“Go Silent into the Night”
From Mike Tarnpol on June 22, 2015: “John, we should have gone to Australia when we had the chance in ’68. We were considering there or Mexico. If you snooze, you loose.”
Reply: Mike we didn’t snooze. Mike we were having to much fun in those 68 daze. We were expanding and exploring our being-ness and consciousness. In retrospect you are right about Australia or anywhere else we could have destined for, but none of us were that psychic to see decades into our futures. Who could of thought that the face of America had a cancerous underbelly of greed growing…that we are now beginning to feel and experiencing it’s voracious teeth.
Ah…and then let us not forget those beautiful 60’s sirens in their sun dresses…remember now, can you not see the sun shining through those diaphanous fabrics to light up a young beautiful, curvious, thin…Sorry I digress.
Anyway we were alive and living the moment. Just like we are now. Mike I sat last night, on a bed next to Oscar, Amy’s 94 year old father in Selma and Oscar’s bedroom. A poor Jew who had nothing but food and ‘kid-ness’ as a young boy. A Russian immigrant’s son. A grocer’s son. (like my father). Oscar’s father walked out of Russia to escape the draft and the pogroms…walked out! Probably not an uncommon thing to do in those hellish days. (people are still doing it from the Middle East and Africa). Oscar became, in his lifetime, a Jewish lawyer, silently battling a Wasp laden class from the Main line in surrounding upscale Phila. The tiers of ethnic pecking order was that the blacks in the inner city were buffered by the Italians who next were buffered by the Jews who were buffered by the Irish, then they all protected the Main liners. The status quo.
He became the head of his class in Penn Law school and Temple, a valedictorian. He aced all of his contenders to the death…to the death. The more they ridiculed him as a kike, money lender, poor Jew, rat face, the more he dived into his ‘psychic well’ and gathered up his armaments of words, terms and legalities of the Common Law to do battle and to eventually become a state prosecutor and then be picked by the governor of Pa. as a common pleas judge in Doylestown for 20 years. A man of wisdom. Raised 3 bright beautiful and graceful girls. They can also do battle with the best of them. They inherited aspects of his mind, strength and heart as well, as developing Spirits.
An artist wife who taught art at college level and has successfully painted pieces which are now permanent museum hangings. What she sees and paints no one can touch. She did an exposition of ‘abused women’ in Princeton, NJ that blew me away…her best. And I might also add rose from the foundations of a grocer father. Her father when arriving from Russia made a friend on board the ship that carried them from their homeland to Texas. They both headed towards what they thought was Philadelphia but instead got lost and walked to Cleveland. BTW his friend was Neiman Marcus, founder of the department store.
I sat there, last night, as he was only days away from death’s beckoning, grasping for the now only valuable commodity in his life….His breath! I could feel and sense the immeasurable loss and heaviness of his daughters and wife as they sat in the father’s kitchen. They were all being exposed, for the first and last time in their lives, the passing of a ‘Father’. The death of their ‘Everyman’… 94 years coming. I told them, later, that this is a natural and most important thing they will ever feel. To cherish it, for many a daughter will never get this special moment that exposes one’s heart to their soul. It is one of the most valuable things you will ever experience. No one will ever steal it from you. This is a good thing. There is no guilt to bear, it is all good. He will die in grace, as we all will.
But I sat there… next to him for a long time and said nothing, not a sound did I make. Like I sat next to my father years ago. The only thing I asked myself, in his room, was that timeless question ‘what’s it all about’. And really there was and is no answer in this moment. But it is to be, as Ram Dass said, “Be here now”. And so I sat, quietly. I also realized, last night, that what I could not do with my own father, at those moments before his passing, I could now do with Oscar Bortner.