Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorials: Dad, Paul and Pete

It's been a tough week and Memorial Day brings up lots of thoughts about people missed, primarily my dad who died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 94. That it was unexpected was in many ways a good thing, an indication he was relatively healthy for his years. Actually, remarkably healthy, living alone in a large apartment, refusing any outside help other than my bringing him his favorite foods so he didn't have to do much cooking.

He did have the usual health suspects: hard of hearing, macular degeneration and very poor teeth. We addressed all of these issues in some way over the past few years: hearing aids - which he didn't wear, lucentis injections in the eye to arrest the wet macular, and a brand new set of choppers, which since he got them a year and a half ago, led to his gaining, or at the very least, maintaining his weight, a very good sign for the elderly.

Well, he did eat just about anything and a week ago Friday I brought him a stash -- 4 tubs of Bryers ice cream (if I ever get in that age range and I have anything near my dad's digestive system, it will be Caty bar the door time when I get in the vacinity of food), shrimp with egg plant from a local take out Chinese place (ugh), Hebrew National LARGE franks, and a pile of other stuff.

Tuesday when he didn't answer the phone all afternoon and evening I grew concerned. He often was difficult to reach due to not hearing the phone, being asleep or immersed in his one hour daily routine of taking a hot bath, something he said was the reason for his lack of aches and pains. Over the years I had raced over there a few times expecting to find that he had fallen or just died of a heart attack (he did have a mild heart condition), always relieved to find him OK. This time I had more dread and at 10PM on Tuesday I was dialing 911. He looked to be asleep in a beach chair near an open window where he must have sat down to cool off, maybe after his bath. EMS said he had been dead about 6 hours. He was wearing his push-button alert, which obviously he never pressed. So I guess that may mean he never felt enough distress to call for help and  died in his sleep  -- hopefully.

Just yesterday I heard of one of my former colleagues, now 82, who fell in her apartment, broke her hip and lay there for 5 days until her niece came over and found her. (Get your elderly relatives one of these alerts). That my dad didn't have to go through anything like that is a sign that, as the rabbi said, he was a lucky man in many ways. In fact his nickname was Lucky. And that will be a story for another time.

He told me that when he was gone to throw a party for him with his favorite foods. (I used to ask, "Can we also order some stuff that is edible?") He said he is treating, so as long as the check from beyond doesn't bounce we have a plan. Will we survive ice cream, pastrami, and shrimp with eggplant in the same meal? We'll know in a few weeks.

Paul Baizerman
Last year's Memorial Day was the last time I spoke to my old friend and mentor Paul Baizerman, who I found out had died in December 2011, about a week after I returned from New Zealand. No one wanted to email me the news while I was traveling. I could write forever on the influence Paul had on me and others as an activist and in many other areas of life. Paul was someone who was a leader, and we don't find many of these around today. We traveled to Cuba together in 1978 and then spent 2 weeks racing around Mexico in his Volkswagon a few years later. I was over at his and Vera's place almost every day to chat about teaching and politics. "You eating," Paul would ask as he raced around the kitchen putting things together for dinner? The wrong question to ask me, of course.

We weren't as close over the last bunch of years but I called him a few times a year to get his reading on what was going on with the struggle in education. I could also write many blogs about Paul but will hold off for now. A memorial was held for him back in January and I taped some of it, so maybe as the anniversary of his death approaches in December I will tell the full story about Paul, though I will load up an edited version of the videos for his friends.

Pete Fornatale memorial
So in addition to the sadness of today, was that we had tickets last night to a memorial for legendary DJ Pete Fornatale who suddenly died late last month after a stroke. I wrote about it then. We had met him a few times at book signings out here in Rockaway where he also lived. We listened to Mixed Bag every Saturday at 4PM on WFUV. Pete wrote a book about Bookends, the Simon and Garfunkle album and was touring with Aztec Two-Step, doing commentary as they played the S and G songbook. Last night the scheduled concert was turned into a memorial at City Winery on Varrick St. with Pete's 2 sons and others taking over the commentary. It was a real treat that Tom Chapin was there -- and they played Harry's W-O-L-D, one of our favorites. We had seen Harry (and Tom) in concert many times. Harry has been gone 30 years now. (I hear his son may be involved with some of the high stakes testing activities going on which would be a perfect circle.)

Well anyway, here are some little pieces of video a shot using my cell phone.

Enough maudlin sentiments. Time to turn up the barbecue.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.


Michael Solo said...


I am really sorry to learn of your loss. My sincere condolences to you and your family.


Unitymustgo! said...

Ditto the above. Thank you for all you do. G-d bless.

burntoutteacher said...

So sorry. Your dad must have been a wonderful man to have created such a strong, principled son.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm,

You know how I feel. And I agree with burntoutteacher.