I remember Dad running beside me in the back yard while steadying my bike so I would not fall. He was forty-two, so he still had lots of stamina. But I was six and filled with so much more energy than him. My sister was approaching her second birthday, and my other sister was almost “done cooking,”—born just seven weeks after the birthday when I was given that first two-wheeler.
Eleven years later, my father was positioning the garbage cans in front of the house so he could teach me how to parallel park. I passed my road test the first time.
I have no letters written by him (Mom wrote the letters), but I do have one note from him, which is on the card he and the rest of the family gave to me when I graduated high school.
Lots of luck in your future. I can’t help you anymore. You’re on your own. You’re too smart now. – Love Dad.
Little did I realize when I read those words that my intellectual ability would begin to decline with the births of each of his ten grandchildren. Each one was “the smartest kid you ever saw!”
A few years later, he did help me—twice. There was a point when my studies in college overwhelmed me and I got homesick. I told Dad I wanted to quit. That was the one time I remember him getting really angry with me. He told me, “If you drop out of school, I will never forgive you.”
That was a wake-up call, so I persevered. I found another school which was a better fit and then followed his other suggestion, which was to study computer science in addition to math. Dad was smart enough to realize over forty years ago that computers were our future. So I am very grateful to him for helping me two additional times after he wrote that graduation message.
He tried to teach me some Russian words, but that did not go well. I had no interest as a little girl in learning a second language, which is a skill I wish he had insisted on teaching me. But the few word I do remember are important ones: Yes, no, thank you, good, I love you, hello, and goodbye—Do Svidanya.
Dad protected us from wildlife invading the house. Once it was a live snake brought inside by the cat I think, while the other occasion was a rubber snake, which Dad killed with a shovel—and we all laughed.
He was famous for his mispronunciations. Doogie Houser was Hoagie Douser. Instead of going up a hill I remember that he “went the hill up.” Someone he knew had a “pelly bot stove,” and the park in town installed a lovely “gazooba.”
My father was resourceful, a talent he learned from living the lean years in New Jersey and Russia. Our basement pipes were insulated with old newspapers, and an uneven table that rocked back and forth was leveled by a matchbook inserted under the leg to steady it.
The best repair he made was the broken basement window behind the washer. Dad did not replace the window, but instead resorted to imagination—duct tape, cardboard, and a Tupperware lid.
We all laughed at him the way most kids laugh and roll their eyes at their fathers during their lives. Now he is no longer around to stumble over a word or phrase.
My book about him is finished. Someday I hope his grandchildren and great grandchildren will all read it and learn about the very complicated man I called Dad. He was stubborn, brave, fearless, and relentless. Today is Father’s Day. I wish we could have one more conversation.