To 4 Favorite Fathers
Dear Uncle Hy,
Remember when I locked myself in the bathroom at age 6? Daddy was in Jamestown on business and Mommy, coming after me with her bag of bobby pins, wanted to set my hair. She said she was calling the fire department when I couldn’t unlock the door. Then there you were. Coming through our bathroom window in a fireman’s hat. You looked like my father with glasses and a fireman’s hat. I asked you where you got the hat. You said, “At times like this, I’m a fireman.” You unlocked the door. We walked out. Mom scolded me. You just smiled your very sweet smile.
4 years later when I found out, upon returning from overnight camp, that my dog had died, you came over, saw my swollen red eyes and tears and told my parents and me I could go back upstairs and didn’t have to entertain the relatives.
Thank you for understanding and rescuing me both times.
On that very snowy, February Sunday of my father’s funeral in Buffalo, I walked into the chapel a half hour before the service and there you were, on an end seat in a middle row. In your top coat. With your hat in your hand. Alone, looking lonely and sad, and so different from how I remembered you.
Your presence comforted me. You were Dad’s best pal. “I’m 84. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten anywhere early,” you said as you hugged me. “Maxie was an original.”
“He said that about you.”
Original and colorful. When Dad spoke to or about you, if he wasn’t laughing, there’d be a gleam in his eyes. Like him, you were funny, fun, and smart. Unlike him, you were trouble. How many times did he cover for you at home? At work?
When Dad started teaching law in his late 60s at the college where you recommended him, he had the grandest time. I understood how fulfilling teaching could be. Still do.
Watching you, the only pallbearer who didn’t ‘come with’ the funeral home, carry Dad’s coffin made me cry. At the cemetery, when you and Miriam* stood by my side, you said, “Maxie’s up there kvelling” about Emily and her touching eulogy. At lunch at Aunt Dora’s, when you shared ‘Maxie’ stories, I felt as close to my father as I could get. You also told me about a huge case you just tried, your teaching, your volunteer work with inner city kids, your 11 grandchildren, 3 married daughters and 1 married son to whom you were always close.
How did you ever find the time and energy to be a bad boy?
The next day I called Miriam. “Do you think my father had other women?”
“Your father?” Miriam laughed. “Absolutely not. He was too afraid of your mother. And too cheap. When a married man fools around, he’s gotta wine and dine them, buy them jewelry and things. Plus he didn’t have to. He had Jack for that.”
For that. For your spirit and for so much more.
When you began editing my AARP columns and I questioned some changes, you told me you have “dirty mitts.” I soon realized that you do not edit willy nilly. You enhance my work. Yes!
I soon discovered through your editing and our conversations which kept getting longer and became about books, writers, movies, and then included literary gossip that you are in-the-know and wise. When I shared my non-AARP writing/publishing ‘issues’ with you, you gave me splendid advice. I am following it. I am grateful. I hope your other writers and your two children appreciate your mitts, your humor, who you are and what you give.
When you and Emily started seeing each other, I asked her about you. She told me you were charismatic and had a terrific smile. You are and you do. When it seemed to be getting serious, I asked again what you were like, assuming she’d rattle off her 4-item check-list: that you were smart, handsome, kind, and funny. She simply said, “He gets me.” I nodded. Of course. I needed nothing else. You ARE smart, handsome, kind, and funny. And more. And now, as a father, you ‘get it,’ and ‘get your son, my grandson’ so well. Watching you hold him, talk to and about him, and play with him makes my heart sing. What a connection! What love! Happy Father’s Day to a super, special, loving Dad.