Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Further Father

How the mind meanders!

I was thinking how a large minority of our country appears to be concussed. As if having received a severe blow to our brains defending the infantile tantrums and bloviations of Trump for almost two years.

Which led me to imagine all those Friday night fights I listened to on the radio imagining Rocky Graziano or Jake La Motta taking a beating. Why was I such an avid fan? Ask Rabbi Schulweis.

I had the privilege of meeting the late Rabbi on two occasions when he officiated the marriage and Bar Mitzvah of close friends. He led a large Conservative Jewish congregation and was also an inter-faith religious leader and a voice of reconciliation in Los Angeles and nationwide for decades. A peace-loving, contemplative, enlightened man whose hobby was an enduring interest in prize fighting. Seemingly incongruous with his nature.  

And this led me to my father. He was the embodiment of equanimity. A calm surrounded him tinged with caution. I remembered him in the pharmacy receiving a prescription, studying it as if it contained some arcane message. In those days it actually did with Latin the prevailing language. Q.S. ad…a sufficient quantity to make or Misce et Fiat…mix and make. Powders and elixirs were to be weighed and measured in minims, grains and scruples. My father deliberated as if weighing the world on the torsion scale.

His love held no contingencies. Though he worked very long hours…from 8A.M. to 11 P.M. when he owned his own store, he was, in my mind, a constant presence. His conscience was unshakeable as was his commitment to the causes he gave himself to. When visited by Hoover's men in suits during the McCarthy era and asked to give names he stood tall and blocked their entrance. His silence was his spine.

I think of my Dad as a kind of shaman, custodian of leaves & stems, rhizomes & roots. His secret was less in this herbal garden of dubious value in apothecary jars than in a single, simple virtue. He listened. Not only to the words of patients but he read their faces, their woes and small triumphs. My father was not a reader of books. He was late to literacy, possibly dyslexic. He healed by being altogether present and exuded the precondition for self-healing.

I have to watch myself before anointing him for sainthood. There were a couple of flaws that saved him, thankfully, from a seat next to the gods. Found among his papers was a legal admission of guilt signed by him, in 1931, admitting to violating the Prohibition law by dispensing twelve ounces of ethyl alcohol without a proper prescription. He paid the twenty-five dollar fine. Pharmacists were permitted to handle alcohol and dispense it accordingly only with a doctor’s signature. Hard times led to desperate acts.

Secondly, he liked to bet on the horses, not compulsively but now and then. The other side of his risk-averse identity. One day he took me along to the harness racing at Roosevelt Raceways. His bets were two bucks, not the rent money. I think we broke even or close enough that his internal scale remained balanced. There was a thrill of winning in life denied him which he hungered for.

I love him even more for these incongruities. He did risk. Like the good Rabbi he allowed his shadow side a day in the sun. Father, you went beyond yourself, you went further.


  1. I remember him well= when he walked into the room you immediately knew that all was going to be okay.

  2. Glad to have your corroboration. You're my only surviving witness.

  3. Beautiful remembrance. Thank you.