Friday, March 14, 2008

My Father Rode A Pony Once

I never quite understood why, from the time I was young child, I was always afraid that my father would die. It was a constant undercurrent, an omnipresent fear, and palpable dread. I would lie awake at night and imagine him sitting in a big chair against a revolving wall, straight out of an Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein movie, the wall would turn and then turn back, and the chair would be empty. My father would be gone, gone. That's how I pictured his death.

My father owned his own wholesale produce business, and woke every morning at 3:00 am to go to work. He had to drive some distance to pick up the fresh produce for that day, before he drove around to the small grocery stores (the days before chains and box stores) to sell it. From the bedroom I shared with my three siblings, I could see the kitchen light on, and would get up to join him while he had his coffee and toast. I always kissed him good bye and watched him from the parlor window, as he drove away into the night. I watched until I could no longer see the red tail lights on his truck. Then, I would go to sleep in bed with my mother. I did that until I was eight years old, when we moved from the city to the suburbs. There my bedroom was upstairs, and the light in the kitchen no longer woke me.

When I was 36 years old I graduated from college. Such a late bloomer! My parents flew to Rhode Island from California for the graduation ceremony when I completed my undergraduate degree with honors and distinction. My father bought me a single long-stemmed rose, when he noticed that my self-centered first husband, who was already shtupping his assistant, had bought me nothing to mark the occasion. That rose meant everything to me.

I am my parent's first-born daughter and, in the Jewish tradition, was named for his recently-deceased mother, Rose. My father was a deeply good, but sad man. He loved his family more than anything else. In fact, in some ways, it was all that he loved. It occurred to me very recently that I never knew him when his mother was alive. He was her only, beloved son. It was a role he cherished, and a heartbreaking blow to him when she died in her 50s from colon cancer. Some part of him seemed to always stay in mourning. I could feel it, even from the time I was very young. It was her absence that shaped his aloneness. I am just beginning to understand that my fear of his death grew out of that loss. I seemed to always know I would lose him, as he had lost her. I grieved it long before it ever happen. When I look back, I see that I was a brokenhearted little girl who feared the inevitable future, and he was my brokenhearted father who lamented the unchangeable past. Without talking about it, we simply tried to save each other with love. There was nothing else.

Today, March 14th is the 16th anniversary of his death. That revolving wall turned and then turned back. His chair was empty. My father is gone. Gone.

Missed and loved everyday since. A yahrzeit burns in his memory.
A few unrelated things:
We would like to thank all of you who leave comments here. We are utterly enriched by your presence in our lives. We have no idea why we are so fortunate to have such thoughtful visitors to our blog, but we do, and we sincerely appreciate it. We don't feel worthy of your attention, and will strive to do better and post more. Thank you for continuing to visit.

I was tagged to do the six-word autobiography. I don't usually do memes, but this one only requires six little words. So here they are:

Ten thousand sorrows, ten thousand joys.

The Rufus Hummingbirds showed up on Tuesday, March 11th.

Have a great weekend, dear friends.

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