Things I Want My Son To Know #10 ~ Respect Your Heritage

You have a complicated heritage. Your are adopted so there is a part of your heritage that you may never know much about. We do know that part of the heritage of your birth family is Native American. Since it is what we know, and it is special, hold it close and cherish it. This is a particularly spiritual and compassionate heritage and someday you may want to know more about it. I wish I could tell you more but that is all we know and all we have been able to find out.

But… you have the heritage of your family as well. That is us. Your maternal grandmother is, if anything, a Unitarian (religious preference). More importantly she is descended from early colonists and English missionaries to Hawaii. She was born into the Daughters of the American Revolution, as I understand it, but was drummed out for marrying a Jew (I think they are slightly more liberal now). There are two things important about this, first that she is descended of those revolutionaries in America and second that she experienced discrimination against Jews (something you should never forget). There is a history of her family among my books.

Your maternal grandfather is a Russian/Polish Jew whose grandmother fled Russia with her eight children and no husband and no English as a result of discrimination and poverty. Her story is an amazing one and your great grandmother described their journey to your Uncle Dan who wrote it out. This precious piece of writing is saved for you too (of course).

Your paternal grandfather was Irish through and through, and Catholic by upbringing; there is little we know about his ancestry but despite your father’s stubborness there is a little magic there.

Your paternal grandmother is, I believe, English and German. If this is wrong, I will let your dad post a correction! She is the toughest woman I have ever met and she is the only one in the whole family that is really good at handling and saving money. You could take a page out of her book on this one.

Finally, although you are many things, you are a Jew. You were raised as a Jew with Jewish values. Your dad was raised as a Catholic but chose to be a Jew because he believed in the values and principles of Judaism, he believed in Judaism as a way of life. And he chose it with no input from me. The Jewish heritage is a rich and vital one. It is a heritage of learning, knowledge, charity, spirituality, community service and kindness. The rituals are beautiful and many of them revolve around the home, rather than the house of worship, making them even more special; the candles, the seder, havdallah, chanukkiah (menorah).

It is important to respect that at least on two counts, your ancestors would have experienced terrible discrimination and physical violence merely for being who they were. If for this reason alone, you should be proud to be who you are, a Jewish man with Native American roots (among other things). You should wear your star proudly and never be ashamed of it. The Jews historically fought for civil rights in this country, side by side with African Americans seeking equal rights because they knew what discrimination was. You should always stand up not only for yourself but for those who are treated as lesser.

Whatever you think of religion ultimately, light the candles in your home; light a chanukkiah; conduct a seder with your children and re-tell the story of our liberation from slavery. It will make you feel proud and good; it will make you feel closer to your ancestors.

have a seder with your children you will feel closer to those who are gone.

Things I Want My Son To Know #9 ~ Your Dad Is My Hero

Your dad and I are very, very different. But you already know that. And we bicker, you know that too. What you may not know is that we have lots of things in common. Things you might not guess. We both love music, all kinds of music, blues and jazz, country and rock, classical and show tunes. We don’t both love every piece of every type, but we both love some of all of it. And we both love dance, and theatre. We both love animals and we both love you. Your dad is an amazing guy, he can quiet a crying baby in less than a minute (average), he can tell you what’s wrong with a horse by looking at it, he can pick out a “good” cow just by eyeing it, he makes the best macaroni and potato salad in the world and he has the strongest hands I have ever felt. Your dad has not had an easy life, but he keeps going. He has had the courage to look at his past and not repeat it, he has had the courage to acknowledge some of his character defects and change them, he has continually tried to be a better person. Your dad has never been too proud to work, whether it was work he was trained for, or highly paid, or something he loved, he gets up in the morning, suits up and shows up. Your dad has a huge heart; even if he doesn’t really like to show it. Nobody is better to call when there is an emergency in the middle of the night, he will always show up. He might hate it when there’s a dirty dish, but in a real crisis, he’s your guy. There are many times that your dad gave our last hundred dollars to someone he thought needed it more than we did. Your dad tries to help everyone he can; if they ask for his help. He is not one to impose his “help” on people who don’t want it. Your dad is a very good judge of character, he always knows who the slimebuckets are before I do. Your dad loves me a lot, and I know he will always protect me if he can. Your dad loves you more than anybody or anything, whether you realize it or not, and he wants only the very best for you; and he would do anything he could to make the best happen for you. Your dad is my hero; you could do a lot worse than to be a lot like him.