My Birthday Present


My birthday present this year was being able to leave the office early to see granddaughter Kayla help lead her basketball team to victory, then trek out to Queens to bring a little cheer to her great grandfather.  Dad’s mind still churns on more cylinders at 95 than most have at 35, though he does get confused if he’s fatigued.

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Last night was a good night, athough Dad fessed up that he was starting to let select days go by recently without taking his medication.  His pills are starting to overrun his pill box, and he’s been skipping some days either because he feels better without the side effects, or because he’s “had enough”.  Frankly at 95, and with his cognitive functions well-enough intact, he’s entitled to make those decisions without any sermons on our part.

For whatever reasons, last night dad was free-associating with some old tunes and themes popping into his head.  He mentioned gray hair, and that triggered “Yossel, Yossel”.

Though I hadn’t heard of it, through the convenience of the Internet on my iPhone I pulled up the partial Sammy Cahn lyrics and we said/sang them together which brought a smile to his face:

Oh Joseph, Joseph, won’t you make your mind up
It’s time I knew just how I stand with you
My heart’s no clock that I can stop and wind up
Each time we make up after being through
So listen Joseph, Joseph time is fleeting
And here and there my hair is turning grey
My mother has a fear, wedding bells I’ll never hear
Joseph, Joseph, won’t you name the day

Then Dad slipped a hint of his state of mind, which he normally isn’t comfortable discussing directly, but ruminating on Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics from Ol’ Man River, a tune from Showboat which was popular in his youth.  This version is sung by Paul Robeson, a Rutgers athlete and Columbia Law School graduate.

As I looked up the lyrics, here’s the hint Dad was dropping:

I gets weary and so sick of tryin’
I’m tired of livin’, but I’m feared of dyin’

7 thoughts on “My Birthday Present

  1. Well for those of you who follow this blog, you may have suspected that I posted this here by accident which I did – intending to do so on my personal blog rather than the professional one. But I’ve decided to leave it here for now, as a tribute to my father who is a long-retired optometrist, and has been an influence on my professional life as well.

  2. My 97 year old father-in-law is in the same state as your father. Cognitively fine but physically poor. The lines from Ol Man River are definitely telling and understandable. Happy Birthday, Len! Thanks for the Accidental Share. =)

  3. Len. Your Birthday present, sure brought an evening of music joy like I have never heard It must have done for youthe same. We thank you so much, it was magical and inspiring. Happy Birthday, Floyd Mizener O.D.

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