Within a few weeks after he died, I was on a plane, first to Italy, then Greece, and my final destination, Egypt. Traveling at such moments of grief left me with a great sense of ambivalence, but a change in environment was exactly what I needed.
While the Middle East and North Africa were not experiencing upheavals then, I still had a sense of vulnerability as a woman traveling alone. I met my greatest fears in Cairo, unsure of how I would be received as a Western single woman among more of the traditional elements within Egyptian society. With a personal tour guide with me most of the time, I arrived back to the States just fine. Adventure- more than courage- was displayed on this trip. But, had I not witnessed and heard the stories my father told me about coming from the "old country," to America, I don't know that I would engage in moments of adventure and/or courage, and trust in the ultimate goodness of people, as he did. My dad would love to reminisce about his student days and the families who were so kind to him. I learned from him that along with courage, adventures often meet expressions of loving-kindness.
My father was also imaginative and very funny. He was a great story-teller and some of our more challenging moments at home felt fleeting because he knew how to make us laugh. From the stories of Tarzan and Jan (Dad & Mom) to the way we would all tease each other, there was a lot of laughter and play growing up. He didn't like to go out much, but, he loved having our home filled with people. Our home was always open, family was over often, and our house was the place where my friends would hang out. When people would come over, he would try to get a song out of them and at the very least, have them share their stories. He was always eager to share his, both voice and adventures of life.
My dad was also a man of thought, big dreams, human struggles, and kindness, He was a student of self-improvement and ideas. In many ways, reflecting upon it now, I believe it was one of the reasons our family endured and moved through our own experiences of loss and tragedy. I remember one of the first sets of books he gave us were stories that illustrated a certain value (saving, learning, determination, etc), and then when we were older, he presented my sister and I with a leather bound copy of The Law of Success. He would pass this book on to others whom he wished to inspire and direct as well. Our house was lined with books and he fostered my love of learning and what is now my own conviction that what I feed my mind will also shape my experience.
As I reflect and remember Dad on this fourth anniversary of his passing, I am grateful for the gifts of courage, adventure, imagination, cheer, and strength of mind, which he offered.