I took me a long time to gather courage to ask my father some difficult, weighty questions, including: what kind of memorial would you want? I expected, in part, that he would say: nothing, but he didn't. He said: "a small cheerful gathering." I think Anna has achieved this in all her wonderful planning, so here's to her. Thank you, too, to Karl and Hilary...
"I wonder if you ever received it, recognized it for what it was, and if so are either burning with passion to dispense SMP drugs in it or using it to shoot rubber ducks in your bath."
Perhaps he was not too different as a father as he was a scientist. I hope to relay some of this.
Probably the most loving, affectionate father I have ever been aware of. Not surprisingly, very fun loving and incredibly creative in his parenting.
Angry moments. I can only remember him getting very angry at me 3 times in my life.
One of the forms his creativity took was in his games, specifically the Hunts for birthday presents. These were elaborate self-made pamphlets of colorful drawings, layers of puzzles, themed crosswords, math problems that needed to be solved as clues for finding gifts hidden God knows everywhere around the house and garden. Oonce a bike appeared tied up at top of huge tree - certainly designed to amuse and frustrate. The puzzles were always too hard, and often made us cry. Julia ripped a page from a dictionary. It was in one of these crossword puzzles that I first encountered the word "misdemeanants," as an example of a word my father thought a ten or so year old would know. Now I do.
I can never attend a birthday celebration or party without thinking how my father would have made it so much more interesting. He created in me very high standards for fun and creative parenting to which I can only aspire.
I also aspire to be the patient and kind parent that he always was. I am nowhere close, and I will continue to call upon him by imagining how he would have handled something difficult, or made something more fun and bearable.
An example of his superlative and rebellious way of having fun with us was captured in an anecdote remembered to me by my friend Pam:
"I have such fond memories of him, particularly driving us to school in his massive Cadillac, so sweet and amused by our little beings. He found it particularly hysterical when Steph and I came out, late, and fighting. I don't remember what we were taunting each other with, but do remember that it was pretty much dissolved by your father's laughter, as we slowly peeled out of our driveway. I remember your dad uncorking a bottle of champagne and giving us each a glass before we reached school on the morning of your graduation from 8th grade to upper school. An act that made him skyrocket in my book of fathers I liked most. Other things, too, but those are iconic memories from growing up, and it's so wonderful that your father played such a light hearted and co-conspiratorial role in them."
Although reading what people have written about my father's accomplishments has recently reminded me that our family life certainly did not revolve around my father and his work, I don't need reminding that he was so humble. I learned this lesson so quickly when vanity plate... it embarrasses me still to see others aggrandize themselves, and showy vanity plates are particularly embarrassing.
- too many to recount: first one: writing on my bum at school "this girl does not have to carry her chair if she does not want to."; "cut here" with dotted lines on Celia's abdomen for surgery; foaming green pill for dental appointment; "happy birthday" to dental assistant on his teeth. April Fools a major holiday: chocolate pudding in egg; items glued to kitchen table toilet papering of room while slept; weather balloon rigged with dried ice during the night; at Leningrad - a note was left under a table, with the thrill of potential trouble.
- so many more stories...
- not proud of: only thing I can recall - announcement of psychology major. We weren't safe from his scientific standards. When I attempted to pursue scientific research after college and worked in a lab near my father, he told me the "world didn't need another mediocre scientist." I was absolved.
- music and French - only father to wish his child had pursued music rather than law school: he would call during my time there and ask only about cello - thought law a somewhat vocational pursuit.
- had 3 daughters in order to have an instant trio. Always felt a bit like the king and his court musicians.
- he loved that I spoke better French than him, largely in part to his forcing me to attend a French lycee in my 10th grade year while in Paris, and enjoyed my teasing him.
- public defending - despite his disappointment with legal pursuit over music, he was very proud of my decision to become a public defender. He was always interested in my cases - would ask about them over the phone and develop defenses. My sense of justice/injustice - didn't I know where I got it from? Since he is gone I find myself even more agitated by the black and white, limited thinking of my adversaries. Hard to be around that when remembering my father.
- I think my father always regretted not having been more outside the 'establishment.' He was always cautioning us to "be bad." It was somehow understood, however, that one had to be smart and creative in the ways one was going to be bad - I don't think it would have been ok to drop out, do nothing, and actually be bad. I think that this whole attitude, however subtly conveyed, may have led to my choice to be a criminal defense attorney, and his sense of justice to my representing the indigent. His anti-authoritarian message is instilled in the back of my head - albeit expressed in a sanctioned way - and when I find myself in difficult, adversarial, contentious situations with judges and prosecutors and police, I think I garner strength from him, know he's on my side, and fight the good fight.
- the hardest part of my father's death to relay is how deeply saddened I am that such a special man - special grandfather - won't be part of my children's lives anymore.
- I was quite aware that it was unlikely he would survive to see the birth of my second, so I asked him to put his hand to my belly, assuming this would be their only physical contact. He did, and in an uncharacteristically unscientific fashion, immediately pronounced: "it's a girl." That wasn't yet determined, but he was right. Unscientifically, I like to think his pronouncement had something to do with determining the gender.
- sadder still is that he and my son Max won't see each other any more, since they have already met, five times, and influenced each other. I was determined to bring Max to see him one last time in New York, even though others felt it might not be wise for either. I knew this might be a selfish decision, but I did it, one week before he died, and I am so glad - it was so clear that my father rallied the last of his energy for the two short visits they had, as he went rapidly downhill after each visit. The nurses told me that he had been animated in anticipating Max's visit, and he attempted to the end to rig things up so he could better see him play next to his bedside. The pictures taken during this visit, although so difficult to look at, will be among my most cherished.
- when I got, again, the courage to tell my father I didn't know how I would be able to bare missing him as much as I was, he rather snapped at me: "you have Max." He was so right. This perspective, in a sense, gave me some relief in my mourning. Max is just the type of soul that my father enjoyed; he's very bright, sweet. and already humorous. I just wish we could enjoy him together.
A few people in writing to me have noted the legacy we daughters hold. I have been aware of this since I was a child, and it has always been very daunting - in fact something that has at times has caused me great feelings of inadequacy, as many of my friends are aware. My wish for myself is that I will be able, at last, to overcome this and, instead, focus on and develop the amazing, unparalleled benefits of this legacy. I know my father would have preferred this.
I should end on a note not in keeping with the wish for a cheerful gathering, let me tell you one anecdote of which my sister reminded me, related to Yom Kippur, which so typifies my father. When my father was little and his father celebrated Yom Kippur, which my father found terribly hypocritical, he and his siblings all reacted in various ways; brother John would disappear, sister Carol would stay but eat, and Dad would fast per the rules, but would continue to fast for days out of rebellion. I don't suggest any of us do this, so please eat and drink and enjoy.
Thank you all for being here ...