Sunday, April 18, 2010

His Life Became Our Lives
When does a human embryo become human? A little story might help to clarify this question.
In 1921, a hard-working, Jewish tailor left his dear wife at the abortionist on the way to work. He worked long hours for little pay and they already had five additional mouths to feed. At the end of the work day, he returned to pick up his wife. However, the abortionist hadn't taken her yet. The impatient husband saw this as providential and scooped up his wife and brought her home to eventually have her sixth child.
On May 20, 1922, a previously unwanted baby was born to Fanny and Joseph. Not only was this embryo human, but on June 15, 1945 this embryo became Milton Mann, my father. In 1945, he married Toby Katz and two years later on June 14, 1947, I was born. That little aggregate of cells, which was my father, in a sense, contained me and from this same aggregate my daughter, Leora, came forth on May 17, 1972 and her three daughters after her. Following me, Gary (7/31/50) came forth and Richard joined us on June 19, 1956. Although we never constituted the golfing "foursome" that Dad had been hoping for; nor did we even become esteemed doctors or lawyers, but instead - and perhaps more importantly - we continue to cherish the memory of the one who beat the odds and survived the abortionist's hook; someone who loved us in his own quiet and determined way.
When does a clump of cells become a human being? When the egg extends an open-door (or membrane) to the sperm? I do not have the wisdom to pick this question apart, but I do know that, even at the beginning, there was something precious in my grandmother's womb and I believe that there was something providential in its protection.
Danny 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Family with close friends the Kaines 1958

Dad would have been a good poker player. He always played his hand close to his chest. As his sister Becky (Rebecca Mann) had observed, "Milt never expressed his feelings." Although this was certainly true, the way he played his hand clearly revealed his priorities-his overriding commitment to his wife and sons.
Although I did little to meet his approval, this never interfered with his commitment to me. In 1965, I chose to go to the riotous University of California at Berkeley against his wishes. However, after the first year, I dropped out in order to "find myself" in the midst of all the alternative lifestyles that the 60's served up. Troubled at the sight of my floundering around, Dad made haste to book a flight out to California. He stayed with me for more than a week, perplexed at my seemingly aimless behavior. Only later, I had discovered that he had wanted to put me back on the right track but didn't know what to say. He left sorrowfully, thinking he had lost his son to the perplexing spirit of the 60's.
However, Dad wasn't finished with his rescue efforts. In 1970, I informed him that I was going to Israel to find a new life, but I had one problem-no money. However, Dad decided to indulge my latest fancy and financed it by generously buying my coin collection.
A couple of years later, still in Israel, I informed my parents that I was getting married to my pregnant betrothed. However, this didn't deter my faithful father. In several months, he and Mom arrived in Israel, where they hosted a grand family reception for us.
However, Israel wasn't to work out for us. We relocated in the States on an Appalachian hill farm, which Dad purchased for us. It was the time of the "back to the land" movement and I was convinced that if I lived in harmony with nature, I would experience the peace of nature. However, instead of peace, I had a horrible chain saw injury that landed me in the hospital for four days.
Despite the distance, when I opened my eyes after surgery, Dad and Mom were at my bedside. Although they had a problem hearing what I had to say about an encounter I had had with God during my chainsaw debacle, this didn't deter them from paying my hospital bills.
Although I now had my Savior, Dad remained my earthly savior, even after I graduated from seminary. My back had gotten so bad that I didn't know if I could hold down a job. I was hired, however, by the NYC Department of Probation and had to find an apartment as close as possible to my new job. It was beyond my hopes that I would be able to find an affordable apartment close to the office so that I could come home from work at lunch and lay down. However, Dad stepped in again, without my even asking him and purchased an apartment one block from my office!
To Dad's great disappointment, after only 15 years, I took an early retirement from Probation so that I could write and teach theology on a full-time basis. It had been the financial assistance that he was extending to each one of his sons that had enabled me to do this-something for which I'm very grateful.
Surprisingly, Dad's generosity persisted until the end. My income was never too great and so I would ask to borrow Dad and Mom's car when I needed to take a trip. last year, Anita and I decided to take a road trip down to see our daughter Leora in Orlando, with many scheduled stops along the way. We brought the car in for servicing and were informed that it wasn't road-worthy and would require $3,500 for repairs. When I decided to go in to the service station to see if we could have the repairs done for less, Dad insisted on accompanying me. To my astonishment, he intervened by trading in our junker for a used car on their lot-all in a matter of a couple of hours.
Despite all of this, we both had a great deal of hesitation about expressing our feelings for each other. About two years ago, Anita hinted to Dad, "I know that Danny would appreciate it if you two were more intimate."
I was too embarrassed to speak, but Dad deftly changed the subject to our mutual relief. But I'm so glad that I was able to utter those key words-I love you-in a father's-day card. Dad never said anything about it-he never would-but I trust that it meant something to him.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Loving Memory

I found this memorial among my parent's papers.

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want no tears in a gloom filled room

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little but not for long

And not with your head bowed low

Remember the love that we once shared.

Miss me......but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take

And each must go alone

It's all part of the master plan

A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart

Go to the friend we know

And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.

Miss me......but let me go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Richard's Eulogy 7/28/2009

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been Milton’s son. He was a very smart, generous, loving, and humorous man. It was my wife, Sally, who reminded me yesterday of the story concerning Dad’s shoes. We were pulling the car into the Nevele parking area for an extended family vacation when we saw Dad pacing in front of the entrance. He always seemed to arrive at destinations first. I think it had something to do with his liberal interpretation of speed limits. I noticed that he seemed to be standing taller than I remembered. It was the shoes- the heels were at least an inch-and-a-half thick.
After we all greeted him, I said, “Wow, Dad, that’s quite a pair of shoes that you’ve got.”
“Yeah, I bought them just the other day. Guess, how much they cost? Only ten dollars.”

