My Father's Promised Land (Part 2)
My cousin texted me after this election. “I love Joe Biden”, she wrote. “He’s the Uncle Harry of politics”. Her Uncle Harry was my father, and she was right. Up until Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter had been the closest figure to my father in American politics; both principled men, both mild-mannered, steadfast, and determinedly focused on the greater good. I don’t think any of them could really comprehend the concept that a reasonable argument couldn’t always win the day.
Although a lifelong atheist (as Ron Reagan, Jr. puts it, “Not afraid of burning in hell”), my father insisted that my younger sister and I read both the Old and New Testaments, because he considered them foundational to Western (and some mid-Eastern) culture. Then, our choice of any religion, or no religion was left to us, but we had to make an informed choice. Similarly, when I came home from Music & Art High School (Now Laguardia High School for the Performing Arts) with a satchel full of Communist Party literature, my father took it from me, handed me his copy of Das Kapital, and told me that he’d give my pamphlets back to me after I had read Marx. Yes, my Dad was an originalist.
We bought three newspapers every day; the New York Times, The NY Post (then a “left” paper), and the Daily Compass (an even further left paper). I never missed reading the Compass’s advice columnist, Dr. Rose Franzblau, who seemed a font of wisdom. When I was 12, I wrote to her asking whether she thought it was appropriate for my mother to read my mail (an ongoing household argument). Dr. Franzblau published my letter along with her response, which was that my mail should only be read by me and anyone with whom I wanted to share it. I thought that my mother would kill me when she read it, but, instead, she bragged to all her friends and relatives that her daughter had been published in the Compass. But I digress. Oh, well. That’s what blogs are for. I love disgressing.
My father could also be great fun. He was always up for a game, a “pretend” moment, a swimming lesson for me and my sister. He used to joke with us and my cousins about “his rich uncle in the poorhouse”. My sons and my father used to love putting various of their hats on him, and posing with him for photographs.
In the 1970’s, when everyone else’s kids moved to San Francisco, my 80 something year old father, and my 70 year old mother pulled up their New York stakes and moved there, too. I remember feeling that it was a gift that they had given me; the knowledge that it was never too late to do something new.
My Dad lived to 95. My mother had predeceased him by almost 15 years, and he’d made his way through Florida back to New York. He lived the rest of his life independently, always reading, always up on the news, his values and politics remaining much the same as they always were. Always, a principled man.