My father passed away almost three years ago. Unlike my mother what to say was difficult. What to meditate on in advance.
As I sat contemplating this as I felt I had failed him somehow as throwing him in as part of an other issue would not do it. I thought as I ate near where I would go to observe his second yartzeit ( the anniversary of his death ) a lot about the contradictions in him.. He never said he loved me. Not once. He in theory did not believe in love and I had thought for a long time that to respect his belief system I should not love him but he was my father. Love was inevitable when I set that aside.
I wrote this before that service as my status on Facebook:
Two years and I miss you still. You were not an easy father but it was you who told me the most about what it was to be me. You taught me things when some might have wondered why. Those dark starlit nights when for a man who said there was no such thing as beauty you sat transfixed by the night sky.
You said love, beauty and G-d were for others. Those not intelligent enough to endure this world without them. I tried to respect your belief system although I was your genetic challenge who in my teens you threw a book across the room and asked if I could not see I had surpassed you.
You never seemed to realize the grim realities which could have come to pass if you were not stubborn on my behalf early on. Or maybe you did and that was part of your anger. I will never know.
In the end you were proud I had reclaimed a heritage I always suspected scared you. Your drive to convince me on all three points seems now an extreme version of protecting me. Beauty can be transient, love may fade or fail to take root, and well G-d, the hardest one to convince me was for others, can seem absent when it is hard to understand why. Free will as a gift given the nature of humans can seem small comfort.
You joked a lot when we visited the last winter of Mom’s life. Calling me rabbi so often I said keep it up and I would become one before I had a doctorate. Your confidence unshaken by my small life you asked,”Why not both? ”
You held me briefly as I came in from my nightly visit with James and said “Out of everyone only you had the courage to be a Jew.” You said it fiercely but Far you never managed to convince me for long on any part of your beliefs. So I knew this was pride and love however hard you made your voice.
So I do love you. I look at pictures and wonder how you convinced yourself it was not real. Broken so completely when Mom died that to live without having loved may be easier. I don’t know.
One of the last conversations we had you seemed about to cry over religions so beautiful you had seen in Malaysia that may have died. I said it could be they were worshiping outdoors and belong to one of the many religions going strong. Again with confidence I do not have you said you had books from then not all of which you were sure of the language of but I could work it out.
Being your daughter was often hard in ways it did not need to be. All the same you were the best father for me. I love you and tonight I will praise the G-d you could not bring yourself to believe in , in your memory. For two years that you fit no meditation I could find drove me to epic levels of writer’s block.
I suppose this is it then. I love you and I will miss you always because this planet is indeed a lonely place without you.
Why now and not when it has been three years?
I was at the beach yesterday and I thought of my father. Not that he was a beach goer but the year he got a metal detector for his birthday my mother needed to stay out of the sun for another week. She gave him instructions on how much I needed to swim but she thought I would be fine with going to the other lake nearby for the sake of our joint treasure hunting.
We found very little but we faithfully recorded those finds. ( See photo of a huge treasure day above)
It had been a long time since I had done an activity with my father. As a young child we used to go to a river to picnic and fish. The whole I never caught one makes me wonder if they even had fish .
My father would die without ever saying he loved me. I do know he did even if the words never hit his lips.
However hard he made some part of life there is so little point to hanging onto that part of things. Those hardships we did not have too have and well a long list of other things.
Those distant treasure hunts now seem a treasure in themselves. As one who struggled with the concept of love but did work it out the many reasons why my father may have never gotten fully there are clear enough.
Yet in so many pictures he seems happy with me. The years that would follow that summer were more sickness focused although my mother and I would swim her final summer as always I felt sure it was indeed the final time.
I face several medical challenges and despite my parents not usually having much to do with those they come to mind.
I do not grieve some idealized version of the parents I never had. It is the flawed but sometimes surprising parents of my reality I miss. There was a time I thought that would never be the case but even if it took two years to know what to say in lieu of a mediation before prayer and longer still to complete the task as far as it really did seem wrong to just carry on blogging without at least trying to be fair. It is not the intense writing of a fresh loss but my father is a hard man to nail down with words.
When I was young enough others might have doubts he said one starlit night that I would be lonely due to being so smart. He died believing I had the capability to do more. Maybe and maybe not. But this unshaken faith that the finish line to some lofty goal could be reached is a gift I think . I have heard parents say much the opposite. Parents who perhaps seem more typical in so many ways so I know this acknowledgement of a pride in doing what he could not as far as live as a Jew, was real as was his belief I could still get a doctorate and become a rabbi.
When I was in cadets for some reason the thought that he was one became stuck in the Regimental Chaplain’s brain and several others would also call him that.
My father had had to leave school very early on due to the Second World War and he always wanted more learning. This part of a heritage that he had feared was one he did stress as he saw that as a positive part of it. The rest of course given the course of his childhood were difficult for him. Then thinking it safe here, the year I was 12, he had a horrible incident on the US border at a remote crossing.
Paged after a parade I was in with cadets to see the parade marshal . I did and it said to go to my aunt and uncle’s house. It was close and I went there. My father was shaking. My aunt suggested I go and find my cousin but he wanted me there to see and to hear what had happened.
Many years later when I would be a victim of a hate crime which initially seemed random but I was the only one to think that in a country which for no logical reason seems like the scariest place for it to happen he would apologize for the facial features that were his.
He had said as one can add to the rules of survival when he was traumatized that I should only cross the border with very Canadian people. Thus I have crossed all of once by land. That is how such rules work. There were a lot of them he had taught me before but ultimately the inherent logic is you are alive due to them .
People are products of not just genes but experience and there were experiences if I could I would have wished changed for my father but they may have been what made him such a staunch advocate and ultimately a proud father that I had finally gotten the task done.
I will never know what I love you would have sounded like from his mouth but I do know what pride, confidence , worry , and so on sounded like. As I said it is a topic I struggled with and perhaps lacking a reason to work out if what he was feeling might bee love he never did quite get there in words. In deeds though and in other words he did indeed.