Oft times there comes a time when it is time to go.
“Milestones of life flew by, couldn’t help but wonder why you had to go away.” –Window In Heaven-Shea Rubinstein.
Leon Elveson, the son of David Elveson was my father. Lee David Elveson the grandson you never knew was named after yourself and your father. You were awarded that title on March 13th, 1956 when I Joel your only son was born. There are many striking black and white pictures of you holding me close to you on your lap.
Dad, if I have failed or had failed to give honor to your name please forgive me. Perhaps I am not the man you were. Perhaps I am not the voice of righteousness or fighter for good that you were. At the time of the writing of this letter, I am 63 years of age just two years short of the age you passed away. With a simple wave your hand you unknowingly said goodbye to Ann and me from your hospital bed in a state of at best semi-consciousness in your Woodhull Hospital bed just a mere few floors down from the Medical Library you planned. Many of your ex-coworkers were both saddened and shocked by your death as we rode down the elevator to the dark basement escorting your lifeless body on a metal gurney with white patches shuttering you’re now forever closed brown eyes.
I wish I could tell you to your face how much you inspired me and how much the lessons you taught me have helped me. Yes, dad, there is always somebody else higher-up you can talk to. Those words of advice will always resonate within me. I can never forget your half but ever so gentle smile or your ferocious temper which I know you regretted having. You told me countless times you didn’t know why it happens (mom knew how to push your button every now and again which never helped) but it happened. Your face would drop and your voice would trail noticeably when you talked about this problem. The frustration you felt the regret you felt tore at the fiber of your being.
Yet that explosive temper that easily evolved into your stamping your feet ever so forcefully while yelling at mom or us to “go to he–” hurt, haunted and scarred the emotions of your family. For many years we were frightened of you. No, that was never your intentions but nonetheless, that was the end result. That is not what I remember you by.
There were times I felt I did not know you or you knew me. Strangers in our own home. You with your pipes, Stelladoro cookies, Star Trek (why was the finger of your hand on your lip as you sat in front of the tv transfixed by that show?) meetings, Saturday morning breakfasts out, and me with whatever. How did that happen or was allowed to happen? You were my dad my father. Presumably, we loved each other but that too was never stated. I feel no bitterness or regret as your love was always in evidence. Did I not make you feel that I loved you? I hope I did.
One night we were stunned to hear how you with your frail frame fought off a mugger on the subway who tried to steal your wallet. G-d forbid you could have been killed or at the very least severely beaten. The mugger got the worst of the exchange as he should have. You just had that burning flame inside of you that pushed you to do. At times I have that same flame inside of me and other times not.
A fond memory I have of you is when you used to take myself and other kids to baseball games at Yankee Stadium even though you had no interest in baseball and I not knowing much about baseball. Through the magic of the way, you could communicate you got Con Ed to sponsor this program. At least the hotdogs, soda, and popcorn were good. On those hot summer days with sweat dripping from our foreheads we sat on the backless bleacher’s side by side.
You were an incredible swimmer whereas I was not and am not. It always seemed your green Dodge Dart instinctively knew the way to Anthony Wayne pool somewhere in upstate New York. A fisherman you were not but you did try to teach me during those precious times when you took me rowing. I never did learn how to fish or swim for that matter. They are just not things that are a priority for me. Keeping my memories of you alive in my mind is. The same holds true for mom and Fran.
On a humorous/ quizzical note, what did you do with all the liquor, whiskey, and wine the doctors and medical lawyers constantly gave you as gifts? You never drank save for the occasional sip of something hence this mystery question. If I may say so as time went on you were a horrible not to mention dangerous driver. Despite doctors, advice that you should no longer drive as it was unsafe for you to do so you continued to do so. The infamous Leon Elveson stubbornness was quite evident. It pained me to take your car away from you and lie to you about where it was and when you would have it back.
If only, if only, you could have….. I don’t know what to say, dad. You were a well-read man as evidenced by all the books that proudly stood in the brown bookcase that was stationed in the living room. There were records that you played on that portable record player with the smooth velvet turntable. Why those records? Why that type of music? How did you come to like Joan Baez? None of it ever seem to fit you but it was you. By the way, I have those records. Way before Jordan got me into folk music I knew folk music from you. From my love of folk music, you live on in me.
You were against me having a Bar Mitzvah but why? How could you forget or ignore that your father-in-law narrowly escaped Poland just before the night of Kristallnacht when the Nazi’s raided the town burning down Jewish businesses while herding hundred of Jews into cattle cars to whisked away to concentration camps where many never emerged alive from. Did you not want me to know I/we were Jews? On my day you sat expressionless in the synagogue I as read my assigned section of the Haftorah. When Rabbi Katz handed me my own mini Torah scroll (I still have it) you seemed bored and disinterested. You were anything but. That same distant look took over your face as you escorted Debbie down the aisle on her wedding day. In the days following Fran’s murder, I saw that look again. The words you wanted to say us but could not as you walked from room to room in all likelihood asking yourself why.
As life was beginning to leave your body you still spent so much time on the phone trying to arrange for a meeting for whatever organization(s) you were involved with at that time. There was never enough of you to go around. It was never just about you or us but more of your sense of wanting to do good and help as many people as you could. The bags under your eyes the tired look on your face told me all I needed to know. You asked me to come over to visit more often. It was your way of self-acknowledging time of your time would soon be over.
Dad, dad, dad what I wouldn’t give to hear your voice again or absorb more of your wisdom and knowledge. Those were the gifts you gave to me. Leon Elveson I will forever remember you as a great man and an even greater dad. It is now 7:49 am on Wednesday, June 25th, 2019 a humid morning here in Brooklyn with torrential downpours that to me are the tears you are crying as you witness in writing my never-ending love for you. where it all started with you and mom. Just two station stops away is Coney Island where it all started with you and mom on the boardwalk. This July 4th Ann and I G-d willing will stand on that boardwalk while I gaze down its path trying to find you. I love you, dad.
At this point, I want to publicly thank my dear friend Larry Tyler whose touching tribute to his dad by way of his masterfully crafted article The Way Of Being inspired me to write this article as my tribute and thank you to you Leon Elveson, my dad. Larry, I owe you many thanks for bringing my dad back to me. You brought my dad back to me!