“TIME STOP!”- Aaron Weiss

Aaron WeissMy father, Aaron Weiss, died on November 4, 2017. He was one day shy of turning 99 years old, which he would have done the very next day. I can’t even believe that sentence.

How could it be that a man I’ve known my entire life is now to be referred to in past tense and left me and my sister, at my our seasoned age, fatherless? Hard to fathom, though of course, he lived well into his aging years—a timeless Duracell battery, so afraid of death that he white-knuckled life.

No matter how much my sister, Laura, and I tried to help him overcome his fear of the unknown, of that ultimate thing called “death”—and shower him with books and movies and conversations about beyond all of this—it never worked. He’d only sigh and say that he wished he could believe what we so believe, but that he just couldn’t. So he held on to his daily state of quiet depression fearing the inevitable but too afraid to do anything else he was quite capable of doing—like walking and staying awake and writing.

The last years of his life were not the happiest years for my father—with great physical setbacks and ailments—he was the source of much angst within the family—especially our mother, Lilly, because of his curmudgeon ways. But just like the pain of birth, all that I really remember of him right now is the good stuff. Was he an Atticus or Otto Frank? No, not at all. My father more of a loving, kind, offbeat uncle, or brother, even a child—who you delighted in sharing stories with and entertain and joy in seeing happy because sorrow was always filling his beautiful, dreamy eyes. I lived to keep my father laughing.

So on this day, I choose to pack and store and shelve all those wishes I wished he could have been and instead remember all the gifts that my father gave us. I realize now that those were my wishes for him. Not his. He might not have been as unhappy as I thought or felt he was…

Aaron WeissHe was the epitome of romance—adoring women and had he been the Bohemian that he was born to be—would have loved living a wild and unfettered life of free-loving and poetry and literature and music living within the circle of Gertrude Stein and Hemingway and all the naughty and juicy and way unconventional types who lived and loved outside the lines.

But that wasn’t my father’s life. He never had the courage nor the confidence to step outside those lines and so he lived them within his imagination. And in nature. And music. And in a twisted sense of humor. And in his “Musings from the Eagle’s Nest”—his years of newsletters written in a tree house kind of loft at his island home (before he went into assisted living) that was named after his totem—the stately and fiercely independent and striking eagle he loved.

He was a passionate Scorpio. A lethargic dreamer. A narcissist. An incurable romantic. A kind and loving spirit. A Peter Pan shackled by his fears of flying. He adored my mother from the moment he first met her when they were teenagers to the day she died. He loved us girls, but never as much as he loved our mother.

I am left with such a sense of sadness and longing for all that I wished he could have experienced in this life time and my only peace is that I believe with all my heart that he is finally discovering what Laura and I told him he would now that he’s passed from this earthly plane.

But still, he left me with wonderful gifts. That exquisite pause to love the wonder of Nature—the painful beauty of a sky-streaked sunrise and sunset. The beauty of wind-swept trees. The endless tapestry of flowers and the garden he long ago joyed in tending. The sweet sound of birds singing and chattering and watching them feed from the feeder on my parents’ deck by the sea. The roar and then quiet calm of ocean waves. The sweet innocence of animals. The aching strains of a symphony (how he loved music!). The freedom of dance (he was such a great dance partner, the happiest when he could twirl us across the dance floor to a beat he kept so well. Everyone wanted to be his dance partner.)

Aaron WeissIn his youth he was a strapping, tall, dark and handsome untested lothario who never got to stretch his bad-boy wings, but settled instead into a state of executive somnolence that left him bereft of joy and forever too tired to reach. He seemed to sleep far too much in a cocoon of mental exhaustion—unrequited dreams and disappointments taking their hold on him.

Still, there is so much that I love in life that he loved too. It was he who encouraged me to live outside the lines. To audition for a TV show as a dancer when I was ill prepared and ridiculously under qualified. Yet he witnessed my crash and burn on stage with pure joy applauding me as I danced off the stage and out the door sobbing. “Why did you leave?” he asked in shock. “You were so good!” I was horrid but he never thought that was so.

I always said that when I was a teenager I could have burst through the door and tell him that I was going to take a journey to the farthest reaches of the world and explore the highest mountains of Katmandu living naked and wild with the indigenous tribes and maybe marry a monk in a cave—and my father would have applauded me and just asked me to write him and tell me all about it! He never censored my dreams and for that I will be forever grateful. (And why in the world I never did all those crazy things I don’t know. But I should have.)

