A Gift

Today, December 20th, 2022, my Dad, Barry Brody, would be 90 years old. Sadly, he only got to celebrate his 72nd birthday, and he was not well when that milestone arrived. We did not understand at the time that he had an aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). We thought CLL was an indolent blood cancer that would take years to become a problem and that he would likely die of something else. Now we know there are different forms of the disease. Dad died four years after his diagnosis.

I mention this only because his deterioration was a surprise and a mystery, and for years clouded my memories of him. I wondered if there was more I could have done. Today I am not thinking about that – I am thinking instead of the legacy he left and the gift he gave me.

Dad was strong – in every sense. He was broad shouldered and powerfully built. In my mother’s eyes he wasn’t tall, he was 5’11”, but I thought he was. As much as his physical presence, though, was his strength of character.

I pulled out a box I have of memorabilia – letters, notes and mementos from celebrations. Included among the papers were copies of remarks made at Dad’s funeral by various speakers. One of his friends noted that Dad wasn’t capable of being dishonest. He couldn’t mislead you or play games. Actually, he liked games – real ones – particularly cards and tennis (and he was very competitive even when playing Spit with his granddaughter). But he didn’t play mind games, he didn’t play with your emotions. He said what he thought and behaved in a manner consistent with his words.

My brothers and I were lucky to have him as a role model. He gave us a great work ethic and showed us what it meant to be a partner in life. My brothers and I have reaped the benefits in stable family lives and successful careers. I’ll be celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary next summer, while my brothers have already surpassed that milestone.

Dad had his challenges. As his oldest friend said in his eulogy, he and Dad bonded in fighting off bullies in junior high school. Dad was Jewish in an Italian neighborhood where antisemitism was ubiquitous.  Dad was also overweight. The combination made him a target. Interestingly, the friend who reflected on the bullying episode was Italian. Their bond was strong, lasting a lifetime.

Dad found his way through that, but he carried baggage, like we all do from the hurts and insecurities of childhood. As a consequence, he was sensitive to my struggles. Among the letters I found were several written to me while I was in college.

My first two years at SUNY-Binghamton were very difficult. Though I made some good friends, I often felt lonely and lost. It wasn’t that uncommon for me to call home crying. Dad’s letters were encouraging – reminding me of my worth, his belief in me and that he and my mom were there for me.

Dad frequently said or wrote me the thing I most needed to hear. At my sweet sixteen, I had a sign in book. He wrote, “ Dear Linda, I am sure that you will “cultivate” a most rewarding life. Your sensitivity and sense of justice are your blessing and cross to bear. I hope that you enjoy the years to come as much as I have enjoyed your first sixteen years. Love, Dad”

He recognized my essential qualities and the struggles they created. It is kind of a thing these days to say “I feel seen.” My Dad saw me and he let me know he approved in word and deed. There is no better gift a father can give his daughter.

One of my favorite pictures of me and my dad

19 thoughts on “A Gift

  1. Wow. Great tribute. His sweet sixteen note to you so insightful! This morning I was chatting with theodore Barry Brody and telling him a bit about why he has his middle name.

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  2. Once again, you’ve captured the essence of your Dad’s legacy, and his showing you the way to live your life. You must know that were he able to speak to you, he would be very proud of the way you have continued to conduct your life ; wife, mother, grandmother, mother in law and daughter….. so many roles fulfilled with class.

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  3. I knew him only briefly, but I always enjoyed talking with him. Needless to say we didn’t agree about everything . I respected his intellect, as I think he he respected mine. We often played tennis or basketball together: with Barry there was no such thing as a friendly game! I enjoyed every minute of it! He was a good friend.

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    1. Yes, Dad was competitive! Dad also enjoyed the give and take of a good discussion with someone who knew what they were talking about (like you) -a quality in short supply these days. I know he valued your friendship, as does my mother to this day.

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  4. I know exactly how you feel. I was fortunate to also feel like my dad got me and appreciated who I was.
    I am so grateful that I got to know your dad for many years-not enough-before he became ill. Those qualities-honesty and strength-as well as his genuine admiration of you, were so evident. So was his loyalty and dependability. I saw those qualities as very worthy of emulation. Your dad was also a serious reader and academically rigorous.
    I know you embody all of those qualities and that you got him as much as he got you.
    Maybe that’s why the two of you are smiling from ear to ear in that photo.
    Thank you

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  5. We have such fond memories of your dad. He was such a terrific person. You and your brothers were very lucky to have had him in your life even if he was taken away too soon. I guess you all were pretty lucky with your mother also.
    Uncle Terry and Aunt Barbara

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  6. My dad would have turned 93 on 12/20/2022. We, to some extent, become our parents and there’s not much you can do about it. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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    1. I think I remembered that our dad’s shared a birthday, but maybe not. Either way, we were fortunate to have them. Funny thing, my mom and Jimmy’s mom shared a birthday, too. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting.

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  7. I have read some of your blogs and am suspicious we may be related. In your 2016 blog you speak of your grandfather Leo Bruder and a letter he received from a priest in Stary Zmigrod about the fate of his parents. I am a descendant of Mendel Bruder from the nearby town of Glojsce (about 5 miles from Stary Zmigrod). I would be very interested in connecting and comparing notes.

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  8. Linda, I loved reading about your memories of your dad. You did such a great job describing him. I am grateful to him (and your mom) for bringing you into the world. He imparted ethical values that contributed to the wonderful person you are. I am blessed to have you as a close friend for all these years and to benefit from your wise counsel. Thanks to your dad for understanding you so well and acknowledging the special person you are.

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    1. Thank you for your loving comment – and thank you for your friendship. You too are a big part of who I am today; and especially surviving those early days at SUNY-B. I will always be grateful for our shared laughter, walks, talks and meals. Here’s to many more in the coming years!

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  9. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t think “what would Dad do?” in so many situations or conversations that I find myself in. He had the ability to convey his insights in such an intelligent way, I only wish I could do the same. He was an impactful father ( and as noted by his friend as well) impactful in a positive way as Mr Emrich above wrote.

    I’ll share a story on what Dad told me years ago upon his leaving the Air Force. He was offered a position with IBM. This is approximately 1957. IBM at the time was a growing computer company that became enormously successful in the 1960’s thru even today. He turned then down and decided to enter a career in public education. He would have made a lot more money had he gone with IBM, but as he told me when I entered the computer business that he would not have been happy. He went where is heart lead him and he was quite successful working as a teacher and then as an administrator in the NYC school system.

    Lastly my friends never forgave him for contacting their parents and urging them to send their kids to our house where he conducted various classes while there was a long teachers strike in the mid 1960’s (I forget the actual year).

    We miss him.

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