I met you for the first time in 1990, when my then boyfriend, now husband, brought me home to meet his parents. You were 53 years old, and you were gorgeous. When I entered the living room, you were sitting on your favorite brown leather recliner, smoking a pipe. When you rose to greet me, tall and broad-shouldered, with bright blue eyes and a barely-graying full head of hair, I thought, “wow, he’s really handsome. I hope his son ages as well as he does.”
I don’t remember much else from that first meeting, except that I quickly realized that the good looks were accompanied by an abundance of self confidence and a ton of charisma. In fact, were you not so honest, if intellectual integrity wasn’t so important to you, you would have made a great politician. Instead, you became an engineer.
Over the next 23 years, I slowly got to know you better. The 34 years separating us, and our different outlooks and temperaments, caused some friction. I was a fierce feminist; you – not so much. You liked to have the final word, and so did I. Despite these differences, it was impossible not to admire you. It was impossible not to love you – you made sure of that. A classic extrovert, you thrived on other people’s company, craved attention, and needed to be loved. Whenever you met someone new, you turned on the charm and made sure they loved you – whether it was your new daughter in law, or a server at a restaurant.
Incredibly accomplished (you held a PhD and spoke six languages), you expected a lot of yourself, and of others. You loved your family, but you especially respected your son, my husband, whom you considered to be your intellectual equal. Whenever we sat down for a family dinner, you tolerated no more than half an hour of idle family talk, before becoming bored and turning to your son with some engineering or science topic. Now THAT was interesting!
You warned me about becoming a lawyer. I was 19, you were 54 – I should have listened. You shared your personal life experience with lawyers and talked about how nasty most of them were. You didn’t want me, your future daughter in law, to lower myself to that level. But I was young and proud and determined – I guess I had the right to make my own mistakes, and becoming a lawyer was a big one.
When our first daughter was born, I watched you transform. When I met you, your work brought you immense fulfillment and happiness. As soon as you became a grandpa, your grandchildren became the most important thing in your life. Your work was still important, of course – and you continued working well past your official retirement in 2002 – but your grandchildren were the light of your life, and brought you so much joy. It’s a shame that my daughters grew up 6,000 miles away from you, but you did get to spend summers together – including the last summer of your life.
During the last few years of your life, I watched you struggle with Parkinson’s disease. You attacked the disease with courage – I would have expected no less of you – but slowly it was taking its toll on your body and on your mind. When we found out that you had to undergo heart surgery, it was obvious that you were ready to let go. You bid farewell to your friends, leaving detailed burial instructions for your family. You never woke up from that surgery – your heart stopped and there was no reviving you. Your daughter believes, and I love that thought, that you simply decided that what was laying ahead if you did survive the surgery, years of indignity and suffering, was not the proper way to end your rich, full life. So you exited life with grace and dignity, choosing to go at a time when we could still remember you as our gorgeous, smart, proud Yoav.
Your son, my husband, is in Israel now, for your funeral and the Shiva (the seven days of mourning), and we talk often on the phone. Yesterday when we talked, I could swear I heard your voice in the background – you had this thunderous voice, a voice that made sure no one could possibly ignore you. I thought I heard that voice, then I realized, that voice was gone, it no longer exists and I will never hear it again. And I could not grasp it. I’ve known you for 23 years – almost for as long as I’ve know my husband. You’ve been an important part of my life. Your bigger-than-life personality, your charm, your warmth – I will miss them. I will miss you.
Goodbye, dear Yoav. May you rest in peace.