Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

Today I lost someone very dear to me. I first wrote about Adolf in October, on his 104th birthday. For a very long time, we have had daily telephone conversations. Until a few weeks ago, he lived alone in his home on Long Island, taking care of himself. He had become completely blind, but knew every inch of his surroundings.

He always insisted that he had "no aches and pains." In late May he fell, but managed to get up again. He didn't mention it to me or his daughter-in-law in Maryland for several days. When he realized that he was not improving on his own, he allowed her to take him to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his back. Two weeks later, he was delivered by ambulance to a nursing home in Maryland, near Marlene and her family.

His son and only child had died young of kidney disease. There cannot be anything worse than outliving your own child, which is out of the natural order of things. Martin's last gift to his father was a loving daughter-in-law and three granddaughters, who made his life as comfortable as possible. For years, Marlene and one of her daughters drove to Long Island from Maryland every 5 or 6 weeks to do his paperwork and fill his freezer with home-cooked meals.

He was unreachable for several days, but Marlene kept me apprised of his condition. The nursing home Nazis would tell me nothing because I was not "the responsible party." Last Thursday, Marlene told me that his kidneys had failed. The nursing home wanted to hospitalize him for invasive testing, but he refused. He was ready to go.

The doctors predicted that he would live for days, not weeks, while his systems shut down. He was given "palliative" care. He would be kept comfortable, with no heroic measures.

On Friday, I received a great gift. Adolf called me! His voice was strong, and he said that he missed me, too. He told me that he loved me, words I never heard from my own parents, and promised that we would catch up soon. Marlene says that he was aware of his prognosis, but chose to ignore it. I think he was trying to spare me the knowledge that he was really saying goodbye.

Flip has always considered my relationship with Adolf a strange love affair. I think that a life without such love would be even stranger.

Adolf gave me the experience of being a beloved daughter. He used every day of his life to learn more about the world. He kept up with current events, and always had opinions on them. When he became blind, he listened to books on tape. He was intensely interested in other people. He lost his eyesight, but he never lost his vision. Or his humanity. Even when he was sighted, he was colorblind. He considered all people one race - human, and everyone he met was a friend he didn't yet know.

Although 104 years is undeniably a very long run, it's hard to accept that he is gone because I expected him to live forever. I cannot imagine a world without Adolf in it. Sunday was Father's Day, and I feel as if I have lost my father. Bon voyage, Adolf.


QT said...

What a touching tribute to a man that sounds like he had a truly open heart for what this world had to offer.

I'm sorry for your loss. Here's to you meeting him again someday.

ps said...

that was beautiful. sending sweet thoughts your way...

Tanya Brown said...

This brought tears to my eyes.

Something tells me that you were as special to Adolf as he was to you.

meno said...

I am answering the phones at my volunteer job right now. I had to pause a minute before i could speak last time the phone rang.

I am sorry for the loss of your father/friend.

thethinker said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. This is an amazing way to honor him. Very beautifully written.

Ian Lidster said...

Another touching one, Heart. There is no doubt in my mind that Adolf lived so long and so fruitfully because of attitude. It counts for everything and that is something about which I have to keep reminding myself. My father did it the opposite way, and just lost the will to carry on. Of course, he had special people like you to help him along that way.
Meanwhile, I just finised baking bread. Would you like a metaphorical slice?

EsLocura said...

What a gift to love and be loved in such a way.

melanie said...

this is a wonderful tribute. disperse his humanity into the world as he did. you have learned from him how to be a better human being. its a testament here in this post.

let his actions guide you. then he will live on.

la cubana gringa said...

I'm with Melanie...those who've inspired us live on in our daily lives...right down to the choices we make.

Adolf carries on in you and in everyone he inspired.

flutter said...

What an amazing tribute, I'm thinking of you.

thailandchani said...

Wow.. isn't it amazing when someone comes along and fills that role for us? There's someone in my life like that, too...

I'm grateful that he lived a life where he was well-loved by you.

I am sorry that he chose to ignore his prognosis.



seventh sister said...

Sorry for your loss. It is good to know that he lived a good life and had people who loved him so much.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


He did have an open heart and mind, in the best possible way.

I do look forward to meeting him again someday. Thank you.


I hope so. There were so many who loved him dearly.


I appreciate your kind thoughts so much.


I don't have the ability to honor him as he deserved in words, but my feelings couldn't be more loving.


The will to live is more important than anything. It can truly perform miracles.

And yes, please. I would love a piece of freshly-baked bread.


I feel very lucky to have known him.


I couldn't have had a better teacher, even though he never attempted to fill that role.

Thank you for your visit. I've read your blogs but can't remember if you've been here before. In any case, welcome.

La Cubana,

I'm sure you're right. It's a great legacy. The world needs more Adolfs.


I feel your thoughts. Thank you.


Don't be sorry. The alternative was to undergo a battery of invasive tests. He was at peace with his readiness to go, and he wasn't alone.

