Thoughts on The Anniversary of My Father's Death
For those who don't know me (is there anyone reading this that doesn't know me? seeing as its not really a big advertised site)....
My father died a year ago today on the Hebrew Calendar. It is what we jewish people call a "yahrzeit"
You commemorate it by at the least.. lighting a candle. I bought a nice blue one, 24 hour one and lit it earlier.
It's the first time I have had to use the term "his yarhzeit" and it sounds funny. It sounds odd. It sounds sort of sad and depressing if you must know.
Death is hard issue for me to talk about. I saw a lot of it early on in my life. When I was 13 my uncle died and he was closer to me then ..than my father was throughout my life. We lived in a duplex.. my aunt and uncle practically raised me. I was the lucky product of a large extended family ..a cocoon of love and someone always there full of quirky Southern Jewish types that would fill up a Tennessee Williams play or a Flannery O Conner short story. Faulkner had nothing on my family even though we didn't live in Mississippi.
My uncle died, my best friend Terryl died the same year.. one of those families riddled with cancer til almost everyone died before they were 30. My grandmother and grandfather died the next year within a year of eachother. For a few years in the late 60s I was afraid to love someone.. they might die. Sort of got past that but not without it leaving its scars.
When I was 22 and expecting my first son.. my best friend in the whole world ever died. Linda.. sort of a set back on the death thing, huh?
With time... I got past it. But, I rarely had to deal with it or dwell on it. Death existed..a part of life.. out there with no specific known date just around the corner.
Maybe I would have loved Ed more if I wasn't afraid he too would die. Maybe like some protection on his life I would just stay in Miami and not travel north to Gainesville. Maybe it had nothing to do with death and I was just afraid to believe in.. that he loved me so much.
Comes a time in life you have to be honest and open and I'd rather set the record straight here than having people believe creative copy cat stories elsewhere.
Maybe.. I felt my wings were clipped when my uncle died because my father wasn't there for me at that age like my uncle had been.
My uncle... told me when I was young that I could do anything I wanted to, be anything I ever wanted to.. because I was smart and beautiful and determined and special. He sang Blue Spanish Eyes and Granada better than anyone I ever heard do it professionally. He defended people who really were innocent and got them off of murder charges.. for free as a favor and then they left a beautiful Spannish Guitar for him on his doorstep as a thank you present. Beautiful guitar. He was a Gator fan, through and through.. made Ed looked bad. He taught me to sing the F L O R I D A fight song when I was a child.. F L O R I D AAAAyee
Oddly... most likely because he did die... I was left with my father. A quirky, funny, smart man who could detach too much and loved company on long rides while working. Always in my uncle's shadow and always jealous of my uncle Oscar. My Uncle, a very secure man emotionally never said a bad thing ever about my father.. he always told me how smart he was, how he was a late bloomer.. an under achiever and he'd go far with time. And, he did...
My father loved Jai Alai and "The Dogs" but more from a love of the game of Jai Alai and more out of the odds involved in gambling. He was not a big gambler but he was a big mathematician. Everything in the world was divided up into numbers to him.. 3 nurses were in earlier, he had two cookies .. everything had a number.. a value.
He always said he couldn't make a living at Jai Alai.. no one could because people are not as predictable as dogs. A man has a shitty day with his wife and kid at home, doesn't get any sleep and it throws off his game. A dog runs... he's trained to run and short of an injury.. he runs.
He became Orthodox-Religous at 40.. like a few other great Jewish Scholars. He stopped talking about Jai Alai and began going to minyon (prayer services) and for the first time ever.. was home one day a week. The man was restless.. like the dogs, always running. He had a county job, did work on the side, drove a taxi, fixed stop watches... gave up the county job for a bank job... kept working on the side until he quit and opened up his own Appraisal Practice.
And, like Uncle Oscar said... he was a late bloomer. He became President of two different appraisal organizations. He was a special master. He was known as one of the experts on land and real estate values in South Florida. People at the temple loved him. He served on the Board of Directors of a local school.. worked for it in different ways. Taught real estate at night school. And, in his older age.. middle age.. he finally became close to his kids who were old enough to talk to and go for long drives with at night.
