It's been a few days since I posted "The Last Days of Eddie Schall." Something there clearly touched lots of people. Late yesterday, I went back online and saw there were over 600 comments. I've been blogging for months and I doubt I have accumulated 600 comments in total for all the rest of my brilliant blogs.
My dad was married to my mom for 64 years. They almost never fought, at least in view of the kids, but I actually don't believe they ever really fought out of our view, either. They were certainly well-matched and completely committed to family -- that's a big part of their secret for sure -- but my dad was just not a fighter. My mom, on the other hand, had a pretty sharp tongue, but my dad never really seemed to react to it. I sure didn't inherit that trait.
After my dad passed, I stayed in his apartment for a few days before I returned home. I was the first one to begin to open up the boxes of personal things he had stored in his closets -- letters, pictures, army medals, the groom and bride from their wedding cake... My dad, it turns out, was a complete romantic, at least in his early years. I found letter after letter addressed to my mom while my dad was in the Army. Wow. He could take your breath away with all the sweet things he shared with my mom. In one letter, he spent three pages apologizing for something he did, or at least something about which my mom was not happy. Man, he was a good apologizer (another trait I failed to inherit).
As I wrote before, dividing up the furniture, dishes, and art was a breeze. When we started to go through the more personal things -- my dad's briefcase, his pen and pencil set on his desk, his army jacket -- it got harder. Not in the sense that we would argue over any of these things, but more like these were so personal to my dad that it just seemed hard to distribute them. So we stopped and when we are together next, we will start up again. Maybe it will feel easier then. Maybe not.
We always thought it would be better if my mom went first. My dad was dependent on my mom in ways she wasn't on him. That's not the way it turned out, though, yet my dad did pretty well for the couple years he was without my mom. He missed her dearly and, toward the end, was intent on finding her again. He'd ask us where she was and when we explained she had passed away, it clearly wasn't what he wanted to hear. "That can't be right," he would tell us.
One of my sister's friends who lives in Europe had become dear friends to both my parents. When my mom passed, her devotion to my dad grew. She was unbelievably sweet to him and would come to New York a couple times a year just to be with him. This summer, when she knew it was soon to be his time, she came for weeks. There was nothing salacious here. She was not a woman descending on my dad for anything. She was just a darling to him and a godsend to us children, my dad's angel in some way. Now, if she had been Jewish, who knows what my dad might have done! He was smitten with her and that was just fine with all of us. On days when we could not get him out of the house, she would somehow get him to go to one museum after another (The Met, Guggenheim, Whitney...), right up until the end. Amazing. She just shared some shots of my dad on those visits. Pretty cool.