1919 – 1982

1915 – 1992

This page is dedicated to my father, whom I loved fiercely, and always will. I am grateful for the time we had together, but, being the selfish creature that I am, it wasn’t enough.

When I think of my father, it is always in the context of the sea, which he loved. He was never so at home as at the helm of a yacht, adorable in one of his myriad of sea captains hats, with the wind blowing his wild curly grey locks and his eyes set on the horizon, searching for the next adventure. For only in the midst of turmoil was he truly at his best – creative, energized, his blue eyes blazing with humor and intelligence – I loved him most when he was the wildest, I think. Without benefit of a formal education he had managed to hold his own in the world, and succeed. And he never lost his faith in humankind or his sense of humor, no matter what life placed in his lap. Indeed, he spent his entire life trying to learn and broaden his horizons. He had no limits, and there was, at least in my mind, nothing he couldn’t do if he wanted to. I think that one of his greatest traits was the fact that no matter how much he believed something, if you could actually convince him that he was wrong (and he DID have an open mind), he would change his course, 180 degrees and go along with your thinking.

His humor was subtle and a tad absurd, which I always found very funny. If he was asleep when you’d call, and ask if you’d woken him, his standard response was “I had to get up to answer the phone anyway”. By the same token, if he was awake and got some bright idea, he had no intention of waiting till some hour deemed appropriate to call. I never minded, although everyone in the house did not share my liberal views. He loved to call at 5am on a Sunday, filled with some new inspiration – and couldn’t wait to share it. Remembering his boyish enthusiasm, even now, makes me smile and realize what a void his passing has left in my life. Everything new fascinated him, and he was the first to have the latest gizmos and gadgets. So much so that it drove me crazy half the time. He gave me my first VHS (which I still have and use – 19 years later) and my first fax machine – (changed that already) and any number of other things. If he would have lived long enough to really get on the web and do email, I have no doubts that he would be busy with that too. The problems he faced with the most difficulty were the ones that challenged his creative and mechanical mind. The problems of the world became more difficult than could be addressed with creativity and mechanical understanding. How it frustrated him to not understand how to fix something – he could always make anything at all work, until the ways of the world moved so many things beyond the reach of the mechanically minded.

My father had his set of “fatherly” quotes – “SPS” (self praise stinks) he’d say, if you had the audacity to comment that you thought you had done something well. Or, if you felt badly, it was always – “If you’re looking for sympathy, go look in the dictionary, between shit and syphilis” He was human, complete with faults, but I preferred to look at the way he grappled with life, and his unflagging enthusiasm and optimistic viewpoint. I share here the eulogy I prepared for his funeral, and actually managed to get out, without falling apart. He would have been pleased at that- eh, Daddy-o?

Dear Friends

I shall attempt to speak of my father in hopefully the same ways he has spoken about those loved ones who have gone before us.

His journey upon Life’s road was full of challenge, adventure, humor and love. This loved and loving father, grandfather, brother, husband, friend and benefactor died during the period of twilight which touches the dark of night.

My father was just passing on Life’s Highways his highest point; but being weary for just a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and using his burden for a pillow, fell into a dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and dust.

Yet, after all, it may be the most noble way, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid-sea or among the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck must at last mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and weft of mystery and death.

This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day.

He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the wronged, and lovingly became a buttress for those who needed strength in their darkest hours.

He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion and love the only rabbi. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service, to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep tonight beneath a wilderness of flowers.

Goodbye Papa, I love you.

1950 – 1983

Funeral Blues (by W. H. Auden)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The hardest blow I ever felt was the loss of my brother Joel. The night he died, part of me left too. Somehow, as in life, I felt responsible for his premature departure, as if I could have prevented it had I only… done something. What? I have no clue, but I know that for years the guilt of my non-doing haunted me.

Joel and I were as close as two siblings can be. In childhood we were constantly together, and we roamed the hills of Encino before they built houses everywhere. We were explorers, pioneers, Indians, archeologists – and the games we played took us roaming from early morning till the sunset. He delighted in scaring me with tales of ghosts and creatures and who knows what, from the time I was three or four. I am sure that if my parents had only known what he told me they would have had fits.

Saturdays he would approach my mother for a dollar and a ride to the local theater, where we sat through some awful sci-fi double features and munched on Flicks. He had a penchant for strange and scary films, and since he was older, always chose them. I sat through The Nanny with Bette Davis at 6, and The Birds at 8 – along with a host of Crawling Eye, Blob, Creature and other such B’s. Half the time I sat UNDER the seats, or covered my eyes – unless it was REALLY REALLY bad – and then I made a run for the lobby, to wait until I could stand returning to the darkened theater. If I didn’t come back pretty quick, he’d tease me all week long. I hated that and soon learned to sit through almost anything.

Joel knew and loved ALL the Broadway musicals. To that end he wanted to learn all the songs and all the lines to them. When the Movie of the Week showed the musicals, every afternoon and twice on the weekends, he would split up the parts, and by the end of the week, we would sit by the television and each recite, with the character, whatever lines or songs there were. I credit him with the fact that I know all the words to so many many songs. I made afternoon snacks, and we would sit and memorize lines every afternoon, while my mother was in her room, or upstairs painting. Or we would take off on our bikes inventing adventures, or sometimes running into them, head on.

His wit was razor sharp and I was always doubled over from all the sly innuendos. He knew everything and everyone, and I always depended on him for help. I was well known in the family for my absolute non-knowledge of who anyone was, or recognizing names or faces. At parties, we would walk around together and he would whisper to me the details of whoever was approaching – name, spouse, children, etc. By the time they would get to me, I would be ready. They would always be amazed.

When he went to Berkeley, I was so jealous. I would have spent loads of time visiting him, but soon after I left the country. We wrote regularly, although I must admit that his schedule of letter writing was much more regular than mine, and everything he did much more dependable. He made me tapes of late night radio programs, Dr. Demento and Wolfman Jack in particular, so I wouldn’t feel too left out. Whenever I’d return home he always found time to be with me and do things I enjoyed. Just being with him was always fun, because he always made everything such a laugh.

He had spent time with friends that I never knew he did. Even today I am surprised by those who have kind and loving words for him, and recount the time they spent together. He remembered everyone’s birthday and made sure they got something from him – even the children of those whom he cared about. And he was crazy about being an uncle. The last time I saw him was when he flew up to be here for Daniel’s third birthday. He spent all afternoon holding Sara for me while I made the food and cake for Daniels party – when I finally took her back her face was rubbed raw from being against his cheek. Scarcely a month later he was dead, taking with him large chunks of my history, leaving gaps too large to fill. How lucky I was to have had such a thoughtful and kind person in my life – I miss him so!

And so I say to you – Treasure what you have, enjoy the time you have it. Make sure you tell the ones you love that you do, and make your time count. Remember that happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road.