‘When it came time to put up the stone’


Photograph by Mick Baker

From The New York Times:

Forever the prankster, my father died at 79 on Yom Kippur of 2003, prompting my mother’s comment: “That day is for the holy — how did they ever let him in?”

Wicked or not, Dad was much loved by his siblings and his nieces and nephews. However, my brother, Andrew, and I had a different narrative. To us, our father was a failed lawyer, a sadistic philanderer — not much of a role model. When it came time to put up the stone, which according to Jewish custom is within a year after a death, we stalled. For a very long time.

Dad’s sister lost patience with us. One winter night six years after my father’s death, she shouted at me over the phone. I could just imagine her finger jabbing the air as she threatened me, “We will do it ourselves and have our own unveiling and we’ll never tell you. Take your hatred of your father to the grave!”

Only looking back on it now do I see the callousness of our fribbling. I should have been sympathetic; after all, she loved her younger brother just as I did my older.


“Writer’s Block at the Tombstone”, Alice Feirling, The New York Times