Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Father-son relationships.
  1. It’s kind of a long story, but we called my father Doo, which rhymes with Moo, which is what we call my mom; they were married nearly 57 years. He was a southern Jewish gentleman, a wise and warm listener, the personification of mensch, a Yiddish word that means, to my understanding, a man whose nature is to do the right thing.

    Marvin Miles Sager was known for his powerful handshake, his graceful manners, his impeccable dress. He never told me very much about himself; I learned a lot just by watching: The way he opened doors for people, helped the ladies with their coats, was quick to pick up the check. The way he followed through so beautifully when he threw or shot or ran­—he was always about the form and the content. The way he walked with such a proud and upright bearing­­—a leftover, perhaps, from his days in the Marine Corps Reserve. During his service, Marv shot sheep with various firearms—a pre-med student, he’d found assignment (through family connections, a Jewish general) with a team developing a new style of body armor. The sheep, of course, were the guinea pigs. It beat the heck out of going to war.

    That’s pretty much it for the anecdotes­—except the one about the patient who claimed to have become pregnant after falling off a porch. My sister is the real star of that story. At nine or ten, she was precocious enough to inquire what, exactly, the lady had fallen upon. Marv was not much of a raconteur. He was a listener. He was a toucher—he’d squeeze your triceps...