I want to thank all of you for coming to pay your respects to my father and support my family in this painful time. He would be very pleased to see that there were many people who cared about him, respected him and loved him. He would also be pleased that you made the effort to show it.
My father grew up as the third child (and as he would say, a much loved mistake); a much younger sibling to his two older sisters, both of whom he loved very much. When he was 5 years old, he began having medical difficulties that would hound him his whole life. He was in and out of school and hospitals throughout his childhood, yet managed to get a good education, live a reasonably normal childhood, have many friends, and become involved in (and be successful at) athletics.
He met and fell in love with my mother, and they were together for over 54 years. I can’t say that their life was idyllic – there were problem; some of them large ones. I have memories as a child of slipping notes under their bedroom door begging them to stop arguing, but I also knew that they always loved each other, no matter what troubles came between them.
My father was a success in life, although he may not have always thought so. He started and ran his accounting firm for close to 50 years, always earning enough to support his family, vacation and entertain as he wished, and ensure a comfortable life for himself and his family. He raised three children to relatively normal, successful adulthood, with families of their own. His wife, children, and grandchildren all looked up to him and loved him. He supported his own family, not to mention helping out his sisters, their families, cousins and others whenever he had the opportunity to do so.
The last six years had been difficult for my father, starting with his sister’s illness and subsequent death. They were very close, even through the times that she lived in Ethiopia and St. Thomas. Her death hurt him severely, and he was a long time recovering. He subsequently learned that although his cholesterol level had been absurdly low throughout his life, he apparently had some clogged arteries in his heart and needed bypass surgery. The surgery took a lot out of him, and it took him over 6 months to recover to his former strength and get back to his normal activities. After only a few months, the fevers started, and he became progressively weaker. The next 7 months became a slow deterioration, culminating in his hospitalization in December, 2002. Emergency cancer surgery in February, 2003 saved his life, and although a week after surgery he could barely walk 50 ft., miraculously, by July he was back on the tennis court. The next few years were up and down physically, with chest pain and other issues, but he always tried to look forward. Then in July of 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I’d like to share some of my memories of my father with you, in no particular order.
My father’s first love, athletically, was tennis. He had played competitively in college, taking second place in a Manhattan tournament, and performing well for the City College of New York team. I remember him playing in friendly tournaments at our summer vacation cottages (known as Woodlands), and usually cleaning up.
I was never interested in tennis as a child, but after having a child of my own who resembles my father in his athleticism much more than he resembles me, I began to play tennis a bit, mostly when my father was around. Zachary and I would team up to take him on, and he would make us look like the beginners we were, mostly without moving much, using shot placement to run us around and tire us out. We did manage to beat him once, but that was only because he was 70 years old and two months away from a quintuple bypass surgery. We played him again after his surgery, five years ago, and he whomped us once more.
As a kid and teenager, I used to love playing stickball by the high school behind my house, usually with friends. On occasion, I would convince my father to come out and play for a while. We’d use a broom handle and a tennis ball. Being right handed, his curve balls would start off coming at my head and end up outside and low. Sometimes, however, they’d start off high and outside, ending up down by my feet, and it would take me a while to realize that he had switched hands and had been pitching lefty. He was such a natural athlete that his form was just as good lefty as righty.
When I was a child, and smoking was not viewed as the god-awful thing that it’s considered today, my father would play bridge games with a few friends once a month. They’d rotate houses, so that every fourth or fifth month, they’d play bridge in our dinette, replete with my mother serving drinks and snacks, and cigar, cigarette, and pipe smoke filling the house. I would stand and watch them play, never really picking up the nuances of the game, but what I liked most was having discussions with whomever was the dummy for that hand. I remember my father laughing and joking, and generally having a good time with his friends, and that made me feel good.
My father loved Cape Cod, and rented the same cottage in the same vacation spot for over 40 years running. While I know that my mother was not enamored of this place nearly to the extent that he was, it was a place where he could relax, and to some extent leave the rest of his life behind. He loved going out to dinners, swimming in the pool, going fishing (either deep sea or bay) with me when I was a child or with Zachary when he was old enough, and he loved visiting the ocean beaches.
But most of all, he loved having his family around him. He would rent extra cottages or motel rooms for all of us to stay and visit for a week or as long as we could. He loved talking to the vacation neighbors and barbecuing on the deck, and he most of all loved that we wanted to be there with him.
When I think of my father, I think of certain traits.
First and foremost, I think of honesty. I doubt that anything was more important to him than honesty in dealing with other people, or in them dealing with him. I don’t know that I ever, in 49 years, knew him to tell an untruth, or intentionally mislead anyone.
My father was generous to a fault. He contributed to charities and gave of his time and effort to almost anyone that asked. He helped his sisters when then needed it, helped their families when they needed it, and did it out of love and a sense of righteousness – it was just the right thing to do. He never asked for anything in return from just about anyone – he got his satisfaction and contentment from the knowledge that he had helped others. He very much enjoyed giving gifts and treating people to experiences.
My father had a deep sense of integrity. If he made a commitment, you could always count on him to follow through – he wouldn’t ever let the ball drop. He could not be pushed around, or cajoled into doing anything that was against his beliefs or nature, nor would he ever try to force anyone else to do the same. His word was all – the shake of a hand meant more than any piece of paper or contract ever could. Many times I heard him say that he wouldn’t do something because “it’s just not right”.
My father possessed an extremely strong sense of loyalty. If you were his friend or relative, if you were his work associate, if you were someone he trusted and believed in, there was nothing that could be said to dissuade him from supporting you, going to bat for you in any and all situations, and supporting you whenever and wherever you needed support. He would trust you implicitly – no second guessing.
My father’s work ethic was deeply ingrained. He worked hard his whole life – when I was a child, most of the time I wouldn’t see him until 7 or 8 at night. During tax season he worked Saturdays (and some Sundays) as well. He did this not because he had to – working for himself gave him the freedom to choose how to work. He did this because there was work to be done, people were relying on him, and he wasn’t going to let them down.
I don’t know that I’ve ever met a stronger person than my father. I don’t necessarily mean physically, although he was no weakling. My father’s health issues throughout his life meant that he lived a great portion of it in pain at one level or another. Until the last few years, I don’t ever remember hearing a complaint about any of it, other than to remark that it seemed unlikely that it should all be heaped on one person. His pain threshold was tremendous, as was his tolerance for opiate derivatives. He could operate normally either under the influence of painkillers that would anesthetize a horse, or usually just the pain itself. His will to live was unbelievably strong, and pulled him through uncountable sicknesses and operations.
Last, and probably most important, was my father’s capacity for love. He always felt very close to me, my sisters, my mother, his parents, his sisters, his grandchildren and the rest of his relatives, either by blood or marriage. He was free and open with his love, expressing it verbally, physically, and through his generosity. If he loved you, you knew it – he told you and showed you, strongly and continually.
I have spent a lot of time over the past few years, beginning with my father’s cancer surgery in February of 2003 thinking about what I was going to say today. The only positive result of that is that I truly came to realize all the things that I’ve said – to put together all of the half-formed thoughts and impressions, the emotions and recollections, into a cohesive whole.
My father had a very strong personality, and all of his traits and qualities were right there, on the surface, accessible for everyone to see at all times. He hid nothing. If I in any way exhibit any of the positive qualities that I have ascribed to him, it is because I saw him exhibit them day in, day out, all the time, for every one of the 49 1/2 years of my life. Without his example, without his image to follow, without him setting the standard, I would not be half the person that I am today.
After 45 years, back in 2003, I did manage to tell my father that I feel this way about him – that I admired him and was proud of him for all that he accomplished during his lifetime and for the examples that he set for me. I’m telling all of you this now because I believe that this is the most important legacy that a person can leave – to make others better people – to help them. My father helped me.
Again, I thank all of you for coming today and supporting my family through this time of pain and heartache. This was not how I expected my father’s life to end – he had always joked about living to the ripe old age of 135. While I always knew that wasn’t really a possibility, some of his optimism sunk in. 76 just does not seem like enough time, either for me, for my mother, my sisters, my son, or for the rest of you whom he touched and who loved him, but most of all, for him. He wasn’t finished yet.
Zachary asked me, a few years ago, what happens when people die – do they continue to somehow think, or dream, or sense? I told him that if one believes in heaven, then his grandfather’s soul will most certainly have been transported there, and that he will live on there for all eternity, in peace and tranquility. I also told him that whether or not one believes in heaven, his grandfather would live on in the hearts and minds of those that knew him and loved him.
Every time we see something that reminds us of Ed; every time that we recall an experience with Ed, every time that Ed’s imprint on our existence makes itself known, my father will continue.
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Last Updated: January 17, 2007