Very few Renaissance men are left today, men who never resist telling their truth and...
Very few Renaissance men are left today, men who never resist telling their truth and co-
habituate with their feminine side very comfortably. This kind of man is a little bit of everything, a modern-day fusion of old and new world, with swirls of writing, painting, music, and swinging a hammer (but only in an emergency). These are refined, polite, gentleman with manners like those of the 1950s, unafraid to mix and match linen, polyester and wool; who define the word “dapper.” They are not alarmed of allowing their personality to shine through nor are they afraid of appearing too feminine. The Renaissance man did no date swiping on an iPhone for a rogue hookup, but rather only
solicited a real date with beverages and even food, over a phone call involving good manners, mindfulness and caring, and genuinely being a nice person.
I have been blessed by having a father who was a Renaissance man. As a writer, my publications and articles have all been about growing up with a clinically crazy family and I always leave out the part regarding my Dad. Why, you ask? Well, he happened to be incredibly solid and normal, but he was stuck in a tornado of horrific dysfunction along with me, his only daughter. So, I must address how he affected my life up until he passed at 95 years old. Though it was a life not so well-lived, he was the embodiment of a true gentleman, who made a lasting impression on everyone he met. Except my family, of course, and that is where he had Atlas survival skills. Somehow in this bubble of insanity he and I lived in, we kept each other laughing throughout our lives.
Eddie, my dad, was a Russian, Jewish man originally from New Jersey who arrived in New
Orleans after WWII. He graduated with a degree in Fine Arts and had a love affair with being a cartoonist. His family and my mother’s family always said he would be a starving artist but he did what he loved and did it with so much talent and gusto. Walt Disney offered him a job immediately after the war, he declined it due to my mother wanting to remain in New Orleans. And so, he worked 36 years with New Orleans Public Service as an Art Director and cartooned his way to retirement. His cartoon profession made it ideal for us both to create and laugh at each other’s outrageous jokes while dodging our highly dysfunctional family. Due to my dad, I had the ability to become self-depreciating and make fun of myself so easily.
Eddie, always wore a top hat and nice suits with hints of Cherry Hill tobacco clinging to his clothing, was known around town for just being a noble, friendly, well-liked person. He would take a short-cut every day through The Roosevelt Hotel toward his office and all the bellmen would open doors for him. He wasn’t a celebrity, just a lovely, soft-spoken man who was color-blind to society and had beautiful manners. Another words, he reeked of respect toward everyone. His art studio was packed with a huge slanted architectural desk, wooden shelves heavy with onion skin paper, expensive drawing paper, the highest quality paint brushes and graphite pencils, all at the ready for him to create a small sketch. He would first pack one of his high-quality smoking pipes with Cherry Hill tobacco and pour a cup of black coffee before diving into creating a drawing that made people laugh. He owned Apple pipes, Bulldog pipes, and Calabash pipes – all were art sculptures in a glass jar on his desk inside his studio.
My noble dad ate out every evening since my family never cooked and he did it along with me, quietly, always making waitresses feel like queens. It was not flirtation, but rather an act of respect for the hard work they did. Eddie never failed to call them “Miss” or “Ma’am” while he always ordered the same, simple meals with yet more black coffee. His newspaper nearby, he read and never held resentment toward my family who never cared for him or me. Eddie and I were a team. We would go to the movies together, have tuna sandwiches and vanilla milkshakes at the Walgreens lunch counter, sit in
restaurants and crack jokes about how nuts our family was. We kept each other going through life. I always thought about how much more we both could have become with the right family. But we had each other’s back. He was my caretaker, my friend, the master of many jokes and a fabulous humorist.
The years caught up with us and through so many tumultuous family experiences including him finally divorcing my mother on their 50 th anniversary (I insisted), I drove him to the NOLA airport with one suitcase in hand and he left to live and take care of his brother with autism in Florida. His suitcase contained mostly his art supplies and quickly, his Brooks Brothers suits morphed into shorts, tennis shoes, and T-shirts. My Renaissance man became a relaxed, old hippie but carried on with grace and dignity. He retired into senior citizen living as the years quickly passed and even as he became so very
frail, he took his laughter and talent into the last step in life, a nursing home. I covered his walls with his art work and through his fading memory, I would sit on his bed, hold his bony, long beautiful artist fingers while he whispered, “Did you take me here to an old man convention?” I will never forget those lines. Once he passed, it was only the Rabbi, my partner and me at the graveside. I made sure that his gravestone said
“My dad, an incredibly talented cartoonist.”
And dropped my photo outside his casket.
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