Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eulogy for my father

When I talked to my kids yesterday for inspiration, here's what Yerachmiel Meir had to say about my father:  "When he wanted something to get done, it got done."  For my kids, that meant even if it meant going out and braving the weather to (fill in the blank):  shovel snow, build a sukkah, paddle a canoe, or shlep to Six Flags Darien Lake.

I asked both kids what they'd say if they could be here.  Elisheva, newly immersed in Hebrew, says she'd describe him as "tov me'od."  She wasn't serious, maybe just trying to get out of offering a real comment, but I'll pretend she was for a second, because I don't think you'll find very many more people who better embody the spirit of "tov me'od" (very good).

It breaks my heart that they're not here today, because if there is anything my father worked hard to be – and there were many things, from a father to a brother to a mortgage guy to a husband to an all-around Good Time Charlie (a play on his never-used first name Charles) – it was a grandfather, a zeidy.

My kids have often groaned when my father wanted to do something with them.  Kids do that because they think everything's going to stay the same forever.  And they'd groan even more at my answer:  "he wants to do things with you because he never had grandparents." 

All four of my father's were lost in Europe, leaving him disconnected from previous generations in so many ways:  physically, spiritually, emotionally.  But just like it's said that a person gets two chances to have a parent-child relationship; first as a child and then as a parent to their own children, I'm sure my father believed you've got two chances to have a grandparent-grandchild relationship.  He lost his first chance, and he wasn't about to take his second lightly.

There's some grandparenting stuff that I'm definitely looking forward to:  giving candy with no consequences, passing the kids back to their parents at the end of the visit, those kinds of things.  That is not what my father was about.

My father taught them to ride bikes (I wonder how the younger kids will ever learn?).

My father taught them how to paint a picnic table.

My father taught them that for the best roller coasters, sometimes you have to be prepared to drive a little, like to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio – or to Disney World.  This with a heart condition that didn't really let him go on any good rides:  he just wanted to see the kids go on; that was enough.

My father's was the first beard any of my children ever grabbed and the smile of approval they found again and again, not just on his lips but in his eyes, cheeks, forehead.

Both of those older grandchildren wanted to be here very much.  They can't because they're in Israel; they were at the Kosel, the western wall, today, just as we were, together, a few days ago.  Walking the streets of Yerushalayim (I hope by now they're in for Shabbos), inhaling the air and the ambience my father loved so much.

"I am at a loss to compare life here with any other place I know of," he wrote to me on his first visit, not all that long ago.  The picture on the postcard where he wrote that is, of course, the Kosel.

My father waited until he was in his 60s to find Israel, but I believe it was more than just another stop on the list of places and things to see and do.  Israel became a link, for my father, to a chain cut off by the loss of his grandparents and other relatives in Europe.

When he told me not much more than a month ago that he wanted the big kids to go to Israel, there was no question in his mind:  he wanted it, so it got done.  That's how all six of us suddenly found ourselves wandering Machanei Yehuda Market and Bnei Brak for the first time

It's said that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) begged God hundreds of times to let him just see Israel, just walk four paces within its borders.  He never got a chance, and we did.  My father made it happen for his grandchildren.

A few people have been asking why I even went last Sunday, knowing my father was so sick.  I guess, every kid figures her parents are immortal.  And now, sitting last night at home holding my father's postcard from the Kosel, and looking at pictures of my children in the same spot, I know now that he truly is.

We love you, Daddy.  You're the best daddy and zeidy any kid could have had.

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