Stories And Lessons Across Three Generations

Retired New York City Police Detective Ed Miller Jr. with his son EJ at StoryCorps in New York City. i i

Retired New York City Police Detective Ed Miller Jr. with his son EJ at StoryCorps in New York. EJ has a brother, James, 19, and a sister, Justine, 22. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Retired New York City Police Detective Ed Miller Jr. with his son EJ at StoryCorps in New York City.

Retired New York City Police Detective Ed Miller Jr. with his son EJ at StoryCorps in New York. EJ has a brother, James, 19, and a sister, Justine, 22.

StoryCorps
Ed Miller (left) with his father, Edward J. Miller, the day EJ Miller was christened. i i

Ed Miller Jr. (left) with his father, Edward J. Miller, in a photograph taken the day EJ Miller was christened, in 1982. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Ed Miller (left) with his father, Edward J. Miller, the day EJ Miller was christened.

Ed Miller Jr. (left) with his father, Edward J. Miller, in a photograph taken the day EJ Miller was christened, in 1982.

StoryCorps

Schoolteacher EJ Miller wanted to know more about his grandfather, who died in 1998. And when he asked his dad, the moment gave rise to stories of both childhood and fatherhood.

Ed Miller Jr. recalled how his father, Edward Miller — or just "Pop" to his family — worked as a short-order cook in a Brooklyn restaurant. On Saturday mornings, Ed said, he got to go along and help get things ready for business.

"I'd have an apron that was six times too big with me," he said. "And I would fill the sugar jars, and fill the salt shakers, and stuff like that."

Ed, who later became a detective with the New York City Police Department, would watch his father work.

"In a busy place, he could take orders from the waitress, and 99 percent of the time, get the orders right. And never lose his cool," Ed said. You know, I thought it was pretty amazing."

"What kind of a dad was Pop?" asked EJ, 27.

"My mom ruled the roost, but Pop was the play guy," Ed said. "He'd come down and play stickball with us until he'd throw his back out.

"Then his back would heal, he'd be reaching for a bat — the whole neighborhood would be running: 'No, No, No! Don't let him swing the bat!' "

"Sounds like somebody I know," EJ said.

Asked what kind of advice his father had given him, Ed, 57, admitted he thought most of it was "corny" at the time.

"Do a good job and work hard, and you'll get noticed" was one bit of advice. "And not necessarily to get noticed, but because it was the right thing to do," he said.

"The most important thing I learned from Pop," Ed said, "was to be gentle — not a gentleman, just gentle, you know?"

EJ said he had learned that same lesson from Ed. Then he asked his father what it felt like when he became a dad.

"If I had advice for people now who are young, having babies," Ed said, it would be this: "Try to remember every single minute of that time when your son or your daughter thinks that Daddy is the greatest thing in the world — when you walk in the door, that the sun is shining because Daddy walks in."

It's the memories of those times, Ed said, that he still cherishes, especially when he sees parents out with their young children, walking hand in hand.

"And I'll tell you, my heart aches for the days I used to do that," Ed said. "It's heartaching sometimes."

But he added that he feels lucky because "I'm blessed with a woman that I'm still in love with. And you three guys."

"There's no doubt about it," EJ said. "You are my hero. You're what I think of as a good man. I thank you and Mom for just being such great examples."

"That's pretty cool, J," Ed said.

I love you," his son said.

"I love you too, man."

Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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