April 13, I left for Arizona with my husband, children and grandchildren to celebrate Passover. My parents stayed home, as usual, and fully enjoyed both Seders with my brother and his family. I spoke to my parents several times during our trip and they said everything was going well. My family returned home right after the end of Passover and we continued on to Boulder, Colorado to participate in a Bar Mitzvah. We came home Sunday, April 27.
I spent several hours with my parents on Monday. My Father was sitting at his desk concentrating on the computer which was giving him constant stock updates. A pile of checks were in front of him as he was getting ready to pay the next slew of bills. He looked up from the screen and said: “Gloria, I’ve been told by many people that you can take care of things. Is that true?” “That’s what they tell me”, I answered. There was a company from Italy that was harassing him about paying a bill for clothes for my Mother that didn’t fit properly and he handed it to me. I told him that this problem was now off his list and that I would take care of it. I kissed both my parents goodbye and left. On Tuesday, I popped in for about 45 minutes. This time, my Father was in a bathrobe sitting at the table. He was quiet. Again, I kissed them goodbye and went home. On Wednesday, I was downtown with my husband when my cell phone rang. It was my brother. He had just received a call telling him that Daddy had collapsed in the barber’s chair. The Firemen and EMS worked heroically to keep the tiny pulse he had alive. By the time we got to the barber, my brother was already en route to the Emergency room at NY Weill-Cornell Hospital. We got there about 15 minutes after he did. About 10 hours later, Dad was moved into intensive care. The doctors were all amazing. They were patient with us-explaining everything along the way; and they were respectful of our Father-telling him what they were going to do although he couldn’t hear them. Many tests had been done and would be done. His eyes never opened again and he never spoke another word. His last words were to Sal, the barber: “I’m feeling too old.” Daddy died, officially, on Saturday morning. He would have been 96 on June 29.
We held his funeral at Park Avenue Synagogue; where we had attended services as a family and where Dad had been President. Rabbi Cosgrove of PAS and Rabbi Lookstein of KJ eulogized him along with my brother, his two children and my daughter. I believe he would have been very proud of the way he was depicted- the consummate realtor/entrepreneur/philanthropist with nerves of steel who could weather every storm. He was the first builder to put wheel chair accessible bathrooms in his new building. He was a loving son to his parents and a devoted husband of 66 years to my Mother. He loved his children and grandchildren and had an extra special relationship with his great grandchildren. In addition, my first dip into the ocean at three years old was taken holding my Father’s hand. Every Sunday, he took my brother and me ice skating and then out for french toast. He taught me how to play a mean game of ping pong (he used to play competitively) and he went horseback riding with me near Jasper Park Lodge in Canada-where we encountered bear cubs.
My Father was buried in the same cemetery with his parents and siblings and spouses. Strangely, Dad had asked my brother and me to take him to visit the cemetery in the Fall. He handed me all the pertinent information at that time and told me to hold on to it.
The week of Shiva is just over and fresh in my mind. One man came who had known my Father more than 70 years. Cousins on my Mother’s side flew in from LA. A college friend of mine bussed in from Maryland. People came from all parts of my brother’s life and mine -going back to grade school. The support we got from our families and friends was nothing short of amazing. From the moment one friend discovered that Daddy had died, I was told to stop thinking- and I did. Literally everything was taken care of-from shiva chairs, to meals, to minyans. My daughter took my cell phone and screened my calls. She coordinated everything with everyone; even finding the time to take my Mother to a doctor’s appointment. There is no way to express the breadth of support we received. We had guardian angels everywhere.
And now we enter a new phase of life. My brother and I are in charge of handling life for Mom. The pendulum has swung. I am so grateful that when Daddy collapsed he had no fear or pain. He was ready to die and trusted that my brother and I would take care of everything. I am grateful that my brother and I had each other to sit with during Shiva and will now face the next stage together. I am grateful that our spouses and children and friends. are behind us all the way. I look at the chair in my living room where my Father always sat with his great grandchildren at his feet and I know he lived life to the fullest.