I wish I could have been able to gift him with the adventures I know he longed to experience. I wish he could have found that sense of peace that was so elusive to him. More than ever I wish he could have loved himself enough to really live life to the absolute fullest. But maybe that’s another gift he also gave me—to do just that for myself as an homage to him. I love you, Dad.

Be the eagle now. Fly wild and free, dear man. Fly strong…

Eagle

DAD-ALOGUES

By Aaron Weiss
as told to his daughter, Cara
November 5, 2009

Let Go, Let God

If you come to the conclusion that you’ve done the best you can then let it go and let God. The powers that be take over. Just be sure that there are no vestiges of something holding you back. You have to let go.

As long as you’re exerting your own power to solve the problem and confident you’ve done all you can you must go on from there. Let go. Exert some of your own energy and let Nature take its course. I can’t change the course of getting older, but I can make peace with it, just like the Serenity Prayer says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

So, I can change my health habits. (Why am I so tired?) Take courage to see the doctor. Stop worrying so much. Yes, I do dialogue with God, but the answer comes not from some Entity out there, but rather from the God within. I hear the answers in my own voice.

I think that there is a God-gene within everyone. A chemical component that gives you the component to live. Most people ignore it.

I guess I’m learning to be more accepting of assisted living. It was painful leaving our home, but I need to go with the flow. And yes, to make peace with it.

Hope

One must concentrate on Hope. Whatever forces there are in the Universe, some spiritual Force is doing what it can to intervene. You need to ask yourself, “Did I do all I can?” “Did I add to the solution?” Feel comforted in knowing that you did all you could and that is comforting—hopeful.

…You live with pain until it dissipates into the ethers…

Being Grateful/Love

I love that I feel this great sense of gratitude for my family, for animals, for flowers, for the Universe, for books—and each love has a different quality to it, but they’re equal in timber; it’s all equal.

Love is not one-dimensional, it’s multi-dimensional: Lilly, my daughters, me, snow, on and on all resonate on a different timber like a symphony.

I love symphonies. They have variations and themes—but they all resonate some aspect of LOVE. LIFE IS A SYMPHONY OF LOVE.

My Life and Acceptance

…is sometimes painful, but I’ve lived to my nineties. I’m living. I overcame much pain and went through it—not The Valley of Death, just The Valley.

My forbearers gave me strength in my DNA. I have no resentment for that which was given to me as a child—whether I deserved it or not. I accept it.

I love my life as long as I can live it—the beauty of the skies, the birds, the little things I see and experience that most people ignore. I love the little things—the way a twig leans again another twig.

What was I Like as a Child? What Would I Say to my Younger Self if I Could Have a Dialogue Right Now…My Perspective About Me…

I was pretty much like I am now—quiet, introspective; not popular. I didn’t kid around like the other guys did. I was as serious then as I am now. Always felt and still feel like I’m on the outside looking in.

My mother always had cocoa and marshmallows for me. Dad was quiet, simple, honest, not terribly supportive. His conversation was always about lack of money. In our family I was the low person on the totem pole. Celia was the most interested in me. Marian rarely smiled. There was little laughter in our home. It was an unhappy environment. We didn’t have much money. My parents only spoke Yiddish to each other and my siblings but they spoke English to me. At teacher-parent meetings I was embarrassed by their broken English. She took a passive role in her relationship with my father and us. I received no attention from any of them. They loved me but I was one of seven. Joe was extremely unhappy. Milton had his own group of friends—he didn’t care for me.

Mother (Sarah Rachel Weiss) always got me a special birthday present. She always encouraged me. I never wanted to hurt her, to get her upset. She was a beautiful woman; always had something for the poor. She died young, some kind of stomach problem (age 52), when I was in college.

My Dad and I would take silent walks together to Lake Eerie and he was always looking down as we walked. When I asked him why he did that he answered, “…so that I might find a dime.” Eventually, he would buy me a Cracker Jack box. I was around nine or ten.

I guess I would tell my younger self to be more courageous. Be more independent. Be more of a disciplinarian. Be more organized.

