26 Sep

Happy New Year to all of my fellow MOT’s. For those of you who don’t know what MOT is – Members Of the Tribe or Fellow Jews. If you’re not a fellow Jew, HNY to you anyway – a few months early.

This time of year is especially hard for me. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have always been a traditional time of year for my family and the time of year that my dad and I would sit in Shul together, his arm around me, snuggling close while I played with the fringes on his Tallis as he hummed to the music and pretended to know the words to all the songs. He would bob up and down and when it came to a word he knew, like Amen, he was as loud as ever. It was embarrassing when you’re 9 years old but thinking back on it now makes me smile. I still remember exactly where we used to sit in the Synagogue, same row every time, all the way to the far side so I’d have to walk length the room to get to him, avoiding eye contact with Rabbi Miller and Cantor Mendelson the entire time. I miss him every day, but during these days in temple, I miss him more than ever.

It’s sad how when our parents are alive we take for granted the time that we have with them. How often do you sit down with your parents and ask them questions about their youth or their life experiences. Have you ever sat and listened to your parents when they are talking to their peers and reminiscing about a memory from way back when? About 15 years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn more about my dad. He was 46 when he had me and while this doesn’t seem so old as I’m approaching 40, back then it was.

So I sat him down with a list of questions and asked him to give me the answers to them. And without hesitation he did. I sat with his answers for a while not really knowing what to do with it. I had always felt that my dad lived such an interesting life but little did I know how interesting it was. After almost 3 years of not having my dad around, I am so thankful that I got to know him on another level and took the time to do it. I feel his presence now more than ever and especially his divine intervention over the last few months. Don’t wait until you have a sick parent or until it’s too late to truly get to know your parents. Even if you think their life isn’t all that interesting, you’ll be amazed at what you might find out.  *I had started this post a few days ago and meant to post it before the holiday but didn’t get a chance.  Now I know why.  The President of my temple said a few words this morning about ‘Leaving our Footprints’ when we are no longer here.  This ties back so closely to what I was saying about our parents.  What is that people will say about you when you are no longer here. What do you want people to remember you for?  What, other than the basics, do you know about your parents from their past?  What is the story that you’ll be telling their grandchildren and great grandchildren in years to come?  The time to dig deeper into their lives is now, while they are still here.  It’s also a time to reflect on ourselves and in the words of Rabbi Z, to look at the road ahead at what we’d like to achieve in our lives and what we’d like people to remember us for.

Some of you may have already seen this because I posted it on FB after losing my dad. It’s the obituary that I read at his funeral. It pretty much sums him up (I’ll let you know when i finally get his biography published):


Hal is From….
A few months ago I was at a business event and was asked to participate in an exercise entitled ‘I am from’. It makes you think about your history and who you are because of what you came from. Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting about my father – who he was, what he meant to me and most importantly – where he was from. Many of you here today cover different decades of knowing my dad but I wanted to give you a little taste of where Hal is from. If he were to have written this about himself this is what he might have said:

I am from Herman and Irene – loving, devoted mother whose standards I held to when seeking out my own life partners. Hard working, Old Spice smelling, unaffectionate, and tough love giving father.

I am from fresh off the boat from Russia/Poland, the Bronxville section of Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Long Beach sand in my shoes and the 9th hole of the General at PGA. I am from Coney Island, Jacob Reese Park, weekends in the Catskills, sand dunes of Canarsie and Far Rockaway and Reynolds Channel.

I am from Duncan Yo-yo contests, checkers with Bottlecaps, Marbles, stick ball, street fights and dancing at the Paramount. From Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra and Red Buttons.

I am from chicken soup from scratch, Lilly’s Ruggalah, matzoh brie, grimmslich, Dim Sum – Temple Beth Shalom. I am from Zoot Suits, Bell Bottoms, Peatcoats. Palmade, Pompadors and Mustaches.

I am from the WWII, US Navy – boot camp in Sampson NY, stationed in Norman Oklahoma, tour in Guam, ending in Saipan. I am from a never-ending love of the water – from My Two Sons, Bulk Rate and Plane Folks. Summers in Fire Island, day trips to Short Beach and Wantagh State Park, Snug Harbor in Montauk NY. Epis. I am from conception on row-boats, snapper fishing on dingies and big eye tuna hunts on 37 ft Silvertons. I am from falling in love with airplanes at the age of 8, attending the Manhattan High School of aviation trades and 75 years later joining the RC Bush Pilots at the flying fields in West Palm.

I am from work – stuffing spices into envelopes in 1939, selling magazines and flowers, walking dogs, selling trades on Wall Street, the Garment Center, making donuts, printing at Metro, Foster Securities, Committeeman in the 18th district of Long Beach, Championship Show Dogs, Ancestral Land Company of Ireland, NuFoam, Fosters Gourmet Café, Gold Plated Golf Cards, Electrolux Salesman, Magnetic Bracelets, Hurricane Shutters and up until one week ago, Hurricane Shutter Windows. I am from never wanting to retire and never letting myself do it.

I am from two wives – married at 23 to Marilyn, mother of Ronnie, heart-wrenching loss after 18 years. I am from bachelorhood in my 40’s, from woman chasing me down the street with mattresses strapped to their backs only to find an amazing woman on a random blind date in 1969. I am from Susan – a second chance at love and life, my support system, beautiful both inside and out, iconic mother and devoted wife – even till the bitter end.

I am from a second family in London – Jimmy and Sadie – second parents, fun loving, hardworking, salt beef boiling, pastry making, American car driving in-laws. John, Sandra, Tracy, Rochelle, Jimmy and Simon.

I am from my children – Ronnie, Bradley and Hayley Beth. Speechless at what they have achieved, who they are and what they have become. Chef, Business Developer, Entrepreneurs – success. I am from Barbara, Melissa and Darin – my other three children where the term in-law never applied, always part of my family and forever a special place in my heart. I am from Uma, Pilara, Marley and Jackson – my four little princesses that gave me overwhelming joy, thousands of smiles and a reason to fight for my life these last few months. I am from to-know-me is to love me, short-tempered, selective hearing, tenacious, always doing it my way, roaring like a lion but soft as a pussycat. I am Proud and fulfilled and now I have moved on. I am from Forever.

In memory of my dad,  WTH

3 Responses to “WT HAL”

  1. Jana McDonough September 26, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    love you hayl! xoxo

  2. Lisa Hamburg Sardo September 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    I have the mirror image memories of holidays at Beth Shalom…right down to playing with the fringes on my dad’s tallit. My loving father passed away four months ago, at the age of 80. Today was one of the dreaded firsts…the first set of Jewish Holy Days without my dad. Thank you for your post, it came at a perfect time. Lisa Hamburg Sardo
    p.s. I was your camp counselor at the Beach Y and babysat for you and Bradley from time to time.

    • Anonymous September 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      Hi Lisa, So sorry for your loss. The first one is the worst but the rest are just as sad. I light a Yahrzeit candle at every holiday and on his birthday and let it burn for 24 hours. It’s my way of feeling like he is there in the room with us. Some might find it weird, but I find it comforting. My thought go out to you and your family. I hope you weren’t one of the babysitters that we tortured. 🙂

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