Tomorrow would have been my father's 80th birthday. He was born in a small town in Czechoslovokia in 1929, one of 11 children. His father was an assistant at a law office; his mother, of course, was a homemaker. I have seen only one picture of my grandparents: black and white, dressed formally, posing stiffly but not smiling. It is eerie how much my father resembled his father. My grandfather died shortly before the war. My grandmother and 8 of her children were killed in Auschwitz. (It is remarkable to me that they had abolutely no means of defending themselves, while today, our Jewish soldiers have guns and tanks and warplanes to defend their people. That, at least, is an enormous improvement.) My father lived out the rest of the war in a German labor camp. He spent time in a DP camp in Paris before sneaking onto a ship and entering the U.S. without a visa. While in Paris, at just 15 years old, he started smoking cigarettes, a habit that would continue for 52 years until he was diagnosed with lung cancer. (I wrote more about my Dad's story here.)
My father loved my mother more than anyone in the world. When we were little, we would run up to hug him when he came home, and he would always look around as he hugged us back and say "Where's Mommy?" He didn't feel comfortable until he caught sight of her. Of course, they drove each other crazy for 38 years, arguing frequently. But we never doubted their love for one another. When my father lay dying for many long months, my mother took such gentle care of him. His death devastated her.
My son claims to remember my father, but I'm not sure that he really does. My older daughter definitely doesn't, and my youngest never met him. It's too bad. He was a good grandfather, and they would have loved him.
Anyway, I miss my Dad.
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