothers, who like my father, lived(and still do) walking distance from me. Through the decades and miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we stayed together. That was the bond of family my father instilled in his sons. The bond that his father instilled in him and his two brothers.

That day in April, my father loved me a lifetime. He saved my life. My recovery goes on today.  I am grateful my dad and I got to share our love in sobriety. That love was sitting at his condo just talking or watching Pittsburgh Steelers games. That love was Thursday dinners.  That love was traveling the world together.  That love was holding his hand and whispering in his ear as his earthly existence wound down.

The last words my father said to me two days before he slipped into unconsciousness and a week before his passing, were, “I love you, Brian.”

I love you Dad. I always will. I will see you again. Thank you for being my hero.