Michael had been at the Hospital for Special Surgery for almost five years, and his practice was thriving. Financially he had gone from being totally broke to now being able to afford a Townhouse in one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods. The townhouse was a beautiful 19th century edifice close to Central Park.It was over 3500 square feet wth three full bathrooms,and a half bathroom on the first floor.The building had double parlors,a wood burning marble fireplace in every room, and a cherry wood ceiling in the formal dining room. They loved that despite contemporary upgrades the Queen Anne architectural splendor had been maintained.Both he and Arlene were very conscious of their good fortune, and in no way put on airs, or acted as though they were above anyone. Michael remembered the words of his grandmother in her inimitable Irish brogue when one of their neighbors was putting on airs”You know Michael you can’t shine shite.”Their roots were in Jersey City and they never once felt the urge to be pretentious
The only difficulty that Michael could not resolve was his relationship with his fourteen year old son Michael Jr. Initially Michael thought it was just the normal process of adolescence, but he soon realized that it was deeper than just a phase. Junior was disdainful of everything that Michael valued including the Catholic Church. He procrastinated every Sunday morning and it was a constant irritant for his father. While at church he paid no attention to the liturgy, and never received communion. He had refused to attend confirmation classes ,and whenever Michael tried to engage him in conversation it usually ended up by Michael losing his cool.
There appeared to be no avenue to reach his son ,and though he was a gifted athlete he did not try out for the grammar school basketball or baseball teams. Michael knew from their summers at Long Beach Island that his son was an excellent swimmer, and it was on those days at the beach that he seemed happy and less sullen. Michael encouraged Michael to try out for the city’s swimming team but as usual he failed to show up for the trials. Another point of confusion for Michael was his son’s total lack of interest in dating. He thought at this age he should be captivated by the opposite sex.The current bone of contention focused on where Junior would attend high school. Michael insisted that he take the exam for Regis high, and though absolutely dismissive of this choice Michael junior agreed to take the test.
Michael received a letter from Regis stating that his son had failed the entrance exam ,and would not be admitted to the freshman class. He was angry at this result ,and believed that Junior had failed the test on purpose. Rarely did Michael resort to influencing decisions like this, but he had an ace in the hole. His friend Father Aumack was teaching at Fordham ,and perhaps he could intercede and get his son accepted at Regis. The request worked, and he was notified that after new consideration Juniorwould be welcomed as a member of the freshman class .Overjoyed at this news Michael did not realize that this temporary victory was doomed to failure.
Michel junior failed every subject in the first month, and at the teacher conference his parents were informed that if his performance did not improve he would be asked to leave. This news fostered a major confrontation and Arlene tried to mediate a resolution. After the shouting ,she counseled Michael to back off and give junior some space. She believed that sooner or later he would find his stride ,and recommended that they include junior in the decision as to where he wanted to attend school. Initially this went down like a lead balloon with Michael but eventually he agreed ,but in a very real sense began to further distance himself from his son.