My dad, Gordon Cotler at about 16.
Years ago, as my great uncle Joe lay dying, his wife and my dad’s favorite Aunt, Ida, told me that, for the Jews, our afterlife lies in the memory of those left behind.
And so my dad’s afterlife seems to be those many pleasures he introduced me to where he will always resonate.
These are seminal pleasures that “they can’t take away from you,” he taught me.
I didn’t know who “they” were.
But felt completely confident that HE did.
And now that I’ve grown up, I know too. (and so do you)
My dad and I savored culinary pleasures high and low. Sucking down clams on the half shell accompanied by crinkle-cut fries in a cup at Nathan’s.
We sat on the Sieto counter in New York City, witnessing the tempura “master” batter and fry thin slices of sweet potato.
We evaluated ice creams by their butterfat content — the higher the better he claimed. (We argued that point then, and still do Dad.)
He taught me that food was also about memory. The canned chow mien he ordered at a highway diner brought back his boyhood Chinese food in the Bronx.
Those lousy December tomatoes harken back to the fat beefsteaks he grew in his garden before the shade encroached.
So, while we munched on lox and bagels at my sister Joanna’s coffee table after his funeral, my Dad will was there, cooking up my sukiyaki birthday dinner on a habachi atop that SAME table, surrounded by admiring friends. (I was so proud.)
Just as those birthday dinners brought him back to all things Japanese, those lox and bagels brought me back to him.
My Dad’s pleasure in food remained when all else was gone. The chocolate ice cream I brought him during his last days was wolfed down as if by a small boy. His last words, my sister tells me, where “ice cream.”
I have missed him for a while — for his dark, sharp, often nasty humor that was unbeatable.
His deep intelligence and power of observation.
His ability to find the hole in the plot of any mystery movie, but still enjoy a downright awful comedy because he’d “gotten a few good laughs.”
I thank him for my two strong independent sisters and those pleasures, his afterlife. That no one can take away.