The List The Virgo Didn’t Make

There are Virgos turning 50 at the end of this month and those that would have turned 75 the next but neither made the list I am thinking of.

Or more appropriately, my father the Virgo who is/was among the king of making labels and lists didn’t make one I can follow here.

I looked up at the sky, peeled back the brush in the yard and wandered through the trees in a park looking for a sign from dad or something else and found nothing.

Not that I was surprised because in the grand Wilner male tradition he would respond to such a request with a version of “my father played a dirty trick on me.”

I heard several from dad and my grandfather and was told that my Great-Grandfather Ben Wilner would have said the same.

Ben, the tailor who got fired more times than could be counted for trying to start unions for tailors in Chicago.

Ben the tailor, who stood a solid 6 feet, had blue eyes and light hair.

Grandpa said some people would mistake his father for a cop and then would tell stories about how my great-grandfather was known to fight with the police who were sent to bust up the unions.

This was the very same man who when I knew him had pure white hair, walked with a cane and told his son and grandson that his great-grandson was “The General.”

The List The Virgo Didn’t Make

The waves come and go and as they do sometimes I am hyper-conscious of the hole that has been left and others…not so much.

There are moments where it is easy to hear and see my father shrug his shoulders and tell me to gut it out.

“Some things hurt for a while, but they go away. Just got to take it one day at a time.”

I didn’t get a list from dad or any hint that sitting at his bedside would leave me feeling conflicted.

Nothing prepared me for watching his pain decrease while ours went up. If I had really thought about it I wouldn’t have been surprised.

Wouldn’t be shocked that I wanted to run away and hide but would never leave because there is no hiding and he wouldn’t have left me.

Wouldn’t have any problem telling him any of those things, he would have understood and been ok with it.

Hell, when I showed up at the rehab facility the first thing he said to me was that I looked like I needed to sleep for a week.

I nodded my head and he laughed.

“It won’t get better for a while. You have teenagers and lots of responsibilities to make your fifties fun, but it really will get better. Just ride it out.”

I nodded my head again and he said softly, “it is part of being a father. You’ll do it.”


Ben the tailor, my great-grandfather died when I was about eight or nine.

Old enough for me to have a chunk of memories, but not long enough for me to have asked him about hiding from the Cossacks in the fields or if he ever fought them.

I always wondered about it, if my zayde was willing to fight the police I expect the Cossacks wouldn’t have been above getting a warm Wilner welcome.

All I have now are my suspicions that fighting them might have resulted in a much more violent and larger scale response than the Chicago PD but I don’t know that for certain.

What I know is the three generations of Wilner men before me let their grandchildren get away with all sorts of stuff their own offspring wouldn’t have dared to do.

I tell my kids sometimes that they have no idea what dad was like as a father. I tell them he was great and I mean it, no exaggeration.

But I also have mentioned that I grew up in a different era and that had I pulled certain things I would have been airborne.

Sometimes they look at me and shake their heads and ask me how I could exaggerate about kids getting belted.

I shake my head at them and say “I am not kidding. It was a different time. I saw kids get tagged with a belt. It never happened to me, was never even threatened with it but it wasn’t a shock to hear some kid get threatened with it.

They still suspect I exaggerate, especially given how they all had grandpa wrapped around their finger.

Dad said more than once if he had known how fun it was to be grandpa he would have skipped being dad.

People Won’t Understand

Someone asked how honest I would be writing about my thoughts and memories.

I told them I write as I will and they asked if I had thought about how it could be misconstrued.

“Everything can be. If I say my father was a hard man and that there were times he was extra hard upon me to prove he was fair some might say I am exaggerating.

If I say he was the most honest man I ever knew people will say I am making him into a saint.

I don’t worry about either. My dad was my dad and I loved him.

He was human and like the rest of us he was good, bad, flawed and perfect. Make of that what you will.”


I sometimes wonder if I’ll have PTSD when this is all over.

Sometimes I wonder what over means and whether I’ll like that.

Sometimes I think that it is hard to speak to those who haven’t lost a father or mother. I don’t know if that is fair or unfair but sometimes it is how I feel.

Sometimes I wonder if I have been as kind and caring to those who have because I didn’t know how hard this would be.

Sometimes I wonder if age is a mitigating factor. Would I feel differently if dad was 98 or 105 and not 74?

I think I might, though I am sure I would still miss him I think it might be easier but I really don’t know.

I could be wrong.

If I could I would ask dad about his parents. Grandma died when he was in his early 30s and she was in her fifties.

Grandpa died at 92 when dad had already made it into his sixties.

But I can’t ask, I can only guess and wonder.

Doesn’t really make a difference. Doesn’t really change anything. It is just my curiosity.

It is just something else left off of the list he never made.

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  1. Stan Faryna August 13, 2018 at 4:48 am

    The slap of the belt – I got memories. Sometimes, deserved. Often not. But I did learn that justice is not a common virtue. Nor common sense.

    • Joshua Wilner August 13, 2018 at 5:54 am

      That belt has stuck with me, the memory of others talking about it, other parents, PE coaches.

      I’m grateful to not have to wonder or consider whether I deserved it.

      Got grounded enough for that. 🙂

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