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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Be the Glue

Today is the anniversary of my dad's death. Saul Gershkowitz died six years ago as the holiday of Rosh Hashannah was ending with the setting sun. His long and eventful life ended with his loved ones surrounding him. We sang to him, we held his hand and helped him make the transition from this world to the next. My mother, Z"L, sat at his front and was there to support him on his final journey.

I want to write so many things about my dad, but I will focus in on only one thing today. I know that during his life Dad was the center of our family. I think that there are lots of metaphors, but being the glue that kept us together seems the most appropriate.

When you are the designated "glue" in a family what does that mean? Families stretch over time and space and I am not sure if anyone really knows when certain family members transition to becoming that glue? Is it something that one does consciously? Is it a "title" which is bestowed because no one else rises to the occasion or is it merely organic? Is the person who is the "glue" more inclined to be that person because of the force of his personality? Do grandparents automatically become the "glue" or are certain family members more likely to be the glue than others?

Why does this metaphor of glue come to mind? In trying to recall and organize what specifically my dad did to keep the family together my first thought is that dad wasn't shy to articulate the message of family connection. He didn't keep it a secret. He used to ask me regularly if I was talking to my brothers? If I wasn't talking to them regularly, he was sure to tell me that I must call, I must see them because family is important. There was no innuendo; it was merely a fact that was there for me and my brothers to know, "YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO EACH OTHER. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN FAMILY."

I can brainstorm other ways that dad became "the glue." Perhaps it was that dad showed up or that he took great delight in helping to cook for family events or that having dad's approval meant everything to his children. Perhaps it was just the force of his personality that had us hearing, no actually it was feeling his message of the importance of family. Maybe the underlying cause was that had our dad not survived the war none of us would be there and we therefore had an obligation to stay in touch, but dad wanted more than just staying in touch, he wanted us to really be there and support one another for one another for the long haul.

My father, Z"L, was a complicated man and the way that he related to the world, to people and even to family members was complicated and not always pretty. He wasn't always easy to be around, but inside of that prickly shell our family knew that he had a soft core. He may have had a difficult method of transmitting his messages to people and even to family members, but we knew that he meant well. He was our center and his message of family first still resonates with his children and his grandchildren to this day. It's now our turn, my brothers and I, to transmit this same message to my (and someday theirs as well) grandchildren and it is a responsibility that we take seriously.

So, this little Zecher or remembrance is just about our own family, about Saul Gershkowitz, but every family has a person or people who are that glue. It can be the older generation, but it doesn't have to be. Honestly, the glue, that person is you. You are the glue that holds your family together. Without you and your love and input your family would not be the same. You know that in order to maintain a family, it has to be nurtured and tended. You know that communication is the glue as are ongoing care and commitment. And since that person is you, and you are the glue that holds a family together, don't be discouraged if sometimes things are a little rough. Families have their ups and downs, but don't give up. Be the glue. Go the extra yard to keep your families together. Make that extra phone call, or send that extra text. Let your family know that they are important to you and to each other. Tell them you love them, be there for them. Let them know what our dad let us know; that there is nothing more important than family.

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