Posted: Monday, June 27, 2011 9:33:38 PM
On many an evening, my father, who is short and stout and enjoys tea out of teapots, jumps on a small trampoline in our living room for 30 to 45 minutes*. For exercise, he says. It’s just like running, he says. Remember when he jumped rope a few years ago? It’s almost as good as that, he says.
The week I came home from college last month, we were both in the living room, watching a Yankee game in our typical formation — I was on the couch, and he was burning calories, allegedly. Our conversation jumped around unremarkably, until one thing led to another, which led to something else, which led to my father stating that his grandfather had died while serving in World War II, during the siege in Sevastopol.
All I said was, “Oh.” I might have said, “Wow.” But that’s how it goes in my family**. While my parents go to yoga class and shop at Whole Foods and own an SUV, they can still be very un-American. We have never had Important Family Talks. Information about the past is revealed randomly and sparingly and only when there isn’t any way around it.
But I’ve pieced most of it together. I know he wrestled in high school, until his coach told him he had to cut his long, John Lennon-esque locks to stay on the team. I know he had a previous marriage – I found that out by accident in the car many years ago, after I made some joke about having many wives, and he thought I was serious. He has no secret children. Phew.
I also know that he is unbelievably smart, smarter than I will ever be, and I know he’s come a long way because of that brain. When he first arrived in America in 1981, he washed dishes at an Italian restaurant every night. He did his furniture shopping during spring cleaning season, scouring the Philadelphia streets for old mattresses and tables that could still be used.
Years later, when he was the one enjoying a comfortable suburban life, he had to cope with the sudden death of his father and his mother’s drawn-out and excruciating battle with cancer, somehow suppressing his emotions the entire way to shield his young and mostly unaware child. And he’s never asked anything of me, and he’s spoiled me, and he has more faith in me than I have in myself. But, you know, none of that is ever really said out loud.
So I asked him the question. It sounded odd in my head, and it sounded just as strange when I said it out loud. He looked at me, either amused or confused.
“Something you don’t know? I’m going to lose weight doing this. You’ll see.” And then he kept bouncing.
*Jumps is a stretch — he engages in a slow, rhythmic bounce. If I didn’t love him as much as I do, I would call it a jiggle.
**During a similar night over winter break, he mentioned that his mother and grandma escaped the Holocaust by moving from Ukraine to Moscow just months before the occupation.