Thursday, January 3, 2008

Papa as I remember him

This site has lots of photos of Papa at various stages of his life, but I only recently got hold of the wallet-sized print below. It shows Papa as I really remember him: a dignified man of 75 with a handkerchief tucked into his coat pocket, his gently smiling face showing a hint of gravity. (I also remember him with glasses and a hat and tie, so I'll see if I can come up with a picture that shows him with all those for our upcoming photo gallery.)

This shot was taken on the Boardwalk in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, a few blocks from where Papa and my grandmother lived and raised my mother. (Not far, I should point out, from where he saw an outdoor movie on July 6, 1924.) It must be close to 1970 here, somewhere within the last year of Papa's life; he doesn't look quite as robust as he does in slightly earlier photos, but he also doesn't look as thin and tired as he would later.

I suppose I've added this because Papa looks so content and satisfied here, so different from the struggling dreamer we've come to know through his diary, yet still somehow the same man who came here at 18 from Sniatyn, lived in the prohibition-era tenements of the Lower East Side, listened to music on a crude radio, talked all night of changing the world in the Yiddish cafes of Second Avenue, and went to places like baseball games, the opera and Coney Island by trolley, subway and occasionally on the running boards of automobiles. It's a picture of a man who may not have gotten what he always dreamed of, but at the end of his life had exactly what he wanted. That's my grandmother, my sister and me to his right.

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