The following story was written by Liz Lippa and shared as part of the Memory Project.
My dad had a great sense of humor,
But he was not a happy man.
My dad could deliver a joke perfectly,
But it took a lot to make him laugh.
My dad was intelligent and curious,
But he had very little education.
My dad did everything with competence,
But he never felt that he was a success.
My dad loved to quote great proverbs for living,
But rarely did he actually practice them.
My dad loved my mother most dearly,
But he seldom showed her any affection.
When he emigrated to South America,
He left behind a brother and five sisters.
He loved them and missed them all,
But he hardly ever spoke of them.
Would he have been so full of contradictions
If he had stayed in the city where he was born?
If Hitler had not chased us out of Vienna,
Would my dad have been more congruent?
Could he have become a joyful man who
Knew how to tell a joke and give a hearty laugh?
Would he have studied in the evenings,
Poring over the great philosophers’ words.
Would we have had big family gatherings, and
Could he have expressed how much he loved us?
All these “what if’s” provide me with no answers
To the riddle of my dad.
As one can see in old photos of him.
He was a sullen, brooding young man.
I remember fearing him and his anger
And decided that I had to be a good girl.
He was embarrassed by intimacy and
Only learned to enjoy affection later in life.
After my mother died, he somehow blossomed
Into someone social and outgoing and charming.
People had always liked “Willy,” as he was called,
But, after my mother died, they LOVED Willy.
Something softened and lightened in him,
And I saw the man my mother fell in love with.
He seemed unburdened.
He joined a Senior Theatre group,
And how he loved to ham it up!
He had done theatre as a young man in Vienna,
And it all came back to him, fifty years later.
The ladies liked him quite a lot,
But he remained disinterested in them.
He lived alone for seven years in that big old house
And managed to hold it all together by himself.
When I mentioned that, once in a while,
He might enjoy some female company,
I’ll never forget what he told me.
“The women I want, they don’t want me.
The women who want me, I don’t want them.”
In the last summer of his life,
We spent a long weekend in Virginia Beach.
It was a big event for me.
Four days in my brother’s house
And on the beautiful beachfront.
My dad, my brother, my husband,
My oldest son and me.
We told each other stories and jokes,
And we cooked and ate together.
By the following year, I would be divorced,
And my father would be dying,
And my world would be completely changed.
He was so much fun that week,
And that is how I love to remember him.
He had learned to love and laugh and relax.