Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Father, Sidney Spiegelman, Z"L

I am sitting shiva for my father until Friday noon. His funeral will be in New York on Friday, but I'm not traveling in for it.

My parents and I over ten years ago or more, maybe even twenty years ago. In a few months it will be three years since my mother, Shirley Spiegelman, passed away.

I was always certain that my father would live forever. He was a powerful person in his way, and he survived war and illnesses, even recently. The doctors were amazed by him. But in the end, he had enough. He never liked being idle. He wasn't a spectator and didn't watch sports at all. I remember that a cousin's husband kept trying to convince him to bring my brother to watch a baseball game with him and his sons. He finally did it once, but that was it. My father liked to be active. Once he and I went with a friend of his and his daughters on a fishing trip. They rented a boat and we caught fish to bring back home to cook. I wouldn't touch the live bait, so he'd put the bait on on the hook, and I fished and even caught some. That was fun.

Sitting in an audience watching wasn't his thing, except if it was to accompany my mother to a play. She loved the theater. I don't know how much he enjoyed watching plays, but he loved my mother and would go wherever she went. During one of my visits to New York without my kids, when my parents were still functioning pretty well, we went to a folk music production on the shore of Steppingstone Park in Great Neck. It was one of those settings in which you sat in your own picnic/beach chairs you had brought along. My father immediately fell asleep and slept through the entire show. Afterwards he complained about the music, but he would not have been happy staying home alone. He liked people and was never put off by strangers.

We have my father's album from the time he was in the US Navy. He was on the western, the Pacific front and went to Japan, Manila and more. He returned home rather cynical about war and fighting. Before being drafted he had rushed himself through City College, NYC, because he knew that war and military service was imminent. He wanted to be an officer in the US Navy, to enlist and be able to choose the basic type of service, rather being drafted and be at the mercy of the military bureaucracy. For that he needed more than the university degree, he needed to find a way to hide the fact that one of his eyes was much weaker than the other. And that, too, he succeeded in doing.

The US Navy trained my father in electrical engineering, and on the ships he had to figure out how to assemble, use and repair radar. "Problem solving" was a specialty. Also when he did his CPA exam as an accountant, the first section he managed to pass was the "problem solving," not the laws and basic calculations. He could figure things out.

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