As Father’s Day drew near, Ledger staff – and a member of our Editorial Advisory Board – shared thoughtsabout their fathers…and fatherhood.
A Lesson Learned
By Andrée Aelion Brooks
When most of us think of a father, we think of someone who took us for long walks, helped us with sports and revealed the secrets of how the world worked. Not my father. Though he was wise and caring, I shall always remember him as being the quintessence of the oddest grandfather to my own children.
Forget the fishing or baseball. Whenever I visited him in London, where he lived, he would always ask kindly if he could take them out. I had a boy and a girl. At that time the boy was about ten and the girl was about fifteen. I had expected him to take them across the street to Regent’s Park, a glorious park in the center of London where he lived, and perhaps buy them ice cream.
But no. He always ended up taking them to his favorite casino. How he got them in is a mystery to me. Or at least one I do not care to remember. But they would play the slots and God know what else, and come back giggling. “I felt like I was in a James Bond movie,” recalled my daughter.
I would innocently ask if this was the right sort of grandfatherly thing to do. Of course, it was not. But they seemed to have such a good time, it would keep on happening. Yet perhaps it was not so foolish after all. For my father thereby imparted a very important lesson.
Looking back today, my daughter says it became an indelible message on the dangers of gambling – “seeing people gamble away (a sum that would have fully covered) my college tuition in one roll of the dice,” she recalls with horror.
Andree Aelion Brook is a lecturer and Jewish historian, and a member of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger Editorial Advisory Board. She lives in Westport and can be reached at email@example.com.
Portrait of My dad
By Cindy Mindell
My dad, Harold L. “Heb” Mindell, a Hartford native, died at midnight between May 25 and May 26 this year. He was a mechanical engineer and construction project manager who worked until age 84, on sites ranging from the University of Hartford to Yale-New Haven Hospital to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem to the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. His last project, completed in 2011, was the Hartford Public Schools Construction Program.
In that strange limbo between his death and his funeral a few weeks ago, I struggled to write a cogent eulogy that would stitch together the many bits of memory I carry from the 50 years of knowing my dad. This is an excerpt.
I can list the things my dad loved: ale, dogs, work, weird sandwich combinations like peanut butter and salami, sports cars, vegetable and flower gardening, a good bargain, Jack Daniels bourbon, the pastel palette of springtime.
I can list the words of wisdom he gave me: Everything in moderation. Make the best decision with the information at hand. Always be a mensch. And, “Cin, what the hell’s goin’ on with your hair?”
I can list the baseball caps and t-shirts that followed him from the house he shared with my mom in West Hartford to St. Mary Home a couple of miles away, the things that declare his various loyalties: his lifelong love, the Boston Red Sox, except for a brief desertion in the late ‘30s, when the Detroit Tigers signed Hank Greenberg; the 86th Blackhawk Infantry Division, where he served as a sharpshooter during World War II; UConn and Duke, the basketball-powerhouse alma maters of my brother and sister. I’m sure that if my alma mater, Bryn Mawr, had a writing team, he would have been first in line to order the t-shirt.
I can list the things he taught me: Be compassionate to insects, animals, and other vulnerable critters. Be curious about the natural world. Research the facts. Approach work with respect and integrity. Take care of the earth. Delight in simple pleasures. Pun as often as possible. Worship occasionally at the altar of Frank Sinatra.
Or, I can talk about how my dad described and perceived himself: What you see is what you get. He was a straight-up good guy with no hidden agenda, no games, no drama.
He didn’t boast and he didn’t like the spotlight. Any achievement I would compliment him on was no big deal.
Working with celebrated architects like Louis Kahn and Mies van der Rohe? No big deal. Snagging a teaching position at Columbia School of Architecture during the tumultuous ‘60s? No big deal. Being summoned by the king of Saudi Arabia to consult on a new children’s hospital project? It was all in a day’s work for my dad, who remembered the Depression first-hand and whose deepest desire was to provide for his family. As a kid, I would get up early to catch him in the kitchen before he finished a cup of black coffee and dashed out to his engineering firm. Slinging his suit jacket over his shoulder like a superhero’s cape, he would kiss the top of my head and declare, “I’m off to fight the dragons!” and zoom down Avondale Road in his Bat Car Corvette. And I believed that that was exactly where he was going, and that he would win the battle.
My dad didn’t like to impose or inconvenience. And he always said that he wanted to die with his boots on. He didn’t get his wish but he made the most of his last years at St. Mary Home, becoming a sort of mayor who would get to know all the newcomers and joke around with the aides and nurses. The last time I saw him in his room, coming to pick him up for a Memorial Day barbecue, there was a little green plant on the dresser. When my brother Mike and I went to clean out his belongings, the plant had bloomed with one bright pink blossom.
Cindy Mindell is a staff writer with the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. She lives in Westport.
My Father Thomas
By Chris Bonito
I come from an Italian family. My father was born in Dedham, Mass., the son of Italian immigrants. He met my mother during World War II while stationed in Italy. After the war they married, settled in Portsmouth, N.H. and started raising a family. My three older siblings were born all in a row, one immediately following the other. I came along as a surprise much later. My father was 52 when I was born.
My dad was a simple man and cared for the simple things in life; mostly his job (as a machinist at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard), and being a husband and father. Growing up as a child with older parents wasn’t easy – being old school Italian Catholics they were strict – but they were great parents. As I developed my love for music and drumming at a very young age, they tolerated my many hours and many years of practice.
