Finding the Right Words

Happy Father's Day!

Jun 17, 2011 by

My father, Sol Radam, died at the age of 90, right after celebrating his ‘second’ 90th birthday.

It seemed fitting that my bigger- than- life father would wind up with two birthdays. We always believed his birth date was December 17, 1913, the date on his passport and Army papers. But at the age of 88, after requesting his birth certificate from Liverpool, England, where he was born, he was informed that his birthday was ‘officially’ January 22, 1914.

Evidently the midwife, who delivered him on December 17, didn’t register the birth until January 22 after the turn of the year.  His tombstone in the National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado shows the January date of birth.

When it came time to choose words for the tombstone, my family knew we wanted something that captured his character more than most standard inscriptions.  My daughter Erika helped propose the three words now inscribed: “Proud, Determined, Tenacious.” The person who responded to our request for those words commented that they were unusual, and she wasn’t sure they were allowed, although she couldn’t quite say why.

We knew why, of course. The words are unsentimental; they evoke the image of someone with a strong character, someone who perhaps was not all that easy.

In fact, my father was not easy. He made a strong impression on people, who often remembered him after meeting him only once. He was a Major in the Army during World War II, liberating a woman’s work camp from the Nazis. He put the women in the town’s hotel and forced the German soldiers to wait on them.  Among the souvenirs he brought back was a Nazi Swastika flag which we used as a drop cloth when we painted.  But the only stories he was willing to share were funny ones about his Polish-American Sargent and their practical jokes and exploits.

He was a television agent with the William Morris Agency in the early days of TV, in post-war New York. He was friends and agent for famous people:  George E. Jessel and Sophie Tucker, Andre Kostelanetz and Ralph Bellamy. He fascinated us with stories about his clients and the shows he was always packaging.  I got to be in the Peanut Gallery on the Howdy Doody show when it first aired.

Although he was in show business during the same era as Mad Men, routinely ordering vodka gimlets at lunch, my father was totally devoted to my mother and to our family.

There’s no question about where I got my ‘Foodie’ focus.  My parents were adventurous cooks, entertaining neighbors and dining out often. Several times during my adolescence, my father donned his tuxedo and attended the invitation only, men-only Escoffier Society Dinner. My mother and I would pore over the menu and extensive wine list, imagining the affair and the amazing food.

My father was a complex man with strong opinions who liked to be the center of attention. If his detailed requests for how his food should be prepared were not met, he sent it back. My sister and I felt embarrassed, hoping the meal would meet his specifications and not escalate into his being upset.

I swore I would never be such a fussy diner. But I admit I do have some regular needs: soft eggs, rare meat and lots of lemons.  My daughter teases me about it –something we would never have dared doing with my father –and assures me I am nice when I ask. I only hope I am better than my father was!

His mind was sharp right up to the end of his life and two days before he died he enjoyed his favorite pastrami sandwich, declaring it perfect.

About the Author

Rebecca Crichton Has Written 40 Articles For Us!

I try to stay aware of one main concept: We see things through different lenses. We get caught in our own belief systems and most of us are pretty attached to being right. I am one of those inveterate Life Long Learners. I like new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges.
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1 Comment

  1. Mike Jackson

    In the late ’80s I worked with your dad on a tv show. It was a version of The Mcglaughlin report. I directed the show, Sam Luskie hosted and your dad produced it. He was a delight to work with, I loved his stories. He would stroke his chin and dive into some fascinating story. He invited us to a Sader (?) once, my wife and I appreciated the gesture…a great man (but I’m sure you already knew that).

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