Monday, November 18, 2013

Farewell, Uncle Adolph

I won’t be publishing a 102nd birthday tribute to my uncle Adolph, for he passed away on October 21. He was pretty good until the end, spending less than two weeks in home hospice care.

My uncle and I, Jan. 4, 2013
We received an email about his deteriorating condition while waiting to be picked up in Haifa harbor by our guide for our trip to Jerusalem. My cousins had delayed informing us about the hospice decision but decided we could only return after the cruise was completed in Istanbul on October 18. I prayed for him at the Wailing Wall – but forgot to leave a prayer note in the Wall – making the experience even more transcendent. After almost 24 hours of travel to return home on Friday and a busy Saturday, we arranged to see Adolph on Sunday. Before heading to the North Shore, we visited KAM Isaiah Israel as part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago. It was not open last year. Ironically, I saw the memorial plaques for his grandparents (my great-grandparents), which had been placed there after the synagogue opened in 1924. His aunt and uncle were members.

Memorial Plaques, KAM Isaiah Israel
The final visit was a difficult one. The hospice setting reminded me of my mother’s, only seven months ago. Adolph was obviously near the end, unlike when we saw him shortly before our departure when he was still getting around the house on his own. We enjoyed one light moment. My cousin Cathy asked him what he thought of the White Sox signing free-agent Jose Abreu. After a few seconds, he shook his head. Adolph was never big on free-agent signings. I gave him my usual farewell in circumstances like this: “When you see my father, tell him everything turned out all right.” He passed away ten hours later, perhaps in part waiting for our return, for he knew we were away.

Upon his instructions, only the rabbi spoke at the funeral. Given the opportunity, I would have presented at least one new anecdote.

In July 1979, Janet and Marisa traveled to the east coast to visit family. I was less than a month into a new job and thus had no vacation time. Adolph asked me to join him for a Tuesday night Sox game vs. the Royals. The Sox were on their way to an 87-loss season, so not much was expected that evening as we settled down in the usual Box 38, Row H (formerly Box 45, Tier 6). Early in the game, Sox 3rd baseman Jim Morrison booted a high infield chopper. My uncle let out a double expletive – the first an adjective for the subject – followed by mutual dead silence. I’d never heard him express himself like that before, and I’m sure he was embarrassed to do so in my presence. Later, I realized this was the first time (and only one) only he and I attended a ballgame together. At least one adult would also be around. I chalked it up to yet another passage into adult life, even though I was 30 and a husband and father at the time.

View from Box 38, Row H (formerly Box 45, Tier 6)
The theme of my 101st birthday tribute was “Keep on Goin’!” a reference to his encounter with his aunt’s hospital roommate in 1974. Adolph indeed stayed active through the years. While in his 90s, he traveled to the Amazon, Danube and Hawaii and participated in a program honoring the rebuilding of the synagogue in Manila after World War II. Adolph attended his last White Sox game in 2011, sitting in the Scout Seats. I’d heard he’d liked the experience, so I called him up to get his take. The White Sox had lost to the Red Sox, 10-2, so his first response was, “It wasn’t a bad game; it was a terrible game.”

Last visit to the ballpark, July 30, 2011
As noted in that same entry, last December Adolph asked me to find out if Ian Kadish, a pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, is Jewish. He often asked me for similar-type research projects. After a very quick search, I answered that he is. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Melissa Kadish, Ian’s mother, informing me that yes, Ian is Jewish, and she looks forward to the time my uncle can see Ian pitching in the Major Leagues. Ian had a good year at the Class A Lansing Lugnuts in the Blue Jays organization, so he may yet make it to the big leagues. If he does, Mrs. Kadish, I can assure you that Adolph will be watching.