Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some Birthday
by: Schvach Yid

Today is my father’s birthday. He’s 86 years old, and I mean old. He doesn’t know it’s his birthday; in fact, he no longer seems to know anything. Four years ago he suffered a stroke, superimposed on an already evident yet incomplete senility. Then, perhaps a year following his stroke, his caretaker, in a moment of unintended(?) negligence, allowed him to fall, crashing his noggin against the concrete patio. Back he went into the hospital, and upon discharge, was little more than a vegetable.

So my father has suffered three cerebral insults. There’s not much left to him. He sits in a wheelchair clad in a diaper, fully dressed and fully nonfunctional.

My mother feeds him, dessert included. Just put some food in front of his mouth and down it goes. He has a hemiparesis, so he regularly chokes on his food, but so far he’s managed to avoid aspirating the stuff.

The brain department was never my father’s strong point. Oh what the hell, he was always a dumb ass. I know I shouldn’t say such things about one of my parents, but it’s true. He grew up as the pee-on of his family, eclipsed by his older-by-one-year brother, who didn’t amount to a hill of beans but was nevertheless his mommy’s favorite, so my father paid. Regrettably, this family collusion followed him into, and has remained throughout, my father’s adulthood. He never learned how to manage the situation. Learning wasn’t one of his talents.

I shouldn’t eulogize my father – he’s still alive. His birthday is not the occasion for his obituary. This is no time to recite Kaddish, but his brain is dead, or mostly so, so perhaps a Kaddish for my father might be appropriate. He can no longer think, ergo, he isn’t, but thinking was never one of his talents, so just what’s the loss?

He was never a nice guy. He was never a bad person. He was always angry, and always vulgar, specializing in dishing out ridicule and belittlement. I was always ‘you schmuck’, ‘the biggest schmuck in the family’, a ‘schmuck mit zwei Ohren’ (a penis with two ears). My mother was ‘that f*cking woman’. There were lots of insults. Can you say primitive? He no longer can.

Okay, okay, life hit him in the face with a shit pie. He grew up in Germany under the rise of the Nazis. He was marched to the front of one of his classes, as a child, and used as an object lesson on the physical characteristics of a member of a genetically inferior race - after all, he’s Jewish, so link that experience to his family’s lack of savvy in raising their children, and voilá.

When things got too hot in his home town of Bremerhaven his parents sent him off to Berlin to attend a vocational school for carpentry run by Beitar and the Jewish Agency. The goal was to train Jewish German youth for export to British Palestine. During one of their classes the Brown Shirts strolled in and trashed the place, then set it on fire. What a joyous childhood experience.

Off they went to America – by the hairs on their chiny-chin chins. No English. Ah, New York; no school. My father found work with a furrier, pushing ‘Jewish airplanes’ (racks of fur coats) from one building to the next. That’s the way to go through adolescence.

The he was drafted. The Army and the Pacific; Guadalcanal and Guam, as a medic. Well, at least the Army made him an American citizen, but not before he successfully completed basic training – citizenship was conditional. Decades ago I got a peek at the letters he wrote to his parents from the Pacific – in German. I asked him why in German. Simple – at that point he still couldn’t manage much English. His lousy brother, and their lousy cousin, neither of whom was ever nice to my father and who both would gang up and insult him in the presence of the rest of the family – I was there – both got to stay in the US for their Army service.

Isn’t life grand? Well, at least he got out of Germany and away from the Nazis. Good thing we won the war, eh?

So today is Dad’s birthday. Happy birthday Dad, and with whatever remains of your brain, why don’t you tell life to go f*ck itself!


Anonymous said...

Disgusting of you to write like that of your father. He gave you life didn't he?

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