You died young and troubled, dear father. You had admonished me: “Don’t make me into a grandfather.” Your wish was fulfilled—yet I felt you were there last week, in our native Israel, when my daughter Debra became the first of your grandchildren to be wed. Something tells me that this lilting ceremonial of love and generations, a melody played out under the moon and among orange groves, would have softened your internal war with yourself.
Your valiant heart was beating in my chest as your progeny danced.
I did not dwell on your untimely death as I stood by the canopy of branches and flowers, your granddaughter’s eyes filled with the salty waters of time and wonder. Instead I felt the power of your brief but significant life running through my blood and into hers. I saw your handwritten Hebrew poetry in the journal you kept, the lyrics of war and romance and dreams that filled your noble head as both you and our defiant Jewish state emerged.
Your valiant heart, which survived the nation but not your own body, was beating in my chest as your progeny danced in an orchard made free by the work of your hands. Seven different men came forward to chant one each of the seven wedding blessings; they came with their dialects and inflections and tonal histories but I only heard your voice.
Your other son, my brother, was one of the seven who came and blessed. So much like you, my brother—with the deliberate gait, the thick amalgam of science and sports, the enchantment with Hebrew, and the devotion to ideas. He and I have fought over the years but we keep coming back to each other; your sons embraced after the blessing, dear Dad, with genuine renewal and one of your strong arms touching each of our shoulders.
We never imagined, when we frolicked in the sea as kids, or licked our plates of the hummus and tomatoes, and played silly games in the back seat of the car as you drove us about…we never thought we’d be standing without you physically present to consecrate the milestones. The orange groves sigh and the onion fields bite the air and the sun sets and we walk back to our tables, looking for our children, exhaling in bittersweet wisdom.
If only you had known more peace as a young man who could not grasp enough, you would have found serenity as an old man letting go gently as your descendants made sense of your argument with life.
Dad, the earth has its own clock, and though you left so long ago, I see your hands on the timepiece, as sure as I see the future in Debra’s eyes.
Ben Kamin's books about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be found via the above web site or on Amazon.com.