A Eulogy For My Dad

Author Iris Waichler's father  Melvin  Sneider at his 95th birthday party.
Author Iris Waichler’s father Melvin Sneider at his 95th birthday party.

My father was an ordinary man by society’s standards. He had a high school education and was a blue collar worker but like most things in life if you take the time you realize that most things in life are not as they appear. His 2 passions in life were family and food usually in that order.  it was so ironic for all of us that at the end of his life he couldn’t eat and we knew what a huge loss that was for him.  In his old age his memories of his family were very bittersweet and they became more bitter as he grew older.  He sadly didn’t feel love from his parents.  I think that helped shape his feelings about family today.  He had decided that when he did have his own family they would feel loved every single day and we felt that.

Every conversation with my dad ended with I love you.

He was a scrap man, a junk man. He woke up at 4am every day lifting 300 pound barrels and he didn’t do it because he loved it he did it because he loved us.  He got this job so his kids could go to college because he never did.  He kept that 4am schedule for the rest of his life.  That hard work really paid off and and I think it helped him live until his 90’s. He was strong. He worked out 3 days a week even in his nineties.

The blue collar part of him I would just say he was a self taught person.  He talked a lot when he got older how proud he was of our home. He built our basement himself he did all of the electrical and he did all of the plumbing. He simply read a book and taught himself how to do it.

He was very proud of his work in the stock market as well. He thought stock brokers were crazy and didn’t know what they were doing. He was going to show them that he knew a hell of a lot more than they did. And he did. We built our family room, our garage, and bomb shelter from the money he got from the Fairchild Camera stock that he knew so much about.

Even as a child when he was 12 years old he went to his father and said I think you better pull your money out of the bank because the economy was going to take a tumble. My grandfather thought he was crazy. My father went to the bank and got his $12 out just before the crash.

My father as you can see by the flag was a very proud soldier and patriot.  His army life was a very important part of how he perceived himself and he talked a lot about it in old age. He was a soldier for 4 years and as many soldiers he spoke about the soldiers he served with as his “real family” and his band of brothers.  He was at Pearl Harbor 20 days after Pearl Harbor was bombed and he volunteered to serve in Tsai Pan because his fellow brothers/soldiers were being selected to go and he decided if he had to die it would be an honor to die with his band of brothers. He always said to me that the reason he survived the was was because he was destined to have a family and he really believed that.

He told me a story about when he was a soldier and someone in his outfit who was mentally ill and at one point took a gun and threatened to kill my father. He had the gun pointed in his belly and other soldiers took the gun away from him. He was arrested and my father found out that this man was mentally ill.  His commanding officer came to him and said do you want to press charges and my father said no he needs help he doesn’t need to be punished for this. That’s the kind of man my father was.

Family and friends were a huge part of their lives. My mother was the social butterfly and she arranged things but our family became friends and they had a lifetime of good friends.  My father was the kind of guy that when his close friend needed a kidney my dad was the first one to say take mine.

He took care of my mother when she was very ill and as far as our family was concerned he took enormous pride in all of our personal and professional successes.

His sense of humor was wickedly funny and we loved every minute of it. We used to go to a deli called Sam and Hy’s.  We were there so much people thought we owned it.  My father took great delight in breaking in the new waitresses.  With a very serious face he would demand a bagel without a hole.  And take total delight as he watched the new waitress going through a giant bag of bagels desperately looking for a bagel without a hole.  He also liked to take a napkin, stick it on a fork, and wave it around just to get their attention. Just to drive them crazy.

He had a strong sense of value about what was right and wrong.

There was a gentleman where my dad lived who was a bully. He was bullying elderly people in the dining room by telling them that is my seat not yours and forcing them to move. My father went up to him one day and said that is enough. I am tired of watching you bully other people. This was when he was ninety years old. The bully looked at him and said what are you going to do about it. Then my father said lets take it outside. They went outside the dining room and my dad said throw the first punch. I want you to throw the first punch please. The guy was scared. My dad said we don’t have all day. Someone has to do something. My father quickly kicked him in the knee and jumped on the elevator.  We heard this story over the holidays and as you can imagine we were all horrified. I was most frightened he was going to be kicked out of the Kenwood and he would be living with us. We were trying to figure out what to do to prevent something like this from happening again.  My sister, Susie, who is a special education teacher kept saying to him “use your words, use your words.” We all knew that was not going to go anywhere.  For a brief moment I had a stroke of genius and I said to him “Dad what about the cameras?” and he said to me “what do you mean?” I told him there are security cameras there and they caught what you did. He said it is my word against his and I said not with the security cameras. He said I didn’t know about that. I guess I won’t do that again.

He also had a strong sense of value about blue collar people and their rights. He identified with the common man. One of the things my father taught us was if you felt you were wronged in some way you should do something about it.  His stock market genius came into play whenever he had a product that didn’t work or he felt he was wronged what he taught us to do was to find out the name of the CEO of the company which was not always easy to find out before computers. He would write them a letter telling them he was a major shareholder in that company whether he was or not and as he told us you always send those letters certified mail because it scares the hell out of them. My siblings and I have used that for the rest of our lives.

My dad’s final days at the Kenwood he decided that it was time for him not to live in our house anymore and move to assisted living.  We were looking for places for him to live he had 2 demands. One was that the gym opened at 4am so he could work out there and the other was they had 10 lb weights so he could use them.  He found a wonderful, loving community at the Kenwood.  As we said food was very important to him and he went to the dining room an hour and a half before it opened so that he could be the first one in line and get the best seat in the house.  When he first moved there the first thing he did was meet the chef and the woman who seated residents in the dining room because he said they were going to be the most important people in his life there. They loved him for it. He meticulously studied the menus to determine what was going to be the meal of the day and when we joined him for meals he coached us about what we should eat as well.

My dad was incredibly healthy until he was 90. We were very lucky.  When he was 90 I noticed that something was wrong and I took him to the doctor.  He was telling the doctor how great he was doing.  The doctor took off his shirt to take his pulse and I noticed he had a wristwatch on his wrist and one up by his elbow.  I asked him “Dad was is that about?” He looked at the watch by his elbow and said, “I have been looking for that for 3 weeks.  This trip was worth it thanks so much.” We took that as a sign that something was not right and the doctor sent us to the emergency room where we learned my dad had a cerebral hemorrhage.  I talked to the neurosurgeon that was working on him and the doctor said I don’t surgery on people who are 90 years old and I told him you haven’t met my father. I went to my dad and told him the pros and cons of the surgery and told him it is your decision.  He looked at me and said you know that bullet missed me in World War II and everything in my life has been gravy and blessed so lets go for it. He made a full recovery.

We were very lucky to have him in our lives as long as we did.  So today I want to salute my  extraordinary father. He would be humbled by your love and your support and we certainly are humbled by him.  He touched  many lives in many ways and on his behalf I thank you all for being here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Iris Waichler

Iris Waichler is author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. Published by Wyatt-Mackenzie

Mom’s Choice Gold Award Winner for Best Book of the Year

Winner of the National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award for best book of the year

Award Winner-Finalist for USA BookNews Best Book of the Year

Winner of the finalist award for Foreword Magazine 2007 non-fiction Book of the Year.

Twitter site: Ioninfertility

http://www.infertilityrollercoaster.com/

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