By Salomon Maya
Recently, I attended my eldest niece’s graduation from Soille Hebrew Day School, and as I sat listening to some beautifully written speeches by the class of 2018, I couldn’t help but to look around at the teary-eyed proud fathers in the audience and then toward my own father. I began to question, morbidly at that, how many more events like this would be “present at”.
I write the last two words in quotes as my father is physically here but with a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease at 74 years old, I know that the odds of him being fully present at many other family events is dwindling. So, for this article to be published in the month where we celebrate fathers, I’d like to apologize to everyone out there reading this who isn’t my dad. I invite you to read along to this letter to my father.
I wish I was a better son. Yup, I said it. I admit it. I remember living life demanding everything from baseball kits to expensive theatre classes. I expected you to pay for my trips to Israel (both of them) and was pissed off when you just couldn’t buy me a car at 16. No matter what obstacle life handed you, you persevered. You survived.
Recently I realized, maybe a tad tardy, that children are truly selfish egotistical monsters. From birth it’s all about them. From constantly demanding and receiving milk, food, shelter, toys, hugs, kisses, etc. — children demand it and fathers give it. Without question, you did it.
I wasn’t the best kid when I was young. Especially with you. We’re just too different. And instead of accepting those differences, I fought them. I pushed them out of my life, proudly proclaiming I wasn’t my father. But oh irony, how she loves to just stick around and jab you in the side from time to time. The more I proclaimed I wasn’t you the more I realized I was.
It took some time and again for that I apologize. Unfortunately, it took a disease for me to fully realize how fragile we truly are. But before we all go under the soil and fertilize this beautiful earth of ours. I wanted to say two words: Thank you.
Any schmuck can be a dad. But it takes a real man to be a father. And that, sir, you have been. I never needed anything my entire life. True, I never got that $50 G.I. Joe playset when I was 10. And you never did get me those $100 pair of jeans I wanted when I was 20. Hell, I never even got a drink from you when we celebrated my 30th birthday on a cruise ship. And now, as I move on to my 4th decade of life I worry that all I’ll get on that birthday will be a memory of you. Something painfully not intangible.
Your next fight won’t be easy. It’s going to be hard. I know it. But like so many times when I was young, you were there to grab my hand and set me on the correct path. It’s now my turn. We’ll face this new obstacle together and believe me, I can proclaim with certainty, Alzheimer’s has met its match with us. Let’s not allow it to take our future. Let’s relish and honor our past. And let us just simply enjoy our present.
You’ve done a great job as a dad, now it’s my turn to do a better job being a son.