Our dad’s 90th birthday party was a wonderful success. It was a beautiful day and the party was in a greenhouse with an outdoor space.
One of my dad’s friends spoke about meeting Dad in 1943 when Dad was a corporal and his friend was a private. They re-met during the Korean War (my father almost ran him over in Tokyo) and then at dental school and have been friends for 67 years. I can’t imagine knowing someone for that long who could still say wonderful things about me. Crazy.
Lots of relatives or people who are relatives just by longevity. Follow me on this one. My aunt, my mother and Blossom (among others) were sorority sisters at college in the 1940s. (My aunt was dating my uncle and introduced my mother to her boyfriend’s brother (my dad) but that is another story for another blog entry). Blossom married my aunt’s cousin whom she divorced. (That cousin was there with his wife, even though they are not technically related either, but longevity is more important than blood anyway.) Blossom then married Aaron. Blossom died and Aaron married Marjorie. The first time POB (partner of blogger) and I met Marjorie was at a cousin’s bar mitzvah. But Marjorie must have been part of the family in another life, because she had no boundaries from the start. POB was pregnant and Marjorie turned to her and said, “Known donor or unknown donor?”. POB, having been raised in a good home and not quite used to direct, personal questions from near-strangers was so shocked that she actually answered. I then turned to POB and said, “well, now that Marjorie knows, don’t you think we ought to tell our parents?” So a person married to someone who married into the family who was married to someone who was no longer married into the family asserted family privilege to ask any question that came to mind, without filter. I love this family.
My cousins — Dad’s nieces and nephews — talked about things they remembered about Dad from when they were kids in the 1940s and 1950s. Cousin Gentle (from prior blogs) talked about how Dad gave tickets to a ball game to his father (my Uncle Dave) so Uncle Dave could take Cousin Gentle to a ball game. It turns out it was Don Larsen’s 1952 World Series perfect game. Still the only ball game that Cousin Gentle has ever attended.
Another cousin talked about Dad’s teaching her to build card houses, and another talked about Dad’s taking him to the Opera. All of them talked about the beautiful things he brought home for each of his nieces and nephews from Japan after the Korean War. They remembered him as someone interested in them and kind and gentle. It was really touching to hear new things about my Dad and hear the love expressed in those memories.
One cousin started talking about the meaning of family and how he is a trust and estates lawyer (I had to stop him from taking the opportunity for self-advertisement) and how he has seen families fight and disinherit each other. He started to go off on a tangent and get a little worked up, without an end in sight. SOB (sister of blogger) gave me a sign that I had to intervene, so I got up, went over to my cousin and took the microphone away and offered it to the next cousin who wanted to speak, in age order. Cousin Gentle and SOB now call me “Hook” because I pulled that act off the stage.
SOB talked about the first night she was an intern and was in the hospital all night and was scared and overwhelmed. At about 3am, she got a page. It was Dad, wanting to make sure she was alive. She never forgot that and it helped her through that rest of that night’s torture.
Then BOB (brother of blogger) talked beautifully about how Dad is a role model for being a good husband and father and how special it was that Dad was his best man at his wedding. BOB is not usually that emotional, introspective or even talkative around us. I was so moved. But the moment was over like a shooting star flaming out, so all returned like a flash to status quo ante. But for the moment, there was kumbaya in the air, as if it were being sung for the first time.
My dad is such a sweet, and humble man. When it came time for the cake, he thanked everyone for coming and said how fortunate he was to be surrounded by friends and family and he was grateful to everyone for being there and for their kind words. The cousin from whom I had to yank the microphone said in a stage whisper (really a stage SHOUT), “what, that is all he is going to say?” Aaaaargh. My dad said it all in a few words and did so with grace and humility. Dear Cousin, a lesson might be learned here.
We had the quintessential Jewish goodbye — we all said goodbye but didn’t leave. In fact, I must have said goodbye three or four times to the same people. The rule is if there is more than a half-hour between goodbye kiss and departure, you have to start over again. I don’t know the provenance of the rule, but it caused the goodbyes to go on for almost 2 hours. Also, it probably didn’t help that we had pictures from 1920 to the present out on a table by the door so people starting reminiscing anew as they were leaving. Some of the older folk sat down in comfy chairs to nap a little while they waited for the rest of their group to finish. I wish I had pictures of that.