My father, David Reisman, passed on Saturday evening, May 23, in the nursing home where he's been for the last few years in Machias, Maine. My brother and his wife, who live up there, were with him. He'd been declining sharply in the last few weeks, nonresponsive, not interested in food.
My brother wrote a thoughtful obituary. Things I've been remembering: he taught me to make eggs scrambled with peppers and onions when I was around 10; he loved photography and the quality of light. Quite a few of the older pictures I've posted were ones he took. As my brother's obituary mentions, he loved poetry and language. He was, for a good portion of his life, very well read. I'm sure his love of language is in part responsible for my own.
When I was small, he called me pookie and sometimes carried me on his shoulders. One summer in Maine, on Long Lake in Naples, when I was four or five, I remember asking him what made the diamonds on the water when the sun was coming up. He gave me the scientific explanation.
He took me to two plays in Philadelphia that I remember well, Fiddler on the Roof
and Stop the World, I Want to Get Off
. He loved movies and I have very early memories of seeing movies, too. When he and my mother were in the process of getting divorced, when I was six and half or seven, they for some reason thought it was a good idea to take me to see The Andromeda Strain
. Then we went for pie. I haven't much liked virus stories since. Intellectual, liberal east coast Jews, my parents.
He also loved eating out and took us to both Chinese and Japanese restuarants in downtown Philadelphia when I was small (my siblings are six and seven years older), in the late 1960s. I remember these experiences, little visual details of them, vividly. Memory being what it is, who knows, but I still appreciate these bits and pictures of experience.
My Dad was never too thrilled with what I wrote; the refrain, which I know quite a few others have heard from a father, concerned when I was going to write something serious, i.e., literary realism. He did once compliment my writing by saying I would have made a good lawyer (his own profession, which was not really the thing he had wanted to do, but the thing he was required and expected to do as a son of an immigrant father and second generation immigrant (I think) mother.)
His own mother, for whom I was named, died when he was 16, of leukemia. He once told me that life was suffering; in retrospect, he was perhaps being darkly humorous, but I was a teenager and it made me very sad for him. There were a couple of years when I lived alone with my Dad, between his second and third marriages. I always felt like we were two people who didn't understand how, and couldn't manage, to have the relationship we were supposed to have, some sort of father-daughter thing that eluded us, that we were both too damaged to engage properly. We were like strangers, trying, always trying.
But I loved him, and I know he loved me, and he honestly tried, and did as many good things for me and my sister and brother as he could.
Here he is in 2007, in Buffalo.
And a couple from a trip my brother, sister, and I took him on, to Philadelphia, to visit our old house and Fairmount Park, the places of my childhood.