Decades passed when I never thought of this day. In the last few years, this day has never been far from my mind. I had hoped against hope that Dad’s strength and passion for life would carry him through to see our sons Bar Mitzvahed, but I realized that, as in all things, Dad handled things in his own time and his own inimitable fashion.
I carry his passion, his devotion, and his perseverance in my heart. My brother spoke so beautifully of things about which my father was passionate: family, music, life. But there was more: Dad had a keen, analytical mind whose fire was stoked by the feint and parry of a good poker game, as I learned the other day from his friend. When he was feeling well, he loved to tackle the daily crossword puzzle — OK, so it was in pencil and with a crossword dictionary. The goal was to finish it successfully. Dad and I adored television game shows. When I lived at home or was visiting, we often watched “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” together, each one trying to divine the answer faster than the other. He always encouraged me to try out. I did so earlier this year, and he was my biggest cheerleader throughout the entire Jeopardy! audition and selection process. I was not permitted to tell him how I did on the show, but I know he’ll be watching me on Wednesday night.
He taught me to be loyal: to myself, to my family, to what I hold true. Dad showed me that honesty and integrity are the greatest measure of a person, even in the face of adversity. He also taught me to devote my best efforts in all tasks. Talking about devotion, guess who was the bigger “Jewish mother” in our house? My father! He would be the one waiting for me at my curfew hour, sitting in that bedraggled easy-chair in front of the television.
In a speech I gave at Dad’s 70th birthday, nine years ago, I spoke about perseverance. How, when he was teaching me to drive a manual transmission, Dad was infinitely patient and encouraging, even when I stalled the car — twice — in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour. “Take your time,” he said. “They’re just going to have to wait for you.” We finally made it home that night, but Dad’s face was positively white. Passion, perseverance, patience . . . that was my father.
Although one of his greatest gifts to me was music, I have no voice to sing today. I will leave you with lyrics from his favorite song, “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael.
And now the purple dust of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart.
Now the little stars, the little stars pine,
Always reminding me that we’re apart.
You wander down the lane and far away,
Leaving me a love that cannot die.
Love is now the stardust of yesterday,
The music of the years gone by.
. . . Though I dream in van
In my heart will remain
My stardust melody,
The memory of love’s refrain.
May stardust always be with you, Dad.