It’s really all a blur. Last year seems to have flowed by-sometimes seemingly endlessly yet sometimes so swiftly that it made me dizzy. (Like the swelling of a river after a storm that in time subsides to a trickle). Have you ever had moments like those?
My father, Isaac Mordechai Antebi, got promoted in February. Yes, his work on this earth was done. Exactly 1 month shy of his 90th birthday.
I will share with you my gratitude for this giant of a man and I will share with you some of my recollections about this man that I called Papi.
My Papi was deeply rooted. A good man. His work ethic and compassion were deeply ingrained within his spirit. He had a sixth sense about him. He could spot a “charlatan” a mile away.
As a young child, I don’t recall much conversation with my dad. He was working and I was a kid. The first real conversation I recall having with my dad was when I was 16 and my Mom was in Israel taking care of her Mom. It was pretty awkward at first, but we slowly began to have more frequent conversations.
Papi was not a huggy-feely kind of parent (& I’ve always been a huggy-feely kind of free spirit). Let’s just say that we did not always understand each other. You see, communication was not really a strong component in our family dynamics. It was pretty much old school and traditional – Dad worked, Mom took care of the kids & home, we went to school, graduated, got married, and moved away (with at least daily calls and/or visits, of course). It was expected that we behave honorably. Always. It was expected that we behave respectfully. Always. Obligation, duty, and responsibility – we received those lessons on a daily basis.
My dad was fiercely loyal to “Family”. Even to those that deceived him or disrespected him. To him, “Family” was most important. He loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren so very much. He just never knew how to express it.
When disagreements arose within the siblings, he would expect us to let things go – for the sake of family unity. He was happy as long as we could all “sit around the table” for a meal or gather for a festive occasion. None of the “details” really mattered, as long as we were all together. Lesson learned: This strategy NEVER works.
He was highly impatient. “Vamonos” was his most used word. It wouldn’t take too long for him to give my Mom a certain “look” followed by the famous “vamonos” when he’d had enough of anything.
During the last few years of his life, our relationship became strong. I learned (it wasn’t easy) to tell him when I disagreed with him. I learned to stand my ground. He was very demanding. He wanted visitors ALL THE TIME! I could not accommodate all of his requests, but I did my very best to visit often. In fact, he used to get so mad at me when I refused to comply with some of his requests!!!!
We took many, many, many, road trips together. He loved to travel by car! Florida, Colorado via Arkansas, Hot Springs, Waxahachie, (HE LOVED to go to WAXAHACHIE!!!!!)
My dad loved to dance. My parents knew how to shake up the dance floor. They made a beautiful couple when they danced together.
My dad loved ice cream. He did not drink enough water. Ever.
My dad loved Arak.
He loved going to shul. Some of my most treasured memories with him involved our trips to the synagogue. I was very proud to stand up in his honor when he was called to the Torah for a blessing. During the last few months, he was unable to easily walk up to the bimah and it hurt my heart to hear him decline the honor. Our Rabbi and our shul family were wonderful to him. They honored him in every imaginable way and he sang loudly and he breathed more easily when he was at shul. He loved singing the Hallel!!!! And, yes, he was first in line at the shnapps table.
He loved taking a “shot” to say a L’Chaim, anytime. Anywhere. A good whiskey or a shot of Arak made him happy. The most fun for him was having a L’Chaim with his grandchildren. He loved his grandchildren. He carried their pictures in his wallet. Yup. They were his pride and joy.
The day before he died, I came over to pick him up for a promised road trip. He looked at me and said that he was too tired. He said that he didn’t want to sleep but couldn’t help it. He was sitting in his recliner and was unable to stay awake during my visit. I told him that I would come back the next day to take him for a ride. I did come back the next morning, but he was already on his journey home. I love you, Papi.