This is my Dad

tennis with Jack on Sundays; a twenty five year old mustache that was cut off; the luckiest backgammon player I’ve ever fucking seen; hits the treadmill level 13, speed  3.9 three times a week; afraid of dogs, cats, or anything that can jump up past his waist (though he claims he once had a dog for about three weeks); wavy, Hungarian hair; pink nose; smart enough to win Jeopardy; loves television; sad to see 24 end its run; he hates Larry King and news anchors – all of them – but because he loves television so much he’ll sit through it if we’re watching.

He know three great Jewish jokes, and is a master at telling them; he’s been to India twice and wants to take us there; he’s never been to Auschwitz and hates Germans; I’ve seen him make three things in my entire life: toast with cream cheese, matzo brie, and tuna with celery.  My brother Gil says my Mom and Dad are getting older now. “You’re away now and don’t see it,” and now he’ll ask them if they want tea or a sandwich or some cut up fruit.

He wakes up every morning at 6:15 for his first shower of the day, shaves his face (my dad has no neck), and suits up. Black for court. Gray for the office. Always pump. On Friday he has no clients – so he’ll wear a twenty seven year old pair of Levis and an orange Ralph Lauren polo I got him as a present when I was thirteen. He ends all his emails with love, always Aba and I think it’s the double lower case which makes me soft inside every time I read it.

At 7:20 every morning, has a cup of regular French Vanilla coffee and a wheat bagel smothered with cream cheese. Sometimes he puts the coffee in a paper cup, sometimes he doesn’t. But he wraps his bagel in a napkin and rips off a mouthful before the front door. The impact of his large teeth, the softness of the bagel, and his tough hands cause one sixth of the cheese to get smeared into the napkin. A quarter of the cheese will not make it into his mouth – it will smear into the paper napkin, or onto his shirt. In which case my dad will utter, “Fuck” or “Goddamn it” himself, without anyone of us hearing a word.

the parents are coming

Leon and Varda will step onto the Oakland tarmac at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, towing red and gray suitcases packed with toothbrushes and too many pants and Middle Eastern panic, seeking the quickest way to the Bay. Why can’t you just meet us at the airport? they will ask, then transported, moving with speed underwater, a giant tunnel snaking beneath the Bay Bridge. My fist will playfully connect with the backs of my dad’s ribs when his back is turned, his left hand on my mom’s shoulder, shielding her from the heavy beats of bucket drummers and homeless men selling their Street Sheet weeklies and remnants of replaceable dignity to those descending into the Powell BART station.  She will kiss my face, and because she is short, my back will need to adjust, the legs bending for leverage, to allow the rest of the body to follow for more matriarchal remedies. They will tell me how flight went, how Southwest only serves peanuts and juice and exactly how many of the flight attendants were gay. JUST. SO. GAY.  How she has leftover turkey and avocado baguettes and wants to know when I will want them, now or later. We will argue about taking a taxi or a bus, and after a quick lecture on sustainability I will relent because they have expendable funds for such types of things, and on the way to Hotel Kabuki my dad will ask me about my coccyx and why I haven’t seen the doctor yet. At the concierge desk will be a girl who studied marketing in Sacramento, she is bland, her face washed out from too much sun and not enough books, vacuous eyes that tell nothing of history, who grows nervous when the five-foot two Iraqi woman in a cape and scarf politely prods where the best restaurants in town are, if it’s safe to walk around here at night, and if people here really take the busses. Here’s a list of places nearby; Yes, absolutely, very safe, very safe; I drive, but most people use MUNI. They will go upstairs to smell the bedroom, measure the size of the shampoo and conditioner bottles, and argue whether my dad should bring the light or heavy coat out tonight. We will walk towards the water, sit down and debate if we should go by the glasses or go for glory, and we will all sample each others pumpkin soup. They will ask about school, about the girl, the coccyx again, the unqualified asshole orthopedist ready to inject their son’s 15-inch spine with cortisone, Obama, and whether I still like my roommates. I will talk about school, and the girl, and Obama, and fight about taxes and real estate, and Fersht and his new house and what his first kid will look like and if he’s really ready to be a father, then move back to the girl as the eyes grow wide from wine, they’ll ask what she’s like and if she’s nice and yes she is nice and she is great and how do you know because I just know that’s she’s sweet and what do her parents do? he is a chemical engineer and she’s a lawyer like you Aba haha oh really what’s her name? I hope I didn’t sue her and we’re so happy for you and her, so when can we meet her? I will ask about Edahn and Elana and our Grandma who is dying and how happy she gets when people around her sing in Yiddish, whether my dad speaks Yiddish, why he never taught us Yiddish. The Pinot Noir has taken over us completely by now, our voices grow loud and we are speaking frankly now, without reservation or concern for how much or even what kind of attention we are drawing to ourselves. Say something in Yiddish Leon! You’re in San Francisco now! Say something in Yiddish!