Friedman: Memories of my father at Passover – Burlington County Times

Sally Friedman| Columnist

The last time I saw my father was at a family Passover Seder. I remember it well because the mood became fraught with disagreement.

My fathers opinions, strong and passionate, met with argument and disapproval from a few relatives.He was a liberal with strong opinions. Those were the years when political conflict raged, and my brave father clashed as the mood turned from sweet to sour.

Passover has always been a tough time for me.All these years later, I still cringe about that nightandhow much I wish I had been braver and supported my fathers views.I was too uninformed and scared.He was a brilliant lawyer who sometimes embarrassed me with his occasionally complicated and controversial views.

While this holiday is full of Jewish pride for me, it is still an emotional experience. Why had I not defended this man, who truly tried to make the world a better place? I was too young, too uneasy, trying to distancemyself fromthe grownups and their angry arguments.

Every year in this season, I think ofthe bespectacledman who once read me Hans Christian Andersen ten times in a rowwhen Ihad ghastly bumps on my jaws because of mumps.He knew how much I loved that story.

My father never cooked or cleaned or fussed around the house.He neverserved thedrinks at parties. But he did always notice when two little girls in nightgowns would tiptoe down to watchthe grownupsatparties. Whenwe were back in bed, he would call out, Goodnight, sleep tight, dont let the bedbugs bite.We couldnt fall asleep until we heard those words.

Myfathers causes, when they werecontroversial, sometimeslanded in newspapers. That embarrassed me.So,duringthis seasonI think more than ever of my brave father who spoke his mind and pursued his beliefs even at some cost.

Passover reminds me of his courage. It also brings back regrets about the things left unsaid to this man who loved justice, risked criticism, and tried so hard to spread that courage to me.This seasons holiday is so full of memoriesand regrets that I never had the chance to tell my father that I was so proud of himand ofhis legacy.But there are no do-overs.When he died, my greatest regret was that omission.

As a generation of us celebrates Passover, I will need to find some private time to remember Hymen Schwartz, my latefather, andto honor his memory. I wish he hadlived longerand that he had experienced the joy of another generation to teach, love, and cherish.

I have yearned to tell him that things have turned out well for me.And becausehe left too soon, I didnt get to tell him that his other daughter and I have buried all sibling rivalry ghosts and as adult women we are confidantes, counterpoints, dearest friends.

How I have longed to tell my father that without him, everything wonderful, awful and in between is diminished.And that I miss him more than I ever thought it was possible to miss anyone.

Sometimes when I look at the faces of our daughters, I catch a certain glimpse of him in them.Then I remind myself that the blood lives on and I am grateful for that.

Sally Friedman is a freelance writer. Contact her at pinegander@aol.com.

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Friedman: Memories of my father at Passover - Burlington County Times

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