Monday, 19 September 2016

My Father's Many Treasures

My father was a man with many passions and interests.  He loved learning, always believing it was as important to maintain an active mind as well as an active body.  He enjoyed music, the theatre, photography, reading, writing and sketching.

I have vivid memories of time spent in his den, with me sitting at his feet while he sat in his wing chair and sketched.  I am not sure what I was doing - watching some kind of show with him, reading, drawing, or making some didn't really matter.  I just loved sitting there, feeling safely cocooned with him in his warm den, surrounded by the rich, dark wood furniture, each piece lovingly chosen by my parents.  

I tell you all this for a reason - Dad's den was his haven.  He spent countless hours there...sitting at his desk, writing stories, researching cases, sketching or reviewing contact sheets of photos he'd taken.  And now, I sit here and recall those days, typing away at my computer, sitting on his chair, at his desk, in the den that Carlo and I have created in our home...a room that unintentionally evolved into a recreation (of sorts) of Dad's den from my childhood.  It is quickly becoming my favourite room in our house, together with the kitchen - of course!!  And I have competition - Becca loves it too.  So, we are sharing it...much like Dad shared his den with us.

Which leads me to the chocolate brown couch.  This simple sofa holds has always been a favourite of mine, and when we inherited it for Sara's bedroom years ago, I was happy to see it join our family.

I remember falling asleep on it as a child - actually, I fell asleep on my Dad while he lay on it watching Sunday afternoon ball games.  These were special moments that I would always hold dear. When we moved to our current home the couch relocated to our bedroom, and became mine.  I spent many evenings and weekends on it, watching shows, folding laundry, studying for paralegal exams. It became my favourite place to retreat to.

One day, in the weeks before he died, Dad was telling me about all the special pieces of furniture he and Mom had collected over their life together.  I mentioned that I was planning to create a den of sorts from some pieces that would be moving to our home, and the focal point for me was the couch. I told him how much I loved this couch, and the many memories it held for me.  His eyes lit up - as only his eyes could, with a youthful round shape and a mischievous twinkle - and he told me that it was his favourite piece too, and how much he loved it.  He told me how happy he was that it was as dear to me as it was to him, and I think we both marvelled at how this trivial yet huge fact had never come up over the years.

Fast forward to September...the den is set up, and the couch is settled in its new home.  Carlo recently painted over the  hideous mint green walls - a last remnant from the old owners.  Piece by piece, we gingerly moved the dark, rich wood furniture from Dad's place, and from around our house, into "The Den".  Once it was complete, I looked around the room and realized that I had created my own version of the den of my childhood...and it was good.

That first night I came upstairs to find the door closed, and giggles coming from behind it.  I opened the door to discover Becca laying on the couch, Face Timing with her sister.  The den was complete and so was the circle.

I spend hours in here, sitting on our couch, studying for my licensing exam, watching shows with Becca.  I use it to sort papers, and to fold laundry.  And I feel though my father is somehow here with me, smiling that oh so familiar smile, with a deep sense of comfort that his couch remains treasured, used and the centre of a family.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Raven...and other signs from above

The Raven By Edgar AllanPoe 
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— 
My father used to recite this poem on our way to work in the mornings.  Soon enough I was reciting it along with him.  I really enjoyed the lilt of the words, the playfulness in which he said them.  

By I'm getting ahead of myself.

It's a week since Daddy died.

Davie and I rose from Shiva this morning after going to synagogue for morning prayers.   Then I hopped on the highway and came to Niagara Falls for Becca's final dance competition of the season.

When Daddy was diagnosed I told him there is more than this life, this world.  Mama is still with me, but just communicates with me by different means now.   He said he wasn't so sure, but hoped I was right.  I told him I was, and he'd see.