I can easily distance myself from others, but not in a critical way. I know that I am different, but I enjoy my differences. I don’t enjoy my skepticism and I try to overcome it but have difficulty doing that.

I like my cragginess, my large nose, bushy eyebrows, receding hairline. I would like to be stronger, have bigger muscles, be more energetic. I don’t like my difficulty in really communicating with others on certain levels. I wish I were more knowledgeable.

Why Have I Lived This Long?

Aaron Weiss drawing…probably so I can complain to you! Actually, to encourage others to do better than I did. I once had an eagerness for life. I still do, but I get tired so easily. I have always loved contemplating the mysteries of life. That’s what keeps me going. There was a tree outside my window at our old house and it was like a dancing maiden. It changed all the time. So beautiful. Each spring the blooms appear. How that happens I find so wonderfully mysterious. I am so thankful for it all. For the sun coming into the window. For the simple things in life.

What Would I Be In My Next Life?

A rabbit. They seem to be so free and so sexual. They love the outdoors—the cold as well as the sunshine. They’re hearty souls.

Favorite Color

Purple. It’s royal. It’s got depth—not a wishy-washy color. Yes I would be purple. Royal Purple.

Books

Being able to read a book and appreciate the wisdom of the author and the transferring of that wisdom to my own mind, that’s what I so enjoy and appreciate.

Flowers/Nature

I love the miracle of Nature. I feel the closest to God when I am within and surrounded by Nature. I look at the design of it all and wonder how did it get there? Each separate part of a peony is a wonder—I planted the bulb and it was amazing to me how it would grow anew. It was a lesson to be learned: We’re all part of the same part. We’re all part of something greater than ourselves; like seeds. An acorn contains the whole life of an oak tree within it—a tree that is capable of growing twenty feet high full of leaves; all of that huge potential is tucked inside the kernel of that acorn. All of Nature is this way.

I’m as enchanted with Nature as I am the human body. Each part of the human body serves a function.

Yes, you could say that my religion is Nature.

Birds feeding on the deck—so cute. Their little foot prints on the snow. I go into a reverie about that. I appreciate it. How many do you know who would pause to look at such little footprints and be moved by them so? Or a sunset? Most people disregard the beauty that’s right there in front of them. Most ignore it.

Nautilus Shell

Aaron WeissWhen I was around six or seven years old I remember that we had a Nautilus shell and often I would put it to my ear and envision the ocean. I loved all the knobs and curly-ques. I could hear the waves of the ocean , the mysterious roar up to my ear. Days, weeks would go by and the enchantment never went away for that beautiful shell. No one else seemed to listen to it. And then it seemed to disappear. I never saw or heard it again…

Beauty

I see beautiful things every day. The snow falling and melting on the banister. There is something to enjoy everywhere you look in Nature. Life is beautiful.

Music

In many respects music is almost magical. It has the ability to transport me to the Land of Deep Emotions and Moods. It’s the best tranquilizer for me. There is nothing on earth that touches my soul more than beautiful music. “Claire de Lune”. So special. Magical. Ageless.

I would loved to have been a conductor. I hear music better than words. I feel it. All kinds of images fill my mind. I feel happy. Uplifted. It’s the best anti-depressant of all. I often envision the oboes, violins and see them playing in concert and I’m deeply jealous I can’t be a part of that orchestra, too. It’s magical and inspiring and creates unexplainable moods in me.

I love orchestra music as well as light classics and love songs. Some of the modern lyrics are beautiful: “Fly Me To The Moon”; “Stardust”; “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”; “Memories”; “Because…God Made You Mine, I’ll Cherish Thee”; “Be My Love”…always the romantic music in my head is what I’m singing to mother.

Mystical

What does the word “mystical” mean to me? Something beyond understanding. Beyond reality. Something unexplainable. Beyond logic. God is an Architect. God is Something beyond understanding. As a child, you are lead to believe that there is a beginning and an ending. The mystery is that there actually is no ending at all. That which is unexplainable is mystical. A butterfly coming out of a caterpillar. Mystical. A spider web. Mystical.

Lightning bugs. When I was a child I remember the lightning bugs flitting around in the bushes. They seemed to be so happy. They increased my wonderment and filled me with the awe of their mysterious lights.

