Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Dad's Face

"Are you Robby Nussbaum?"

I was at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding more than a hundred miles and a half century removed from "Robby".

I nodded that I was.

"I saw you and thought it was your father. I am Rhoda Kahn."

It has been 34 Father's Days since my Dad was alive.

I had not seen Rhoda since she and my sister were friends at a time John Kennedy was our leader and the Beatles were a young band making a name across the big pond.

"I got shivers when you walked through that door."

I don't think I resemble my dad at all, at least in a physical sense. My son reminds me often that my head is perfectly round while my dad's, at least in my mind, was leaner and longer. And our noses were not at all similar, his hook (sorry dad) no where in evidence on my face.

Yet here, half a country away from where Rhoda had settled decades earlier, she had seen something unmistakeable.

I spent most of the evening telling this tale to anyone and everyone. And it turned out to serve a dual purpose. Not only was I able to have something to say to a room filled mostly with strangers but it allowed me, on Father's Day weekend, to bring back thoughts of my dad. And from this came unexpected benefits.

One of those to whom I recounted this story had known my dad.

"Your father was one of the most wonderful people I have met in my entire life, so bright and so kind."

It was remarkable to me that the speaker, only in his mid 20's when my dad passed away, and who had known him but a few years, could have such a strong, clear and lasting recollection.

Like many children, if we are lucky, my dad was my hero. He was everything that was now being said about him. But so many years removed, it was startling  to listen to these words.

I like to think that what Rhoda  would have told me about her memories of my dad was of his many wonderful qualities. And what drew her to me was not the facial resemblance but something deeper and more profound.

And, by the way, one more reason why this meeting could not, on this weekend of all weekends, merely been by chance. The last name that Rhoda has gone by since her marriage: Nussbaum.

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