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The muscular strength that it gave to my jaw

June 17, 2012

Father, the teacher

I went to pay the paper bill the other day. The shopkeeper consulted rows of perforated pink delivery slips; both she and I were surprised to discover it was nearly six months since my last visit. I muttered something about ‘a busy period’ and paid the bill.

Later I remembered that the same period had passed since this blog was updated.

Death has a way of knocking time out of its daily orbit. This time, the shift began on Valentine’s Day, when my father went into hospital for a check-up. By the evening he had become an in-patient; he passed away a few weeks later. In the intervening period, every day contained a multitude of dramas. He was elderly and had been struggling with chronic disease, but in life the precise details of a story’s end cannot be known, and so death always comes as a surprise.

This blog is dedicated to work-in-progress, not personal life, but sometimes progress cannot be resumed until we do something to note, in public, the shift in life’s orbit.

Father was a sharp-witted, well read man who – much to his later regret – dropped out of a PhD and teaching job at Rutgers University to support a growing family. Even in unpromising conditions the learning instinct remained. Sorting out the personal effects left behind, we found the letter of appointment from the university, a treasured document. A box of photographs included one of a man in his prime, standing at the blackboard, delivering a lecture to his staff.

At the memorial gathering I recalled standing in the kitchen – a young woman trying to hold her own – while father challenged me to defend my views and come up with clear arguments, clearly put. It reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s verse: ‘In my youth […] I took to the law and argued each case with my wife. And the muscular strength that it gave to my jaw has lasted the rest of my life.’

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2012 1:04 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute to your father, and your passion for writing is certainly a lasting legacy. Thank you for writing. And thank you for waiting until the moment felt right to speak about your loss. We all need comfort and care in our grief.

  2. June 17, 2012 5:41 pm

    Thanks for your kind words, and it is certainly a small world; when I received your comment, I was having lunch in London with someone who knows you – Myrna Kostash

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