Go to her Website

Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

Old Fashioned Daddies

Every generation . . . makes friends with its grandfathers
Lewis Mumford

When I think of typical fathers of the last generation, I remember my grandfather.  He escaped Rumania in the 1890’s, and came to Toledo, Ohio, to make a living, and build a home for the love he left behind:  my grandmother.  He sent her boat passage in 1900,and presented her with,what she thought,was a castle on Baker Street. Together they had five children.  My grandfather worked all day and, at night, he came home, exhausted, ate dinner, read the Yiddish newspaper,and went to bed.  My mother,and her sisters,never exchanged one word with him.  His only conversation was with his son, Charlie.  He saved every penny to send the boy to college,and to groom him to be the patriarch of his own family.  My grandpa was not aware his four daughters had minds, much less what was in them. I do not believe he would have recognized them had he seen them on the street.

My mother hated her father.  He represented all the deprivations she endured because she was the child of poor immigrants, and because he favored her brother. She blamed him because she never had enough to eat; because of him, she had to wear the same dress to school every day, and get a job, as soon as she got out of high school, to contribute to the family coffers.

By the time I was born, my grandfather had mellowed.  I was a tiny little child, and I am sure I reminded him of the girl who captured his heart over forty years before in Yasse, Romania.  He called me “Etala,” and I called him my zadie.  I adored him.  I would sit on his lap for hours combing his hair, and he would stroke my head as he tried to read the paper.  His hand reached out for mine whenever he was about to leave the house, and I would look up at his lined, and lovely face, and cry “Oh I love you so much, Zadie!”  He would pick me up, and kiss both cheeks, and say nothing.  Our bond was so strong it didn’t need words.

When my grandfather got too sick to care for himself, he moved into my mother’s home where she nursed him with much resentment.  I would hurry home from school to see him, and entertain him with happy chatter about my day.  He would pinch my cheek, and say “Vonderful!  Vonderful” even though I am sure he didn’t understand one word that cascaded from my mouth. Every year he gave me a silver dollar for passing from one grade to the next.  He never knew his own children’s progress in school, and he didn’t care.  He thought education was wasted on little girls.

When I went away to college, I cried because I did not want to leave him, and after my mother, and I had left to drive me to Ann Arbor, my grandfather realized we had forgotten my bed pillow.  He made my mother turn around, and drive that pillow back to me that night, and the miracle for me was that she obeyed.  She may not have liked her father, but his was an authority figure in her life, and she feared him until he died.

My own father was also a character shrouded in mystery.  He was out of the house all day, and on weekends he played golf.  He, like my grandfather, never carried on a conversation with me until I was in high school.  In contrast to my mother, I adored my father because I was able to create his character from my imagination.  I fashioned a loving, sensitive caregiver from the raw materials of fantasy and when, as an adult, I learned some of his fears and failings, I was so disillusioned by reality, I don’t think I ever recovered.

God Bless Progress!  Fathers of the millennium make time to spend with their children.  At the jazz festival this year, I met several daddies who help out at their children’s school, take their daughters to concerts, and plays, and share their own dreams with their little girls and boys. Those children know they are cherished, and they cherish in return.

I grieve for my zadie, not for his death, but for his loss.  He had four very interesting little girls that his neglect transformed into enemies.  He never guessed that he could enjoy these human beings he helped create.  And they never knew the gentle, loving man that I did.  They never dreamed that the autocrat they called Father, had a heart as soft as whipped cream, and a disposition sweeter than the candy he could never afford to give his family.

Thank heavens children have fathers these days; real human beings who cry when they hurt, and laugh when they are happy.  These days, our children can be friends with their daddies  . . . and that after all is what makes wonderful children grow into beautiful adults. It is those adults who will give us our future, and not be afraid to make the world the happiest place it is possible to be. .

It is a wise father who knows his own child

e-mail Lynn Ruth e-mail me! Go back to:
The Gantseh Megillah
Click icon to print page
Designed by Howard - http://www.pass.to

subscribe (free) to the Gantseh Megillah. http://www.pass.to/tgmegillah/hub.asp
A  print companion to our online magazine