07 January 2008

Pater familias

Ephraim “Frank” Korman
Scientist, teacher, father

Some of my readers know that for the last few years, I've been on “Dad patrol.” My father moved out to San Francisco to get away from the harsh weather of Washington DC and moved into a little apartment right across the street from mine. Sort of like a sitcom.

We have a family story about my g'g'great-grandfather on my father's side: he died in a terrible logging accident, crushed between two great trees he had felled that he was in the process of floating down the Dvina river to the mill. The interesting part: this happened when he was 87. Still working as a lumberjack.

We Kormans are tougher than we look.

But it turns out that we don't last forever. Just before New Years', my father was hit with a sudden high fever that apparently cut off oxygen to his brain for a few long minutes. I got to see him when his body was still breathing but his ruach was already gone. Three hours later, mercifully, his body gave up waiting for his spirit to come back.

Saturday my brother hosted a little memorial for him. Here's what I said:

The idea that I could say a few words to sum up either my father's life or my own relationship with him is absurd, but I find myself thinking of a story that comes as close as you could hope.

My father was drafted to serve in the Korean War. Horrified by the prospect of having to kill another person, he volunteered to be a medic, against the advice of other recruits who dreaded to be on the front lines, unarmed, with a big red cross-shaped target on their heads. He was accepted for medic training, and fortunately for his survival he was assigned to a M*A*S*H outfit.

When I was growing up, my father only told one story from that time in his life. He said that the only time after basic training when he held a rifle was on sentry duty, protecting the camp. He still didn't want to shoot anyone, so he pulled the bullets out of his M1 rifle and put them in his pocket.

My mother would always interject that had they caught him he'd have been court-martialed for sure, sent to prison, and given a dishonorable discharge.

Or, y'know, he could have been killed.

Guarding the camp with the bullets in his pocket. Fearless. Morally grounded. Totally irresponsible. That was my father.

Update: Okay, not totally irresponsible! My mother has more.


Lydia said...

I pray for this kind of eloquence.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story.

He will be well remembered, esp by those of us who love you.

I have added his name to the list of beloved dead.


Nina said...

zikhrono livrakha. May his memory be for blessing. zekher tzadik livrakha. May the memory of
the righteous be for blessing. I'm glad I met him. Be well.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I didn't read this sooner. My thoughts are with you and your family.


Reya Mellicker said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your father died. Thank you for your wonderful tribute, and for including your brother's words, too.

May we all be so lovingly and vividly remembered.

Polarity Lineage said...

Blessings and continued restful peace ...