Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Hi, Dad."

Ramon Martin Getzov
February 19, 1925 through April 14, 2010

Hi Dad.

I’m looking at the casket to my left here but, and I feel this in the strongest of ways. I know you’re up there. I know you’re everywhere now.

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ve often wondered – when someone passes away and folks are asked to speak about that person, to talk about a lifetime of experiences occurring, as in this case, from February 19, 1925 to April 14, 2010…. Talk about a challenge. I’ve been to funerals, listened to people express themselves about their loved ones this way and every time I marvel, “How do they do that?” And whenever I experience this, somewhere inside, I find myself asking, “When the time comes, when my own parents pass away, how will I do that? What will I say and will I be able to say it?

….

Today is that day. And I have to say, I feel pretty able.

….

Gifts from Dad. Memories of him.
Oh, my Lord…

….

That voice. That unbelievable, beautiful, soothing voice. When my father sang…. I mean, people loved listening to… that voice.

When I was little, I simply could not understand why my father was not doing all the things, living the same life, as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin - any of the great singers from those days. People who heard Dad perform, (e.g. saw him as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls”), they know exactly what I’m talking about here. Folks who never heard dad sing, play piano, well… I just wish you could have heard him. It really was something special. It just goes to show you – one doesn’t need to have their face plastered all over the newsstands or mega-media to have their talent, their brilliant talent expressed in the form of a precious gift to the world.

My childhood – our childhood, Yosi and Adina’s young lives, Mom’s life with Dad. Emma’s life with him. Sydney’s, Dicky’s, Dino’s, Corky’s, Max and Esther’s (our pets, by the way – To Marla, Stuart – do you remember how, whenever Dad started playing at the piano, how Sydney, no matter where she was in the house – how she would somehow always make her way to the living room, set herself down flat on the carpet directly under the piano, four limbs sprawled out in all directions, the way she used fall asleep listening to Dad singing and playing? I was always amazed by that. All of our lives with Dad were filled with, yes, his music. His very special creative energy.

That voice.

Up until he just could not do it any more, Dad was always at the piano, doing precisely what he loved to do so very much. I remember how he’d play and sing, song after song. How can I list them all now? Special songs that come to mind, for me, (different ones will come up for Marla and Stuart, I’m sure), “Little Toy Poodle”, “Crescendo” “Never Was And Never Will Be” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Autumn Leaves,” “What Kind Of Fool Am I?,” “You’re Nobody To Somebody Loves You,” and a personal favorite, “More.”

Music.

No doubt about it.

This was Dad.


* * * * * * * * * *

But as much as Dad’s music meant to him, there was something else that trumped it in terms of what was most important to him, in this life. It was, most definitely, his family.

His beautiful Ethel-Belle, his children Marla, Stuart and Harry J.

How do I know this?

I asked him.

I had the honor of interviewing Dad more than a few times, for my book. When asked about his most precious accomplishments in life, sure, Dad talked about his music and songwriting, what it meant to him to be able to create things... how did he say it? When talking about his songs, he once told me, ““Even when you’re gone, you’ve left something special for others to enjoy.” He often talked about that kind of immortality. I remember how he smiled when he recalled being on the subway in the city, and he’d be sitting, reading the paper, and he’d hear someone whistling, “Please Mr. Sun” across from him. “It felt good,” he said. "I felt proud," he added.

“With your talent,” I once asked him, “With all those voice, dance and piano lessons Papa Harry and Nana Ann gave you, and then success at such a young age, why did you decide to give it up?

This is what he expressed:

“I sometimes think about what could have been if I had gone on with it, sure. But, at the time, I knew I had a wife and a child (Marla) and, you know how the music business is so hit and miss. And I said, “I better get out before I get roped in here.” And, even though my parents kvelled whenever they heard my songs on the radio all those years, they, and I, also felt that music would be too much of a struggle for me in the long run. I couldn’t go in to my dad’s leather business, because it was a one-man operation, but it turned out he had invested in a corrugated box plant in Massachusetts, and… well, you know the rest. And so we went. We went, (raising and finger and pointing) together. Me and your mom. Whatever I had to do when I was in the music business, wherever I needed to go in terms of night clubs or other places where my songs were being played, Ethel went with me, every single time. So when it was time to leave the city, she also went with me. She left her family to go with me, without any questions. She was sad about it, but she did it. (pointing) That’s my wife.”

* * * * * * * * * *

In terms of memories – special gifts given to us, from Ray…

Just the other night I was out with Stuart, eating fajitas, sipping margaritas. It was the night just before Dad passed away, and I found myself asking a question, more than a few times. “When you think of Dad, what comes to mind? What memories?

