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I finished sitting shiva this morning after Shacharis, morning prayers. I wanted to write some about my dad. I doubt one post will cover it, but I'll get this one up now and figure out what else I want to say at a later time.

My father passed away either late at night or early in the morning on Friday/Saturday, 6 Av. Dad had been discharged from the hospital post-hip-replacement surgery earlier that week; the surgery had been on Monday, and he probably thought nothing of it. His own mother had survived hip replacement surgery three times (the second surgery was precipitated because the first time they put in the wrong size hip) and had lived for decades past that point, to the age of 95.

In fact, Grandma had only died in January. Dad also wasn't a person to bug a medical professional about every little thing...he'd went through a 15-year stretch where he didn't like any of the dentists in town, and so didn't see one. When he finally found one he was willing to see, their first opinion about the state of his teeth was, "Well, most of these will have to come out, and we'll get you fitted for dentures." So, he must have been feeling pretty lousy to get to the point of having hip replacement. He told at least one friend (and his first cousin Donald Shulkin) that he wasn't feeling all that well come the end of the week, but he didn't end up going back into the hospital. I don't know whether or not he got an opinion from his doctor about how he was doing, and I don't know what caused him to die. He might have had an infection or a blood clot as a result of the surgery...either way, he did not get enough additional help (medical or otherwise) to live out the week. He was 65.

Dad's family home was the Village of Massena, a town in upstate New York. My grandmother Dora's family, the Shulkins, had lived there for quite a while since emigrating from Russia in the late 1800's. My grandfather Lou had been born in Montreal, but his official place of birth was Ogdensburg, a larger town a few miles away. His mother had given birth to him in a Catholic hospital, and at the time Catholic hospitals did not record the birth of non-Catholics. This gave Lou's father the option of leaving his son a Canadian or making him an American. Ogdensburg and Massena were both across the St. Lawrence from Canada, but Ogdensburg was a more significant crossing point than Massena between Canada and upstate New York; thus in Ogdensburg was my grandfather born.

This proved useful during a little period of time in history called "Prohibition". According to family lore, my great-grandfather (who still lived in Montreal) found many a good reason to visit his son Lou, and always headed home with less liquid but more cash. Lou, an attorney, married Dora Shulkin and started a business with some of the other Shulkins. The business, Glo-Gas, was family owned until recently, and sold a variety of products, including propane and propane accessories. The last stockholder, my father's first cousin Don, sold the business around the time Don divorced his first wife.

Lou, as far as I've been told and experienced, was always a successful breadwinner. Admittedly, cost of living in Massena was never high, and it's not a tourist destination...the land is flat as a pancake, which meant that the heavy seasonal snows didn't exactly draw downhill skiers. Massena is surrounded by farmland - it's got good mud, and that's about all that I can for it...I've never spent much time there. Lou and Dora had three kids, Warren, Robert, and Samuel. My father was actually born in Ogdensburg, unlike his own father, who was merely "born" there.

Neither Warren nor Sam showed for Dad's funeral, which didn't surprise me much. There was no love lost. That's not what I'm trying to discuss, though, so I'll try to limit discussions of their brotherly love for each other.

My dad had a stint in the Army Reserves, and attended the University of Buffalo (now SUNY-Buffalo). He'd intended to be an attorney, but ended up a business major. I know that he spent some time in sales after graduating, selling insurance. He was a charming guy and was good at convincing someone that they should buy stuff from him. He was introduced to my mother through a mutual friend, "Buddha", and they married in July of 1970. In January of '72 plans were under way to move to Hanover, NH, but they were not moved by the time I was born, on 2/4/72 in Newark, NJ.

Dad's business was a bicycle shop called "The Pedaler". It was on a street behind the Dartmouth Bookstore; if we trust Google Maps, that means it was on Allen Street, for those of you familiar with Hanover. Woo hoo, I say. Starting any business is a struggle, and Dad asked my mother to go back to nursing overnights to help make ends meet. Eventually, things must have smoothed out, because my Dad's business stayed open until I was fifteen. The store was relatively simple - it was a long, thin shop, with bikes on the left wall both on the floor and on an elevated rack, and there were usually fifty to a hundred bicycles in stock. Along the right was a glass countertop set a few feet away from the wall with various supplies underneath, that Dad or his staff usually sat or stood behind when they weren't being customer-servicey. Dad also sold model rockets and other hobby supplies. Behind the first room was a room that was used for bicycle repair. That room eventually got moved further back in the building, and Dad added another special interest: stereo sales. "The Sound Room" and "The Pedaler" may have been our nation's only combined bicycle/stereo shop, but I'm not going to search Google to see if that's actually true. So, these two businesses lasted until I was fifteen. My parents marriage only lasted until I was four.

Not to ignore my brother, mind you. Jay had been born 5/23/74, at Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover. It's a mystery to me how my parents got together and stayed married, as their personalities really could not be more different. I have memories of some of the fights they had, and I think it's a good thing they divorced. My mother found someplace else to live in Hanover, and my dad eventually moved to Lebanon or West Lebanon, NH. Probably both; it's not fresh in my memory. Mom got into graduate school so she could get an advanced nursing degree; she achieved her MS in nursing a couple of years later in Albany, NY; my brother and I went with her, leaving New Hampshire behind in terms of permanent residence. We were there often, though.

