before Nike did. But he couldn’t think of complaining that they took his motto. I would imagine that there are many men of that generation who said the same thing, “Just do it.” Despite that, the only person my father-in-law is impatient with is himself. He is not in the best of shape these days and is suffering through physical therapy without feeling that there is any change. I think it is good that he is not getting used to the new normal and so perhaps this will not stay. How does one learn to adjust? No, you can’t just do it. We had to convince him to give up driving after too many near misses. Then came leaving the house he had been in for over 50 years, packing him up to go to a new place where he knew no one. Now he is in another rehab stint; at least the people are nice. They take good care of him and they really do it.
It is hard to watch anyone go through loss of independence and ability, doubled with watching my husband watching him. His father was always the ultimate teacher, which was always delightfully unexpected. He could teach anything from his set of life experiences; I think it was that he knew instinctively how to break something down to step by step, the mechanic, rather than the engineer in him. He taught us how to drive stick-shift in one day after we bought our first car, a ’62 Beetle, that we picked up, learned to drive, and then drove it off through the Taconic State Parkway (probably 45 mph, if we were so lucky) one summer Sunday many years ago. It’s odd; we went to 2 weddings that day, both marriages didn’t last. Neither did the Beetle, but that’s another story.
My father tried teaching me how to drive stick-shift on his beloved Fiat before that; I ran screaming from the car in failure. Maybe the difference is that it was his car and not a cheap clunker, but let’s just agree that that made it more apparent.
My father-in-law could pay attention to details of machinery so well that he became a teacher after he had given up his factory, and he is still beloved to his students. His level of patience for others is remarkable. I know that my husband has inherited this gift, which sometimes is so baffling that he can listen to anyone’s nonsense and find clarity that no one saw coming.
I realize that another factor in this level of patience is dealing with my mother-in-law, who was a demanding and impatient person, pretty much the opposite of her husband. And my mother? Patient, sometimes way too patient, or moreso timid until she got to her un-timid stage, as I have mentioned. It is fascinating, this paying attention to forms.
And it was so amusing, for as observant and patient as my father-in-law was with machinery and with people, he couldn’t remember names. I guess he didn’t have problems with the people around him, but once he stepped out of his world, he didn’t get it. Coming to Israel for our wedding and meeting all the people there, even though they were mostly Anglos, many were using their Hebrew names. He would anglicize them without thinking; Yaakov became Jacob, which would then become Jason , degrading one shelf life each time he would try to recall it. He still butchers the grandchildren’s names at times, but oh for the next generation! Each one has been more interesting than the one before. For one in particular, which, I grant you, is challenging for most Jews familiar with tongue-twisters, he simply said, “oh that’s just not fair.” But he said it with a smile. And it is not a matter of senility for him; he wouldn’t have been able to get it when he was 20. So we help him remember how to say the name, and he thankfully knows who everyone is.
Fish can learn despite small brains, today’s news reveals, among bigger and sadder things. While I still can, I am trying to figure out how to make better choices.