What do I remember about my father? His laughter. I miss his hearty, jolly guffaws, his teary eyed chuckling wheezes. He lived through much. He died in pain. He held many regrets, and though he suffered greatly in the end, I think he was at peace, with life, and with dying. He held on. Oh, how he held on to those shreds of living, in his last days. He wanted to see my second son, his third grandson, born. Yes, only boys in this gene pool: two brothers and me (perhaps others) and now three grandsons. My #2 takes his middle name from my pop. He was born one month to the day after my dad's passing.
What did he teach me? He many times recalled a comment (perhaps casual, in passing) from a good friend, that my father was the best father he had ever met. He was so proud of that remark. It was one of his greatest prides. Was he a good father? How is one to tell? I'd say his most remarkable feature in that regard was that he never spoke down to his children. He never treated us as if our minds, our thoughts, our feelings were anything less true to him than they were to us. He listened, and he reflected. Sure, he smiled knowingly at times, as if to say you think this is new, what you're feeling, but I've been there before.
Once in comment to a poem I had written in my teens, he said: Remember, I've been you're age; you've never yet been mine. But he never meant this cruelly, or with disregard. He allowed himself to remember, I suppose, and in that memory he remarked, through us, to himself those many years before. He wrote a poem, I recall (though I haven't yet found it) "to myself as an old man" or some such. I look forward to finding it. I hope I will.
He was a good man, a caring soul. He made mistakes. He had his weaknesses. In the 60s and 70s, he rushed too far too fast headlong into his own world, caught up in ways by his own selfishness, his own drive. I think for many years he wished he could have taken that all over. But time travels but one way. But he never ran away from his past, though, like all of us, he was at times blind to his own actions.
He was a generous man, who gave freely of his love, his thoughts, his laughter. He taught me to love books, to read as if I were sitting by a fire with the author, across time, sitting, and carrying on a personal dialogue. Their words were written for me, he said. And he imprinted in me the obligation of tikkun olam: to heal the world. He implored: Make the world a better place when you leave it than it was when you were born. In his own way, I'm sure he did.