It’s a Mann family thing: we have trouble resisting bargains.

“Good deal,” I said. “And look at all those colors: blue, and orange, with pink highlights.” I felt compelled to describe the colors in detail, as Dad was color-blind.
“Yes, yes, and they look rather nice, don’t you think?
I was thinking, “nice if you plan on joining the circus” but I said nothing and simply shook my head, weakly in the affirmative.
That night, when he greeted us at the dinner table in the large dining hall, I noticed that he was still wearing the shoes. I mentioned them again and looked towards my mother who smiled at me, shook her head, and held up her hands, palms facing the ceiling. I’d seen that gesture before. It meant, “I tried. Believe me, I tried, but there is no talking to the man.”
When my father made up his mind about something, it was next to impossible to budge him. After he recovered from his last stroke in November of 2005, he decided he would drive out each weekend to visit Ruth on Long Island.
“Dad”, I said, “You’ve just recovered from a major stroke. You can afford to hire a limousine and relax in the back seat.”
“That won’t be necessary,” he said.
“I don’t want you behind the wheel, risking your own life and the lives of others, travelling at ninety miles an hour.”
“Ninety miles an hour?” He smiled. “It’s more like eighty-five now.”
Once when I visited him on a Sunday afternoon after he returned from Long Island, I saw the wheel of one of those giant trucks imprinted on the passenger side of his car. “I see that a semi made quite an impression on the body of your car.”
“Yeah,” he admitted, “That damn driver drifted into my lane.” I thought that it might have been the other way around, but there was no talking to the man. Over the course of the past three and a half years, Dad had four or five accidents, but miraculously, no one ever got hurt. As my mother used to say, “We were so lucky.”
Dad was only able to attend college for 3 months, as a young man. By the time he was nineteen, Pearl Harbor had been bombed and we had entered the Second World War. He enlisted in the army and entered the signal core. He learned to read and send Morse code at a speed of over forty words per minute and was about to be sent to the South Seas to intercept and decode Japanese communications when he came down with a terrible case of influenza. Many of his fellow soldiers never returned from their assignment but Dad safely spent the rest of the war teaching code in the states.
As an older man, he remained passionate about learning. He went to Montclair College, and in his sixties and seventies, he took numerous classes in philosophy, economics, and literature. How many children have the opportunity to engage in deep discussions with their father concerning Kierkegaard, Kafka, and Marcel Proust? Dad was very proud of the papers he wrote and often gave me them to read.
His passion for knowledge and understanding was nowhere more apparent than in his recovery from his last stroke. To this day, his recovery remains for me a source of the most profound inspiration. For over a month, Dad did not know who his sons were nor did he know who he was. I watched him return again and again to the sign outside of his hospital room, while holding on to the stand that held his intravenous bag. He was determined to put together the bits and pieces of his recently shattered existence and decode the numbers and letters on the sign. “Room 704”, he said, “July 4th! July 4th? No. No. Milton Mann? Milton Mann?” Eventually, he reassembled himself into a coherent whole and lived another 3 ½ years, doing exactly what he wanted to do: going to work, travelling to Long Island, and spending quality time with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Dad loved seeing family and he was quite fond of taking us all to the Tick Tock Diner. Just a few days before his final stroke, we were all assembled there: Dad and Ruth, three sons, three grandchildren, and his three beautiful great granddaughters. I have never seen him happier. The workers all knew him at the diner, and when he would signal the waiting staff across that crowded room, they were quick to respond, and seemed to enjoy all of his eccentricities. Once when his grandson, Jake, was hungry, waiting for his hamburger and fries that were long overdo, he wandered into the kitchen to find out what was holding them up. It was like he owned the place. Another time he signaled the waitress while holding his empty glass. She came right over and Dad said, “We all need a little more… mayonnaise.”
“He means, water,” I said.
“Water, that’s right. My boy is right. We all need waaaater.”
Milt even found a way of dealing with the hardship of aphasia with charm and style.
But after this last stroke, when it was clear to all of us that the up-side of a possible recovery would provide no real quality of life, no measure of independence, and that the terms of such a life would be entirely unacceptable to him, my father took his leave of life in the same fashion that he did everything else in his life: quickly and decisively.
I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had Milton as my father and as a grandfather for my two boys, Jake and Isaac. On behalf of myself, and my brothers, Daniel and Gary, I’d like to thank all of you for coming here this morning and being with us on this day of mourning and celebration. My father lived a good and long life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mom 1940 Dad always used to tell us that every time he hung Mom's picture up on his locker, in the army, it was stolen. People thought she was a "Pin-up girl".
This is Carly, grandpa's granddaughter. I wanted to say how much I will miss the world's best grandpa. He was more than just a grandpa to me, he was also my best friend and my role model. My grandpa has always been a fighter when it came to overcoming obstacles in his life and would never give up in whatever he believed in, even if it came down to a bitter fight in the end. I love that about him, and I bet if you looked around for another man on this earth like my grandpa, you would realize that my grandpa is a pretty special person. Not only was he a courageous fighter, but he also had a heart that gave so much love to other people. Ive been told that when I came home from China, grandpa was the first person I connected with. My mom always tells me that she can still remember me and grandpa dancing in that hallway, looking as if I had known him my whole life, even though my life was just beginning. He has been in my life, since the very first time I came to America, and even though he is gone I will always remember him and keep him close to my heart. I love you grandpa, and may you rest in peace.
Dad and Carly Christmas 2004