Sunday was my dad’s birthday.
He would have been 90 years old but alas, he died almost four years ago. I’ve been thinking a lot of my dad lately. His older brother died a year before he did. His sister passed away a year ago. That leaves my Uncle Joe the last surviving member of the “club.” My uncle’s wife, Maxine, is still with us, and my mom — that’s it. My Aunt Shirley and Uncle Shimmy (Sam) are both gone too. That’s the last of a great and close family.
My Grandpa Zayde and his wife moved to Omaha from Russia. My grandma was quite ill and passed away in the 1950s. Zayde was remarried to a sweet lady, who like my Zayde, are gone. I grew up knowing my mom’s side of the family better than my dad’s…even though Mom’s parents lived in New York and Dad’s were right there in Omaha. I remember going to visit Zayde and his wife in a brownstone in mid-Omaha growing up. He would always give me a quarter. They didn’t know it at the time, but Zayde suffered from the same ailment that took my dad…Alzheimers.
Mom and Dad tried to make sure we knew our local cousins well as well as the troop in New York. Mom’s brother Joe lived in Commack on Long Island (the same town as Rosie O’Donnell). I remember visiting several times in New York. It was fun getting to know my mom’s brother’s kids well. Sadly, only one is living now. It’s sad because one cousin was a year older than I and the other was three years younger. I’m glad I got to know them both. Their older brother, Robert, is now a grandpa several times over. They came to Omaha for my niece and nephew’s Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. I think it might have been the first time the family visited the Midwest. We had a lot of fun with them and my nephew will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in a year and I hope they can all come back for it.
My dad and I had a great relationship. My older brother was more of a jock than I was, but I took special interest in my Jewish background…and that pleased my dad to no end. We also shared a fondness for 1930s comedies (much to my mom’s horror). His TV station played them on Sunday afternoons -- I have great memories of me and my dad laughing at them. The other memory I have (with just me and my dad) was going out to breakfast on Saturday mornings. I went with my dad to drop my older brother off at Hebrew School on Saturdays, and we would go out for pancakes afterwards. They were so good and I felt like a king because it was just me and my dad. It’s funny how toward the end of his life, I would take him out for pancakes, just the two of us. Talk about full circle.
My mom did her best to take care of my dad at home by herself but that too got to be too much and we moved him to the Blumkin Home in Omaha. It’s funny that when we would take him out to dinner before he moved to the home, he would be ravenous and eat everything. I finally asked him why he gets so hungry when we go out and he replied, “She doesn’t feed me enough.” We were a bit shocked when we heard this and confronted my mom and found out she would feed him when and what SHE wanted, not when he was hungry. After he moved to the home, he really started to eat again.
It was nice for the family to have him at the Blumkin Home. He had a steady stream of visitors, which he loved. He had longevity in his family and he would have probably stayed alive to this day, but he suffered an aneurysm and a week later he was gone. I remember visiting him the day before he suffered the aneurysm, we had lunch together and he remembered who I was. I got the call from my mom about Dad the next day. One of the things my brothers did before he would get worse was to draw up a living will. At least it was a decision to take him off life support that my mom didn’t have to make.
Over the next few days, all of the relatives came to say good-bye to him. It was a very sweet gesture. I remember it was just my sister and I with him before he passed. We told him all the relatives had been here, so he could let go. I got a call the next day that he had passed about an hour after we left. I asked my mom how she was doing. She told me that in her mind, Dad had passed two years ago and she was fine with him going. That was a kick in the stomach to hear, but I understand her.
The funeral was very nice and some of my high school friends came to pay their respects. It was a very nice thing to do. I think it was my sister who took his death the hardest. Her kids were so good giving him rides and taking him out. My brothers were both hurt by his passing, as was I.
I try to call my mom once a week to see how she is doing. She and my aunt were very close, and now that she is gone, she seems lost. My sister is a mile away from her and my brothers stop and see her when they are in town. I try to get to Omaha a couple of times a month to see her. That is why whenever we get a chance to get together, it’s always fun. The next time is Thanksgiving. My sister is hosting it again and the whole family will be there…except one. Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you very much.