For My Father
Burying My Father Arthur Dorfman: May 5, 1908-September 1997.
Having had so much time between my father's dying and today, I have had a chance to think. I am amazed that a death so wished for and so welcome is also so powerful and so sad.
Although we live in the present and plan for the future, we understand life in mulling over the past. And my father's death has thrown me back into my memories and unleashed love for him I took for granted. and questions and regrets. Would've, could've, should've.
It has made me very happy, an odd word to use today, to hear by email, phone and fax that you would be here. It is very comforting to know that the family sticks together and shows up. That even now, living in different suburbs and different states, we are emotionally still a family.
It is beyond comfort to know that my friends and our family's friends care about us and want to be with us on this day we all know will come for us.
And it makes me happy that you remember my father with love and affection, and awe. And terror. And curiosity.
I've also been thinking about this plot of ground and who is here waiting for my father. Here near where we are standing and nearby, God came early and God came late. There is no figuring.
My mind has gone to Maple Court and Pasadena Road and Blue Hill Avenue and Seaver Street and the Mishkan Tefila. Grove Hall. Morton Street. Route 9. I've tasted Uncle Simmy's green tomatoes. Seen Uncle Abe coming through the door. And I've wondered if I could ever find my way to Groton .
My grandma Annie actually died on September 29, 1958. Today of course is September 28, 1997. My father was such a good son I think it was my grandmother's karma that let him leave us this week.
And I've thought of cousin Paul Bellis and how all the people who loved him and Florence trouped to Florida to honor both of them. And how it is karma that Florence was coming to Boston for happy reasons and could be here with us.
I don't think children ever understand their parents, even now in the nineties when we let it all hang out. Certainly in my generation parents inner thoughts were hidden from the kids. There was no Oprah to give kids clues to what was going on. No pop songs that gave the language.
And back then men never said what they were thinking and feeling, if indeed they had a clue themselves what they were thinking and feeling. I cannot imagine my father saying he needed something from us emotionally. That he felt annxious about something. And he absolutely never ever said, I need your help.
Many of you, Herbie, Sheppy, Tommy knew my father better than I did. I knew him by what he DID, not by what he said or revealed. And of course, what he did was always be there for me, no matter what my scheme.
It's funny but what is most vivid these past few days is the schlepping, the picking me up after doctors appointments, the writing to me every day when I was in Paris my junior year.The warehouse. The sweet corn. The smell of the cigars. My hearing the toilet flush every morning at 4:00 a.m. His puttering over his tiny row of plants on Solon St. The way he changed a flat tire. My dropping him off and picking him up at Ponkapoag.
The most loving thing my father did for us is he took care of my mother for many years, keeping from us her vulnerability and his own diminishment. He gave up Florida before he would have liked to and he left the Cape way before he wanted to. He moved to the Hebrew Rehab so that we three girls, if I dare call us that, could have our lives. It was a sacrifice for him and a painful dilemma for Sandy, Janie and me.
If there was ever anyone who was sure he wouldn't get old and vulnerable, that he would take care of everything himself, it was my father. And you know what, I believed him. I could never believe my father had become an old frail man. I expected that he would be able to sling crates of oranges over his shoulder forever.
At the Hebrew Rehab he kept aspects of his personality to his last few days. The first few years he read the newspaper every day. He never let my mother out of his sight. Even later, when he was more impaired, he could still connect. He was able to let the nurses he liked know that he liked them. He was atheletic. He walked laps around his floor with his walker, growling at old ladies who got in his way. He hated to sit still. He could say NO. And he could get mad. He wouldn't do what he didn't want to do. Or eat what he didn't want to eat. He could still be gruff. He could still be mild. And he was still until last Tuesday VERY very strong.
I will remember and love all of you who are here with us this afternoon. Unfortunately, though Sharon is open and rolling and green, it isn't a golf course.
read also my note on my mother.