Our families, Krouks, Ackermans, and others are lucky in having some wonderful fathers. I imagine that, for a son in my position, we probably have the same few things to say. I am lucky to be able to say them.
First, I want to say he was a wonderful father and I love him. And, while the occasion is sad, I am glad to be amongst all of you who also love him. One: Love.
Second, I want to say that I am grateful for all that he taught me about life … so much. Among those things, he taught that life is wonderful and constantly calls upon us to experience its fascinations, pursue its adventures, and share with those that we love. He taught by example how important it is to be polite and caring towards others. He taught me too many things to mention. But, I believe these things are his parenting legacy. Two: The Most Important Lessons in Life.
There is a third thing which I want to say. I will save it for the end of my remarks. In the meantime time, I would like to share with you a few things about my dad from our times together.
Oddly, I was raised by an atheist named Bernie but, I find myself at a Jewish funeral for a man named Ben. I think perhaps that, to a greater or lesser degree, we all contain multitudes. Maybe my father a bit more so than others.
I suspect we all would recognize him as Captain Krouk. My father loved his career as a pilot. He found the idea that humans could lift themselves off the surface of the earth and soar in the clouds wonderful beyond words. He was enthusiastic beyond measure that HE HIMSELF could, by applying his mind (and in the early years his physical talents), make a machine accomplish this whenever he liked … and he could take others with him on the ride. He loved the doing of it and the doing of things in general.
I cannot think of a single thing that my dad did not like about his career as a pilot. He was very lucky in that regard. His love of it all extended to aspects which many could not quite fathom. When I was a teenager, he used to call me up and suggest that we meet in a city, such as San Francisco, for lunch at the tail-end of one of his work trips. It wasn’t that it was particularly convenient for either of us to get there. We flew strictly space available and typically had to change planes twice to make it in those days. And, we weren’t even traveling together. To me, this seemed like a lot of work to see a guy who would otherwise be home later that same day. But, to him, he just thought, how could anyone not want to go? How could you not want to DO it? And so, sometimes we did.
My father loved exploration and adventure. These are particularly wonderful attributes in a father. Let’s rent a plane and look down on our own house! Let’s race go-carts! Let’s meet legendary cyclist Eddie Merckx! Let’s get a tour of an automobile factory! Let’s take a sea-plane between these Caribbean islands! Let’s clock our dog’s top running speed in our VW Bug! Let’s go to a jazz club in Montreal! Let’s snorkel! Let’s see the Soviet Union! Let’s tour Italy using only public transportation! Let’s figure out how to sail (again)! Let’s see an Edward Albee play! Let’s go on a 50 mile bike-ride, including a summit of Sugarloaf Mountain!
I would be remiss if I did not make clear that the adventure did not always have to be new … in virgin territory that is. He loved just walking around, particularly in cities, to “stumble into” things or to go on a quest to find particular things. I very much enjoyed many adventures with him in Manhattan that involved nothing more than walking around and perhaps looking for “that old falafel place” in the Village. Or, having him to host us for a dinner at Tele’s, that Greek restaurant in Queens.
My father, much to the horror of my mother, wanted us to find our passions in life and pursue them … to be happy by doing, rather than to acquire the means that might make us happy. Between the two of them, it was clear that I absolutely had to work very hard at something that paid well AND, at the same time, do what made me happy regardless of compensation. I think it is fair to say that love and respect was not the reason that the marriage didn’t last.
Actually, I do not know why my parents’ relationship did not work out; I do not even know if they did. But, I know that he was very sad about it and he cared about my mother deeply. I believe that to be true for all of the women that he made a life with, or seriously considered making a life with. My impression is that he was very genuine and loving in all of his relationships and saddened by their ends.
My father was very intelligent; remarkably and proudly so. He loved to put his mind to work … to DO things with his mind. To know how things work, why they work, and to know how to alter the outcome. That gave him great joy.
At the same time, he was a gentle and caring guy. I think that this combination of intelligence and gentleness sometimes led him to feel lonely. I think there were things that he knew to be true and yet could not bring himself to say. I think he chose to believe that people have in them goodness and good sense and that, given time, those properties would bubble up around the internal obstacles to effervesce at the surface. Many are the times, not just as a child, that I only saw in retrospect the long time that he waited for the better parts of me to surface and make right my course. That can be lonely. It requires patience and love. He was deeply kind and caring.
And, this is more or less where I want to end my remarks … the third attributes that sons of wonderful fathers wish to share on the occasion of their passing. Three: Kindness.
I believe that the last months came as a surprise to him. I know that they did to me. Because of him, I know life to be full of wonder. In many respects, he led a charmed life. So much luck, adventure, joy, and love. Now, I see with aching clarity that life cannot be counted upon to be wonderful or even humane back to us. Why these unspeakable events? I am sad to say that I see no reason for them. A final, tragic lesson about life.
I also know that this is one of those truths that he would think is better not said. And, I know that he would wait for my better self to effervesce. So, he has had one last patience to endure with me.
Truly, though, his suffering is finally over. So, let us be thankful for that.
Our families are lucky to have many wonderful fathers. I was lucky to have one of them as my own.
Now, my father is gone. I will miss sharing adventures and love with him.