Was. For times gone by. For things covered in a dust that only memory can clean. For things that are no more. Difficult to swallow. It’ll choke instead of rolling off your tongue. And ambush you when you least expect it. A little word which has great power. Was. Seon Hyman. His name was Seon Hyman. A great man. The man who gave me life. My father. Was.
09.10.09. The day this ‘was’ became part of my world. Much of that day and the days that followed remain a blur of tears and “Fuck-yous” which I threw at a God I didn’t know but blamed for taking him from me.
In my mind God was a thug I hoped to meet in a dark, secluded alleyway one night armed with my sand-paper words. But I knew this was pointless. This was one thug who would continue to roam the streets evermore. And slowly I began to process. And the more I did the less it all made sense.
“He was born a Jew. And he’ll die a Jew,” I remember someone saying. But the dad I remember was an atheist. It made no sense to say goodbye to him with guttural Hebrew prayers and shovels of earth being thrown over his coffin. That was someone else’s dad. Not mine.
My dad was a man who would eat bacon. In fact he loved it. Bacon and eggs. Like a good Jewish boy. He was a man who spent most of his Shabbat in front of a computer. He never wore a kippah and wasn’t a shul goer. As a little girl I remember him and I sitting in his car outside the shul waiting for my grandfather, like two kids bunking class. Because neither of us wanted to go in. We both lived for ideas and how we could debate and discuss them. A devout Jew with a checklist might frown upon such a man. A heathen. A gentile, they may even say.
And yet it is from him that my true understanding of what it means to be a Jew comes. He was a good man. Kind. Forgiving. Honest. A good soul. And it is in those qualities and my memories of him that I make sense of what it means to be a Jew. It’s not what I wear or eat. It’s not how many times I pray or if I pray. It’s how I treat others. It’s the mark I leave on the world. It’s who I am as a person.
“There’s this book I want you to read. About the history of the Jewish people. Your people Nic,” I remember him saying to me. “But Pons (that’s what we called him) I still don’t get it … I don’t identify with them,” I want to tell him. I’m still waiting on his answer.