He simply chose not to say the word "goodbye" to me.


We should all strive to be so loved and to make such a difference in other people's lives.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I am so sorry. I think the parents that find us, or we find, are our true parents.

I'm thinking of you in your time of loss.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you so much. I remember vividly your post about all your surrogate mothers. It made me feel like both weeping and celebrating, so I know that you, especially, understand.

Josie said...

Hearts, he indeed must have been a very special person to have earned love like that. Again, he was 104 years old, but I'll bet inside he felt much younger. It's all about attitude.

What a nice tribute to him.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sure he did feel younger, while still being aware of his frailty.

A few months ago, he managed to snake a backed up toilet by himself, despite being totally blind.

He cackled as he told me what he had done. "Pretty good, huh?" he said. "I got it on the first try."

Anonymous said...

Susan, I can not express my sorrow for you. Please accept my condolences. You were very fortunate to have such good friend and "father".

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I was amazingly fortunate, and must not lose sight of that.

Your kind words are appreciated.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Oh Hearts, I am crying with you. That was very sad, but a very loving and beautiful tribute to a man who made a huge difference in your life.

His memory grows with your words, and would not have, without them.
I now have an appreciation for a man I will never meet.

My heart goes out to you, I wish you peace.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


Adolf was quite a guy, accomplished, worldly, kind and beloved by many.

He did not need my words to keep his memory alive.

I wrote this post for me, because I needed a way to channel my feelings.

sognatrice said...

Beautiful, I say with tears in my eyes as well. I, too, spoke to my grandmother via phone for the last time, and looking back, I'm sure she knew it was the last time but didn't tell me. Thoughtful to the end those types.

Deb said...

This post is one of the nicest and most touching I have ever read. Your talent for making the rest of us see Adolf through your eyes is amazing.

Absolutely lovely.

Judith said...

He sounded like a wonderful spirit and a deserved force in your life. His legacy to you was the warmth of a fathers love - something that Im sure you cherish like any other daughter

Anonymous said...

HinSF _ It has taken me a bit to write because . . . I have wanted to say so much and yet find myself without words.

It is evident the love that existed between you was one of mutual admiration and fondness and warmth. It is evident that the love was deep. I know today will be tough, the first day of your life without Adolf, but please hold tight to those "I love you's" spoken in that final call.

You were extremely lucky to know him, as he was to know you.

Stephen said...

So sorry to hear that Adolph has left. I'm keeping you close to my heart today. It was a great fortune that you knew and loved him, as it is my great fortune to know and love you.

Bob said...

our lives are immeasurably enriched by knowing such people. In this way he will never be truly dead, he lives on in those who knew him.

I am so sorry for your loss, and envious of your experience of knowing such a man.

jali said...

Love is such a beautiful thing.

You are love.

urban-urchin said...

i'm so sorry for your loss.

Winter said...

Very sorry to hear.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, I'm sure that people don't change with age, but become more themselves. Kind people are kind to the end.

I'm glad we both got to have final conversations with those we loved.


He was also funny. He had a weekly shopper from Helen Keller Services to the Blind, which discontinued the service.

Marlene got them to agree to keep doing Adolf's grocery shopping for the few things she didn't bring from Maryland.

Adolf told me with some hilarity, "It will end soon enough. All they have to do is be a little patient."


I really do. I feel as if I got in adulthood what I didn't as a child.

My own father may have loved me, but if he did, he took that secret to his grave.

Knowing Adolf was a surprising and wonderful gift.


Thank you. The world seems altered somehow, almost as if the sun were missing.

My parents have been gone for many years, but today I feel like an orphan.


Thank you so much. I love you, too, and I really appreciate your not saying anything about the playground.


He does, indeed. He had friends around the world who revered him, and also a wonderful way with children.

He touched so many lives, and all are richer for it.


What is amazing is the many forms love takes. We really never run out of people to give it to, and it is always different.


Thank you.


I appreciate your comment, and your visit.

Voyager said...

HISF, Biological fathers you cannot choose, fathers of the heart are special. Gald you found one, and sorry he is gone.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The Lakota acknowledge this kind of thing with the term "hunka." A hunka relative is a relative-by-choice as opposed to blood, and they normally have hunka parents and siblings, who are loved and accorded the respect of biological ones, sometimes more.

I think it's a beautiful system.

Hel said...

Your post gave me a lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm feeling a bit lumpy myself today. Thank you for your warm wishes.

Odat said...

You were so blessed to have him in your life....and he was blessed too for having you love him!

Molly said...

I had an "aunt" like Adolf. She was an older lady who'd never married. She introduced my parents to each other. My real aunts were fine, though we didn't see them very often. "Auntie"Ita lived in our town and always made me feel loved and special. May Adolf rest in peace. Sounds like he's earned it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Love blesses all who experience it.

