I am so happy for my friends who have had their fathers with them over the years to share in their adult lives. Although I have lived so much more of my life without my dad than with him (he passed away when I was only 19), my memories of him are sweet. One of the most vivid is that of our Saturday mornings together.
Although my dad worked long hours, he was always home for dinner on Friday nights and through the weekend. Saturday mornings were our time together. Maybe my mom had a list of errands for him to run — I rode shotgun. Other times we went to the hardware store — no, not one of the huge home-improvement chain stores we all go to now but a genuine hardware and garden store run by locals, two men named Ralph and Pat, who became fixtures of my childhood. Although my dad was a film editor, in his younger years he had done the kinds of jobs that had left his hands callused and roughened. He was no stranger to manual labor, and sometimes I think that the time we spent at the hardware store shooting the breeze with the men who had grown up in the Bronx as he had were some of the most satisfying moments for him.
More often than not, our Saturday morning jaunts around town included lunch — just my dad and me. Maybe it was the local Jewish deli, maybe the burger place where the hamburgers always were wider than the buns, maybe it was the lunch special at the Chinese place. (Because I was such a fussy eater, he had convinced me that the water chestnuts in my beef chop suey were really potatoes; it worked for me.) What mattered was that I was with my dad and that I had all of his attention. Ours was a mutual admiration society — he was my hero and I could do no wrong (or very little) in his eyes.
One of the most tender memories I have of my dad is of Saturday mornings when we would attend Sabbath services at the synagogue, probably a couple of times a month. Two things I remember about those mornings: 1) that my dad would revert from his regular glasses to his sunglasses during the sermon so that he could grab a nap while the rabbi was speaking, and 2) that I would sit next to him braiding and unbraiding the tassels on his tallit (prayer shawl). Sometimes I wove the strands between my fingers, sometimes I tied them into loose knots before untangling them. It was my way of staying awake during the sermon; it was also my way of feeling even more attached to my dad.
Although I now consider myself a cultural, non-religious Jew, my memories of those Saturday mornings at the synagogue are no less special. The plush seats, the beautiful melodies, the whispered jokes, the slices of sponge cake afterward — it all came together to create an experience with my dad that I will always, always remember.
Funny the things that connect us to our pasts and tie us to the people we love.
Heartstrings, I call them.
ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman