(November 28, 1928-March 15, 2010)
I love my father. That’s the first, most important thing.
Thank you all so much for your concern and your compassion. Thanks don’t suffice to express the sense of comfort my family and I feel in this terrible time, mourning the loss of my father Jack Minde.
He was the kind of man I could still call “Daddy” at the age of 50 without feeling embarrassed. For those of you who did not know him---and for those of you who did---I can only say that my father was a quiet hero of the most honest kind. If he could hear me say that, he’d tell me I’m being ridiculous and to shut up. He never asked for praise; he merely did what needed to be done, whether it was going to work every day and earning a living or being drafted and sent to Korea. He never won any showy medals. He was a good soldier, a pfc, and he never accepted another stripe even when it was offered to him. He faced frontline combat, but he never told any war stories afterward. “Don’t be a bull----ter,” he’d tell me. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.
At an age when most of us are still children, my father lost his parents and siblings at Dachau. At twelve he was in the Kovno Ghetto. At fifteen, he was a slave laborer, building a German airfield. At seventeen, he was in a Displaced Persons Camp. He came to this country on New Year’s Day 1947. The most wondrous thing is that, despite what he had lived through, he was able to have the most ordinary of lives. He married my mother. He raised me. He raised Stacey. He built us a happy home. He loved us. He was able to do all that simply because he had an indomitable spirit. Even in his last days he fought to stay alive. And he almost succeeded. There was just too much happening to him, too fast, at the age of 81.
And he laughed. If you knew my father, you knew that he had a playful sense of humor. It wasn’t always evident on the surface. But it was always there. Daddy once took me for a new suit in the “Portly” department. I never knew if he was joking when he called it “Porky.”
He developed gout. He called it “Alter buck” The Old Goat, in Yiddish. Somehow, I became The Old Goat, and to his last moments he would smile when I’d tell him, “The Old Goat is here!”
He wasn’t outwardly affectionate---that’s Mom’s job---but he was compassionate. He often told me that he had known what it was like to be hungry, and that he didn’t like other people to know want. So he---very quietly---would buy a hamburger for a penniless hungry person, or invite someone to share what he had. The door was always open. My friend Gary, who I’ve known since childhood and who practically grew up in my house, called Dad his second father. We laughed at Gary’s recollection: “What? You’re here again? Here, have a slice of pizza!”
He once told me that he wouldn’t be here forever, all too true, and he once told me to take my car to a shop to have a new starter installed. That is, until he heard what it was going to cost: “No son of mine is going to pay that!” Dad stayed up all night in the garage, a single light burning like Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory, and built a starter for my car from a part here, a part there. He could build or fix anything. He never got the hang of flying a kite, though.
Some of you know that I took the Buddhist Precepts some years ago. Daddy already had Alzheimer’s at that point, but he would ask me if I was still involved. He knew what it meant when a pressed my hands together, bowed, and mumbled. He’d smile. Sensei Doshin gave me the Dharma name of “Konrei,” the Unyielding Spirit, but the truth is, I learned it all from my Daddy.
What’s best in me comes from my Dad and Mom. As for what’s not best, well, I have a very high standard to live up to. I learned one thing this past week watching my Daddy die, and that is that we live but a moment. In that moment we have to love like forever. Eighty one years is nothing.
There’s so much more I need to learn from him, and so much more I wish I could say to him.
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
He did, right up to the end.