Maybe you could come up with a happy dance for love this Friday.


Auntie Ita sounds as if she had a full life without having her own family. I'm so glad she was in yours. Such people really do make a difference forever.

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

I feel like I knew Adolf a little, because of what you wrote. What a gift he was to you! You have reinforced something I have discovered twice in the last two years: death can be rewarding. Yes. Adolf's call to you will resonate always for you. I had a dying friend ask me to read at a memorial service for him. His dying made us all better. He was fine with it (at 58). Similarly, for my brother, who died in 2005, and whose passing enabled me to become closer to him. Thanks for a splendid tribute.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Knowing someone like Adolf must have been an immense blessing and hence all the greater the sense of loss. But we should remember him and try in our lives to emulate those who have inspired and enriched us.

Lex said...

I'm so sorry, Susan. It's obvious how much you loved him. You two are kindred spirits. May his live on in you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm so sorry about your brother and your friend.

I'm sure that I will always remember our last conversation and treasure it, but I would have much preferred that he stay alive.


There are always more highly evolved people for us to emulate, and Adolf was definitely one of mine.

Thank you, Lex. He was loved by so many that we'll be sharing his huge spirit for a very long time.

eastcoastdweller said...

If this entry is any indication of the rest of your blog, what can I possibly say but that I want to read it all.




No wonder it has 42 comments and counting.

Kate S said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm trying to not cry here in public.

I'm glad you had the experience of such a person in your life.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Oh, wow. You've made my day with your extravagant praise. Thank you so much.

Welcome to these shores. I read several of your posts and have bookmarked "In Search of Isis" for easy return.


Yes, the pain of losing someone we love is always overshadowed by the wonderful memories we keep.

I was just telling a friend that I am blessed with total recall of nearly everything, so I have many delightful stored conversations to nourish me.

Sienna said...

Hearts I have had blog accessing challenges :)

I'm back! More importantly..I'm so sorry about your friend, Adolf.

Adolf sounds like the greatest of bestest friends and *hunka* (love that!)....he will never ever leave you; his spirit will be by your side every step of the journey of life

What great and wonderful memories of him....I cried too...may his soul rest in peace; but his spirit will remain.

I read this too!

*Our society has much to learn from those that truly honor their elders, and don't sequester them away in their last years.*

Your damn right it has!!!!

Beautiful tribute to Adolf, Hearts....and your poem. :-)


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I've missed you, and I'm so glad you're back.

Thank you for your lovely and loving words. You always make me feel better about everything, which is a rare and wonderful talent.

The CEO said...

This is one of those piece I wrote you about. I read it when you first put it up, and couldn't comment at all through my tears.

I have never had the blessing to have had such a person in my life, so i cannot conceive the loss, which must be monumental.

I am so sorry for your loss, truly I am.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you. I appreciate your kind words so much.

You were so nice to write.

Jocelyn said...

"I think that a life without such love would be even stranger."

And right there is why I'm continually drawn to your writing.

I'm so sorry, honey.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sorry, too.

I value your visits here, and your writings on your own blog so much.

Dumdad said...

I can't add anything more than what has already been said so eloquently by all your other readers. A fascinating and uplifting read.

Lee said...

Dammit...crying again.

How wonderful to know a man such as this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Adolf was a fascinating and uplifting man. I'm glad if I was able to convey some of that.

Thank you.


He was a rare one. I think it must be unusual to have an intact mind and spirit at his age, or maybe, at any age.

The Moon Topples said...

I am sorry for your loss. It sounds like he was a treasure.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


He was assuredly that. And I do feel very rich for having known him, and had his wisdom and his ear.

Thank you.

katrice said...

Heart, I'm so sorry for your loss. However, I'm so glad you experienced life with Adolf. It sounds like he added a richness to your life that you never could have lived without.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


He did, and I'm so grateful to have known him, and been his friend.

I'm going to New York this week, and plan to leave flowers on his grave while I'm there.

CS said...

A lovely post - sounds like Adolf had a prfound impact on you and loved you as much as you loved him. I'm sure you'll miss him terribly.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I do already. I keep thinking that I need to call him, and then I remember.

And yet, considering how much longer he had than most people, it doesn't seem right to complain.

Girl on the Run... said...

I am so very sorry for you loss...

There are no words, thank you for sharing Adolf with all of us I can see just how special he was.

((((HUGS))) All the best...

Renee´ Arcadia Pusqualie said...

Such a beautifully written tribute to a worthy man. I send my empathy for your loss. He may have left this earth, but if you keep him in your heart, he will be with you always. When the time is right, you will be able to see him again! Adolf sounds like a wonderful man!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


He was a truly beautiful person, and I am very blessed to have known him.

Thank you for your kind thoughts.


I appreciate your sweet comment so much, and look forward to checking your blog when I'm back in blogging mode tomorrow. I just returned from 10 days in NY, and traveled all day.

Thank you for coming by.