“Bitterly bad” is a direct quote from my father. At the time he shared his innermost thoughts with me, describing his feelings in only two words. Those words penetrated through me. I couldn’t make it better and knew what was coming ahead. At the time he was in a nursing home. He was 95 years old, gradually shutting down (he died 2 weeks after his 96th birthday). His last year was indeed “bitterly bad,” as he so genuinely described it.
But this post isn’t about my father’s day to day experience in the nursing home. It’s not about his struggle with dementia or his failing eyesight. It’s about a lifetime preceding that last year of his life. My father always saw the good in everyone. He always saw the cup half full. His heart fluttered with joy for any number of reasons.
When I, his daughter gave a piano recital at home in intimate surroundings with friends and family, my father’s heart fluttered with joy. Especially when I played his favorite Chopin nocturne.
Singing a Yiddish song to his newly born grandchildren, gave him such delight as he walked them back and forth holding them in his arms. As he held them close, I’m sure his grandchildren felt the flutter of his joyful heart.
Seeing his wife of so many years walk out of the bedroom all dressed up for a special occasion, looking so regal in her gown, brought out that special smile. As they walked out the door hand in hand, I’m certain the flutters were in full swing.
My father once spoke at a friend’s 80th birthday event. This was a very special friend and he wanted his speech to be perfect. My father was an intellectual and so his first draft was totally a resume of his friends life, filled with history... and there was a lot of history, pages and pages. He came to me for advice because he felt something just wasn’t right. I suggested he skip the history and speak from the heart about their friendship. And when he did, that brought on a wave of wonderful flutters.
Just telling a joke, listening to the classical music station WQXR on the radio in the kitchen or simply going for a walk made my father’s face come alive with happiness, with a smile and as you might expect, an abundance of flutters.
And so there were many reasons for my father’s heart to flutter in a happy way. There is no denying that it was a miracle. Anyone who lived through the Holocaust in “bitterly bad” times might very well have not been able to experience those moments of joy and happiness. But growing up with my parents’ circle of survivors, friends and family, I saw the effort put into creating those special moments of joy and happiness, no matter how difficult.
If you’re reading this post, I hope that you have read my others dealing with learning difficulties and the challenges they present. If you have you will realize there is a connection of sorts. What I learned from my father is that we all have our struggles and we must find and create those moments that will trigger our hearts to flutter with happiness. Academics may not be everybody’s forte. But there are still other moments we can celebrate and savor. Those are the moments we excel in... like art, music, sports, etc. Those are the moments in the schoolyard when we hug our friends or help a classmate when she/he/they feel alone.Those are the moments we can feel those flutters of joy. Let’s hold on to that and when we do, there will be many opportunities to realize the cup is not only half full but three quarters full!