My dad would have been 86 today. He died a little over three years ago, without too much suffering, all things considered. I don’t miss the person he was at the end and rarely think of that person these days. It’s hard to connect the end-person with the man I knew my whole life as my father. Alzheimer’s is such a horrible disease, shredding the person you know bit by bit into thin strips of nothingness. Even when you can occasionally have a somewhat normal conversation with them you know they aren’t really processing it and won’t remember it. And they might not even remember who you are. But we did have a nice visit around Christmas 2012 with the girls, and he seemed to know them then, so hopefully that was a shining jewel he kept in a locked treasurebox somewhere in his tangled mind.
My father was a smart guy. He loved words and crossword puzzles. And he loved the New York Times. When we moved to California in 1983 he gave the LA Times a go for several years, but he eventually returned to the NYT because he missed it so much. Sometimes we attempted to do the toughie Sunday puzzle together, but we were rarely able to finish. He was no slouch at math either ~ he was a numbers guy, an insurance underwriter, manager, VP, and finally EVP. But his greatest strength was his love for people. People liked him and he liked them. They trusted him, and he was trustworthy. He was also a little innocent in some ways, believing that most people were good, and would do good if given the chance.
Dad had a sweet tooth ~ how he loved his desserts! Brownies, ice cream, cookies, cake. I definitely inherited that (as opposed to people who dislike sweets, right). He enjoyed trying new cuisines and new restaurants, but he was totally fine with a burger too. After my mom passed away in 2008 he learned to cook simple things and was very proud of his signature dish ~ shrimp with pasta. We’d usually meet for dinner once a week when he was living on his own.
While Dad loved (loved!) to read, he was not an introvert. He liked to socialize and mingle. He also loved to travel and take long drives to nowhere in particular. Dad was great at reading maps, but he was also fine without a map and didn’t stress about getting lost. He just figured everything would sort itself out in due time, no biggie, and he’d see a new town or three in the meantime. Dad was a planner, but definitely not OCD. A big picture guy ~ someone else could sort out the deets. He would go with the flow. Mellow dude. I’m glad he got to go to the UK, his dream trip.
My father was liberal, Jewish, agnostic. He liked the Doors and Jefferson Airplane and Bette Midler. He’d periodically nag me to read Ulysses and I still haven’t ever finished more than a third because ugh. He taught me to play chess. (I wish we’d played more chess.) He taught me to love poetry by reading aloud and quoting the greats. He always had a book open somewhere, and usually more than one. Dad had an intense interest in history and politics. He followed the news religiously. But never sports! He hated sports. We went to a lot of museums. Dad had an eye for art. He was a good photographer, a professional at one point early on while he was thinking about a career in journalism.
He was a good man. He took care of his family. And he was funny.
Dad and me, probably around 1994, Huntington Beach. Yes, he smoked. Yes, I am a vampire.