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Reflections June 2017

Levine's Levity

Eulogy High

By Bill Levine

Dad was a larger-than-life figure that I idolized. But I tended to shrink from life. As a kid I imagined he would have made a better father for my more athletic, outgoing friends. He didn’t have much patience, and I was a quirky kid, who required patience.

One of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my life was deliver my dad’s eulogy. It’s right up there with getting married, having kids and winning the Newton Junior High Basketball championship in 1966. But since that day graveside in November 2013, I’ve struggled to understand why a paean to my dad in front of a couple of dozen shivering mourners pleases me so much.

I think the great vibes I got from my eulogy, were based on my feeling that I had made the essence of him known to the world, by describing his “art of the deal.” Though he was a dentist, his real vocation was selflessly helping people through his numerous connections. This had to be told, and I told it. But I admit this need to extol him may have been spurred on by my internal faint praise. We had some issues, my dad and I, which prevented me from being an exemplary son in my book.

Dad was a larger-than-life figure that I idolized. But I tended to shrink from life. As a kid I imagined he would have made a better father for my more athletic, outgoing friends. He didn’t have much patience, and I was a quirky kid, who required patience. He could be over-critical. A normal reprimand like “You’ve gotta pay more attention to your personal belongings” got blown up by my dad to “how stupid are you to have left your coat at the playground. What is the matter with you?”

Yet there must be a lost Rockwell print of dad and me watching the Red Sox on TV. The upshot was that about 50% of my psycho-therapeutic hours as an adolescent were spent discussing my dad; my mother and sister and my anal phase were distant runners-up.

In the last 10 years of his life, dad pleaded no contest twice to being insensitive to my travails as a child. He would state that he should have got me help sooner. Indeed, my high school extracurricular project was convincing him I needed a shrink. With adult perspective I absolved him, telling him to forget about it. His mea culpas, though, did not have that much staying power. I wanted more equality for my family, vis a vis my sister’s brood, from his late-in-life financial largesse.

But he would not budge in his allocation strategy. Here I felt victimized by his stubbornness and his favoritism of my sister. Maybe childish for a 60 year old I admit, but not without provocation. As dad hit 90 his independent living status was in name only. His horizons had shrunk so he was asking more of me. I deferred trips to Costco, Kohl’s etc., rationalizing that his part-time home aide could always take him. I visited him in person every two or three weeks – outside of the good son sweet spot – but frequently enough to staunch an overwhelming flow of guilt.

He would call me up to bluntly ask, “Where were you, I haven’t heard from you?” I would then mutter a few excuses. Really, though it was just that I couldn’t feel obliged enough to listen to his steady mix of Red Sox recaps and silences.

 

Bill Levine is an IT professional, aspiring humorist and confirmed freelance writer from Belmont, Massachusetts.

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