Dad retired when I was nine and spent his days puttering around the yard and relaxing. He was a quiet man — but when he spoke up you had better listen. He always had my back and was always accommodating in meeting my “I need to be here at this time” needs. He enjoyed hearing me play drums in all my school ensembles. Dad and mom would never miss a school band concert, competition, or any musical adventure I was involved in, even while sickness was overtaking him and he couldn’t drive as well as he used to.
Dad passed away from cancer in 1990 at the age of 75. I was 23 years old. It was the first real tragedy in my life and happened just at the time when Dad and I were starting to bond as adults.
There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of him or wish he was still here to ask for advice or a day when I long just to be around him.
My only son was born in 2011 when I was 44. He is named Thomas after my dad. Since my son’s birth, I can finally understand the deep emotional feelings my dad must have felt for me and my siblings. Love, pride, joy… everything.
The respect I now hold for my father goes well beyond any feeling I may have for any other person. He taught me about life just by living his, and I feel proud and honored to have had such a good man for a father.
I miss him more than words can say and love him very much.
Chris Bonito is a graphic designer with the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. He lives in Wethersfield.
On Becoming a Dad
By Howard Meyerowitz
The first time I held up my newborn older daughter, Sarah, she pished down the front of my shirt. Thus I was initiated into fatherhood. From that day on, along with the birth of my younger daughter, Rebekah, I have been amazed and awed by how my children have grown and changed from day to day and year to year, and I am truly blessed and honored by the kind and caring women they have become.
My daughters fill my world with naches each day.
Howard Meyerowitz is office manager at the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. He lives in Bloomfield.
Keeping My Father Close
By Amy Oved
Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me. After 18 years since my dad has passed I still miss my father terribly and cry every year.
My father was the most loving man a girl could have. I always wanted to hang out with my dad working at his business from the age of 14 — gardening, cooking and always looking forward to visiting grandparents and family vacations. He always looked at life with a positive attitude, treating people with kindness, and taught me to be the same way.
My dad owned Berlin Bowl and taught me how to bowl at a very young age and entering tournaments together one year we won the state championship and went on to the Nationals meeting people from all over the world.
He taught me that and so much more, and I keep all that he taught me as well as his love close to my heart.
May his memory be a blessing.
Amy Oved is an account executive with the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. She lives in West Hartford.
15 Father’s Day Gifts For the Jewish Foodie in Your Life
By Shannon Sarna
(The Nosher via JTA) — You got through Mother’s Day, Memorial Day weekend and even Shavuot. But folks, it’s not quite time to relax: Father’s Day is almost here. Another weekend to reserve for family celebrations and another round of gifts to procure. If the special dad or guy in your life loves to be in the kitchen, at the grill or engrossed in a good cookbook, then we’ve got a couple of great gift ideas to show him how much he is adored.
For the meat lover:
Facon Beef Bacon from Jack’s Gourmet Sausage. The dad in your life will love adding beef bacon to his burgers, to Sunday breakfast, to sandwiches or just because. You will also reap the benefits of this delicious gift.
Meat Claws. These meat claws are the perfect accessory for the cook who likes to shred brisket for sandwiches or for pulling large hunks of meat off the grill more easily.
Infrared Laser Thermometer. It might not be a shark with a laser beam attached, but this infrared laser thermometer will accurately measure the inside of your meat without wires, spikes or opening the oven. This is the ultimate gadget for someone who loves their meat perfectly cooked every time.
For the cookbook fiend:
The Brisket Book. This book has 30 brisket recipes perfect for your very own brisket lover and includes stories, history and tips for perfecting the beloved Jewish dish.
The Book of Schmaltz. Michael Ruhlman’s acclaimed book will teach you to render your own schmaltz and use it in countless old-school Jewish recipes and a few newer ones as well. A must-have addition for any Jewish cookbook lover’s collection.
Genius Recipes. This collection of recipes from the food website Food52 shares an arsenal of tried-and-true recipes from great chefs and provides extensive technique and how-to sure to improve any home cook’s repertoire.
For the griller:
Two-in-one Vertical Chicken Roaster. Crispy skin on the outside, moist chicken in the middle, delicious veggies and potatoes on the bottom – this vertical chicken roaster does it all.
No Burn BBQ Sauce Pot. No need to run inside while you are grilling – cook your beans or BBQ sauce right next to the grill. Your grill master will love adding this tool to his grilling arsenal.
Yeti Oven Mitt. Safety first! A Yeti oven mitt will keep your guy safe and might make him laugh, too.
For the trendy guy:
i Pad Stand and Stylus for the Kitchen. If your guy loves keeping his iPad nearby while cooking, this stand and stylus will help him read recipes and keep the screen clean from his grubby, grease-covered fingers.
Molecular Gastronomy Set. This gift is for the most adventurous of home cooks! Your guy can experiment making mint caviar, chocolate spaghetti or horseradish foam.
DIY Pickling Set. Pickling your own veggies and fruit is all the rage, and the trendy dad in your life will love keeping up with the hipsters. Get ready to hit up the farmer’s market for potential pickling projects.
For the alcohol lover:
Coast Coasters. These coast coasters are simple but funny – perfect for the stylish dad who likes to keep a cocktail close by without fear of watermarks on the furniture.
Beerisms Pint Glasses. These beer glasses will delight the dad who just wants to happily enjoy his beer. Save water, drink beer!
Sunscreen Flasks. Dad can smuggle booze almost anywhere with these silly sunscreen flasks – dance recitals, vacation with the in-laws or just hanging by the pool.
Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher. The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.