Towards the end of the Torah portion Chayei Sara, Abraham dies, and Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the cave of Machpelah. The two sons were traumatized long ago, Ishmael left to die, and Isaac left to die. We would not blame them if they had not left Abraham in a ditch.
I knew a man who did not attend his father’s funeral. How much of abuse he suffered, I can’t imagine, but the abuse he suffered pales in comparison to Isaac’s and Ishmael’s.
My father was the youngest of five brothers; the oldest brother was named Joe. He was ten years older than my father. I don’t remember when Uncle Joe died, but my father and uncle Joe were estranged for ten years; they had been friendly before that. Uncle Joe’s daughter was married in 1960 in Brooklyn, and the night of the wedding was a blizzard. Mom and Dad sought to go to the wedding, and when they arrived at the Holland Tunnel, the Port Authority officer told them there was a state of emergency, no cars were allowed in Manhattan. Dad pleaded to the officer, “My niece is getting married in Brooklyn,” and the officer let them go. The story of the wedding is the Rosenbach family legend. But many years later, two daughters barred dad to attend funeral when Uncle Joe died.
Family is the most important thing. You can forgive almost everything. Almost everything, you can forgive.
My father’s father was a gambler, an alcoholic, and a philanderer. I visited my grandmother in the Lower East Side many times, and I didn’t know my grandfather was alive until he died, when I was seven years old. My father never forgave him, but, many years later, I asked my father, “Why did you go to the funeral?” My father replied, “My mother made me.”
I was almost 40 years old when I discovered my father’s name was not Max. The birth certificate named him Meir. He died in March 2017. The headstone, in a final gesture in respect to his father, reads, “Meir Gadol ben Natan.”