Posts Tagged ‘Run-DMIrving’

This is my new, not-favorite holiday: the first yahrzeit, or anniversary, of my father’s death. In the Jewish tradition, you light a 24-hour candle the evening before the day. The day is determined not by our Gregorian calendar but by the Jewish calendar, which rises and sets with the moon.

A lunar calendar means 28- and 29-day months. This is why Jewish holidays never stay put. Philip Roth, writing about his childhood, said that the adults always talked about Passover being early or late but no one ever said it was on time. Wilfrid Sheed in My Life as a Fan wrote that the Jewish holidays roamed the calendar like shortstops.

On the yahrzeit of your parent, there are prayers to say and visits to make – to the synagogue. I might have appreciated the latter, standing in solidarity with the other mourners, though of course there are no visits to the synagogue just now.

I remember my parents and grandparents lighting the yahrzeit candles for their parents. This practice seemed disconnected from me when I was young. It was something the Old People did, along with moving slowly, not understanding anything I wanted to do, and talking about their vanished world.

[The play] succeeded because it made people laugh and cry and remember the past, all at the same time. And even though one always heard how bitter everything was in the past, the old people were still crazy to relive it. (Emanuel Litvinoff, from his short story “Fanya”)

I felt so disconnected from this ritual and for so long that it only occurred to me while writing this that when my grandparents lit candles for their parents, they were keeping alive the memories of people who had been born in the 1870s.

So now I’ve lit my first candle and said some prayers. Though I recognized years ago that this train was heading my way, it was still a shock when it stopped to pick me up. Also, I’m not sure that lighting a candle and reciting some prayers hold the right meaning for me and my relationship with my father.

Next year, we’ll light a candle and then watch one of Dad’s favorite movies: Stagecoach, The Big Country, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Patton, Sink the Bismarck!, Sink the Hindenburg!, The Enemy Below, The Enemy Above, The Big World War II Movie, The Way Bigger World War II Movie, and The World War II Movie Where We Win Again But You Kids Will Never Understand. Dad also liked Get Smart!, All in the Family, Westerns, the Red Sox, shows about animals or ancient Egypt, and everything that delighted his children. Some of these entertainments might be a tough sell for certain people I live with.

Looking back over this blog, I may have been at my best when I was memorializing family, friends, dogs, musicians, and other writers. I hate to think that I’m turning into A.E. Housman, but you have to go where the writing takes you, and apparently this is where it’s taking me. I even managed to work Run-DMIrving into my music column.

I’ll change the mood in our next exciting post. Brace yourself for 10 Things I Hate About Dogs!

You can live in a box from Costco and chew it up.

A long life and lots of love

Posted: October 27, 2019 in Miscellaneous

After a series of emergencies, my father died earlier this month. He was 92. He outlived Hitler by 74 years.

At the nursing home, before he stopped speaking, he would shout from his wheelchair, “Get me out of here!” and “Don’t leave me here!” I thought he was shouting at the staff or at me or my sister. Later I realized he was shouting at God.

At the temple, in my eulogy, I spoke about a homerun he once hit. That’s what a father wants to do in front of his young children.

At the cemetery, we had a bugler, a flag, family, and sunshine.

Here’s the obituary. Once again, I’m asking for donations to a hard-working animal shelter in a little town in Massachusetts. Remember, animal shelters don’t just save animals. They save people, too.

Goodbye, Dad.

Life in the 90s

Posted: November 17, 2017 in music
Tags: , ,

We just visited my parents in the little town in Massachusetts where I grew up and learned not to trust the Red Sox. You have to make some adjustments in Massachusetts. A regular coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts is coffee, milk, and two sugahs. A milkshake doesn’t have ice cream, but a frappe does. If you go down Cape, you’re heading north on Cape Cod, but if you go up Cape, you’re heading south. Traffic circles are called “rotaries,” a sub is a “grinduh,” and my name is forever Stevie.

My Mom lives in a nursing home. My Dad is still hanging on in the house they’ve lived in since 1957. These are the real adjustments.

While we were there, the town put on their annual breakfast to honor veterans. Every place in Massachusetts that can hold itself together long enough to form a government and print pahking stickuhs for the beach is required to have a Veterans Service Officer. Our VSO did a fantastic job with this breakfast. Five hundred veterans and their friends and families filled the hall where I attended my high school prom back in 1493. We had speeches, commemorative pins, a fire department honor guard, and food that beats Army chow any day.

Dad is 90 and increasingly immobile, but he was game to go. After all, he served in World War II. He came home with medals for good conduct and sharpshooting and one he never showed us that he claimed he got for goldbricking.

It took Deborah and me awhile to organize and transport him. By the time we arrived, there was only one table with available seats. Fortunately, our tablemates were Miss Bristol County and Miss Bristol County Teen and their mothers. The four of them were delighted to have a World War II veteran drop in. This gave the two beauty queens a chance to represent. They brought Dad his breakfast from the buffet line and made a fuss over him.


Our featured speaker was Rep. Joe Kennedy III. He’s the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a politician work a room with greater enthusiasm. After his speech he went to every table, looked everyone in the eye, listened respectfully, spoke sincerely. I was impressed. He meant it.

As the event ended, people began to leave the hall, and we were concerned that Joe 3.0 wouldn’t make it to our far corner. Deborah sought him out and asked him if he would come to our table and say hello to her father-in-law, who served in the Army Air Force and kept Texas safe for democracy.

Kennedy said he would, and though he still had a gauntlet to run, he soon appeared at Dad’s side. (Deborah said she had never had anyone reassuringly touch her arm so many times as he followed her while simultaneously greeting people.) Kennedy realized that Dad couldn’t stand, so he took a knee beside him. Dad took his hand and cried as he talked about meeting John F. Kennedy in 1960 when he was running for president.


After Dad calmed down, they had a good talk, and then Dad made a prediction: “Joe, you’re 37 now. In 15 years, you’re going to run for president, and you’re going to make it.”


Kennedy replied, “Don’t hold your breath!”


At that moment, my father closed a circle. The circle began on a blustery winter day in early 1960 when Dad, younger than Joe Kennedy is now, was walking into his favorite hardware store and met a hatless JFK striding down the sidewalk, the whole world and Schwartz Lumber in front of them.

There’s no lesson here, just a family that’s lucky enough to make a new story after so many years together. Mom has Alzheimer’s, but she still can still follow a five-sentence narrative, and when we saw her next she laughed when she heard that Dad had cried. “Of course!” she said. She would’ve expected nothing else.

Dad is in the hospital as I write this. He’s 90, so who knows. Mom is dreaming in her nursing home, waiting for Dad’s next visit. Until they meet again, here are two photos of the honeymooners taken 50 years apart.

The Honeymooners 1964


Happy cat roommates


In case youve read this far: Miss Bristol County Teen is a freshman at the high school. When Dad told her that I had gone there, she asked, Did you know my grandfather? He was a math teacher. I thought, come on, kid, how old do you think I am?! But then she told me his name and I thought, shoot, I did know him.