And, we loved him. My brothers more than me because they didn't know our uncle, he died when they were young and because they spent more time with him.
I was always busy.. at school, in clubs, dating, with friends.. in love.. just busy. Going for long bus rides with Linda or sitting out under the Palm Trees at school pretending to be in the library writing novels...
My brothers really had my father in a way I didn't. And, yet.. I was Daddy's Little Girl always.
Years later when I was grown, married and living on Miami Beach I'd walk in on my father working in some restaurant as a kosher inspector (semi-retired, always running like the dogs) and he was sitting by some tourists amusing them with stories of Bobbi in highschool. About Key Club and being a sweetheart of the club and all her boyfriends.. Ed, Joe.. Linda and Debbie and Leslie and Richard and... he went on and on. They were amused. I was mortified.. "Daddy, Daddy.. why are you telling these nice people visiting Miami things about me?" And, they would smile, reassure me it was all interesting, he was so nice. help... He always said those were the happiest days of his life when I was in highschool, all those kids coming and going. Glad I could make him happy.
He always liked Ed. Called him a "fine young man" Liked Joe.. though he thought he drove too fast. Was like my mother jealous of Linda ...but everyone was jealous of Linda in my life.. Joe, Ed and her sister.. my mother, Debbie most of all. And, he wanted me to marry Richard.. I am sure.. everyone did. I probably should have .. he was one of the finest boys I knew and..............he could actually play Jai Alai, played well.. no not gambled.. played.
And......my father was a good Grandparent. The best. Very good. The kids loved him, respected him. He was oddly closer to them than he had been to me and my brothers when we were young. Some people age better with age... they mature... they relax, they learn how to stop running and have fun.
And... he got Alzheimers. Like his older sister did. Like a couple of us probably will get.. give money for research (paid political advertisement here) and... then slowly he was gone. Yaffah got to meet him.. feel badly, because he wasn't in one of his best moods that day and I couldn't even get a kiss out of him at the nursing home though.. usually he always kissed me. And, Yaffah looked sad and I regretted taking them but.. well, such is life. Yaffah and my father had a lot in common. Long road trips throughout the city, a quirky sense of humor and a good and kind heart and the ability to laugh through anything at life's silliness...
My father used to say variations on this theme. God.. has a sick sense of humor. And, he would usually say it with a tear rolling down his eye in laughter.
My friend Lanny Smith told me today about someone else... a friend of ours who passed away last week that I should envision him dancing in heaven in the rain with the angels.. or something like that (don't quote me, its in my work email) but... it was a beautiful thought...and I suppose I would like to think of my father in heaven, laughing at God's sick sense of humor and remembering again all of Bobbi's friends from highschool and wondering why he bet that trifecta at Jai Alai when he should have bet the other. I hope he is davening (praying) in heaven for me and all of us because trust me.. I specifically could use his prayers. Sure Ed and Joe and whoever is left standing can use them too.
He was a good man, he lived his life the way he wanted to and granted he didn't push himself as far as he could have.. he didn't die at 47 like my Uncle Oscar did who didn't get to watch me and prod me along in life and he didn't get to watch Spurrier win titles or quit as coach.
Uncle Oscar is up there in Gator Heaven somewhere.. singing Granada and my father is in University of Miami Heaven.. rooting for the Detroit Tigers and thinking God has a sick/funny sense of humor.
And..that is the way life is.. it's real and you can't fake it. Even in death Uncle Oscar's death shares top billing with my father's because they were both my fathers in ways.. they helped make me who I am today. I loved them both tremendously. Two I suppose can be better than one though never the same. Just like Ellison's death reminded me again of someone else... and even in his death he didn't get sole billing... he had to share the memories with someone else. Sorry.. but true. Such is life..
One road brings you to another... just because you travel one doesn't mean you don't remember the other .. unless of course you end up with Alzheimers and then maybe.. you remember it again in heaven, dancing and singing in the Rain.
Thoughts on the Anniversary of My Father's Death ..