The terms of their divorce required Dad to pay child support, and gave him visitation rights. Depending on how close we lived, we either drove to see him or flew. As our trek through the country started in New Hampshire, progressed to New York, and eventually covered Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Maryland, you can guess that we eventually flew more often than drove. Dad often had us during the summer, for at least one month. Jay and I would be at day camp during the week, and head back to the Pedaler after camp. We'd hang out in the shop making a nuisance of ourselves until Dad would send us to the Dartmouth Bookstore to buy some comic books or other things to keep us busy. When he'd leave for the day, he'd take us back to his place (he almost always had an apartment), cook us dinner, and we'd hang out for the rest of the evening. He kept a room in his apartment with bunk beds for Jay and me, and there were toys and other stuff that stayed there permanently. In relation to his business, Jay and I always had bikes, and he was the one who taught us to ride. He didn't impress bicycle repair skills upon us, but eventually both of us picked them up. Jay spent more time with Dad overall than I did, and tended to acquire more of Dad's knowledge than I did; I never got the hang of using a real camera, where Dad managed to impress his love of photography on Jay in a permanent fashion. We weren't there only in summer, mind you - New Hampshire has excellent snow, and during our winter visits, we'd spend a day sledding, or Dad would send us for ski lessons. We stayed busy, most of the time.

While Dad had the Pedaler, his life was pretty mellow. I think he worked a fair amount, but also played a fair amount as well. He was serious about bicycling and downhill skiing, and generally stayed the same weight from the time he left the Army until the time he died, give or take a few pounds. I doubt he lacked for companionship, although he never remarried. He disagreed with my mother about child support, and was both passive-agressive about not paying it as well as sometimes downright unlawful; Mom had to have him arrested on more than one occasion for nonpayment. I don't know that he was ever really cut out to be a parent. Not that I'm not happy to be here, and not that I regret having him as a father; I just know that his natural tendencies took him in the direction of solitude more than gregariousness.

In 1987, Dad's landlord informed him that rent was going up on the property where his business was...three times what Dad had been paying before. I don't know what the cost would have been to move, but rather than moving or paying the increased rent, Dad closed the Pedaler/Sound Room. He went back to sales, and eventually moved from West Lebanon to Concord, NH. He would essentially stay in Concord the rest of his life.

This post took a long while, so I'll put it up and write more later.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
skington
Aug. 1st, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
This is not the sort of post where you want to be first comment. Hopefully someone will gazump me while I type.

We bought our house in France in 1983, and in the years before that my Dad, Bruce, had been talking to various doctors in the UK, and they'd been saying something like "There's something wrong with you, but it's not your heart". We went to France, we started doing industrial-scale DIY on the new house (Bruce had brought his mates from his lighting company to fix the place up), he went for a routine check-up, and the doctors said "You need a heart bypass. How about next Wednesday?"

So he went to a Bordeaux hospital for a heart bypass, and then had something like 6 months of convalescing to get through, but then he was fine for another 9 years, and we stayed in France and I ended up bilingual and having a much better education than if I'd stayed in South-East London, and everything was fine with the world.

Until he started feeling rotten again, staying in bed for most of the day for days on end, and he decided that it was time for double or nothing: better to try for another op, and either get another 10 years or end it now. He went under the knife, recuperation was a problem - either the heart worked or the lungs worked, but rarely both at once - and eventually he sort of got out of it, but somewhat crippled. And then he died. The autopsy showed nothing significant; my mother and I are convinced that he decided that life wasn't worth living any more, and he just stopped trying.

And the moral of all this? I'm not sure there can be one. My Dad's dead, and I can tell you that it hurts less as the years go by, but I still have no idea why it happened, or what I should feel. There's all sorts of things that I wish I could have shared with him, or told him about, but before he died I was a stupid callow youth, and after that I couldn't tell him.

If you think you'll ever want to remember him, act now. Hunt down photos, and especially audio of him speaking. Your memories of what he sounded like will blur, and in time you won't be able to remember what he sounded like. (I can't remember Bruce's voice.) If there's any footage or recordings of him, and you care, grab them, and convert them into a more modern format; if you delay, old 8-track tapes, 3 inch discs and the likes will become so archaic that it won't be worth anyone's time trying to convert them. Old photos are probably safe; anything vaguely digital in an 80s / 90s format is probably in great danger.
skington
Aug. 1st, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
Bah. You gazumpers all suck.
sethcohen
Aug. 1st, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
Sorry. I should have responded to my post myself. Would have saved you from being first.
sethcohen
Aug. 1st, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
I have to give my brother a call. Jay was the one cleaning out Dad's apartment, and photos and the like were likely among what he located. My brother is also much more savvy than me with the converting of media, so I've no doubt if there's stuff there and it can be viewed/listened to, Jay'll keep it modernized.

