This Sunday will mark the 3rd Father’s Day without the physical presence of ‘the tough South Philly street corner kid’ (5th and Wolf and 4th and Ritner for those who also grew up with an attytood:) who was really a marshmallow, who would cry at the drop of a hat and who loved his family with a ferocity and devotion that still floors me when I think about it. First generation American born of Russian immigrant parents whose arranged marriage also bore three siblings: older brother Dave, middle brother Phil and baby sister Jeanette (adoringly called Netsie by everyone who knew her). My cousin Jody is her youngest daughter and I have always known that we would have chosen each other as friends even if we weren’t family of origin.
My dad Moish worked and played hard. A Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy, he was a lifelong athlete who would run, jump rope, ride bikes, swim, sled and fly kites with Jan and me and the neighborhood kids. His right livelihood had him delivering milk for Abbotts and Milk Maid Dairies and driving a bus for SEPTA. Even in retirement in 1989, he continued to work at the Town Center in Bonaventure (a part of Weston/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.) His job involved managing the gym, as well as handing out skates and bowling shoes, all of which he did with a broad smile and hearty/hardy laugh. He made friends wherever he went; a skill I gladly absorbed. He never attended college, but loved to learn and read anything he could get his hands on, including some of the more left of center metaphysical things his ‘meshuggenah’ daughter offered him. He became a Bar Mitzvah at the age I am now…52. When I adopted a macrobiotic diet in my early 20’s, he indulged in miso soup and tofu right along with me. His ‘concoctions’ as my mother called them, were carrot and beet juice and protein powder. When he died, I inherited a whole bunch of nutritional supplements that inhabited the kitchen cabinet.
I used to love to ‘walk him to bed’ when I was little by standing on his feet. I also had a blast playing with what I called his ‘rip shoes’; which were velcro strapped and made a ripping sound when I pulled them. They were precursors to today’s sneakers. It didn’t take much to entertain me:) I loved being his helper in the garden, ‘digging to China’; and cleaning the garage, which really amounted to moving the junk from one side to the other, with things rarely being tossed. As a child of the Depression, he saved everything, because “you never know when you might need it.” Baby food jars of nails and screws lined shelves and boxes of who knows what were stacked on the floor. When I was tall enough, he would hand boxes to me from the ladder leading up to the attic. In them were the ‘good china’ that we would use for Passover. I now have them here with me, after bringing them up from their condo which was just sold this past April since my mom joined him the day after Thanksgiving; precious remnants of my childhood.
What I admire most about him was the passionate and intense love he shared with my mother; writing daily love note, singing to her and dancing in the kitchen. Seeing them holding hands and ‘smooching’ throughout my childhood offered a sense of security. To him she was “the most beautiful girl in the world.” I am certain that they are celebrating that love in the afterlife.
Sharing this beautiful song by Barbra Streisand from the movie Yentl in honor of my father and all the fathers whether in Heaven or here on Earth.