Happy Father’s Day! My dad died three decades ago and what is curious, as least to me, is the fact that as I get older, I hear him more and more. Maybe it is the stark (and frightening) reality that, at 77, I am one year away from the age when he died. I am not liking that at all.
It is also different than remembering my mom, say, on Mother’s Day. My parents were divorced when I was five so my relationship with my dad was focused on weekends for much of my life.
Yet, there was this bond, usually unexpressed as he was not the most demonstrative person in the world. He built a business and worked and worked and, I believe to this day, when he sold his business and “retired” is when he went downhill. My dad was a child of the Depression. I once asked him about why he never went to college. He laughed and said that when he graduated Central High in Philly in 1929, he had to go to work to help support the family. College was never the option!
It is a funny, and beautiful thing, I think, how traditions are passed on. My dad took me to my first baseball game. When he re-located after the divorce to Baltimore, and I was taking the train to see him on alternate weekends, our bonding time became Sunday afternoons at Memorial Stadium watching THE Colts. Those were special moments and that tradition I am happy to say, continues with my son and grandson on Sunday afternoons at the Phillies games.
It is funny what you remember and how you choose to remember a life. The Shabbat afternoon my dad died, after leaving Shabbat morning services, I drove to the old Memorial Stadium. There was some sort of band competition going on. I went up to the gate and an usher asked me what I wanted, seeing me in a suit and tie. I had no ticket to the event. I just told him that all I wanted to do is to go up to my dad’s seats and say goodbye. It was a beautiful October day. I went up to the seats, say there for about 20 minutes and we had a little talk. I was able to say goodbye in a way I could not during the funeral.
It is funny what you remember after all these years! You cannot go back and change things. As I approach that “age” there are so many emotions that I am beginning to feel. There are a lot of “what ifs” and “if only”, none of which can be acted on. I miss him more as time goes by. I cannot explain why, it just is. His voice is still in my head reminding me that there is no substitute for hard work. Life is just so weird and even more unexplainable. And there is no closure, just memory and often a quiet “thanks dad”.
Enjoy your family, your dad, your life
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.