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Tossed Dad Friday

Today my dad would have celebrated his birthday, surrounded by his family, as we swapped funny stories and he created new ones. Inasmuch as he’s been gone so many years, I’ll step in today and share (mostly) amusing tales of, and from, my father. If you knew Seymour, you’ll appreciate them. If you didn’t, I hope he makes you smile today.

~~ Dad was in the Navy during World War II, and though he served stateside, he took pride at having played a small part in keeping the world safe. He spent the war years in Chicago on a service and training base. He boasted to his kids (and anyone else within earshot) that President Roosevelt singled him out on a visit to inspect the troops. FDR approached him and asked what part he was playing in the war effort.

“I’m a koosh maker,” he replied. A puzzled president asked dad to elaborate, but instead he sprang into action to show off his handicraft. Grabbing a pair of tongs, he grasped one of a bunch of metal ship components that others had heated and shaped. In what I always pictured as a deft move, dad quickly tossed the part overboard. As the hot metal hit the frigid water, the sound the President and everyone else heard was Koooooooooosssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

~~The first presidential candidate I worked for was Shirley Chisholm. Things were different then: You couldn’t sit in your office and make campaign calls as directed by your computer screen. You went to a mall or supermarket and handed out postcards and pins. When you’re barely in high school, you need a parent to chauffeur you for such canvassing, so my dad drove me to a Bohacks supermarket. (I’m pretty sure he circled slowly around the area for 30 minutes to make sure that I was OK.) I was broken-hearted when she bowed out of the race, but dad said it was still a winning campaign. She “broke ground” and I “followed [my] heart.”

~~ When I started to drive, I put a bumper sticker like this one on one of the family cars. My dad got a lot of strange looks, he said, but he said it was “probably as true, or not, as any other bumper sticker.”

~~ My Dad was, to put it nicely, an enthusiastic eater. Mealtimes and snack times were equally anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed. He tried to be first in line at any buffet, he’d be seated at the dinner table before the oven timer pinged, and the man was almost always prepared with something edible “just in case.” Saltines in his jacket pocket were proffered should you look famished, and my son still laughs about the time his “Zayda” showed up before school and pulled a bagel out of his pocket, hoping there was time for the two of them to share breakfast!

~~ Dad’s impatience with waiting for food made for other funny times. Once, finding a cheesecake in the freezer that required hours to thaw, dad cut to the chase and microwaved said cake, despite the protests of others in the kitchen. The result was, as you probably guessed, a cheesy and graham crusty soup that almost anyone else would have thrown out. But not my father! He ate it, first with a fork, and then with a spoon, and he never admitted it was anything less than delicious. 

~~ While at a relative’s house, dad repeated louder and louder, “Brunch is ready.” It technically wasn’t, but he wanted to motivate the hostess to speed up her leisurely pace of placing offerings on the table. (Yes, she probably thought it was rude, but I have to admit I found it amusing).

~~The aroma of freshly baked brownies enticed dad to stumble from his bedroom long after he’d said “goodnight.” He walked down the hall with arms held like a zombie, veering off into the kitchen without acknowledging those of us waiting in the living room for the brownies to cool. He ate his fill (and then some) and returned to bed, seemingly unaware both that he was awake and that we were laughing at his antics.

~~ Trips to Sears meant we’d share warm and salty cashews with dad. Simcha Torah celebrations meant you’d have to eat your jelly apple fast or lose it to an adult who should have known better. (I never told him I didn’t really like those sticky, sugary things — why spoil his fun?) Bringing him something as simple as my freshly made pita chips was rewarded by his exuberant and heartfelt praise.

~~ Dad didn’t have a middle name because, he claimed, his parents were too poor to afford one. As young adults, my siblings and I bestowed an appropriate middle name on him: Nosh.

~~ There was a lot more than food to Seymour Smith. He was unwavering in his devotion to family, adored my mother, loved the Mets, and always encouraged me in everything I set out to do. However, food is the thread that binds the bundle of memories that is my father, even to his final days. Suffering from the effects of a stroke and brain surgery, dad was in the hospital for Passover, 1999. We got permission to hold our family seder (Passover meal) in the hospital. My last happy memory is dad savoring the presence of his grandchildren and children — while voraciously consuming the matzah lasagna my daughter and I made for dinner.


Dasvidaniya. Have a good weekend!
LET’S GO RANGERS!
GO, NY KNICKS, GO!
LET’S GO METS!

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