Clouds

I love to watch the clouds—particularly when there’s a wind. And especially when I’m watching them while listening to music. Sometimes the sun comes through the clouds and casts pinks and blues across the sky. It’s amazing. They’re like islands in the sky all taking on different shapes and layers scudding by. I never get tired of watching the clouds—all their various hues and designs, even going dark black when there’s about to be a storm and they look so menacing, but still beautiful.

Old Age

I can no longer walk as fast as I once could. I can’t bend down. I’m always out of breath. Can’t hear. It’s difficult. Inside I’m 25 years old, but my body is 91, how can that be? I miss being active, energetic, being able to do things at the spur of the moment.

I try to be philosophical about being older but there’s also so many emotions and realities that come with it. Guilt comes through. There’s nothing you can do to change the past. Is there anything good about aging? No. You lose your ability to walk, to talk, painful forgetting names—my memory’s not as good anymore and I hope that’s not a precursor to Alzheimer’s (Marian and Fanny had it.)

In my old age I find that after your 60s and 70s, most people just think of you as garbage. When you’re older, most don’t have the same regard for you as they did when you were younger. Sales people, nurses, etc., they talk down to the elderly. Kids on the phone talk too fast and don’t answer me with respect.

To the young I would say this about relating to the elderly:

  • Listen more
  • Respect old age
  • Explain things slower, more carefully
  • Most important of all, be kind

Kindness

There is nothing that touches me more than the act of kindness. I remember when a friend, Brad, brought me my medication. He didn’t live nearby, but he came to help me when I needed him. When you point the way for people to be good I believe they show up.

Women

There are so many beautiful things about women. Women are kinder than men. They’re more patient. A woman’s body is more beautiful than a man’s body. Women are built to attract men. The way God made them—with all their curves and softness—so lovely.

Romance

I love romance. Lilly loves my romance. Romance is more than a pat on the ass. It’s how you show softness. There two trees in the front yard of our old home that had deep roots and the branches intertwined with each other. Two separate trunks yet still they embraced each other. That’s romance to me.

What I Love About Lilly

She’s like a magnificent rhapsody. She’s also:

  • Charming
  • Beautiful inside and out
  • Very kind
  • So sweet
  • It’s hard to be away from her
  • Very sexy
  • Free with her body
  • Very beautiful

I loved her from the moment I first saw her. She welcomed my sexual advances. We sat on the back steps of her apartment and played around with each other. Grandma would come out with her alarm clock. Three years after we met when Mom worked in a New York City hotel we became lovers. One week after we were married I had to go to training camp in Ohio and then San Antonio, Texas. I worked in the Psychological Department for the Air Force. Got my Masters in Psychology. I chose the bombardiers and navigators and gave them psychological tests.

I loved the music of that time. My favorite was “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” And the lyrics, “…It’s a long, long time, from May to December…But those days are dwindling down…”

I am very much a romantic, yes. I enjoyed taking mother to dances. Love to touch her soft body. Give her gardenias. I love and I’ve loved. Mother and I always talk. We have someone to talk to over the breakfast table.

My Mission

…to be able to instill the importance of kindness to one another. To inspire others to be kind. Kindness is so evident in animals—how they cuddle up to you, like Rascal does with us. Whenever he senses that I’m feeling sad or lonely he nuzzles up to me.

I Most Admire…

Lilly: she’s honest, gentle, kind, generous, beautiful physically and spiritually; she smells good; there’s a softness about her. She’s intelligent—she discusses books and music with me—we’re on the same wavelength. I admire her as I do my daughters, both very unusual, special, unique, kind to the nth degree. Both love animals, nature; wonderful women, as daughters beyond compare. How fortunate we are to have our daughters.

I admire Carl Hansen who lives on Lummi Island. He’s very strong and always doing something constructive—building, playing his bagpipes.

I wish I could have had conversations with my mother—who was basically a very kind, generous, self-sacrificing woman intent on giving her children an education. She had admirable qualities but because she spoke primarily Yiddish it wasn’t easy communicating with her. She had a difficult life. I did enjoy Celia, but that was it in my family.

