Saying Farewell to a Special Guy by
50
(85 Stories)

Prompted By Final Farewell

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My father Arthur was a very special guy.   He was widely knowledgable yet possessed an endearing naiveté;  a scientist by profession,  he was an artist and musician by avocation;  annoyingly stubborn at times yet always generous of spirit;  a profound thinker and also mischievous;  a punster and a teller of corny jokes,   my dad was a man of great inner strength and drive yet the most gentle of souls.

Raised in Liberty,  New York,  the Catskill town where my Russian immigrant grandparents had a farm and later ran a small hotel,  he attended the early grades in a one-room schoolhouse.   He was often skipped ahead because,  as he once told me,  he’d listen and learn the more challenging lessons the teacher was giving the older kids.

Always interested in science,   as an inquisitive farm boy he dissected a few unfortunate frogs,  and remembered accompanying the town doctor as he drove around the countryside in his Model T Ford making house calls.

Arthur went on to NYU Heights,  later my alma mater too,  and then to NYU Med graduating at age 24 – remember that one-room schoolhouse?

My dad was amazingly gifted in many ways,  as a physician and diagnostician,  an artist and craftsman,  and a self-taught classical pianist.   But what I was most proud of when I was a little girl was that he could ride a horse bare-back,  milk a cow,  and ice skate backwards!

Years ago I shattered a large glass bowl on my kitchen floor.   Shoeless,  I stepped on shards of broken glass and my husband took me to the local emergency room with a very bloody extremity.  But for all their skill and medical equipment,  they couldn’t get out all the slivers,   and I was sent home with an apology and an X-ray of my foot.

So I called my dad.   He came over,  held the X-ray up to the little lamp on my night table,   and as I lay on my bed he removed all the glass with a bent safety pin.

Throughout their lives both my parents were very proud of their Judaism although they were non-believers and unaffiliated.   Yet during a hospitalization a few months before he died,  my father and the rabbi who was the hospital chaplain formed a surprising friendship.   Over long conversations they came to know each other quite well,   and so when my dad died my mother asked the rabbi to officiate at the funeral.

And then on a sunny September morning we gathered to bid farewell to a very special guy.

My sister Laurie,  by then a research biologist,  remembered the trips the two of them made to the Museum of Natural History when she was a kid.

My uncle Stevie was now the only one left to remember days on the farm with my grandparents,  my aunt Fran and my dad –  his big brother Arthur –  who,  he told us,  played second base on a rag-tag team they called the Liberty Farmers.

My husband Danny spoke of his beloved father-in-law,  calling him a cross between Albert Schweitzer and Tom Sawyer,  and my son Noah remembered fishing with his grandfather in the Rockaways,  and trips with his grandparents to DisneyWorld.

And then my dad’s friend the rabbi spoke.

“Arthur may not have believed in God,”  the rabbi told us,  “but God believed in Arthur.”

So did we.

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!
www.WorldThruBrownEyes.com

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Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    What a very interesting man, Dana. The shards of glass scene made me cringe, but I love the rabbi’s eulogy; and Danny’s. That immigrant generation had to do it all. And, like Ginger Rogers, “who did it backwards and in heels”, made everything look effortless and fabulous!

  2. Suzy says:

    This is lovely, Dana, thanks for telling us about the farewell for your father. He sounds wonderful, and I’m glad you all got to share your memories with each other. Did you tell the story about the glass bowl? I love what the rabbi said, probably the best eulogy ever!

    • Thanx Suzy, at my dad’s funeral I didn’t tell the broken glass story, in fact don’t remember what I said, but know I ended with a sweet little rhyme my father had sung when I was a child.
      He died in 1995, 25 years ago, but thinking about him more and more lately!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    What a beautiful thing for the rabbi to say, Dana. Your father sounds like he was a terrific man.

  4. Marian says:

    A touching tribute to a kind, talented, and fascinating man, Dana. Thank you for writing this story!

  5. Risa Nye says:

    Dana, this made me smile! What an amazing guy he was! Thanks for this loving portrait of your father.

  6. What a touching story! I love the idea of a cross between Albert Einstein and Tom Sawyer. I can just imagine it.

  7. Loved this, Dana. Or more properly, thanks for introducing me to your dad. What a wonderful guy. The universes that generation traveled! And I loved the glass shard-bent safety pin story, a vivid image and an even deeper portrait of love in motion. I gotta remember the rabbi’s words, too: “Arthur may not have believed in god, but god believed in Arthur.” Wow! Just loved writing that down!

  8. I second and third the power of that story about your father removing the glass shard, holding up the X-ray to the light! If you were ever looking for a literary experiment, I think it would be cool to make that incident the centerpiece of a whole dramatic tale (weaving in context and background about your Dad and your relationship with him). I could even see it as a children’s book. Anyway, thanks for introducing us to a truly inspirational character.

    • Thanx Dale!
      As for going for a longer tale or a children’s book, I don’t have the sitzfleisch, maybe that’s why short Retro stories are so appealing to me.
      But who knows!

      And so glad you’ve become a regular, you’re such a fine, creative writer!

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