About three years ago, I had an unusual dream. I dreamed that I came to visit my parents' house in Ohio and when my dad opened the door, I flung my arms around him and started crying. He immediately asked me sternly what I was crying about. "I haven't seen you in four years!" I sobbed. Three years ago, my dad had been dead for eighteen years.
Now my dad has been gone twenty-two years, most of my adult life. He wasn't at my wedding, or my brother's wedding or my youngest brother's Ph.d. graduation. He never met my husband, or Hart, Jeff or his newest grandchildren.
Hart and Jeff have two living grandfathers, Grandpa Al and my stepfather, Grandpa Bill. There is a shadowy additional presence, Grandpa Paul, on whom the boys appended the honorary last name, "He's dead." Whenever I mentioned him, I'd say, "My dad, your Grandpa Paul" and they would nod, "He's dead." But recently, there have been additional questions. "Were you sad when he died?" "Do you miss your dad?"
I always say, "Yes, I do," but the truth is so much more complicated than that. His real last name would have more appropriately been, "he-is-a-very-difficult-person." People who loved him and were his great friends said it. People who hated him must have said that and much worse. The rabbi who eulogized him said, "We frequently disagreed," which is remarkably generous considering fifteen years of head-to-head battle on all issues large and small; religious, managerial, philosophical, educational, financial.
My dad was a person of extremes: too loud, too opinionated, too impatient, too blunt, too combative. His screaming tirades were extreme in number and volume. In the same way, he was extreme in his principles and values and he would brook no less in anyone else. A morality bully.
I do miss him. He is one person that I would like to talk to about the boys. I believe that were he alive he would whip Hart and Jeff into line with one bark. While other friends and professionals generously inquire about my needs; my leisure, my hobbies, my indulgences, I suspect he would give some straightforward advice, whether I asked for it or not. My dad never put anything gently. Much as I hated hearing his intrusive opinions, time has born him out, he often turned out to be right.