My father and I tried to take conversational Hebrew together once, when I was a kid. A group of people from our shul (congregation) met once a week in the Gurewitzs' living room, and we worked from the State Department's incredibly thick and dull materials. We didn't get very far, either of us. I'm actually better at learning languages now than I was then--more motivated, with a better ear--and I think that language acquisition may have been one of the few things my father couldn't do easily. That and think up puns, my mother's specialty.
One night after I'd finished my regular school homework, he wanted us to sit down and study together. And I was so tired of studying, and feeling really old and as if I was missing out on my childhood. We were in the dining room of the Seyburn Street house, so I couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve.
So I guilted him. It's entirely possible I whined. I told him that I felt like all I did was work and study and be adult, and that I wanted to play a little. He looked surprised by that, but agreed that we could put aside the Hebrew for a night.
So we played a board game about saving endangered animals (other than a fairly standard Monopoly set, all of our board games had an educational or political slant, such as the colorful Screw The IRS!) It was the first time the box had come out, and I don't honestly remember if it ever did again after that.
I don't remember who won. It's not important. What I remember is that I felt guilty for manipulating him, yet incredibly grateful that he acceded. And look at this: I remember that game, and only one word of Hebrew.
He would come into the living room at night when I was dancing around to Adam Ant, and tell me how beautifully I moved. Yet he isn't going to see me on stage in front of five hundred people, dancing with my troupe. He loved my writing, but I never read him the essay because I wanted to wait until it was in print, to show it to him. But he couldn't wait that long. Thursday I read it for possibly the last time in public, and hope that some part of him, his nefesh, is still around to hear it, and to appreciate that it opens with a story about him.
We get so few people in our lives who love us without hesitation, consultation, negotiation. Besides some very sweet new arrivals in the past few years, I had two big ones from way back, and now I'm down to one just as things are starting to happen. Just as all the things he believed about me that I didn't are starting to seem real.
I miss my dad so much I can't touch it all.