365 days ago, my dear father passed away. I am posting the eulogy I wrote and read to share a little bit of my dad with you all. He was my biggest fan. I know this would make him smile. He loved being the center of attention after all. Thanks for reading. It's a long read, so get comfy, and thanks as always, for reading...
Say not in grief 'he is no more', but live in thankfulness that he was.
~ Hebrew proverb
It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.
I remember my father, Leo Kushner, as a story teller. His story began on July 13th, 1927 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He loved living in Argentina, he loved saying “Argentina,” often talking of the busy city and the quiet countryside where he lived with my grandparents and my uncle. He loved to talk in detail about the colors of tucan birds and butterflies, while drifting into stories about his mother smacking him with a broom when got out of line. Which was often.
My dad could tell a story like no one else. Whether he narrated in a loud booming voice or his quiet whisper, his hand gestures, animated facial expressions and uniquely hilarious observations made every story compelling. Sometimes he would break into song mid-story, just to make sure you were listening. I wish I could do it now, but he always told me I couldn’t carry a tune and would say, ‘Nina, a singer, you’ll never be.” He was right.
At 14, He moved with his family to Chicago. Can you imagine not only moving at 14, leaving your friends, your family, your cousins, your school, but moving to another country where you didn’t know the language, the customs, the dress? While my father understood some yiddish, he did not speak it, as in Argentina, his family spoke Spanish. So even though they moved to a Jewish neighborhood on the West side of Chicago, my father was quite nervous at first. He told me during the first week he was here, his mother sent him to store. He was so nervous he might get lost on the way home, like the mover and shaker he was, he decided to memorize the street lights since he couldn’t read the English street signs. So he saw yellow light, green light, yellow light, red, and on and on. Simple, right? They didn’t have street lights in Argentina, so he assumed they would stay the same. He goes to the store, gets what his mother told him, and he sets out for home thinking yellow, green, yellow red.... To his horror, on the way back, what he’d memorized was ALL wrong, and he wandered for hours trying to find his way home. When he finally and God only knows how he made it back home, his mother smacked him with a broom. Now I didn’t do that story half the justice it should have gotten, because when he told it, he filled it with fake tears, and a frightened face and a terrified grimace when talking about his angry mom.