I am a writer.
I come from a long line of writers. My great-grandfather, David Eidelsberg, was a known yiddish columnist in the first half of the 20th century. He wound up writing a book that was published in 1953 — Yisroel Un Ire Golesn (Diaspora Traces and Trends in Israel), which focused on the diaspora customs that found their way into early-Israeli society. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m immensely proud of it. I hope to have it translated someday. Zaydie David, as he was called, also died on my birthday…eight years before I was born.
Anyway, my father was also a writer. He wrote speeches for Xerox executives back in the 70s. Wrote annual reports for BD in the 90s. Wrote what must have been hundreds of press releases during his career.
He also wrote my bar mitzvah speech for me.
I didn’t want to be a writer. English wasn’t really my thing. I took great pride in the math portion of my SAT score (670) and brushed aside the paltry 540 verbal mark. But what I noticed was that even though I didn’t love writing, I was pretty good at it.
I guess I have Zaydie David and Dad to thank for that. So here I am, 25+ years later, and writing is my thing.
I was watching a TV show with my wife last night, and a character on the show with Alzheimer disease died. As the show ended and we were shutting things down for the night, I thought to myself, “You know, I know I told everyone that seeing Dad that one last time in November left me at peace with his death and how I said goodbye, but I sure would have liked to have seen him one last time.”
I wiped away the tear that had formed in my right eye, turned off the light and went to bed. And I kept thinking…
“What does that mean? I actually didn’t need to see him one last time. We sewed things up nicely in November.”
Another visit after November wasn’t what I wanted. I got all the meaning I needed in November when he reached out his hand and held mine, not once but twice, after having never held my hand my entire life. I got all the meaning I needed when my wife asked him if he’d like something to eat, and I had the honor of feeding my father.
“You’re terrific, Glenn,” he had said in a moment of clarity during that November visit to the nursing home in the Bronx.
Nah, I didn’t need another visit between then and January, when he passed away.
What I needed, what I craved, was another visit from five years ago.
Five years ago, Dad and I had real conversations about the kids, about my job and, of course, about basketball. He’d want to talk about his hapless New York Knicks, while I pushed my not-so-successful Saint Joseph Hawks. They were both teams with glorious and storied histories, and had both fallen into the also-ran category in recent years. But he still loved his Knicks and I my Hawks.
We talked about Torah — he loved asking me questions about the portion of the week. Some were good. Others were sort of silly. All were his way of connecting with our heritage. And maybe with me. I’m not sure. He was never the sentimental type.
Lastly, we loved talking about Israel. He loved Israel, loved that we chose to live here, and loved that his grandchildren were growing up here. He knew army was on the horizon for my sons, and he didn’t like talking about what that meant, but he did enjoy encouraging my oldest to apply his gift for photography in the army. “They must need good photographers in the army,” he’d say to my teenage son.
I’d love to have one more conversation with my dad, after first sending him a piece of my writing. I generally hesitated sharing my writing with him, because he was such a tough critic. But I’d love to hear his sharp, but supportive criticism now.
I wish he could read this, actually.
Conversations with Dad were never an easy thing. He was tough as nails, was way too analytical, and didn’t let me get away with anything in our conversations, always looking for an opening to argue his point.
But he was always available.
I don’t think there’s any great lesson to be learned here. I have many, many positive memories of my dad, and he was able to spend quality time with each of my kids — his grandchildren. So no regrets.
But sitting here in front of my computer, I thought, maybe putting down a few words about how I was feeling last night, and how I still feel right now, would be a good thing.
After all, I’m a writer. And a writer’s gotta write.