A few –

-- Dad on the terrace, the Trafton Road house, high up above the porch, over-looking the back yard, tossing pebbles down as we laughed and ran around the yard, with Mom, Emma, perhaps some of the NY family there with us. On the 4th of July, it was heaven when Dad lit up those sparklers and waved them around. It didn't get any better than that. As Stuart said, “He was larger than life to us,” when he was up on terrace that way.

-- Baseball – our shared love of the game. How dad took something so precious to him and passed that same passion to all of us. I remember when the movie “Field of Dreams” came out – Stu called and warned me that I was going to absolutely explode when I saw the film. You know what? I did. Most of you know that scene at the end when Kevin Costner asks his dad to play catch. Well, I was one of those kids who played catch with my Dad. I... we had that kind of relationship with him. Of course, we heard all about the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, Bobby Thomson’s home-run (he was there – not a great day in his life). And then came the Mets. In particular, 1969, the fifth game of the World Series against the Orioles – Dad took Marla and me out of school that day and we drove from Longmeadow to Flushing. He knew how important it was for us to be at Shea Stadium the day the Amazins beat Baltimore to win the Series. Dad kept a handwritten scorecard that day – notating every detail, right down until the last out, when Cleon Jones pulled the fly ball into his glove, his knee collapsing into a slight kneel. I have that scorecard. Trust me. It will be with me for the rest of my life.

-- The getaways to the Cape, South Yarmouth, the shows, trips to London, and then… all those adventures, the drives to New York City to visit with The Mensch and Segal families, to see Nanas Ann And Edith. Listening to William B. Williams on (singing) “WNEW”, with the “More Park’s Sausages Mom! Please?” commercials. The stays at the Hilton, Waldorf, Sheraton Tenney, The Barbizon Plaza (me locking Marla in the closet there). And then… the food, always the food in our family – The Turnpike Deli!! Bill Hongs, Danny’s Hideaway, Clam Box, the Hu Ke Lau (with the Posnick family), Ciro's and the Lido (also often with the Sy, Flossie and the kids, by the way), Friendly's, Ray's and Richard's Grinders. Of course, The Concord, most obviously, a very special memory considering what the mere mention of the word meant (and still means) to my Mom and Dad.

For me, when I push myself to think of a particular memory of Dad – a moment, perhaps, where I felt something special about him, one experience seems to keep bubbling up. I laugh when I think of it because, after 52 years with this man, all those incredible experiences with him and my family, why would this one moment mean so much to me??

Camp Winadu. I think it was 1966. A late August morning, camp had just ended, the campers had already been packed up and moved down to the ball-fields to start their great exodus back to New York City – to the Adventurers Inn. But the Getzov boy, he was from Western Massachusetts.

I was waiting for my father to pick me up.

I was sitting on the steps of a bunk cabin, I think it was Bunk 16, kind of in the middle of the Junior Campus, looking down across a large green hill, and then over and across a very blue Lake Onota. It was perhaps around 9:00 in the morning, sunny, the grass was still glistening with droplets of water, a little steam rising from it. There was that early morning Berkshire chill in the air.

So, there I was, sitting next to my packed trunk, already informed by Irv Dube that Dad had already stopped by to say hello “up top,” and was on his way down to pick me up. I sat, looking around – eight weeks filled with hundreds of kids running around that gorgeous piece of real estate – it was over. It was very quiet.

I was still waiting. I didn’t see him. Where was Dad? I think about it now, I mean, I was eight – I was worried, you know, I was a kid, scared, I guess. I jumped off the steps and took a look in back of the bunk, glancing near the infirmary, no sign.



He appeared from the side of, I guess it was, Bunks 8 and 9, down on the Colt Campus. He walked out from where Bill and Fran Speigel lived every summer. I swear I can still picture this as I talk with you now. The face. Handsome. Brylcreemed hair combed back, it was so rich and dark back then. (Note: it was still rich, if not so dark, right up until Dad’s last breath. This gift, my brother and I are thankful for).

As Dad walked toward me up the pathway, I saw him smiling. That radiant smile. He waved, signaling to me that he was there for me.

I can not possibly convey to any of you here today, just what that feeling was when I saw Dad that day. It is simply not describable. But here I am writing about it, talking about it, today, April 16, 2010. So, you know…

A love for a father. I felt it that day. I felt the happiness – the same way I feel it as I relay this story.

My father picked me up that day.


* * * * * * * * * *

Something else about Dad, speaking again of gifts…

My father could relate to anyone. Truck drivers, union guys on a factory assembly line, as he did at Eastern Container and then, even at M&S Tomato – and he didn’t even speak Spanish! I remember how those guys loved my father – I could tell. On the other side of the spectrum… celebrities, business executives, producers, board presidents, any man or woman on the street. You could tell how much Dad genuinely enjoyed the company of others. When I now notice how Marla, Stuart and I love doing precisely the same thing, I smile because I know we got this, I guess you’d call it a skill, from Dad. In that way, a part of him will continue to live in us.

