The Typewriter

Royal Typewriter, circa 1950s. Photo credit:

The Typewriter
By John Unger Zussman

A year after I’d lost him, I taught myself to touch-type. I relished our old Royal, his old Royal. I loved how the keys plunked and the typebars clattered, how the letters appeared neatly on the line, one after the other. I reveled in the ping of the bell and the thwack of the carriage return. By the time I finished the lessons, it was not the typewriter’s music I craved but its lyrics: a powerful word, a deft sentence, a paragraph that leaves you breathless.

Although I knew my father had written, I didn’t expect the thick envelope of manuscripts my mother presented me when I turned forty. From it spilled war stories and postwar stories, war poems and love poems, the first chapter of a novel. He’d dreamed of a life as a writer and, judging by his professors’ comments, showed promise. Then he joined my grandfather’s warehouse business so he could marry her and have me. He packed those pages away, planning, I suppose, to return to them when the business got to its feet and we kids could make our own way to school.

My manager and my writing mentor want me to write something commercial instead of another passion project. I see their point. But I conjure the smoky late-night staccato of my father at the Royal. No. I don’t think so.

Today’s post is the third of three in tribute to my father, Myron “Mickey” Unger, who would have turned 85 in August. In September, I posted a reaction to an old baby picture of me in a stroller, laughing, with my parents on either side. Last month, fifty years after his death, I continued the story with a poignant essay on life and parenthood that my father wrote in the ’50s, called “Upon Reaching the Age of Three.”

I am grateful for your interest and comments. It is comforting to know that my father’s words, even now, can move those who didn’t even know him.

Copyright © 2010, John Unger Zussman. All rights reserved.