What a lovely word, remember – so filled with possibility, and so elulian. (As a blogger, I have the certificate entitling me to make up words whenever I want to.) One can remember all the things that one did wrong and think about correcting them. One can remember that God is watching, and remember the proper way to do things and do t’shuva. One can remember good times that happened throughout the year and celebrate them as the year draws to a close. One can remember to do the mitzvot that one is supposed to do.
But remembering, with that word ‘member’ in the middle, brings people to my mind. Most specifically, I remember my dad. I remember him throwing a bunch of leftover stuff in a pan and mixing it all up, and squeezing ketchup and honey and any other interesting looking sauces he could find, and serving it as dinner. I remember him saying that there was nothing wrong with following one specific idea in depth, or with getting mildly OK at knowing every topic, but that one should make that decision clearly, because one wouldn’t be able to know everything. I remember him saying that some people remember logically, based on what facts would have fit the situation, and their memories don’t change no matter what while others remember emotionally based on how they felt about something and their memories change all the time and dramatically and they’re both wrong. I remember his smile. I remember him singing (and he had a terrific voice.) I remember him sitting with me and making me re-play ‘the bear went over the mountain’ over and over on the piano because I wasn’t doing it right. I remember hating that song for a while. I remember the feel of his strong shoulders, supporting my body, making me feel safe.
I know this is not likely to get me a bunch of likes or followers. Heck, I talked about daddy last Elul, and I suspect I did a better job. Nevertheless, I will talk about him again this Elul. Today, all I have is memories – little bits of this and that which remind me that for better or worse, Daddy is still a member of my community. I miss him. There are many things I’d like to talk to him about, questions I’d like to ask him, advice I wouldn’t mind getting. I’d like him to be reading my blog, commenting on what I write and even telling me that I should consider doing something a bit more productive with my time. However, he’s still there. It’s not that heartbreaking sadness or sense of loss that it was the first year – the loss and heartbreak are still there, and it still hurts, but the hurt is fuzzier now and sweeter.
It is because of daddy’s words that I can remember the things I did wrong and commit to making them better (It’s not a matter of doing your best, Anna – it’s a matter of getting the job done, whatever it takes. ‘I did my best’ is easy to use as an excuse – but if you’re taking care of a child or flying a plane, no one cares. If you do it wrong, someone still gets hurt.) It is because of daddy’s words that I remember that God is watching and I need to do the right thing. (God may exist or God may not, but it doesn’t hurt to act as if he does and expects us to do what we’re supposed to do.) It is because of daddy’s words, however much they bugged me at the time, that I know it’s not enough to just wander through life, I need to give back and do mitzvot that make a difference in my community. (Hold it, don’t hold on to it! You hanging off of what we’re carrying isn’t helping – you need to work to support it and keep it stable.)
Dad was no saint. He was moody, depressive, temperamental, forgetful, strict, and sarcastic. But he was warm and caring, clever and funny, interesting and inventive, loving and strong. Above all, he was good. He did all he could to make people’s lives easier and happier, to help everyone he knew to succeed and find joy, to be there for others. The one thing no one could ever doubt is his goodness. I love him a lot and I miss him always. When someone says to me, ‘remember’, I remember my daddy, and celebrate my luck in having had the time that I did have with him. That is what I remember this Elul.