Friday, July 8, 2005


My father died on July 8, 1992. It was a tremendous loss for me as he and I were extremely close. We coached youth baseball and basketball together, went to Rutgers games with shared season's tickets and spoke on the phone at least two or three times each day. He was a dad, but was more and more a buddy as I got older. If Mike Richter made a great save in a Rangers hockey game, my phone would ring instantly and it would be my dad yelling, "Did you see that!?"

My father taught me to be uncompromising in love, tenderness and emotion. We had a three squeeze hand grasp that our entire family shared. Each squeeze signified a word in the sentence "I Love You." I kissed him hello and goodbye as a teen in front of my friends (How many teen boys do you know who will do that!?). The night before he died, I stayed over my parents' home while my car was being repaired in a neighboring town. He was lying on the couch watching a ballgame. I was beside him with my head on his stomach. I was twenty-eight at the time.

Every kid on our block loved my dad. During our baseball games in the street, he would come out and play with us sometimes (My dad was offered major league contracts in his youth and was arguably the best baseball player of his generation growing up in Brooklyn. I have heard stories from countless people. It was a pisser having a catch with him as he would change the glove from his right to left hand and back every few minutes, being ambidextrous.). Other times, you would have to be on guard. Dad had a German Shepherd's bark down pat and he would sneak up behind you and pinch the back of your leg and have you jump out of your socks.

Dad had a generous heart second to none. As time has passed, I have discovered how many kids he subsidized to play sports in town. I already knew about the boys we would pile into our car so that they could get to practices and how much time he would spend writing newspaper accounts for the local paper so each kid could get a moment of glory. I have sat and listened to many of these children as adults now who credit my father for their becoming doctors or good parents themselves or not ending up in jail or dead.

Politically, he would go door to door for issues and causes that mattered. He was relentless when people needed his voice and support. He could talk a topic to death and would disappear for hours while chatting up someone he ran into at the local convenience store.

His death was an event on the scale of JFK passing, small town style. The funeral home required the largest police presence they had ever seen to handle traffic that day. The procession of cars driving to the graveyard stretched for miles. So many food baskets arrived at our home, that the owner of the shop stopped by to see who this person was. Our family being Jewish, a minyun of ten people was required to conduct the necessary prayers each day. We had a congregation that sounded like a fall temple service during the high holy days. The house was filled to capacity until late in the evening every day. The number of letters we received for months after was staggering.

In the years that have followed, I have discovered how much of my father I am becoming. My writing skills are drawn from him. My political and social conscience is his making. With each lost hair on the top of my head, each movement of my arms while talking on the phone and every subtle mannerism, I see him when I look in the mirror. I am proud of all of that.

I marvel at my poetry's development since he died and wonder who controls the pen as I sit and create a new piece. Dad never feared a public audience. I wish he could have seen me talk in front a thousand cancer survivors and their families during an American Cancer Society event or watched as I have performed countless times for people sitting at attention to my poetic musings.

I think he would be incredibly proud of this blog, too. Hell, I bet I would have to give him his own access so that he can be a writer here!

I don't generally feel sad on the anniversary of his passing. I have strong views on death. When a good ... really good ... person dies, I am happy for them. I see life as a test, and what comes after death to be the reward. When someone lives their life well, and does God's work to the best of their abilities, then in death they will reap the benefits of the goodness of their life. That is why I believe God is misspelled; it is missing an "o."

I am sad at times because I miss my father, but I am always happy for him. However, this weekend I felt an extra twinge of sorrow in missing him. I looked at my poetry, and the massiveness of its form today. I spent time with some musicians on Friday and Saturday that I think he would have loved as I do. I shared a couple of hours with the child I mentor each week. I looked at myself in the mirror. I felt like having a catch ala "Field of Dreams," as he and I shared a few thousand times (He had a wicked curve and knuckler!).

It is moments like those above when I wish I had my father around. I want to share these times with him and show him who I have become ... him. I can't do that, although in a way I know he can still see and is proud.

I am left with one choice. I can keep attempting to live a life based on his example. I can do that, and I can share who he was/is with all of you.

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