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Another Reflection on "Joy and Pain, Like Sunshine and Rain"
"Honey, everything's OK, don't you think? Fundamentally?" This is what I'm telling our cat Phoebe as she whimpers/kvetches while zig-zagging around the room.
And it is, thank God. It's also a sad time. Thirty years ago this month, my dad (z"l) died of common bile duct cancer. I keep thinking of him. And then this morning, I open up "The New York Times" to see that my friend Susannah Sheffer's dad (z"l) died on Friday of complications from a stroke. Reading about Mr. Sheffer, I'm 17 again. I went to the designated URL to post a memory:
Zichrono l’vrachah (z”l)/may his memory be for a blessing. The Sheffers were kind to me during the Summer of ’82 by hosting me in their home for three days a week, so that I could serve as an intern at the Museum of Philosophy at Hunter College with their daughter Susannah and other teens.
My father (z”l) who was a toy and game designer, was dying at Columbia-Presbyterian that summer and I needed a distraction. We lived in Stamford and drove in to see him daily. My mom told the museum’s director that I could serve as an intern if he found me a place to stay 3 nights a week. The Sheffers kindly took me in.
Once while at the Sheffers’, I turned Susannah’s radio to WBLS-FM and bobbed my head to “Rapper’s Delight” — R&B, Rap and Funk were also distractions from my dad’s imminent death (Groups like The Clash were more Susannah’s speed). Mrs. Sheffer walked past Susannah’s room and stood there listening, apparently amused and bemused in parallel.
I remain grateful for the Sheffer family’s kindness when I was 17, and am sorry for the loss of Mr. Sheffer; my mom and I know what it’s like to lose a dear, funny, creative husband and father.
This morning, I spent three hours, cleaning up our front-, side- and backyards, raking away dead leaves and mowing grass. I cleared away the dead stuff and enabled what was underneath to breathe more easily. My tidying up the yard was a classic example of humankind, trying to control nature and make it neat.
Nature is not neat. It is super-symmetrical and then wildly jagged, and in any case, not ultimately tameable, but I sure was trying! We wanted to control my dad's (z"l) wellness, too, and couldn't. And we wanted to keep our power during the Sandy storm, but couldn't.
Even as I mourn the loss of my dad (z"l), Mr. Sheffer (z"l) and a number of tree-limbs, I am so grateful for the life I have today, which I like to inventory every so often:
- Pat Hewitt & I have been together for 20 years and married officially for 16 months
- We love our mothers, who are still alive, and our siblings, and niece and nephews
- We have two feline daughters, who delight us, Phoebe and Toonces
- We have close friends
- We live in a well-maintained house in a great town, just 14 miles west of NYC
- Our synagogue is led by gifted rabbis and has lovely congregants
- I love the work I do and mission I have, and the management and company with whom and which I'm affiliated
- I've met some of my closest friends at work
- I'm free to be a corporate activist for LGBT equality for our clients and colleagues
- Social media enable me to express my creativity among new channels
- My employer sent me to India on a 6-month assignment (and Pat was able to accompany me), and it sponsored my Master's, which I earned last May
- My physical and mental health are good
- I feel free to experiment at work
- Art abounds, whether on TV, in films, museums and books, and I relish all of it
- I know how to swim and can find a pool to use nearly everywhere I travel.
I lost my dad too early, but life has continued, and vividly, even so.