Wynne Bennett Stern
West Point, 1955
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Jodi L. Stern on December 16, 2009:
December 14, 2009
By: Jodi L. Stern
There are so many different ways my dad touched our lives. And we heard how he wore so many hats with love and passion. Both my sister, Cheri, and Ethel's daughter, Robin, spoke about how my dad has touched our lives in so many profound and beautiful ways. Now, how can I add to this list that will give you more of who he is and how much he is in our hearts, and, may I say, "Everyday life".
I closed my eyes, thinking about my dad and what else I can add, and what came to me almost instantly, "my dad loved ICE
CREAM! Seeing him sitting with a container of ice cream and a spoon, was one of his great simple joys in life.. It started with Cooks on Boston Post Road, Frosty's on Mamk Ave, Milk Maid, where we could add any toppings to our favorite Ice Cream, Vanilla. And then Carvel on Halstead Ave. My sisters and I would wait for him to come home from work, typically 7pm, and we would run to the stairs, with open arms, and loud voices, asking, "Can we go to Carvel?" Almost always the answer was Yes. The whole family would get in the car and head out for some custard joy. After Passover, and frankly during it, we counted down to the days until we could get Carvel ice cream. Ice cream, dare I say, was an important aspect of my dad's life.
The next thing that pops into my mind is Vodka. My dad really appreciated Vodka. First it was Stoli in the freezer, then Absolute, and finally Sky Vodka in the blue bottle. As much as he enjoyed his "baba" at happy hour, he enjoyed his Onions in that "Baba".
Onions were his favorite vegetable. My dad really enjoyed onions. In his drink, on his bagel, burnt on his steak, any way he could get them.
Another thing that my dad loved to do, was soak up the sun. He would oil up, position his chair, lounge or towel, smack in full sun rays. There he would sit, sweat and all, getting a deep dark tan. I know how he feels about that. I, like him, would move anyone who cast a shadow on my sun and my tan.
Most of his tanning was during tennis. Tennis was his sport. He played on Tuesday nights during the winter, and of course, both Saturday and Sunday during the warm months. My sisters and I would wait for him to get off the courts in the summer and into the pool. His three daughters would see him coming, and with great excitement wait to ride his back, bounce up and down pretending he was our horsey.
Laugh and laugh we all would, such honest joy from him, to us. He gave to us, without us knowing the full impact, memories, memories of him in our lives, and experiences we share with our children. I, today, am the horsey for my children.
Ice skating at the Duck Pond, Skiing at Monticello, swimming at Saxon Woods, Museums, dinners, school functions, holidays, Shabbat dinners, and of course, shul on Saturdays, are all part of our lives and memories. My dad is the memory and, for that alone, I thank him.
As mentioned by Cheri, my dad made anyone who was important to us a part of his family. Friends were not ours alone. He created his own relationships with our friends and made them is own. The friends that joined us in Florida and now in NY are here, yes for our support, but mostly, for the love and acceptance he gave to them. He included our friends into His life.
There are so many times he was part of our conversations. As you know, young girls have some vivid conversations. There was one time I was downstairs in my house on Jason Lane with my friend, Sheila, We didn't know anyone was home. We were having a discussion about topics we were not experienced in - sex. Well we were debating that topic, going back and forth, and then we heard a voice from up stairs, my dad, agreeing with my friend Sheila's perspective of things. We almost fainted, buried our heads, and laughed. We waited for more from him, like a reprimand of our topic. He said no more. I think he knew we were so red-faced embarrassed he let it be. That was so him. He didn't want to make you feel bad. He would be there for you with no strings, it was just that easy.
There are so many more times he was so generous with himself, another time that pops into my thoughts, is Passover. That is our favorite holiday, and I would invite any and everyone I knew to our special Sedar, that I was so proud of... One time, when I was in my 20's, we had Passover Sedar at my parent's home in the Carlton House and I had invited about 10+ of my non-Jewish friends to attend. We had at our table a very large group of people to share this holiday. My dad during the Sedar would make everyone feel comfortable, and would explain the connection b/n the last Supper (Passover) to what the Jewish people were observing on Sedar night. No one felt out of place, and everyone was involved. Part of the Sedar is for the young children to look for and find the Afikoman. Well we didn't have any children under the age of 13 to look for the Afikoman, so all the "children" 25 and under, including my non-Jewish friends kept tradition and looked for the Matza. My Dad gave the finder the biggest pot and the rest of us got a smaller pot. It was so funny to see a line of adults standing on line in front of my dad for our reward. That is who he was. Share it all. We had so much fun.
Finally, I cannot leave without the mention of West Point, even though it has been mentioned before. Not only did we go to every home football game, but our friends were included in that too. One particular memory of mine, and a favorite of my dad's, was when I went alone with him for our special day. After the game, as my sister mentioned, we went to the Officer's Club for an after game celebration. I was too young to enjoy the spirits that followed, so I stayed outside to play. While my father was inside, I was outside collecting acorns to bring home. When he came out I had on a skirt with knee high socks filled with acorns, I said, "Dad, look what I found!" He laughed and laughed at the sight of me, a seven year old with lots and lots of bumps in her socks. He would tell this story throughout the years. It touched him as much as me. Again, simple pleasures in life, he did not take for granted.
Yes, my dad wore many hats and wore them all well, but the one he wore, with the most pride and love, was that of a father.
Daddy, I loved you yesterday. I love you today. and I will love you for every tomorrow.