Sid Sambur, may you finally RIP.
It takes both parents to create a new personality.
My Mom, Clara was responsible for the Jewish Mother side of me. I'm quite happy with getting her smile, affectionate and nurturing traits.
My Dad, Sid provided me with my practical side. Sid was a small man with large opinions. He wasn't afraid to call someone out for "talking crazy." He saw the world as a piano keyboard-black or white. He held fast to his many notions and ideas. We called him "The Enforcer." His daily energy output made Hoover Dam's hydroelectric power seem puny. He was a true survivor in every sense of the word.
Stories abound of his many almost-got-him escapes in life. He was the one member of a family of five who made it out of the Holocaust years alive. In many ways, he was inspirational in his drive to keep going on.
Sid and I had our differences, (probably because we were so similar) but I loved the man.
My favorite notable Sid quote (there are scores of them like Yogiisms) is this one. "How can a man have three sons and each one be so different?"
So Sid, I hope you and Clara are getting along in heaven. (She gave him the silent treatment when she was cross with him.) I wrote the following story awhile ago as a tribute to you.
Hope you enjoy it.
Planting a Tree…
My father, a survivor of Hitler’s insane concept of human genetics, planted a tree at our house in the Bronx. The sapling was a two-foot white pine that my father appropriated from the Catskill Mountains, AKA in the “Big Apple” as the Jewish Alps. “Jeffy, watch! This tree will one day be taller than our house,” he proclaimed. Like a faithful son, I believed him.
One winter, a Nor’easter blizzard blew down along the eastern seaboard. The heart-attack-heavy snow broke the tiny, white pine in half. My dad, a tailor by profession, but whom Uncle Sam trained to be a medical assistant in WWII, sprang into action. He fashioned a splint made of a few sticks, a side order of rags and a lot of twine. With these meager tools and devices, he made the wounded tree whole again. He reasoned, “It works for people, why not trees?”
In 1978, I escaped the hassle and hustle of the Big Apple and moved out West. Now I, a son of a son of a tailor and graduate from the Syracuse College of Forestry, nurture trees at my home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
I can’t take all the credit; I get a lot of help from Mother Nature. Neighborhood squirrels burrow acorns into the mulch and forget where they placed them. A white-oak sapling will arise a season later. My furry friends do the same with apple cores and cherry and peach pits. I have a virtual fruit stand growing in my yard. We haven’t had much luck with avocado pits yet. When the oaks, peaches, apples, cherries and ashes grow too close together, I’ll go in and do a “thinning operation,” and rearrange some saplings. Once in awhile, I have to place a few up for adoption.
Letting go of my green children is always a difficult process. First I have to find a suitable “parent.” Then the lengthy application process begins. With questions such as, “Are you aware that Colorado is now in a drought?” Then a follow-up query, “Will you be able to provide an adequate supply of water for this young plant?” After that, I quiz the applicant about his or her general knowledge on such diverse topics as soil conditions, fertilizers and peat moss. Only when I am satisfied with their answers will we venture out into the yard with a shovel in tow. As we dig up the adopted seedling, I make sure the new owner understands that I get visitation rights. It’s never easy to let go.
In the fall of 2000, I went back east to visit family and friends. I borrowed a car and drove out to see my childhood home in the Bronx. I was glad that I had faith in my Dad. He was right; that white pine tree is now taller than the house.
Do yourself a favor; plant a tree. It’s good for the soul.