And it feels great.

* * * * * * * * * *

Gifts.

Saying Goodbye.

While watching the Masters just this past Sunday, I was looking up at the TV screen, but, as I did regularly, I kept glancing down at Dad to see if he was doing okay. This one time I happened to turn my head and was surprised, actually startled, to see him… looking at me – those wonderfully warm eyes wide open and bright. I didn’t say anything. I was looking at him... looking at me. The sound of the golf tournament in the background.

He placed his warm hand on top of mine and tapped it, I don’t know, maybe about ten to twenty times.

He smiled.

Who needs words?


* * * * * * * * * *

Back to one of those songs I mentioned earlier. I was surprised this morning to see that Bobby Darin wrote this.

I want to share the lyric with you now.

“MORE”
by Bobby Darin


(CLICK on this: Bobby Darin 'More', to hear a nice version of Darin singing it, but I'll find one of Dad's and post it at a later time. In the meantime, if you prefer, here's a Nat King Cole version I love).

(Singing)

More than the greatest love the world has known
This is the love that I give to you alone
More than the simple words I try to say
I only live to love you more each day.

More than you'll ever know
My arms long to hold you so
My life will be in your keeping
Waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.

Longer than always is a long, long time
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine
I know I never lived before
And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more.


* * * * * * * * * *

More than you'll ever know
My arms long to hold you so ….


There are no accidents. Of this, I am absolutely convinced.

The way Dad left this Earth, this time … it just can not have been an accident that he left it in Mom’s arms.

Hundreds of times over the past few months, every morning I would hold his hand, shave him, comfort his face with a warm wash cloth, kiss him on his forehead. I remember, one evening, I kissed his cheek while saying good night, wishing him “Pleasant Dreams,” until I’d see him early the next morning.

“Did you feel that?” I asked.

“Every bit of it” he smiled, looking up at me.

We are all so very sure that Dad felt “every bit of it” the other morning.

I am convinced God rewarded Dad with a “bonus round,” wait a minute… With 100 more bonus rounds!! Of course, this was done with the help of so many people and for those people, I and my entire family want to make sure you understand how very much we thank you for being there for us – helping us keep Ray around for just a little bit longer. Every single time we thought “This is it,” He just kept coming back, fighting, holding on to his precious life, day after day, year after year. The fact that this man was given the chance to have all that extra time, to be with – his family – his grandchildren for 8½ years of their lives. The same family that was with him right until the end. The very end.


* * * * * * * * * *

Rest in peace Dad.

I am going to miss you.

We are all going to miss you.

“More” than you will ever, ever know.


* * * * * * * * * *

11 comments:

Cheryl said...

In my attempt to see if there was anything written on your father's life, I came upon this blog via Google. Just a beautiful tribute, Harry. So moving and heart-felt, and I love the photos. What a gorgeous couple....

Hollis Baker said...

Our condolances to you Harry and all your family. What a lovely eulogy you have written for a great man. I have kept checking in each day with fear...and hope. Fear that your father was gone, and hope for a few more days. Both came to pass. Thank you for sharing with us a bit of a bigger than life man...your father. Hollis and Alice

Charles said...

Great tribute,Harry.

DEAL girl said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Harry. Barb & I send hugs to you and all of your family.
Love, Joanal

Dana B. said...

Quite moving, Harry. Thanks so much for sharing so many intimate memories. I'm so sorry to hear the news, but glad your father is finally at peace. And, no doubt, he's still singing, wherever he is.
You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

Dana B. said...

Quite moving, Harry, and such a beautiful portrait of a talented man. I'm so sorry to hear of his passing, but glad he's finally at peace. And I'm sure he's still singing, wherever he is. Know that you're in my thoughts and prayers.

tina said...

Harry
Thanks for sharing this with me. I lost my father 2 years ago this month and share your grief. Your Dad sounded like a wonderful man- kind and generous and talented. Sounds an awful lot like his son. I am thinking about you and holding you and your family in my thoughts. t

Mary Stone said...

Harry, what a beautiful and moving tribute. I wish I could have known your father, but I feel like I do know him through you. I look forward to receiving your father's version of "More". With love, Mary

Peter said...

Harry, Stu and Family, Abby and I send our condolences. Your writings were beautiful and insightful. Thank you for including us. My Dad is still my hero, though he has passed from here. You too are very fortunate to have had such wonderful experiences with this great man! You are in our thoughts and prayers, Pete and Abby

Emily Allen said...

Accept my condolences on the loss of your father, Harry. Your words paint a wonderful, engaging man. It's so hard to lose your father, no matter what his age.
Emily Allen

Migdalia said...

Harry,

Your tributes to Emma and your dad really touched my heart. There is just so much love and caring expressed. You have a gift for the written word.

I can not wait to read your book.

Migdalia O'Leary

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