I'm sorry to hear of your father. I know it's been a while, but it's clear you still miss him. I'm a stupid callow adult, but I think I've done one better than my dad, who really was more than a little of a hermit. I've more to write, but it won't be tonight.
lordfool
Aug. 3rd, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
Harrumph
Guess which son got the hermit gene....
sethcohen
Aug. 3rd, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Harrumph
Speaking of hermits, Julian wants a hermit crab. He has weird needs.
lordfool
Aug. 3rd, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Harrumph
And does Karen still want a hedgehog?
sethcohen
Aug. 3rd, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Harrumph
We're having triplets. I don't think we'll have time for a hedgehog. Gah.
sethcohen
Aug. 4th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Harrumph
You could also post some memories of Dora's Boy, if you haven't already done so. I'm still way behind on reading my friendslists.
gingy
Aug. 5th, 2007 11:04 am (UTC)
Re: Harrumph
I've seen you in public. That counts as fighting the nature and going with the nurture.
glenbarnett
Aug. 3rd, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this information.

All the best.
sethcohen
Aug. 4th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, and thank you back. There will be more, but not yet. Things are busy.
lordfool
Aug. 9th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
Sweet old Bob
Or SOB as he referred to himself, gave me many wonderful characteristics, some of which I will even admit to. One thing the man did not lack for was a sense of humor. But it's not just humor, it's recognizing an opportunity and then acting on it.

When you own a bicycle repair shop, you have almost all the tools you need to repair wheelchairs. Seeing as Mary Hitchcock Hospital is a renowned institution connected with Dartmouth college, Dad did a bit of side work for the pedestrially different residents in town. One day in The Pedaler, dad's helper Wayne had just finished working on a chair---truing the spokes, checking the brakes, what have you. Wayne then sat down in the chair for a quick test drive in the store, popping a few wheelies and making sure everything worked.

As two women walked into the store, Dad walked around the counter and laid his hand on Wayne's head.

"Arise, my son, and walk."

So Wayne got up.

And then the two ladies almost fell over with shock.

evilellie
Apr. 9th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
Hi, My name is Ellie. This is an old LJ account- anyway, I have this cool picture of my dad in an advertisement for a radio store/ bicycle shop he used to work for- the sound room/ pedaler! My dad is Wayne Cripps. I know we have a picture with more guys in it, and one of them may be your father- I am emailing my dad (I am in college) to ask! I'm sorry to hear of your dad's passing away, but that story at the end made my day!
Best,
-Eleanor Crawford-Cripps
sethcohen
Apr. 9th, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
No kidding, strange coincidence! I remember Wayne - I don't ever remember him not working there. I hope your dad is well. Thanks for finding this post and replying to it!
evilellie
Apr. 19th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
My dad remembers you and your brother too! Here is a link to a page with a bunch of sound room photos, some of your dad! http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/me/
sethcohen
Apr. 22nd, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
Thanks! Those are awesome. I'm going to repost them, and probably put at least one up on FB as well. I mostly post privately here these days (employers being what they are likely to wish to observe) but I want to publicly say how awesome you are. 8^)
evilellie
Apr. 26th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
thanks! It's cool for me to hear my dad's stories about when he was younger too! the following is from him:
"I have some more pictures of Bob from the bike shop - maybe you could tell
Seth about them. Most are from an auto show that Bob had an exhibit at.
He sold me his old camera and lens when he got new ones, so I had something good
to take pictures with. Bob was buddies with all the business people.

I also have some pictures of his Scotty dog at home, but they didn't turn out so well.
He had a dog, Phydeaux (maybe??) who came to work with him every day and hung out
at the shop or wandered around town. He was very good natured and got along with dogs and
people, so he was a great shop dog.

I think I took these pictures when Bob was married and lived on the Lyme Road in Hanover.
He had two dogs at that time. I house sat for a few days and took care of them with my
girl friend of the time.

After Bob got divorced he moved to Enfield and rented an apartment. His dog was hit by
a car then, and Bob was very shook up. Then he got
a condo in Wilder Vt, and then a bigger one at Terrace View in Lebanon NH. He got another dog
but she was not so friendly at the shop, so he gave her to Hack, a friend"

http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/cohen/

if you want to talk to my daddy directly, he is on facebook, he doesn't have a livejournal.
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515006&ref=ts

his network is dartmouth.
Cheers!
-Ellie
sethcohen
Apr. 26th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
Thanks again! My brother, Jay, reposted one of those pix on his FB tonight. I'll go to your dad's page and thank him directly.

Yes, when my Dad & Mom got dogs, they named them Phydeaux and Spotte. When they divorced, I'm told Dad kept Phydeaux and that they sold Spotte to a breeder. I don't know about a female dog; he owned a Scotty after Phydeaux named Buck, who was less friendly, and he had Buck for a long time.
lordfool
Apr. 29th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, this is a strange coincidence!
The younger brother, Jay, also wants to say I also recall Wayne well and to thank you profusely for these pics and memories. Words can't say enough.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )