My father died fifty years ago today, making this occasion not one of my favorite holidays. I miss him terribly; always have. Would gladly have given him some of years I have been blessed with having.
Only a man in his mid 50’s when he died, as much a victim of World War II as if he had been killed in the field, he lived ten years less than I have, never having the opportunity to lead or command as he should have. A graduate of Brooklyn Poly, U of Michigan and its law school (where he met my Mother), he was on the verge of professional success when his illness made advancement impossible. Two years in the jungles of New Guinea had taken his hair, teeth and who knows what else. Never talked about it. Earning the rank of Major, the Government gave him a bronze star, for what I don’t know. Constantly sick – colds, lumps, digestion,etc. – acute lymphocitic leukemia finally claimed him. In retrospect, he died for at least 8 years. The barbaric treatments of the day left his body scarred from x-rays, his muscles weakened from untested drugs and his lungs seared by mustard gas treatment. I spent days, weeks, months going back and forth from the hospital, caring for him with my Mother as he slipped slowly to death, without me knowing about how sick he was. In those days, people didn’t talk about the big “C”.
So, they said I looked like him and acted like him. Never one to suffer fools or those who didn’t make the most of their talents, everything he did worked. Quick to anger and quicker to forgive, he had a thirst for knowing, doing, thinking and playing. What a joy walking around town with him or going to shul. He talked with many people about a diverse range of topics. I learned all the time with him. He taught me to read and to listen to jazz.
In my youth, he no longer could blow his horn, run after me or throw or catch. He taught my older brother how to do all those things. Hank excelled. Me. Just ordinary. We worked in the darkroom together, shooting a lot of photos and then printing them. Must be where I got my love for cameras and the craft of photography. Mother thought his condition became exacerbated by developers. She also did yoga into her 80’s and believed in Edgar Casey. I wonder what I’d have become if hadn’t died. A real estate lawyer who worked in a bank and lectured on titles and closings, I’d probably be rich. May not have screwed up my career, either. And he most certainly would have loved my wife, Sharon. I can hear them laughing.