Saturday, April 2, 2016

But can he sing like Meyer.

My brother and I spent several days this past week at our parents’ home in Florida.  We saw our great friends, Wally and Eileen, who were so kind and helpful to our parents in their last months.  

Thursday was our last day in Florida.  We did some cleaning up and submitted papers to the condo association.  Mid morning, my brother reminded me that he wanted to go to the condo Current Events club.   

My father was a regular attendee at a number of clubs in the community.  More than an attendee actually, he often was the coordinator and led the programs even when someone else was, nominally, responsible for doing those jobs.  He never usurped someone else’s role, always giving credit to whoever had the title, yet he was the brains and industry around the programs.  Dad was active in the Yiddish club and often gave lectures.  He coordinated the programs and contacted guest speakers for the Culture club.  And Dad was a regular contributor to the Current Events club.

The Current Events club, as the name might suggest, was a group of folks who wanted to discuss what was happening in the news.  In an election year like this one politics are central to the discussions.  If it weren’t for Dad, the Current Events club would have been a madhouse. You put twenty Jews in a room to discuss politics and there likely will be contentious shouting which might seem--to an outsider--as if those with differing opinions could come to blows.

To avoid a brawl, Dad wrote out rules for engagement.  When could one begin speaking? How long could a speaker have?  What were the limits on digressions to topics not under discussion? He also implemented a rule that prohibited members from referring to another member when presenting his or her arguments.  There could be no, “I disagree with Murray and think he is misguided.”  Or worse. You could only talk about your own perspective and not ridicule someone else who had made a comment.  

I never went to any of the current event meetings.  I imagined they would be contentious despite dad’s policies and, for some reason, I was rarely down there on Thursdays at 1030 when the group convenes.  But my brother had gone on a number of occasions.  He enjoyed the meetings and I think went at times to listen to Dad whose wisdom was typically more reasoned and even handed than most others. 

On Thursday, he also wanted to see if now, two years since dad has passed, some of the legacy of Dad’s involvement was evident.  It was.  There was decorum throughout. The rules that dad had implemented were followed so that all who wished to, could get in their points. Sure, steam was coming through the ears of those who disagreed with certain political perspectives, and there were still veiled barbs. “There are people in here whose names I cannot mention who are more than confused.”

When it came time for my very wise brother to contribute he began by saying what an honor it was to contribute to the group as it was dad who was so active in the club.  Then he went on to make his point about the merits of polling .

Near the end of the 90 minute meeting, the head of the club made some comments.

“There’s a man in the back there, who sounds a lot like Meyer, is smart like Meyer, uses big words like Meyer, and is logical like Meyer.”

Bobby was touched by the remark.  But what came after choked him up as it did me when he relayed the episode later.

After the leader made his comments about the man in the back who “sounded smart like Meyer” etc, a member from the group shouted out, “But can he sing like Meyer.”

Then another quipped, “But can he speak Yiddish like Meyer?”

Then a third said, “But can he tell jokes like Meyer?”

And a fourth, “But is he a mensch like Meyer.”

Our dad was an unusual man. Now two years later his mark is still evident.  I was reminded of a time at a camp reunion in 2009.  Dad had been the head counselor of the camp but was unable to attend the reunion.  Ona, the wonderful coordinator of the reunion, asked me to lead the prayer before the meal in the way that Dad used to when the camp kids would eat.  I know this prayer in my sleep, but when I went to say it at the reunion, somehow I forgot some of the lines. And when I did so, a very good friend, very good naturedly quipped, “He’s no Meyer.” 

I got a laugh out of it. I had flubbed the line. But the fact is that there are few people who could be called “a Meyer.”  We are very fortunate to have been raised by this guy. And dad, if you are listening, there is no chaos at the Current Events club still. You may be dead, but you’re alive and kicking at the Current Events club--and elsewhere.

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