11 August 2000: Dad

My father died Friday night at about 11:20 pm, at the Cliffside Nursing Home. Right now nothing is planned, but I am assuming that the funeral wil be on Tuesday so my aunts and uncle can get back to New York, and we will probably sit shiva at my parent's home. I wanted to write since I have seen some of you recently, or because I haven't, and because some of you knew met Dad, and some of you didn't.

It might sound cliched to say that he had been fighting his ailments, but considering the length of time he was hospitalized, and the completely degrading conditions through which the medical establishment puts people and their families, I would have to conclude that his living through the past six months constituted a fight on his part. I have been called a good patient, but I don't know if I would have put up with half of what he did, for even a month.

Some of you knew Dad and some of you did not. As you all probably know, Dad had polio in 1929, and overall, conquered polio as much as it could be conquered. Dad suffered through a lot of experiments, most of which were useless until Sister Kenney developed hydrotherapy and Jonas Salk found a vaccine. When you consider how astounded a doctor a few years ago was when he asked me, "Do you know why a leg muscle is in your father's abdobmen?" you can begin to see what sort of nonsense Dad went through. Dad went through similar but less ludicrous nonsense this year.

When Dad was young he was a good swimmer, and he would swim way out and terrify Grandma, a mere dot on the beach waving her arms, telling him to come back. Dad later went to Paris in 1953, and with just a pair of wooden canes, he crossed the multiple lanes of the Place d'Etoile, to get to the Arc de Triomphe, never realizing there's a pedestrian underpass that would have helped him.

I could go on and on and tell you more about Dad, but let's suffice it to say that he did some extraordinary things, and he did them quietly. He got a lot of love and devotion from his parents and siblings, and later, he did a lot of caretaking in return. No one who ever met Dad didn't like him. Dad was a good observer, and as an accountant, Dad was trusted in ways that said more about him as a person than as an accountant.

Dad would do just about anything to help anyone, and he would do just about anything to help someone help themselves. I know this is true because he did both for me. Dad may have had his flaws and inertias, but he was the excellent product of his environment, and he was anything but unable. I know this because he taught me way too much to ever be considered unable. Dad drove to work every day and came home again every night, and if it was ever a struggle in any way, we never noticed it. Dad took us places, and took us home again, and understood the value of safety, and independence--for people, and for nations. Providing a family proves the former and being a Zionist in the 1940s proves the latter. Dad never made me feel "that's not possible." Dad abetted improbable dreams.

There are very few people in my life who would do just about anything for me. Very few people have trusted me completely. If I ever brought anyone to the house, he figured if they were okay with me, they were okay with him as well. For those of you who knew him, you realize this was true. For those of you who didn't... well, trust me when I say that I am not being hyperbolic or cannonizing him. If you asked Dad to join you in a parade down Fifth Avenue, he'd do it. I know this is true, because he did it for me. I'm not sure what life is going to be like without one of my biggest fans, and I am not sure if I let him know enough that I was one of his.

There are so many more things I could tell you, but I'll just finish by saying that in a world so full of senseless events and incomprehensible people and their motivations, Dad remained imparted optimism and a simple enthusiasm, the value of which cannot be measured anyplace but in the hearts of the people that knew him.

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