“I’ll never get enough time. I’ll never feel like I did enough or that I couldn’t have done more.”
“You’ll do the best that you can do. That is all you can do”
If I told you that was the last conversation I had with my dad or among the last you might nod your head and say you understand.
But if you knew him well you would know that we might have had 83,168 versions of it because he had that bit about doing your best down pat.
Did I tell him that at the end?
No, I didn’t, but I said it again somewhere during the middle of this all when it was just the two of us and I knew that I was going to get on a roller-coaster I couldn’t quite picture but knew was coming.
“Josh, you’ll do your best and you’ll have to live with it.”
“Dad, you know I’ll live with it but it doesn’t mean I am not going to fight or wrestle with it. Maybe I’ll go minutes between matches or maybe I’ll go years. It is like when the rabbis asked us Will You Make It The Highest & Holiest Of Days?
The answer always varied depending on where I was in life. Sometimes it was a clear yes and sometimes it didn’t matter because I wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t being conned into something.”
A thousand years ago before David died and I had no reason to believe that we weren’t invincible he and I argued about the best place to be in an earthquake.
“Josh, I want to be at JPL because the scientists there will be rational and logical. We’ll calmly discuss things.”
“Listen Mr. Back Off I am a scientist, when the shit starts really shaking and people get scared some will lose it. Put me inside a Home Depot or Costco. Better yet, stick me in a place where they are next to each other. As soon as it stops shaking I’ll grab some tools, steaks, beers and have one hell of a barbecue. Won’t worry about water, toilets or toilet paper because I’ll have 10,000 buckets and rolls to take care of me and whomever else is smart enough to be nearby.”
We went back and forth for a little bit longer and dropped it so we could catch a movie.
Funny to look back and think how old and mature I thought we were. Funny to think about how naive I was and how 24 or 25 years later I look back at us as kids.
Life experience has a way of doing that to you, especially when you realize your oldest child is closer to the age you were then than you are now.
Now I look at the horses in the picture above and see so many things I don’t think I would have seen then.
I wonder if they are running towards or away from someone or something? Are they running because they take joy in it or because instinct pushes them?
Do horses love other horses?
Would a horse pick one mate for life or would they have many? Would they look back at the others and wonder if they made a mistake and should go back or would they go forwards because it is all they can do?
Do the studs feel used or do they taunt the other horses for not having the same pull upon people and mares?
Don’t ask me, I don’t speak horse.
What The Doc Said
I went to my first physical in two years today and went through the health history.
You know the one where they ask if anyone in your family had a particular illness and listed the 987 dad have.
Heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, proclivity for telling bad jokes and or singing loudly without regard for the ears of those around him.
Told the doc that even though it sounded like dad was very sick he really wasn’t.
“Oh? How is he doing now?”
My doc surprised me with that. I didn’t really expect him to ask nor did I expect to have mentioned I don’t think of him as being sick.
We go back and forth about a couple more of the medical history and he asks a question. When I tell him I am not sure he asks if I can ask dad.
“I could, but if he answers it might make me jump.”
“Because he died last month.”
I probably should have said something sooner because there wasn’t any reason not to but then again there was no reason to lead with “my dad is dead so there may be questions I can’t answer.”
I liked the doctor and not just because when he told me what tests he wants me to take he led with, “we’re the same age and this is common for us.”
When he asked me if I had ever had a colonoscopy I told him I once had a rough experience with a bad Chicken Vindaloo that had made it unnecessary for me to ever have to worry about taking the prep stuff that cleans you out.
“Was that recent?”
“Nah, I was still in my thirties but I understand they still haven’t rebuilt the restaurant and that the grass no longer grows in a 30 block radius around where it once stood.
Doc smiled at me and said it is good to have a sense of humor.
“Careful doc, they say too much exposure to me will drive a man insane.”
The Next Chapters Of Life
I spent 25 years reading Torah every Yom Kippur.
Put in my years of Hebrew school including all the years post Bar-Mitzvah from 8-12th grade in LA Hebrew High.
Spent more than few years as kid and staff in USY and at two different Camp Ramahs,
For a small chunk of time my kids were day school kids and then they moved to Hebrew school and did that through their Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
But there hasn’t been camp or any of the youth group stuff I did.
Sometimes it bothers me and I wonder if I failed to give them all I should and sometimes I am fine with it because they are different people than I am.
Better in many ways which is exactly what we want for our children.
Still there is no one in this house with the background to truly dig into some topics the way I can.
That is not to say there aren’t others who have a deeper and richer Jewish education than I do because there are many.
And now on the verge of the chagim it occurs to me that dad had a similar depth if not the same experience and this year there won’t be any cracks about my being thankful he didn’t sacrifice me on a mountaintop or snarky remarks about whether the rabbi swapped sermons with another.
No discussions about how you don’t have to be religious to be good or have a deep religious background to be a good Jew.
Won’t debate whether paying for High Holy day seats is useful or problematic or talk about the best food to break the fast with.
Guess I’ll have to stand in the silence and see if I hear his voice.