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On to Mow a Meadow: In Loving Memory of My Father, Max Davidoff


When my father got pneumonia at age 88, his doctor and the covering doctor were both out of town. The coverer twice-removed admitted Dad to a Florida hospital near my parents’ condo. My mother, in the rehab unit of a nursing home with a broken pelvis, the result of her most recent fall, had no clue what was going on. She thought the reason Dad had not been visiting her was because he had a cold.

I flew down to Florida.

On Dad’s fourth day in the hospital, another relative—G I’ll call him–whom my father disliked and had snickered at over the years, was visiting a lot.

The twice-removed covering doctor told Dad his pneumonia had gotten worse and he might not make it.

My father, wearing an oxygen tube at this point, read his New York Times and did the crossword puzzle. G, in the room with us, headed downstairs to the hospital cafeteria. It was just my father and me now. He turned to me, smiling the sweetest, warmest smile. “Nice guy,” he said about G.

Huh! Then I got it! My father was forgiving himself for years of slinging arrows at G. And forgiving G for being human.

Then Dad burst into “One Man and His Dog Went to Mow a Meadow” a song he taught me when I was a little girl. He had not sung it with or to me since my childhood.

It started with one man and went up to any number we wanted. We used to stop at three or four. I never knew if “One Man and His Dog” was a real or a made-up song, but on the eve of his death, with an oxygen tube in his nose and a twinkle in his eyes, Dad asked me to join him in the song. I did.

The song went like this:

One man and his dog went to mow a meadow.

One man and his dog went to mow a meadow.

Two men and their dogs went to mow a meadow.

Two men, one man, and their dogs went to mow a meadow.

When we got to three men, Dad stopped. “I want to call Mom now,” he said.

He hadn’t visited her in a week. My mother rarely talked on the phone. She was partially deaf. She had dementia. At home, my father did the phone talking.

My parents had been together for 65 years and married for 61.

He got through to her now. “I’m still sniffling, honey,” he said. There was timber in his voice, but his eyes filled up with tears. “I’ll come see you when I am better. I miss you.” He held the phone tightly. A tear fell. Then another. And another. I felt like a third wheel.

Forgiving. Singing. Loving. I added these to everything my father taught and still teaches me.

Forgiving. Singing. Loving. My father showed me how to die.

And taught me how to live.

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