Sadness Today - Memories - Reflections

Today is Friday, November 13, 2020

It was Friday, November 13, 1964 

I was 13

- - -

We were going to go to Evanston

from West Lafayette

to visit the Copelands (junior)

for the weekend

Around Labor Day, 1961

If the medical results

were not serious

We stayed home

Christmastime - 1961

Mother is crying - alone

She has learned -

at age 34

That she will be

a widow

Not too far away

She chooses

That He will

not be told

He is offered

an opportunity

for a sabbatical year

in Zurich


after surgery 

in the spring

He is much better


We take the train

to NYC

It is wonderful 

for me

the M.S. Oslofjord

7 days - at sea

A different flavor

of ice cream

twice - each day

Bergen - is very beautiful - it gets dark close to Midnight

then Stavanger and then Kristiansand

through the beautiful fjords

finally Oslo - also very beautiful

Then the train to Stockholm

for Father - the Quadra-Annual

International Math Conference

We have a ball -during the days there

While there - Michael Golomb

is asked if he has an apartment

in Zurich - and having one

he refers the opening to us

We end up with an incredible view

in Zurich - Freudenbergstrasse 144

- before this - we are off 

to the Netherlands

and then London

Helene Felsenstein - in Golders Green 

the oldest surviving sister of his father

and other descendants of hers

A wonderful year - no symptoms

We travel a lot - including taking

the boat from Naples to Haifa

arriving for the first night of Pesach (Passover)

My father sees much of his Family

He has not seen since he left Berlin

in 1927

The "Mighty" S.Y. Agnon - (Israel's first Nobel Laureate)

his uncle by marriage

We return - home in August, 1963


The remission is over

In April, 1964

In Billings Hospital (U of Chicago Hospitals)

He takes the bus to 

Lafayette - on a pass

for my Bar Mitzvah

- a Thursday evening - so

my (Orthodox Jewish) grandfather and aunt

can be driven

My Mother

forcefully asks the rabbi

to make the service short

- and my father

is forced to leave the temple

while the Kaddish (the prayer for the dead)

is going on

My father is invited 

to be a part of a team

of mathematicians working

at Stanford U - that summer

preparing a four semester

high school calculus series 

His best friend from NYU - 

Al Blank (who died very recently)

invites him

We see - the "whoopla" 

outside the hotels in San Francisco

for the Democratic Convention


Father weakens - rapidly

At the end of the summer

We've trained it - to L.A.

and stop at Grand Canyon

and Denver - is skipped

He is too weak.

My mother now carries

his briefcase - and drives

him to Purdue - 

for his classes

A colleague

stops by the house


he is not home

He asks Mother

"He does have it, doesn't he?!"

"Cancer" is never spoken

I do not believe - 

that my father ever

talked about his cancer

with his closest - friends

or probably even his father

He - struggles to keep teaching

focusing upon his work

Trying - to forget 

for the Moment

His Reality

June, 1965

Jerusalem - 

His father's 80th Birthday

He begins to realize

he won't live that long

He starts to plan

to visit his father

for Christmas vacation

For a few days

He seems stronger

Wednesday, November 11th

They go to see the Louisville Symphony

at Purdue

The first selection

isn't good

Mother says:

"Why don't we go home now"

and he says:

"It will get better - let's stay"

and they enjoy the music

after the intermission

Thursday morning

He feels very 


after teaching his class

Mother takes him

to the hospital

Nothing substantive is found

In this - pre-Medicare time

They say,

"Why don't you stay overnight 

in the hospital?"

(because he was due back - the next morning

for already scheduled testing)

The first night in the hospital

in the last six months

He finally lets go

My mother is called

and rushes to the hospital

At 6:45 a.m. - 

She calls up the stairs

Waking my brother 

and me


"Get up, Daddy died this morning"

I didn't cry - then

For the next 18 years

I never cried

(I told myself (stupidly) - 

"How does this compare

with the Death of Your Father?")

I cry - today - 

Tears - are important for me

I remember - 

Though I never bonded with my father

or my mother,

I am sad - at the loss

Which was much more devastating

to my - then 11 year old Brother

- Friday, November 13th - 1964

- I was 13

My father opposed the War in Vietnam

speaking of it

to relatives around London

in August, 1962

when most Americans

had never heard of Vietnam

He was opposed 

to Guns

- we weren't allowed

to have squirt guns - 

because they were guns

He brought the idea of

the Friends of the Library

- used book sale

to West Lafayette

I never had a chance to say:


My parents - chose to 

try to "keep things normal"

and never talked about 

Dad's illness

I remember - clearly

the call at 6:45 a.m. that morning - 

(Naive me) had never thought about

or realized - 

that my father was dying,


It made perfect sense - when she told us

that he had died.

I am sad

I am glad - that I have had the chance 

to live to be 69 years old

I am glad - that I can express my feelings

now - and really feel my sadness

Tears - are important

Pain - is not (only) a bad thing.

It was wonderful today - 

to talk with a friend I grew

up with - who remembered


I did not feel - alone - 

in that moment


her kindness

helped me a lot -

through a difficult day.

B - also - allowed me a lot 

of freedom - expressing her 

love - making this difficult

day - have much more meaning.



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