When we buried Dad the skies were grey with pockets of blue sky and rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  As the cars pulled up to the Feld (cemetery) rain drops appeared on the car window.  The rainfall got heavier and by the time we opened the door to bury Dad it was a full blown downpour/hailstorm.  Sheets of rain and hail pelted us as we shovelled earth onto my father's coffin and recited the mourners' Kaddish (prayers). As we said the final words of Kaddish the rain and hail stopped, and rays of sunshine began to peek through the clouds again.  By the time we left the Feld, drenched through to our skin, the sky was bright with sunshine.

This morning, as I drove to Shul (synagogue) the heavens were crying once again. David and I went inside to pray and when we came outside to walk around the Shul and rise from Shiva we found rays of sunshine streaming through the emptied clouds.  For me this was a sign...Daddy is here, he's with Mama and they are with us, sending us signs that we are not alone.

Then I drove to Niagara and sat to watch the dancers.  I sat alone in the back, wanting a few minutes of regroup...when the next dance  came on...the first for me at this competition: The Raven...the "music" began...a simple recitation of a poem: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary..."  He was here with me.  It was the sign I've been waiting for.

Am I sad?  Deeply.  Am I heartbroken?  There are no words.  But the silver lining in this tornado is that he is with parents live on and are all around me.   And for now, that will have to be enough.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Goodbye Daddy - Hello My Father's Treasure

On Friday May 6th I had a dream.  It was a bad dream.  My father was speaking to me, telling me it was time to kick off.  This was not the way he spoke in life, but I knew what he was saying, and I was overcome with disbelief..."What do you mean Dad?!?  You're dying? can't die."  "Yes, he's kicking off" repeated my brother.  And then I awoke with a start, my heart racing.  I soothed myself by remembering the doctors had given us a 3 to 6 month prognosis, and we were only one month into the sentence handed down to us.  I made myself go back to sleep for a little while.

That morning, as I got ready thoughts kept popping into my mind...that I needed to be prepared for the next Shiva...I needed to bake ahead.  I needed to buy more black clothes.  And then I kept about my business, getting ready to go to Court.

As I drove to work I hit speed dial to call my father, as I did every morning. Just to check in, say good morning before the day got away from me.  No answer.  That was not unexpected.  Breathing was getting harder for him as his heart was being invaded and overcome with amyloid plaque. I'd give it a few minutes and he'd call back. Like yesterday.

The phone rang a couple of minutes later, right on cue. It was the nursing station.  I was going to remind my father how much it scared me when he called from their number, how I was always afraid this was the dreaded call, when I heard a woman's voice on the other end of the line, and laughter in the background.  It all stopped when they realized I was on the phone.  They started to tell me that they'd found my father on the floor, he'd fallen out of bed.  OK - not so good - but this happened the week before, I'll go get bed rails after Court.  Then they said he had no vitals and they had tried to resuscitate him.  Then silence.  My mind was racing.  It was the dreaded call.  No!!!  I asked if she was telling me my father had died?!  She asked me to hold and the nursing manager, with whom I had a rapport  came on the line.  She repeated the details and said she was so sorry.

My father died.  It wasn't a bad dream.  My G-d.  He really died.

After the initial shock wore off, my brother David and I pulled together and began dealing with the necessary arrangements.  Our families circled their wagons around us and our friends around them.  And the mourning and grieving process began.

On Friday May 6th, 2016 my father died.  Almost 9 months after my mother died.  That was the gestation period my father was given to grow and prepare us for life without him, to go on without parents on earth. For I truly believe that our treasured parents are together in the world to come, joyously reunited in eternal health and strength. They are young again and, more importantly, they are together.

And we are left with memories, and his photos.  Those of you who kindly read My Mother's Treasure know that our mother left a treasure trove of family recipes dating back generations.  I am documenting our family history through these recipes.

Well, Daddy left us with thousands of photos - his hobby was photography, and he was very talented. So here is my tribute to my late father, Moishe Reiter, QC - My Father's Treasure.  A collection of his photos interspersed with his family history will follow in the posts to come.

I love you Daddy, you are my treasure.