A Remembrance

I stood at the foot of the hospital bed, playing solitaire on the tray table.  With each turn of a card, I looked up to see my father’s large blue-gray eyes staring at me.  Memorizing my face?  Asking for something?

He was beyond speech; four years into his illness.  Chronic lymphocytic leukemia was supposed to be relatively benign.  “You can live with this for twenty years and likely die of something else,” said the doctor at the time.   Four years later, aged 72, he was diapered and speechless in a hospice bed. I didn’t understand how he had gotten to this point. Even though I saw the disease rob my father of himself, bit by bit, it was still a shock.

When I was growing up, he was often mistaken for a wrestler or football player.  Such was my father’s presence.  A deep, resonant voice, broad shoulders, with a bald head and prominent nose – he was the perfect dean of a New York City high school.

He was also the perfect social studies teacher.  A voracious reader; he consumed biographies of Jefferson, Lincoln, Russian histories, westerns by Louis L’Amour, and any and all novels about the mob.  All with equal gusto.

I continued playing solitaire.  The slap of the cards on the laminate was a familiar sound to him.  I would hear that sound as I came down the stairs in my own house, when my parents visited, and see him at my kitchen table, playing solitaire while waiting for the rest of us to be ready to go – wherever it was we were going, Dad was always ready early.

I kept looking up at his eyes.

My flight was 5:45 a.m. the next day, Sunday, March 13, 2005.  That flight would get me home in time to see Leah’s final dance recital (she was a senior in high school and would be going on to college in the fall) and to celebrate Daniel’s 16th birthday.  I took my leave, giving him a kiss on the cheek and a squeeze of his diminished arm. My mom and my brother Mark were with him and that comforted me.

He died that next day, on my son’s birthday, during my daughter’s dance recital.

I still see his eyes looking at me.

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7 thoughts on “A Remembrance

  1. Your father was a very special person. Actually, one of a kind. His fine qualities were passed down to his 3 children. It is terrific that you can recall your past and keep his memory alive.
    Uncle Terry

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  2. You will never forget Dad and his look. How could you? You, Mom, Steve and I – we were the center of his universe– and we knew it. Here is a thought to ponder: Think– how many times did Dad disappoint us?

    I recall when I was in elementary school and the teachers were on strike– he would have class for me and my friends. ( As a 10 year old that was a problem).

    A few years later he heard your argument that it was improper to assign chores based on traditional gender roles; and Steven and I had to share in doing the dishes. (As a 12 year old that was a problem).

    I also recall about 30 years later- he ate a cannoli- which, no doubt unknown to him, was reserved for a grandchild.

    But I genuinely cannot think of other times he disappointed me.

    As to the above “disappointments”: ultimately, what a lesson he taught us- about, dedication, commitment to family/community; proper values. (And not eating too much sweets). [OK Maybe the last one did not stick for all of us.]

    Could you imagine if children everywhere were to be so fortunate as to have such a parent???? Wow– the world would be so much better!

    No, Linda, you won’t forget Dad looking at you; nor should you.

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  3. I would present another side of the very same reality. I remember your dad for all of those wonderful qualities so nicely discussed by Terry and by Mark. And I am filled with gratitude for knowing him and for the wonderful impact he has had on your life and on our children’s lives. But I also understand that there is the reality of the loss and of the really painful disease process that ultimately led to his passing. It was hard on a number of people and it was very hard on you. It leaves a scar. And sometimes we have to remember our scars too.
    Still, I hope that you will mostly remember those qualities, strength, dedication, loyalty, love of learning, generosity, that made him so important in so many lives.
    Very evocative and effective writing. Thank you.

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  4. Linda, such a loving and heartfelt tribute to a very special person. Beautifully written. I am struck by the timing of life and death… your father’s passing on Daniel’s birthday. I’m also reminded that 2005 was a tough year for our family… the loss of your dad, uncle Mike, and my grandma. I feel fortunate that all these family members were able to attend my wedding in 2004. I’m not sure if you know this, but Jordan and I had wanted your dad, my uncle Barry, to sign our ketubah. It felt like an important honor, but unfortunately the conservative rabbi that married us decided that family members could not sign the ketubah. In the end, some rabbis may have allowed a “family member by marriage” to sign a ketubah, but uncle Barry was always a very important family member to me. So the “by marriage” clause never applied here.

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    1. Thank you for sharing about your ketubah. I didn’t know that – and while I knew there were rules about who could sign it, I certainly don’t know the ins and outs. I appreciate your intention and knowing that you would have given him that honor. He loved you and Jordan. 2005 was, indeed, a difficult year for our family. Fortunately, we have had many celebrations (and challenges, too!) since then.

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