Like many other people on this planet, I am
thinking about my own father, Meyer Cohen (some people called him Mike) and what he was Really Like. On Facebook (why am I still on Facebook? I can’t tell you) many many many people have posted pictures of their fathers, and idealized descriptions. He Was Wonderful seems to be repeated as though it were a necessary mantra.
I liked my father and loved him too but WONDERFUL isn’t the word that comes to mind. He was a mysterious man, Talmudic, unpsychoanalyzed, and not only that, he didn’t want to be.
I was an annoying child. (Only in the last few years have I been able to say that sentence.) I’m sure I drove my father (and mother too, to be fair) insane with my endless and relentless questions (why why why ) and my sophomoric speechifying about thousands of subjects I knew absolutely nothing about: civil rights, for one thing. And how I intended to live, for another. (I was going to be Josephine Baker, although I never could sing – moving around the world with scores of adopted children. I would never live in One Place with One Partner and One Child. (which is more or less what happened.)
My father’s father died of a heart attack and my father, the third of four, was The Responsible One so he was responsible all of his life. I don’t know what he thought about that – I could guess but I might be wrong.
He believed in Security and Fairness and a Moral Code. And he could dance well, play music, tell a good joke. He was a first generation son of Eastern European immigrants. He was American-ish.
(A friend said her father, a dentist, died with shoe boxes full of last lines of all the jokes he told. Not the joke. Just the punchline. When she told us that, I thought that would be a good Father’s Day story.)
I never felt that I really and truly Knew Who He Was. Like so many of us, I believed that One Day I’d ask the right question, and he’d tell me everything.
He wasn’t the tell everything type.
He loved my mother, who was more or less his opposite. He wore white shirts and had many dark business suits. My mother chain smoked. She wore orange Capri pants, large gold hoops, and heels and she was tall for a Jewish woman. Five foot eight. I liked watching them dance together, which they did fairly often in the kitchen after dinner.
About the rest, I don’t really know. I wish I did.
Love from all of us at Alte
P.S. I wanted to give everyone a Father’s Day present. Here’s Grace Paley. She wrote some perfect father stories too.