Oh my father - please rest in peace - you never had any while you lived. A musically gifted prodigy forced to leave school behind to go to work everyday - forced to help support his family and still to this day, it irks me when I hear people say Jews are rich.
A musician who loved learning, a cruel joke in life - your entire life lived in fear - the world a dangerous place. Eleven years old - forced to leave school and work; you looked for places to recluse yourself inside your head you hid from the world by living in dreams where you played your violin instead.
Father I feel for you, a young boy told, "Son, we’re sorry but you have to help support your family. There are six of us,” his Dad said, “so you have to work to help pay the rent and buy the food we eat.”
Forced everyday to work in a drug store in Harlem and of your own device going to school at night so you could finish your Latin and math and be a real pharmacist not just an apprentice. You figured you’d get a pharmaceutical license if you finished your physics and math so you did it. By the time I was born you'd lost your focus trying to stay alive and support a wife and four children. Your temperament led to arguments with bosses. Then you gave up and stayed with the apprentice license even though you performed all the same tasks. You said you made medicines from scratch using Latin formulas.
One night you were forced to work late –ordered to close up all alone. That night there was a violent riot in Harlem- forced to work late. Climbing up high to a small hidden window near to the ceiling saved your life you said. Otherwise you would have been dead. A man outside the store lay dead while you waited inside until the noise in the street died. You waited over 10 hours you said, hidden behind a heavy black curtain in the storage room, wondering if you’d get out alive.
Terror and frustration created a monster inside who ate his way out of the hive and proved he was in charge. My Dad beat his first wife. The second was my mother who suffered greatly. She kept trying to stay alive to help her children survive. Her cancer ate her alive. Poor Dad gambled our money away and came home mean and exhausted. If got worse if she fought.
My two sisters, my brother, my Dad and my mother all crammed into a one-bedroom apartment. It wasn’t too pleasant but I have a few good memories. Uncle Leo visited Dad every Sunday and they played their violins, sang tunes and lyrics they created and accompanied each other all day, showing each other what they'd learned and created.
Then Uncle Leo’s wife went off her rocker and was never the same again. Day after day, she chanted the same words, “They go to Argentina and they think they’re great!” referring to Jews who had escaped and Nazi's escaping the holocaust. Uncle Leo died when I was ten. Poor Dad went crazy too. His sisters and mother got him out of Bellevue by paying a fine of two and a half thousand. My father chased the doctor around with a knife, the doctor who’d removed my mother’s breast – my dad chasing him wielding a big butcher knife. He claimed the doctor was having an affair with my mom. Dad flipped out and never recovered either.
Poor Dad –never easy for you- your mother kvetching in Yiddish bragging about her dancing on the Russian Stage but how she gave it all up and left it behind so you could be born in America. Lucky for you – she had the foresight to see forty years ahead.
Poor Dad, working all day when all you wanted to do was be like your Dad who had accompanied your mom with his violin – the violin became yours. No one ever taught you to play but you played like a pro. Rest in peace Day - may you finally have the security and peace you longed for in life.