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Friday, September 14, 2012

MY MACHATUNIM, MY FRIENDS


          For those of you who aren’t members of my tribe (Jews), let me translate.  I don’t think there’s an English word for the relationship between the parents of a child & the parents of that child’s spouse.  In Yiddish, the two sets of parents would be “machatunim”.  In Spanish, it would be "consegueros".  And in the case of my son’s in-laws & us, another word would be “friends”.  I am grateful.  This doesn’t happen nearly often enough.


          I’d like to tell you about Matt’s father-in-law, John.  He used to fly airplanes in the Navy, taking off from & landing on aircraft carriers.  He also worked as a Navy paramedic & he became a civilian paramedic after his discharge.  (I once asked him why a regular fire truck always accompanies the paramedics.  He said that was in case the victim suddenly catches on fire.  He MAY have been kidding.)  When that career ended he became a consultant for large corporations, helping them to design buildings that would keep their workers safe & to help them in case of an emergency.  He became very well known in this field.  Once, when he was having a problem finding a solution to a safety problem, he asked me to design a baseball cap for him to give out to the people working with him.  What he wanted--& got—was a squirrel wearing dark glasses & swinging a cane, like a golf club, at an acorn on a tee, with the words BLIND SQUIRREL GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB.  (Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.)

                                     Something like this, only more detailed:

          More importantly, I’d like to tell you what he was like, as a MAN.  He was (again, a Yiddish word) a “mensch”.  That translates, literally, to “person” but it is used to describe someone who is warm, friendly & really cares for his fellow man.  John was all that.
          He liked to run & ride bikes.  His wife is allergic to dogs, so they couldn’t own one themselves.  John would “borrow” a neighbor’s dog & take it running with him.  He was fun to be with.  When our kids got married in a formal ceremony at an upscale hotel, John & I were going to put a live shark in the pool.  He realized his wife wouldn’t think it was as funny as we did, so we settled on presenting the newlyweds with an inflatable one on a silver tray at their reception.  He loved to fly.  One Christmas I had a neon sign made for his home office.  It had a small plane on it & said FLYING LESSONS 10 CENTS.
          Our kids live in Connecticut & we both live in California, but we all get together for Christmas every year.  On their 25th anniversary (in December) John & his wife, Jeanne, flew down to Los Angeles a couple of days before the kids got here so we could celebrate their happy day with them.  Sometimes we would all meet in another city to spend the holidays. When we were in Phoenix, he talked a pilot friend into letting me operate a flight simulator.  I (virtually) crashed!  When we were in San Diego, he rented a plane & flew the 20 of us around the area, 3 of us non-pilot passengers at a time in a 4 seater plane.   He had caps made for everyone with our last name, his last name & the words “FLIGHT CREW”.

         John died in 2006.  His was the only military funeral I’ve ever been to.  I thought I was holding myself together pretty well, even during the 21 gun salute, but when the bugler played “Taps”, I lost it.  I could almost hear John whispering in my ear, “Enough of this sad stuff.  Let’s go have lunch.”

One added note—do you believe in Karma?  When John died, my daughter-in-law immediately flew out from Connecticut to California be with her mother.  My son & their 2 kids followed in a day or two.  The plane reservations were obviously last minute & they couldn’t get 3 seats together.  They were seated directly behind one another.  Matt asked the man sitting next to Brian, who was 8, to change seats with him.  He explained that Brian was very young & was taking this cross country flight to go his first funeral—his grandfather’s.  The man refused.  During the flight, Brian threw up on him.  When we heard, we all congratulated him on his excellent aim.
         
I miss you, John----fishducky


25 comments:

  1. What a lovely memorial to someone who was obviously a wonderful person and a great friend and laughing partner.

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  2. Dear Fishducky, a lovely tribute to John, the father-in-law of your son. And thank you for giving us those Hebrew/Yiddish words. Now when I read novels I'll know what these words mean when they are occasionally used. You know, I'm sitting here trying to think of what the most important legacies in life are--high up on that list is that a person brought happiness and joy to others with their words and actions. And John surely did this. Peace.

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  3. Thanks for sharing these memories Fran ...

    ... and I've learned two new Yiddish word-concepts ... all I knew before was 'Chutzpah'

    :)

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    1. "Chutzpah" is a very uncommom word for and "sheggitz" (non-Jewish man) or "shiksa" (non-Jewish lady) to know. "Mazel tov!" (Congratulations!)

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  4. What a lovely tribute to a fine man. And toward the end: Only you can make me laugh and cry at the same time.

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    1. I replayed that "Taps" tape about a dozen times while checking this post!

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  5. It's always especially sad when you lose someone who was a joy to be around or made you laugh all the time. He sounds great and like someone I would've wanted to know.

    also, I finally added you to my blog roll, after thinking you were on there all this time. *whistles innocently* I blame the pregnant brain that's now been replaced with and "I'll never sleep again" brain. Can't wait to send them to stay with you next summer...:)

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    1. He was a love! Thanks for putting me on your blog roll--finally!!

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  6. That is a wonderful thing when the in-laws get along and are actually friends. He sounds like a funny, interesting, generous, kind-hearted man and this was a wonderful tribute.

    Also, Brian did have great, well-deserved aim. ;) Have a super weekend! :):)

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  7. John sounds like someone I woulda really liked. Your tribute to him was sweet.

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  8. John was indeed a very special man. He was thoughtful, romantic,caring, friendly and smart. I met him when we were 14 and knew he was for me and I for him and so it was. I was lucky to be in love with a wonderful guy for over 58 years and wish he were still here. Our daughter brought not only a wonderful son-in-law into our family, but a whole host of great new relatives to enjoy being with whatever the occasion. We all miss John.
    Jeanne

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    1. Dear Jeanne--I am SO glad that your family has become part of our family!!! I enjoyed our trip to Hawaii (my foot not withstanding) & we'll see you at Christmas!

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  9. John sounds like an exceptional guy. No wonder you miss him.

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  10. Very nice post mom, thanks. Not everyone gets to like their in-laws, I got very lucky in that department.

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  11. Isn't it great when you're not only related, but also friends?!!!

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  12. This is my first time to visit your blog, although I've read your fine comments in other places. John sounds like a terrific person, and I wonder if he did his flight training in the Navy near my area in Texas, as we have two Navy pilot training installations here.

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    1. Welcome!! I'll ask Jeanne & get back to you.

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    2. Jeanne said, "John started in Pensacola, Fla in May 1954 and then did his final training in Corpus Christi, Tex where he finished up in Dec. 1955."

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  13. John sounds like a great guy, and I love it that your grandson barfed on that man. He deserved it.

    Love,
    Janie

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Your comments make my day, which shows you how boring my life has become.