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A Toast to Dad

Today marks my dad's passing, 16 years ago. I've been grappling with what to write so please excuse the rambling thoughts in this blog. Dad was a complicated man, yet also very simple and trying to encapsulate all into one page is hard. Crazy to think it's been that long. As many of us who had those close to us pass, I can remember that day and the preceding day perfectly. I remember his arrival home by ambulette; him entering the house for the last time to be surrounded by me, mom, his 2 best friends and a dinner of bagels and lox. Dad was a teacher at heart and up to the end he was still telling us all how best to eat. He couldn't help himself, in his mind he knew best, and would teach everyone he knew how to, when to and why with most things even a bagel and lox dinner.

Born on the Lower East Side to Polish Jewish parents, my dad went on to be one of the most educated, knowledgeable, curious and driven people I knew. When most people have maybe 1 or 2 careers in their life, dad had multiple; all of which he dove into full force. He always learned as much as he could about whatever he did, whether it was as a musician -- his first profession; or later on in the wine industry. Dad's parents were not very educated in the traditional sense. They were poor and had to do what they had to do to make sure their children had. Dad got his love of music, art and food from his parents. Grandma, his mom always cooked and Grandpa love music and the art of jewelry. Grandpa probably didn't go past 6th grade as was usual back then, but he had a sophisticated love of music, especially Opera. He joined a chazan group (religious singers) that would sing at weddings, and special religious events and it was there that he heard what the voice could do and fell in love with music. In fact the great Richard Tucker was part of that "Chazan Society" of singers and thought of him as the greatest opera singer ever. He was also fascinated by jewelry, especially watches and coins. Dad went on to study the Bassoon and became a music teacher; and somewhere he also became a Coin Dealer, specializing in Russian Coins. Eventually he went back to teaching music and was a music teacher for many years. I can still remember sitting on his lap, I'd blow into the Bassoon and he'd do the keying and together we'd play Peter and the Wolf. I'd watch him make his reeds, and also make reeds for some of the kids he taught oboe or clarinet. The one instrument he couldn't play was flute, which was what I played and eventually helped him "teach" in school. I was just a kid, and had a talent for the flute so I was really happy to help him. So this is Part one -- Music Teacher, and Russian Coin Dealer.