Today on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, I am celebrating the Yahrtzeit (death anniversary) of my dear father Zallia Shalom ben Shlomo Michal HaKohen, better known as Charlie. He passed away unexpectedly in his sleep 30 years ago todayâ€¦ I remember it like it was yesterday. I was expecting my first child then and my parents were leaving that morning to come visit.
Why celebrate? I celebrate my father, his life, his legacy. His was a difficult life. His father passed away when he was twelve. They had to move from their home to an apartment in a tough section of town, where being Jewish, he was constantly tormented. At eighteen he moved to New York City, worked in the garment business for a bit then enlisted in the Army, fought in WWII as a Captain, was wounded, Â came home, met and married my mother and began a new life. Over the years, his old life tried to encroach on the happiness he had made for himself. During the war, the doctors had given him morphine for his wounds. It worked, but by working, created a whole new monster. He became dependent on drugs and, in turn, alcohol, all the while, raising three daughters and running two successful businesses. In his forties he overcame the drug and alcohol abuse, went to AA meetings regularly and totally turned his life around for the good. At fifty-five he retired. For me, that was a happy time. He and I were always close and when he retired, he relaxed. We used to go on daily walks together. I cherish those memories. There was a quiet strength to my father. Wherever he went, his smile lit up a room. He was also a poet.
Three days after my father passed away, my first daughter was born; bittersweet. Here I had just lost my dear father and my precious baby was born. When I had told him I was expecting, he cried. He was so lost for words that all he could say was that he was as happy as a fuzzy peach. Â He couldnâ€™t wait for this grandchild, his first. Itâ€™s not for me to question why he had to leave before meeting her, but I can say that I truly felt his presence in the delivery room. He was there, as he still is, thirty years later. I know in my heart that he has been present for each of my childrenâ€™s births, that though not here physically, he is here.
He lives on through my life and the lessons I learned from him, he lives on through my children, his grandchildren, and he will live on through the generations. I wish he were physically here with me now, Iâ€™d like to give him a hug and say only, â€œI love you Daddy.â€
Two poems by my father Charles Sumner Zalkind (1917-1980):
THE GIFT OF LIFE
I look upon a leaf and see
Not a leaf, not yet a tree
But something greater in its majesty
The secret of eternity.
As winter fades to warming Spring
The wonder of it fills my heart
How wonderful the opportunity
To watch the eternal cycle start.
From a seed a tree is born
And it gives me pause to know
The beauty filled with mystery
A good G-d doth bestow.
For this gift like every other
We accept without a thought
Unthinking, oft unseeing
The miracles He hath wrought.
MOTHER’S DAY – (this was written for my mother)
This is the eve of Mother’s Day
I search my soul and heart
For words to tell you what I feel
I cannot even start.
For only you and I can know
How I wandered year on year
And only you and I can know
How much cost every tear.
So for Mother’s Day I give to you
A gift for G-d to see
Finally, finally the skies have cleared
And I can give you me.