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My Father

I just left my parents apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.   My father is 82 and in failing health.  My mom is 79, the caretaker, and tired.

My dad worked until he was 80, when open heart surgery forced his retirement.  He traveled the world into his late seventies,  In two short years so much has changed.

This is not a unique story.  People grow old, but somehow you always feel like your family is immune to this.   My dad was a very vital man.  

Although I don't think that he graduated from High School, he's far more educated then the average College Graduate.

Dad was born in Queens, to a wonderful Russian mother and a very obstinate and difficult Polish father.  In Richmond Hill in the 1930's and 1940's there weren't many Jewish people.  In fact family legend has it that he was the only Jewish kid in his school.  Because of the rampant Anti-Semitism of the times he was left out of most activities.  

In 1945 he enlisted in the Navy.  He spent most of his military time in San Diego.  He's never spoken much about the experience.  When he came home he went to work for his father and met my mother.  They were married in 1948.

My Grandfather was a tough man.  He was a merchant.  Although his primary line was sporting goods, at one time or another he sold school supplies, juvenile equipment, toys, bedding, books.   You name it,  my father and grandfather sold it.  They all lived above the store in Woodhaven.  Not easy, my grandfather was meddlesome and my mother was and is a tough lady.

My sister was born in 1951, my brother in 1952 and me in 1956.  We lived in that small apartment above the store until September 1957.

I grew up with a father who sold toys, sporting goods and eventually owned a store where he sold exclusively Schwinn Bicycles.   The dream of most children.  By the way, the Schwinns were not fond of Jews either.

My Dad could fix anything.  A trait that is not genetic.  I'm not sure which end of a hammer to use.  

It was a great home to grow up in..  Education was the priority.  Theirs not mine.  Politics were freely discussed in the house.  It still is.  My niece is always afraid of being trapped in the corner of the dinner table.  She calls it "The Black Hole of Politics."

My mom was and is and old time Liberal.  I'll bet that if asked, she'll still say her favorite candidate was Adlai Stevenson.   My Dad couldn't be labeled.  He's a staunch Democrat who initially supported Vietnam.  By 1968 he was vehemently opposed to that war, and has been opposed to every war since.  When we brought home dates, the first question wasn't is he or she Jewish, it was does he or she vote Democratic.

In 1979 my father got out of the business and took a job as the national representative for a growing corporation.  His life changed.  He and my mother traveled the world.  They were and are truly are life mates.

My Dad never hit us.  He didn't believe in hitting.   He also never touched a cigarette.  His distaste for the habit was so great that I too have never touched a cigarette.

I love my Dad, dearly.  He now walks with a walker.  His short term memory is fading. Sometimes when I see him he barely speaks.  My mom says that he's not depressed and I believe her.

I know that this is all a part of life.  It doesn't make it any easier.



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