Barry Josephson, my dad
Updated: Jul 14
12/26/21 Dad breathed his last breath earlier this morning. He died peacefully in his sleep, in his home, surrounded by
family who love him dearly. He knew his time was short when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this month, and he had a lot he wanted to do, but they were all small things. The big things were well in order and he was at peace with that. He knew his legacy was already in place: unabashedly beloved by his family, accomplished in his varied career as an attorney but most especially as a tutor and teacher, respected by anyone who had the pleasure to know his intellect, his wit, his enormous heart, and his mammoth bear hugs. He was sovereign over an empire of chocolate chip cookies and honest counsel, of red-lined drafts and extra copies of everything (because hey, "you never know"), of Olympic pins and Disney memorabilia, of a thousand Dodger games and incalculable amazing memories from trips around the world, concerts with us and all of the rock greats, and stubs and programs from events featuring his nieces, nephews, sons, daughters (technically "in-law" but only technically), and grandchildren.
The most important part of his legacy, to me, may have been his ability and tenacity to show up - to be there for those he loved, and he loved lots of people, to make time and be present. Whether an award ceremony or any graduation from anything for or a hospital visit or the smallest, weirdest production of the dumbest play in the most obscure theatre (or "theatre") where your play might be produced - he was there, present, with notes. The way he cared for my mom, my brother and I for our whole lives was him living effortlessly, and the way he cared for my grandparents at the end of their lives spoke to his sense of duty and doing what needs to be done. And of course he loved them too, even when they drove him nuts.
I can't miss you completely, Dad, because I see you every day in myself, in Matthew, in Mom, in Katy, in my nephews, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and everywhere, in our actions that you've influenced and love that you've shared. I can't miss you completely but I already miss your dear smiling face and of course your hugs. We played "Like a Rock" when your final breaths were coming, a song I know you always wanted to live up to. All I'll say is that you did, a thousand times over (and that's not hyperbole, I've done the math). Rest well day. Your name had already been a blessing, now it will be forever and ever.
I love my dad so very much. I miss him terribly and I’m sad that he’s gone. I will miss going to Dodger games with him. I will miss teasing him about his narrow diet of
Cheerios, burgers with lettuce-and-tomato-only, and tuna on rye. I’ll miss endlessly arguing the humanity-plaguing questions such as “what is art” and the accompanying “who is art for.” I will miss the same 50-or-so stories he’s been telling for the last, I assume, 30+ years. 40+ years? About
underrated UCLA basketball great Swen Nader, the wretched play Minamata my parents and their siblings saw in the 80s, and how on an hour-long train ride through Spain, my mom gleaned a non-English-speaking woman’s entire life story using mostly hand gestures. I will miss my dad’s love of music. I will miss going to concerts with him (and Matthew, and sometimes my mom) to see the all-time rock greats – together we’ve seen Paul McCartney, The Who, Tom Petty, Queen, Billy Joel, the Steve Miller Band, and many others. My favorite concert-going experience with Dad was seeing Gordon Lightfoot. Yeah, the old Candian guy. Katy and I gave my parents tickets to see him one year as a Chanukah present. This is the concert where I saw my dad transported by music – those mournful folksongs disappeared Dad somewhere deep and nostalgic, and moved him to tears of feeling and raw emotion. I didn’t know Dad had that in him; I don’t think he did either.
Dad was also always there to help, counsel, proofread, and redline as needed. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories recently of college essays reviewed (and destroyed), of honest counsel given, and of psyche-saving exam prep. He wasn’t always tactful, but he was generally correct and always heartfelt and sincere. I will miss watching him watch our family grow up – the grandkids of course but also his nieclings and nephews and
great-neicelings and nephews. He loved family above all things, was so proud of every accomplishment, and shameless in his braggadocio. He was unflappable with his support and generous with most valuable asset – his time. My dad instilled in me that showing up, being there, is the most important thing we can do for loved ones, and Katy and I strive to carry on that essential legacy. I will miss how much he loved my dear Katy, a relationship that blossomed beautifully, if not bumpily, over the past 19 years. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Dad loved his daughters-in-law as close to daughters as he could. And if you ever wanted to see a man kvell, just hear Dad talk about his Paula and his Katy – one a doctor from UCLA med school, one a chemistry professor with a PhD from Caltech. He was a proud papa.
I will miss how he cared for and deeply love my mom. The way he supported her even when he didn’t understand or agree with her choices, he would stand by his lady – that was his love. For example, Dad didn’t always like trying new things, he likes things the way they are. Mom almost exclusively likes trying new things. Somehow, growing up, we found ourselves almost always trying new things. Dad wasn’t always graceful in his “appeasement,” but he was steadfast and true and ultimately, a supporter and participant in anything that made her happy. In recent years, the way he fiercely protected her and assisted her during her challenges with breast cancer and other medical issues demonstrated his love and compassion. And if 48 years of marriage and 52 years together wasn’t testament enough, the way he cared for my grandparents in their final years certainly elevated him to the upper echelon of the husband pantheon.
I will miss him being proud of me, something he was never hesitant to share with me, at nauseam. He would shout
his pride to the entire known universe if he only had their email addresses. I know he never 100% understood my theatrical career (he told me as much), but he loved being able to see and hear things that I wrote or created or was a part of and were important to me. He told me that I was talented. After a few years, he even stopped being shocked when I wrote something that he really liked. He believed in my crazy ideas because he believed in me, he and my mom would travel anywhere I asked to see a production or a reading… he supported me relentlessly with his love, his time, his open-ing mind.
I already desperately miss his hugs and our regular conversations about news of the day and on-goings with the family of my friends. He loved seeing pictures of everyone in our lives, especially of growing families and celebrations.
I am heartened to know that my dad had no regrets; of this he assured us numerous times. He was not a bucket list person, though he accomplished many great things, visited many extraordinary places, attended incredible events, and influenced countless individuals to make great things of themselves and do great things for others. While we all would have wanted more quality time with him, that simply wasn’t in the plan. He didn’t like it, but he was okay with it. And that’s helped me, and many of us, process this terribly sad day. A few days before he died, I asked Dad if he had anything that he wanted to share with everyone. He said:
"I love you.
I know you love me.
And in the grand scheme of things, that matters more than anything else." Pragmatic, sincere, heartfelt, tough, loving, steadfast – like a rock. That’s my dad.