I have the utmost respect for my father for his integrity and morality, his sense of loyalty and responsibility, his generosity, his optimism, his humor, silliness & lightness, and his capacity to love.
It’s his loving nature and his humanity that I want to speak of first. He was instinctively paternal, a dad to the end – from the nightly tuck-ins, the silly lovely made-up songs he sang to us, his willingness to wake up in the middle of the night to chase mosquitoes around our bedroom, the hours he spent on the phone with me listening and helping me through my struggles… to his hugs that smothered you but you didn’t want any other way. A hard worker, he wasn’t home that much; but the love that naturally emanated from his being – that was home. If I didn’t say anything else here, this would be enough: His love was home. But I do want to say more, because my father was more than the enormous love he had and gave to his family and others.
His loyalty bespeaks his sense of humanity and his unrelenting concern for others. He would continue to go to the same ophthalmologist or dry cleaner or auto mechanic not necessarily because that was the best service he could receive (no offense if any of you are here) but because the relationship he had established with the person was what was most important to him. Even toward the end of his life in the hospital when he started to get confused about things and was in pain and when many people might focus single-mindedly on relief, he was sure to ask the nurses’ names and ask them about themselves and their lives. They were not there solely to serve him. They were individuals with their own stories in which my dad was genuinely interested. One nurse’s aide, Claudia, had even become his friend, held his hand during his last 2 days, and is here today.
My father was also a deeply philosophical man who was determined to live according to strongly held principles and to impart these to his kids. For years he had taped to his desk many quotes that touched him and that he felt expressed more eloquently all that he believed. He photocopied these a few months ago for his children so that we might also find meaning and comfort in them for ourselves. I want to read a few…
“I went to the woods
because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived.”
- Henry David Thoreau
My father’s woods were his work, his family, his friends and acquaintances, and Cape Cod – with whom and where he lived deliberately, thoughtfully, and passionately.
Here’s another quote, this one by JFK, one of my father’s heroes:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and… if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
- John F. Kennedy
Many of you know that my father contended with major health problems since he was 5 years old. He impressed me with the way he endured chronic pain quietly and gracefully. During his last illness I was also impressed by how many people I heard speak of his strength and heroism in this regard. He was a fighter up to the end, who, in JFK’s words, was in the arena with sweat and blood and who dared greatly. He inspires me.
Here is a quote by Martha Graham:
“I believe we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated, precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God – practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some vision, of faith, of desires...”
- Martha Graham
One of the many wise things my father taught me was to be satisfied with the rung of the ladder where I am yet always reach for one rung higher. And to do my best at whatever it is I am doing, whether it is therapy with a child or scrubbing the kitchen floor. My father was undoubtedly a bit of a slow mover (which many of you know I inherited), but it was in part b/c he took great care in everything he did. This, I believe, is the idea of practice that Martha Graham speaks of, which my dad performed in every one of his endeavors, which gave him a satisfaction of self.
One area where my father practiced was in tennis. Where he was known by a select few for his quirky attempts at good sportsmanship. Whenever he missed a shot, he would call out, “SHA!” in place of the curse word that begins with the same 2 letters. Just a few weeks ago our whole family – including my dad – was delighted to be informed that one of his former tennis partners, John Buchbinder, has not referred to my father by name for years but had given him the nickname “Sha.” It is in this quirky, silly spirit that I would like to remember my father.
I’d like to end by reading something that I co-wrote – with my wonderful boyfriend Dean – for my dad’s 75th birthday last year (which is now slightly modified), which I think succinctly summarizes my father’s life while capturing many of his beautiful qualities and idiosyncrasies.
I. There was an accountant named Ed
for whom the whole world was a bed
He was often caught snoozin
by Diane, Marc, and Susan
But he kept his whole family well-fed
II. He married a girl named Renate
who, though tone-deaf, could hum a sonata
They raised three great kids
oy, such disloyal yids!
but still honna their mudda and fadda
III. Now this giving accountant named Ed
3 kids he had after he wed
through his ailments they wept
through his sermons they slept
yet still heard everything that he said
IV. Ed swallowed a boatload of drugs
But he still gave his warm, loving hugs
He might get the words wrong
To a lullaby song
But did anything to save his daughters from bugs
V. As the grandchildren started to crawl out
Ed’s teeth had a penchant to fall out
He said, “There goes your trust fund
My bridge work I must fund.”
But the dentist said, “Let’s yank 'em all out.”
Ok, I’m going to really end here with one final short quote from my father’s desk.This one was written in 1974 by a POW in Vietnam:
My father got so much out of life. He didn’t rush, but took the time to relish it. This is a very sad day. But, as stated in the poem my mother read, my father in a sense did not die, and one of the ways he lives on is reminding me to know how lucky we are, and to understand what a beautiful day, even today, is.
“Sometimes I get a really strange feeling. I might see somebody doing something, or take a first bite of food, or hear a piece of music, and I get really emotional. Then I pass someone, and they always seem to be so busy, and I think, that person doesn’t know how lucky he is to be here. He doesn’t understand what a beautiful day it is.”
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Last Updated: July 19, 2007