The New York Times for publishing the story I wrote about my father; this was pretty close to the eulogy I read at his funeral last month. My father was a huge influence in my life and having grown up in Manhattan, I am just so happy to be able to share some of what he taught me, in a newspaper I love.
"Who can make the silliest face? I won!"
Janeane Bernstein with her late father, Sam
My father, Sam, was my biggest cheerleader. He taught me the power of humor, hard work, and instilled in me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. His heart was huge and he had an infectious sense of humor filled with creativity and mischief. (He put the wipers on if I sneezed in the car and had the best repertoire of silly character voices.) And then there were those words he made up. No one knows what “Pha-nur-bin” and “Ga-nu-bus” were, but we loved how he inserted them into sentences. And when he saw a car with one headlight working, he yelled “PA-DITTLE!” and leaned in to kiss his beautiful wife/best friend, Marjorie.
When I combed his hair at age 5, while he slept, the comb got stuck. Tearfully, I woke him and he calmly cut the comb out, and used me as an excuse for his premature baldness. He was my first driver’s ed teacher at age 13, instructing me how to operate his big old Cadillac and wacking me on the leg when I needed to brake more. Later, he bought me my first electric guitar and tolerated my rendition of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” over and over.
When I think of Dad, I always admired his work ethic. He was constantly challenging himself, whether it was owning and operating his clothing business in Manhattan or building homes throughout New England. Dad valued hard work, drive, education, integrity and the ability to try things that challenged you and switch gears in times of struggle.
Dad was tough, but loving, generous and kind to strangers. Although you wouldn’t want to walk next to him during rush hour in Grand Central. He elbowed and banged into more people than I could count, as I raced after him to catch the train and dodged expletives.
It really should not be a surprise that Dad fought cancer the only way he knew–with humor, strength, and devotion. He never wanted to give up, never wanted to miss a moment, and as much as we all miss him, we are fortunate he stuck around to see 83. His strong beliefs, family and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity is a lesson for all of us. So, the next time you see a car with one headlight, yell “PA-DITTLE!” and think of my Dad.