Other people I admire, are those that were daring, adventuresome, creative—like Fred Astaire (I wish I could dance like him!); Tarzan, people who could do stunts like that; the Australian Steve Irwin—who was strong, courageous, amazing, and loved animals; Albert Schweitzer; brain surgeons; Dr. Douglas for his abilities and his humility and lack of drama and self-pride—he’s not pompous; I admire doctors who know their material/their world so well; and musicians for their ability to lead/conduct an orchestra, create music and play instruments so beautifully; Zubin Mehta; I enjoy Mozart and Tchaikovsky; “Adagio by Mozart”—that music describes me the most with its highs and lows; and animals—German Shepards—they have the kindest eyes and Labradors…

Seasons

Each has such beauty, but I love Autumn the most. Because it can be sunny one day, so beautiful, and instill other moments that are so meditative and others stormy; the leaves falling from the trees; the waves capping in the ocean. Autumn has so many elements that reflect and soothe my spirit—wild, contemplative, spiritual, introspective, mysterious like I am. Intense. Private.

“Is That All There Is”

Like the song I wonder the same, “Is that It? Is that all there is?” You go through life and wonder—is there more? Does this moment have any meaning to it? I mean, one day I’m going to die. I won’t be able to enjoy the beauty of life—the stars, all of it. No, there’s not enough life. I want more. I guess I do fear death because I wonder if this is it. I want more.

Obituary

Aaron Weiss released his earthly passage on November 4, 2017 just one day shy of his 99th birthday. Aaron was a loving husband to Lilly Weiss, father (to Laura Winds and Cara Wilson-Granat), father-in-law (to Peter Granat), grandfather (to Tess Winds-Johnson, Ethan Wilson and Jesse Wilson), great grandfather (to Bly Henderson and Neiva Brubaker, Kaio R. Wilson and Nicholas Jackson Wilson), uncle, brother and friend. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio to parents, Sarah and Benjamin, Aaron was the youngest of a family of seven—four sisters and three brothers, all deceased.

He was married for 73 years to his beloved wife, Lilly, who passed on August 28, 2016 at the age of 94. Aaron received his B.A. degree from Western Reserve University with a major in Social Sciences, with a minor in Biology. He received his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University, New York City majoring in Psychology and a Ph.D. degree from Newport University majoring in Human Sexuality. During World War II he served in the Army Air Force in the Psychological Division testing and selecting pilots, bombardiers and navigators. In the latter war years Aaron assisted psychiatrists with returning veterans who were being diagnosed with “combat fatigue”—now recognized as “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.” He served as an Executive Director for major synagogues in Cleveland, Ohio and Los Angeles, California. In the early 1950s, Aaron, his wife Lilly and daughters relocated from Cleveland to the San Fernando Valley, CA where they purchased a small ranch in expectation of becoming chicken farmers. There they raised chickens, goats and rabbits and eventually sold the ranch several years later. He then changed careers pursuing what he loved the best, building his psychotherapy practice.

Upon his move to Bellingham and until his retirement in 1996 he served as a psychotherapist in private practice and for Catholic Community Services. He and Lilly lived on Lummi Island in their “Enchanted Cottage” home by the sea until they moved to their final residence at Orchard Park Assisted Living in Bellingham. During his Lummi Island years, Aaron enjoyed writing and created a column in the Lummi Island Newsletter. Popular with the locals there, his column acknowledged some of the islanders who made significant volunteer contributions for the welfare of the island community. He also composed his newsy “Musings from the Eagle’s Nest”, which he wrote atop a cozy treehouse office behind his home and mailed to family and friends.

A lifelong romantic and dreamer, Aaron also wrote poetry, short fictional stories, passionately loved music—from classical symphonies to pop; as well as embraced the worlds of photography, gardening and all things nature. He loved the beauty and peace of the sea and the forest most of all, walking with his beloved dog, Jake, by his side. He was a 32nd Degree Mason and Shriner; and on Lummi Island, he participated with Lilly in a few dramatic productions presented by the Lummi Island Players. An avid reader, he and Lilly were members of an ongoing book discussion group held at The Village Book Store in Fairhaven. Known for his great sense of humor as well as a profound wisdom and deep sense of curiosity with just about everything—he found the natural world the most fascinating. He valued kindness and love above all else. And will be remembered because of that. His totem was the majesty of The Eagle—a bird he loved for its strength and beauty. Fly in peace, dear Aaron.

. . . .

Aaron Weiss

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