My father suffered from terrible arthritis. My sister and I were told that this came about because of malnutrition while he was being raised in an orphanage in Weimar Germany and heavy labor on two kibbutzim after he managed to escape from Nazi Germany. My sister and I were both well-nourished as children and we have never done heavy labor (although I guess my years of martial arts might count). We both got arthritis in our 50s. We are our father’s daughters.
My father suffered terribly from the heat. Whenever San Francisco’s fog abated even slightly, he turned red as a tomato and start perspiring heavily. I was told that this was a result of years of smoking — or more accurately, I was told this was the fallout from quitting. He was a three-pack-a-day man until I was 13, when he finally quit smoking. By then, his cardiovascular system (or so the story went) could not handle the abrupt transition from smoking to non-smoking, leaving him unable to cope with heat.
I’ve never smoked. When it’s hot — as it has been for the past week — while I don’t turn red as a tomato, I do start perspiring heavily and suffering mightily. I’m not helped by the fact that my house is not equipped for heat, as we don’t have A/C nor do we have curtains or shades in half the house (my husband is obsessed with openness). Hot flashes, the bane of older women, also don’t make this problem easier, especially since I cannot handle hormone treatments.
My father was very nearsighted. I am too.
My father burned at the slightest hint of sunshine. I do too.
In many ways for the worse, I am my father’s daughter.
But it’s not all bad. Here are the better things I inherited from him:
My father was smart. Really smart. I don’t know that I’m as smart as he is, and there are many who would quarrel with how I use my intellect, but I’m pretty well-equipped mentally. My mom was no slouch, but to the extent my sister and I have brains, they came from our father.
My father loved to laugh. So do I.
My father could make other people laugh. Now that I’ve finally left behind my extended adolescence, and accepted the fact that I am an eccentric, I too can leave people laughing. That makes me feel good.
My father had a capacious, albeit random memory. That’s me down to a T. If it interests me, it’s cemented in my brain. If not . . . well, bye-bye. It’s gone.
My father had lovely yellowish eyes, mixed with a little blue and green. Actually, I don’t — but I gave those to my children, both of whom have yellowish eyes, one with strong green tones, the other with frankly golden tones. In that too they got an assist from my mother’s side of the family, but it’s mostly dad’s genes I see there.
My father was a stoic. Despite the many awful things life threw at him, he didn’t complain (although I think we all might have been happier had he gotten it out occasionally). I am not a stoic. I’m a whiner . . . but I try to model myself after my father, which means that I only whine about half as much as I want to. That’s a good thing, right?
My father was both the most stubborn person in the world, but also someone who could follow where logic led. That’s why he went from being a communist (what else would a poor Jew in Weimar Germany be?), to a soft socialist (what else would an upwardly mobile Jew in the new state of Israel be?), to a Democrat (what else would a young white-collar immigrant in 1950s/1960s America be?), to a Reagan Democrat (what else would a sane person after four years of Carter/Democrat governance be?). I too looked at where facts led and changed my mind. I’m very proud of that fact and look to my father as a role model for growing intellectually even into middle and older age.
And that’s how I’m like my father for better.
I am my father’s daughter.