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domingo, febrero 19, 2012

An Appreciation

Your Bloguero's father passed away on on Friday, February 17, 2012. He was 92 years old. Today he was buried in New Jersey, where he was born, next to his wife. The following is an appreciation of him.

When my brother, Arthur, and I were small boys, my father, Melvin, used to take us to Weequahic Park in Newark, New Jersey, on a sunny weekend morning, rent a row boat, and row us around the lake. We did some fishing, but mostly he rowed us for an hour or so. He was strong, and he rowed as you who knew him would expect him to row. Carefully, with economy of motion, gently, patiently, talking softly was he went, never out of breath. I don’t remember the fish particularly, I do remember his rowing. I awoke this morning thinking about it.

He rowed the way he did everything else in life. Patiently, gradually, never out of breath. Simply. His whole life he did that. It didn’t matter what it was, this was how he approached all problems. As it would turn out, this was his greatest gift to us.

The most important thing to Melvin was learning. He learned German in the army from scratch. He learned to play the piano. He learned to teach. He mastered learning, and he showed us how he did it. His doctoral thesis was about learning to read, which to him was the essential skill. He taught in the classroom and later he guided entire schools and then school systems. More important, he taught, always by example, at home. He taught being patient, working step by step, never getting out of breath. Being simple. He was humble about this. This was how he did things, and we imitated him.

When he was offered his first teaching job in Westfield, New Jersey, they needed a history and English teacher, but they also badly wanted a track coach. Maybe they wanted the coach more than the teacher. Asked if he could also coach track and field, he said, sure, it was no problem. No problem at all. He got the job. Fact is, he didn’t know anything about track or coaching. So he spent the rest of the summer and some of the fall reading all of the books about track and coaching. Being patient, working step by step, never getting out of breath, being humble. He learned to coach by reading. In 1951 his team won championships.

I think one of my dad’s greatest gifts was that he understood the connection between learning and patience. He showed us we could amass a huge vocabulary if we learned a few words each day, if we looked words up that we didn’t know. He and my mom had a dictionary in their car, just in case. He told us we could learn all kinds of wonderful ideas if we read constantly. He told us that the use of the f-word as an adjective was a sign of ignorance. He told us there had to be more descriptive, clearer, sharper words than the usual expletives. He told us that the verbs were more important than the adjectives. On and on. He and Winnie, my mother, taught us. They did what would later be called “team teaching.”

He loved us, and he loved learning. It makes sense that his life was about conferring on those who would receive it, the gift of knowing how to learn, learning how to learn. Being patient, working step by step, never getting out of breath. Being humble. Keeping it simple. Knowing when something needed to be looked up. Looking it up. A tremendous, loving gift, for which I am filled with gratitude.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Blogger Oso said...

Lo siento, que Dios se bendiga a el y todo tu familia. Tu papa vivira en sus memorias todo los dias.

3:06 a.m.  

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