Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day 2008

My father died March 10, 1996, at the age of 85. He died after suffering five years with pulmonary fibrosis, a calcification of the lungs. Over the five years, his ability to breathe became more and more impossible, and eventually, he suffocated to death. It was not pretty. Twenty-five years earlier, he'd been treated for what was diagnosed as an incurable lung cancer and given six months to live. Dad was put on an experimental form of treatment which involved radiation, and then chemo. Two and one half years later, he was still alive, and cancer-free. Quite a miracle.

Dad was one of those hale-fellow well met kinds of guys: always quick with a joke, and quite charming. His friends loved him, and so did I. He was the one who encouraged me as an artist, although he could not understand why I didn't want to be a commercial artist. He was the one who I told when I decided to drop out of college and move to Israel. He was my dad, and I adored him.

His funeral was small, because he'd outlived all his friends and all but three of his sisters. Of those, one had become a recluse and we never saw her again. She died last month. Still, as small as the funeral was, my cousin's eulogy was telling - people loved my dad.

He used to let me sit on his lap and drink sips of his beer or scotch when I was a little girl. We'd sit at the kitchen table playing cards if he was in a good mood (beer nights) or me in his lap if he was in a bad mood (solitare and scotch.) He let me get away with everything (although he did want to take my bag of weed to the police to have it analyzed after my brother and I told him it was oregano.) He was kind, and he was liberal and he was intelligent, but he was also a mess.

One year, he decided he wanted to buy a turkey farm in Zion, Illinois. I was about seven years old. Here we were, a Jewish family who knew nothing about farming (I thought milk came from glass bottles) and he piled us into the car, drove us to Zion (a very fundamentalist Christian city) and went to look at the farm. My mother cried her eyes out. I was afraid of the turkeys and my brother (he was twelve) started to chase them around. We didn't get the farm. Instead, the week later, he bought my mother a pink and black Ford (she didn't know how to drive). It was hideous. It was her first car.

The night he died, we were sitting shiva at my brother's condo. A man came in, and sat with my brother and me to tell us a story. Years before, when this man was down and out, my father helped him out with a job. No one else would take a chance on this guy, but my father did. The young man became incredibly successful; he never forgot that my father helped him. He missed the funeral but he said he would never have forgiven himself had he not come to pay his respects. I still don't know the man's name, but I was moved beyond words.

Dad never had financial success. He was a business mess - he was just a mess, not another way to describe it. But he was kind, and loving, and charming, and I miss him. Happy Father's Day to my father, and to all the fathers whose children love them.

11 comments:

D.K. Raed said...

This was a beautiful tribute. Your Dad sure beat the odds, and so did you to have such an encouraging father.

I'm trying to imagine the turkey farm. Sounds like he had the desire to get back to the land, but wow, without any experience, who'd take on that kind of operation? If he'd somehow managed to go through with it, you'd have probably made friends of the turkeys & then, uh-oh ... probably a good thing it didn't pan out.

I ID'd w/the beer sips. My dad used to come home from a long hot day working construction & still managed to swing 3 little kids around on his big strong arms, then we'd all sit down while he chugged an ice cold beer & let us have sips! We loved the attn.

I also remember those hideous pink and black cars! My Grandpa had one (although I think they called it "salmon" not pink). We got a turquoise woody chevy station wagon the same year.

Thanks for the wonderful memories!

an average patriot said...

diva
That was me too many typos! Thanks for sharing your tribute to your dad. You truly loved him and expressed it well! Funny but I have done every kind of farming as that was my vocation! Farming of any kind requires a lot. I worked broiler, dairy beef, etc and raised turkey's. Use to butcher them on Holidays for xtra money. Anyway thanks!

Je ne regrette rien said...

Lucky you, lucky him~

FranIAm said...

Very lovely post and tribute to your father.

Thank you!

Blueberry said...

So glad that he got to have a full life, even though the end was so difficult. You both got a lifetime of memories.

DivaJood said...

DK, the number of pipe dreams my father had was staggering. And the number of good business opportunities he rejected is equally staggering. He could not make a good decision for himself or his family to save his life, but he was a charmer. But the turkey farm nearly scarred me for life. The thought of having to clean out all that turkey poop made me cry.

Jim, I see you deleted your typo-riddled version - hilarious. At any rate, I became a farmer when I lived on kibbutz in Israel - worked the Orchards, and also in the packing house where we sorted and graded apples and pears. Also worked in our guest house (small hotel), where I learned to cook for 60 people at a time, and never did learn how to cut that down. But when they said I had to help clean the chicken coop once a year, I balked.

JNRR, I believe it is better to be lucky than deserving. My dad was a complete mess, really. I did adore him, but he was a mess.

Fran, I got my sense of humor from him. He was always telling the most ridiculous jokes, and we laughed a lot.

Blueberry, we did get a lot of memories. He was a great drinking buddy and never quite understood why I, and later my brother, both got sober in AA. Could not grasp the concept. "We're Jewish. Only the Irish can be alcoholics." Okay, dad, keep smoking that stuff.

I think my favorite story occurred after he died, when we were sitting shiva that night. Right before that guy came, too little old ladies came in, carrying shopping bags. I didn't recognize them, neither did my brother. The first one said "Are we in the right place?" so I told her "We're sitting shiva, for my father." She looked at me, blank expression on her face. "My father, P..., he died, we buried him today." She said, as she turned to her friend, "Oy, this is a shiva house!" and then came over to me, hugged me, said "I'm so sorry for your loss," and the two of them made the rounds, expressing condolences. After they reached my brother, they said again, "We're so sorry for your loss, but we're here for the condo association meeting."

My brother and I laughed so hard, we nearly both peed. My father would have loved it. And the best part? Not only were they in the wrong place, they had the wrong night.

robin andrea said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your dad, divajood. It is so wonderful to look back and remember your dad so warmly and lovingly.

My father died on March 14, 1992. He was only 73 years old. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. A good kind man.

We are lucky daughters.

BTW-- That's a very funny story about the two women and the condo meeting!

D.K. Raed said...

Wrong house, wrong night, but they did the right thing, huh? Didn't just slowly back away mumbling sorry. I just related that story to husband who said it showed they were REAL people! Sometime you'll have to explain why it's always "sitting" shiva, never standing or whatnot.

I bet your Dad's idea of the T-Farm was, well, it may not make you rich, but you'll always have what to eat!

DivaJood said...

Robin, my brother and I refer to them as the "condo ladies." It was so funny, even at the time - we laughed so hard, and some Irish Catholic friends of mine who were there got confused as to why we thought it was so funny.

DK, I really don't know why it's called "sitting" shiva - although in very observant homes, the mourners will sit on low, cardboard or wooden stools rather than comfortable chairs. As for the Turkey farm - I don't think my father thought that far ahead ever. It was just something he saw for sale in the Tribune, so he piled us into the car to perhaps make an offer.

Have you ever smelled turkey poop?

enigma4ever said...

really beautiful post....you have alot of him in you ( well minus the turkeys and bad decisions....) you are wise, charming and make good decisions and inspire us with your stories....and your life...
namaste.

DivaJood said...

Enigma, I am my father's daughter in many ways, including some seriously bad decisions. But oh, well. :)