Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, Anne Sexton, said, “It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” And, as Father’s Day approaches, the impressions we have of our fathers and the role they’ve held in our lives comes to the forefront in a significant way.
For Leon Weinglass, whose father, Jacob, has been a resident at The Lena and David T. Wilentz Residence in Somerset for eight years, Father’s Day is about celebrating a man of strength and survival.
A Holocaust survivor, Jacob Weinglass is one of 10 children with two children, three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was one of 12 residents at The Oscar & Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living who was fortunate enough to attend the facility’s “Fulfilling the Promise” tour of Israel in 2012.
“My father was always there for us and has a real survivor mentality,” said Leon, adding that he has shared many stories with him about how he persevered and survived despite being arrested by the Nazis.
“I admire how he was always able to figure something out in order to survive,” he said. “He is not bitter at all at what happened to him.”
There was a time in Poland after the war when his father was living under Communist rule, struggling to make ends meet.
“He worked during the day and at night, making stockings at their apartment with a machine powered by a crank. It was a very difficult life and it was just to keep up, paying for food and rent,” said Leon, who visits with his father ever Sunday and takes him to doctors’ appointments.
“He is able to adapt to almost every situation. My father was always dependable and always there for us,” he said, adding that they enjoy fishing together.
For Father’s Day, they will probably share dinner at his home since the holiday falls around the same time as Leon’s birthday.
Joanna Uhler, a nurse at The Martin & Edith Stein Hospice in Somerset, which is also part of the Oscar & Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, has also drawn strength from her recollections of her father since he died at 81 nearly a month ago during a routine heart procedure.
“My father had heart disease, but he was active and working right up until the moment he was anesthetized for his procedure. This left our family unprepared for what happened to him so suddenly,” she said.
“We all know that death is a given. A protracted illness with a loved one allows the family to process the tumultuous emotions that are a natural part of the dying process,” noted Uhler.
As a hospice nurse, Uhler encourages adult children to express their emotions to their dying parent. But, she knows that it can be difficult for sons and daughters to do so with their fathers because it is often typical for fathers to be the “silent, strong type.”
Still, it is an important part of the process of communicating with a loved one and keeping their memory alive, she advises.
This Father’s Day, like Leon Weinglass, Joanna Uhler will cherish some of the characteristics about her father that have made him a unique part of her life.
“My mom graciously let me have my dad’s watch, which I wear a lot,” she said. “And one of the funny things my dad starting doing years ago was to wear quirky socks everyday to work.”
“So, after he died all of us kids (there are six of us) and a bunch of grandsons (there are about 15 of them) took a few pairs each to wear in honor of him. I have about five silly socks that I frequently wear to work. The last pair I wore had colorful giraffes on them,” she quipped.
“Other ways families can celebrate their fathers is by planting a tree where they can watch it grow. Or by making a huge patchwork of photos on a canvas and hanging it in a prominent space in a living area,” said Uhler.
“I encourage our families to continue to share stories about their loved one. My dad was a faith-filled spiritual man,” she concluded. “He spoke often of his love of God and other people. He was a fine doctor and I honor his memory by continuing to do the work that I do.”
The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, which is comprised of The Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence, which includes Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, The Martin and Edith Stein Hospice, The Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wilfcampus.org.