There are no more worries now that I no longer have to sleep with one ear awake worrying that the phones will ring in the middle of the night with the message, “Dad’s nose is bleeding and it won’t stop” or “Dad slipped out of bed. I don’t know how he did it” or “He seems to be babbling and his face is droopy.”
There is no more middle of the workday calls saying “He doesn’t look so good” or “He fell when he insisted on putting something on the shelf by himself.”
We would always rush over and determine if we should call Hatzolah and take him to the hospital; Most of the time we were at his home in minutes, no more than 10 usually less than five. It is amazing how quickly reflexes kick in when necessary even at the most ungodly hours. Most of the time the reason for both the daytime and the very late-night calls resolved rapidly on its own. While speaking with Dad at his home in the middle of the night his babbling would slowly become more coherent, his eyes more sharply focused, and the facial droopiness would begin to straighten out. During the day, his pain might be severe or it might just have abated. He was having an increasing number of ischemic attacks in his last few weeks of life. These calls were a counterpoint to those that he made in the past saying that he just wanted to hear our voice or “When you get a chance we should discuss,” whatever. He insisted on using the phone despite saying many times that he did not like being on it for too long.
His medications were not working anymore; they had stopped in the last two months or so of his life. A strong willed and determined fighter, he instinctually overcame the attacks and in his own confabulatory way moved through them and on. He always smiled for his guests and even when he had a hard time remembering names he was warm and exuded a sense of empathy to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He listened more than spoke when he made the calls or when people called him but he beamed for all of them.
His smile, warmth, compassion, and basic sense of being a gentle man brought him a wealth of reciprocity of caring from so many others. I do not recall asking his doctor if he would make a house call to see how Dad was doing. He just did so on many occasions just because, as he put it “He is my friend.” From the caretaker who would not take time off because he liked his courteous smile and called him Dad or Zayde or Saba Rabbah depending on which child was visiting to those who made Shiva calls and almost universally described him as an Aydel mensch, a sweet kind person, a true gentleman.
When he was healthy, he had a long list of friends, acquaintances, and relatives that he would call every week, mostly on Thursday or Friday, just to say hello, check in on to see how they are doing and to wish them well. Even when he became ill, he insisted on calling the people on his list. We knew that he made the calls but were not aware of just how many people were on his call list, not until some of them began to tell us.
In many ways, he was a man of few words. He always wanted to get to the point and deal with what had to be handled. In many more ways, he was a man of few distractions save for the desire to connect and support people. There were many different people on his list of friends. Only now are we becoming more aware of that. He reached out to people on three continents regularly. He was what his great granddaughter would call a “mitzvah man”, a man who liked to do things for others. Now that I miss him, I still learn from him. I am forced to move on to the next stage of life and hope that, while I cannot fill his shoes, I can find a means of my own to reach out to others as he did.
Dad you made me proud. I hope I can do the same for you.