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Fathers and Memories

Fathers and Memories

Daughters never forget.

by

He sat in the last bed. My great grandfather reduced to skin and bones. He kept asking for his wife.

"Where's Mama? Where are the kinderlach?" he asked my grandmother.

And I stood by the hospital window looking out at the people rushing down the sidewalks and the cars honking at the intersection. I braced myself for those words that were repeated every week.

"Papa, she's not with us anymore," my grandmother said.

"Gitel, please," my great grandfather pleaded, as he suddenly recognized his eldest daughter. He used her Yiddish name as if he was suspended in time, transported back to the Lower East Side when all his children were tiny and life was so much simpler. The milkman, the iceman and the mailman came to your door each day.

Every time we visited my great grandfather I felt like crying. Every week he forgot that his wife had died. Every day he looked for her. And that raw, searing grief of loss washed over him when we visited. Some weeks he didn't believe my grandmother.

"Why won't Mama come? Doesn't she want to see me?" he asked, scrunching the sheets in his wrinkled hands.

"Papa, I told you. Mama died. She's not here." And for a moment his heart broke across his face.

"Where is she? Where is Mama? Where are my kinderlach?"

What is it like to live in a world without memory? What is it like to look at your children and forget their names? What it is like to take a walk around the block and forget where you live? I watched my grandmother's pain as her father fell into the deepest canyons of forgetfulness.

"My father was tough," my grandmother told me. "But I loved him anyway. Every daughter looks up to her father. Every daughter wants her father's approval."

 

Sometimes they think they have failed, but a glimmer of love did shoot through the air that Sunday afternoon.

 

I see these fathers sometimes, the ones who worked from dawn 'til night. The ones on the sidelines. The ones who wish they would have seen the beauty of their children when they were still young. They're the ones who forgot the sippy cup and the favorite teddy bear when they generously embarked on their "daddy is taking over today" journey. Sometimes they think they have failed, but a glimmer of love did shoot through the air that Sunday afternoon. And for a moment, their daughter knew that he loved her.

But there are other fathers. Fathers who serve their children dinner and bathe them, who coach "Little League" and teach their children how to work on a computer. There are fathers who will follow their children through hell: divorce, drugs, confusion, grief. They'll be there because they love their children with all of their heart, all of their soul, putting their whole life on the sidelines to be their cheerleader.

They will know the names of all of your teachers and all of your best friends. They know every team that you‘re on, and even if they're in the middle of a million dollar deal, they'll take your call.

That's my father. He coached my basket ball team even though he had never played. He taught me how to type and told me that I was smart. He brought me snacks when I studied for my SATS and took me and all my friends on a ski vacation when I did well. He flew in right away when his first granddaughter was born and told me to keep on writing. No matter what, I know he will always love me for who I am.

Fathers may forget how they gave that smile, the word of warmth, the extra minute spent before going back to work. But daughters never forget. They remember who first taught them how to believe in themselves. It is our fathers who give us the foundation to love.

Thinking about my great grandfather makes me appreciate that not only do I have my father in this world as a devoted and loving grandfather to my children, but I have all the memories of my life. It's a huge blessing to be able to remember the past and be grateful for the present.

I think about my great grandfather and how he lost his most precious memories. And then I think about my memories; sometimes they are hard and sometimes they are beautiful. But they are there. Like my father and like my Father in Heaven. Safe and true and protective.

Dedicated to my father who cares for his children and grandchildren in a way that no one else can. I thank you for my life, for my confidence, and for my ability to believe in the Almighty.

Published: June 20, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, January 4, 2011 2:42 PM

Wish I Could Say the Same

I wish I could say that I have warm fuzzies every time I think of my father. He was rarely my champion. He made fun of me and criticized me. Once he came to my defense when I was bullied at school. Yes he provided for me including college education. When his friend molested me, he did not take my side. It is a miracle that I have my confidence. With Hashem's help, I built it up after almost a decade of an abusive marriage, Thank G-D I have a great husband who gives me love. Of course it will never make up for the lack of positive fatherly love.

(4) Linda F., June 29, 2009 9:49 PM

fathers who are not always there

Its wonderful that the authors's faher could be there for her so often. However, there is the subtle implication that fathers who are not always there, somehow do not love their children as much. The world is a difficult place, and there are many fathers who are struggling to work and make a living to provide for their childrens' future, and cannot unfortunately always be there for all the intimate moments which usually their mother is there for. This was especially true for the previous generation, many of whom came from Europe perhaps, and did not have the luxury of having had a professional education by which to earn their living, but worked day and night so their children could have a better life. Even today, in these hard economic times, many are struggling just to make ends meet and pay for day school education. These "other fathers" are sacrificing for the benefit of their children's future, and their love is vastly more evident than just 'a glimmer' shooting through the air on a Sunday afternoon, as the author states; and their children most certainly feel this love for more than 'a moment'.

(3) Sally Rogow, June 21, 2009 12:43 PM

excllent article

This is a beautiful and important article/

(2) Author's Dad, June 21, 2009 5:58 AM

Beautiful words and beautiful feelings

It's great how you can put such powerful feelings into beautiful words. Thanks for filling a special place in my heart.

(1) sara, June 21, 2009 3:57 AM

well said!

this article literally made me cry,I don't do it enough but I'm calling my father just to say "thank you for everything & I love you Abba"

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