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Sunday, October 29, 2017

About my dad, who would have been 95 tomorrow

I thought I'd blogged about my father before, but I can't find any such post. So I'm posting what I said at his memorial last April.

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All of you know that my dad was a remarkable man. And for a little guy, he leaves an enormous hole.
The difference between his physical size and the size of his impact on those around him can be illustrated by what happened when he started to cut back on his workaholic schedule, before the illness that forced him to retire at age 80. Ismeca, the Swiss company for which he was a consultant, started looking for someone to perform some of the many tasks they’d been relying on Dad to perform. They said they were looking for a “little Charley.”
My dad’s combination of intelligence, resourcefulness, courage, and self-discipline made him particularly good in a crisis. Some crises required more of one quality, some more of another. One that required his courage and self-discipline occurred when he was in Basic Training in the Army. They were camping in or near Death Valley, with sleeping bags in the desert – no tents. He awoke quite a while before reveille one morning to discover that a rattlesnake had cuddled up to him for warmth during the night. He knew that if he moved in a way that startled the snake, he might get bitten. So he lay motionless for two hours until someone noticed that Carl Weihrauch was late getting up.
I remember another crisis that called on different qualities. Many of you know that my brother David had serious psychiatric problems at times. One day when David was living on his own in Berkeley, he called my folks in L.A., or they called him, and it quickly became clear that something was seriously wrong, that he had suffered a psychotic break. Calmly and casually, without missing a beat, Dad said, “You know, I’m going to be in Berkeley this afternoon. Should I stop by?” Then he flew north and got David the psychiatric care he needed.
Another of Dad’s defining qualities was his special brand of determined optimism. He used to tell an anecdote about a man who somehow offended a king and was sentenced to death for it. The man, apparently glib of tongue, managed to convince the king that if he were only spared, he could teach the king’s horse to talk. The king postponed the sentence for a year to allow for these lessons. Afterward, a friend asked the man what good this postponement would do. The man replied: “A year is a long time! Anything can happen in a year. I may die; or the king may die; or the horse may talk!” Another example: one of Dad’s favorite books was the children’s picture book Ferdinand. Ferdinand was a bull who had no interest in fighting and just liked to sit and smell the flowers. When he sat on a bee, his reaction appeared so ferocious that he was chosen for a major bullfight. When he arrived in the ring, surrounded by finely dressed ladies with flowers in their hair, he sat down and smelled, refusing all efforts to make them home. In the improbable conclusion my father loved,
“they had to take Ferdinand home.
And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite
cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly.”
I could go on for far too long telling Charley stories, from his boyhood in Berlin to his Army days during the invasion of Europe to his business career to his many years of political involvement. You’ll hear a few of those stories from others.
Dad changed over the years, of course, in obvious and unimportant ways. He stopped dancing the kazatska. His vision, never great, got worse. And instead of striding along briskly, arms swinging, head tilted a little to one side, he moved slowly, bent over, with a cane. But he never lost his sense of humor, his generosity, his commitment to civil liberties and social justice, his good cheer, or his indomitable spirit.
I count myself as exceptionally fortunate to have had this stalwart, honest, forthright, moral, modest, bright, funny, loving man as a parent and role model – and to have had him, not long enough, but for so long.

1 comment:

Danusha Goska said...

A wonderful guy.