Thursday, August 1, 2013

John K. Silberman - RIP

December 25, 1930 - July 31, 2013

I wrote about my Dad's illness recently.  Turns out I was wrong on two counts: my brother did eventually act like a man and go up to help, and none of it mattered.

My father passed away July 31st, 2013.

Ultimately, I think it is for the best.  He hadn't gotten over the death of my mother and never seemed perfectly happy without her.  I wish I could say that I believed they are now together forever, but I don't swing that way.  He did believe in the supernatural though; he felt my mother was haunting him and doing crossword puzzles in her chair.  I hope in his final moments his imagination had her wearing a swishy dress and dancing right into his arms.

As for me and my heathen ways, all I could think to do was suggest they get matching urns.  They will both be interred in a military cemetery in Sacramento where they raised their children and spent most of their lives.

My dad was a complicated person, as we all are.  I will remember his charm the most; how he never met a waitress he didn't flirt with and never had a server he didn't tip big.  He also would never let you pay a check and if you tried, there would be a physical tug of war over the bill.  Which, indeed, he always won.  On his 50th birthday, I took him to an expensive restaurant and had to make arrangements in advance for the server to give me the check.  I had to tell them that he would fight for it so to make sure it was handed to me, not just put on the table.  It was one of the only times I ever managed to pay.

He was deeply flawed, as I mentioned before, but people are never just one thing.  Drinking sometimes made him angry - but mostly at me.  People familiar with the alcoholic environment will know there is always one person who is labeled the problem to take the pressure off the drinker;  in our family that was me. Yet, with others (and mostly with me too) he displayed only his wonderful qualities and he had the ability to make lifelong friends.  He was incredibly social, and I often felt like a wallflower in his imposing presence.  I was more like my mother; quiet with one or two good friends.   He was too large for that, everybody he met became his buddy.

I have often wondered if he and my mother had lived sober lives, where they would have gone and what they would have done.  With my dad's charm, and my mother's innate intelligence, they could have done anything: become diplomats, leaders - the world was theirs.   As it was, even living as alcoholics, glued to that bottle, they did what everybody else would want to do - they had good jobs, nice houses,  they traveled the world, they danced, they enjoyed their time together.  They even raised three children - scarred but resilient.

Dad was a hard worker and a company president who worked in the IT staffing industry.  He achieved great success in his career during the time of the 3 martini lunch, and was well-known by everybody in his field in several states.  It was a career he was never really ready to end.  In retirement, he became a writer, one with talent although with no patience for editing. He wrote and was done, no looking back and fixing plot lines, enhancing a story, seeing where it went wrong, not for him.  He said what he wanted to say and now let's move on.  He did that in life too.  Introspection was not his strong suit - life is to be lived, not thought about.   In later years, he self-published several books but wasn't aware it was self-publishing - and nobody had the heart to tell him - he was so proud of his accomplishment.  I have no doubt that with a bit more editing and practice his books would have been accepted into traditional publishing houses.  He definitely had a unique voice.

In the normal sense, he was not exactly a loving father and grandfather - he wouldn't bounce grandchildren on his knees and he wouldn't sit and play a game and even with kids around, his scotch glass was full.  He never came to see me during any of my cancer trials, hospitalizations or surgeries, but flip that coin and if anybody ever needed some cash, he'd have been the one to ask. He was incapable of saying no; he was the epitome of the guy who would take his shirt off and give it to you.

Especially if you were a young woman.

Once my mother died, Dad mourned and never really stopped.  But he missed the company of women and not women his age.  Somehow, despite not being wealthy, he managed to attract young women.  They buzzed around him like flies to honey.  He knew it was silly but said that one Christmas after mom was gone, he was sitting there completely alone, and decided that was enough.  He liked the company of women, was not attracted to elderly women,  and was going to find some.  And, that he did; his dates were younger than me.  Some were clearly out for themselves but I think a few were kind-hearted and truly did like him.  When he was in the hospital, one of the nurses was so taken with him that she spent 2 hours with him, encouraging him to get better and move in with one of his daughters.

My dad.  Complicated, alcoholic, loving, impulsive, bad-tempered/great-tempered, charming.  

He was loved, and he did love.  He told me, in the hospital, that he had a good life, with great successes and great failures. It's true.

I am glad his decline was swift although am not happy it was complete.  I enjoyed very much dumping his half gallons of scotch down the sink,  and was hoping to get his point of view as a sober man.  But I know some things wouldn't have changed, (maybe most things)  like his sense of humor, which I inherited.  Neither of us is politically correct, and are not afraid of a little gallows humor.  As he got older, and I further along down the road of cancer, we used to joke that we were racing each other to the grave.

Well Dad.  You won.

I love you.


  1. Sincere condolences to the family. I like how he had made a good start so a bit shocked that he's suddenly gone. Glad you had time to talk about 'stuff' while in the hospital...

  2. So sorry to read about the loss of your dad. He sounded like a real character: complex and complicated, loving and generous, funny and witty. Though I only "know" you through your marvelous blog, Ann, I'd say you inherited the very best of him. {{{hugs}}} to you during this sad time.

  3. What a beautiful post Ann! I will miss knowing that Uncle Johnny (and Aunt Bobbie) are boozin' it up in NV. I have so many fond memories of your dad - the laugh (LOVE that laugh!!), the way he smelled, the twinkle in his eye, how he and my dad loved to talk and talk and talk. The charm was intoxicating. Remember that my dad didn't make my wedding and your dad stepped in (and a bust of Mark Twain, imitating my dad)? I have these great pictures of your dad and mom standing in for my dad. I'll try to get a few of those scanned and send them to you. And, well, as far as the 'race to the grave', I can very emphatically say that I'm glad he won, because that means you are still here!!!! Thinking of you...

  4. So sorry Ann. I lost my Mom 3 weeks ago and I'm still not sure how anyone ever copes with it. I'm glad that any suffering or sadness your Dad experienced is over.. I know it's crazy when people say "he's in a better place".. We had Mom cremated too, because she always hated when we went to funerals and people said, of the deceased, "Oh, he/she looks so good".. Uh, compared to WHAT?
    Glad you were able to go see your Dad recently.
    I really love that picture you used too..

  5. I'm sorry you lost your Dad and I appreciate that he was loved despite his flaws. I'm sure we would all have fallen under his spell to some degree. He sounds like a real larger-than-life character.

  6. so sorry for your loss. your words about him are lovely and honest. ❤

  7. Well done Ann and what a wonderful picture of your dad. Just how I remember him!

  8. Ann, you know your dad was a very big part of our family history. For 25+ years, he was my friend, mentor, treated our son Tim like part of his family (as did your mom). I was glad to have a visit with him just a few days before he left us and to give him my last hug and kiss on the forehead. He will be in our hearts forever.

    Judi in Reno

    1. Hi Judy...What was John problems?? Rupert Hess..Please send me a email..Thanks

    2. Judi, your kindness and love towards our family will never be forgotten. I hope that we stay in touch. I always felt comforted knowing that you were just down the road if it was every necessary to call. As it was, my dad lived his life on his terms. I'm mourning him terribly but I am happy he did it his way and had no regrets.

      Rupert, I sent you an email. He mentioned you in the hospital. His obit will come out in the Sacramento paper any day now.

    3. Ann, thank you for the kind words. Yes I hope to stay in touch as well. Please let me know when the obit is in the paper. I will go on line and get it.

    4. Judi, you can find it here:

  9. So sorry for the loss of your dad, Ann.

  10. Wow. You have written a great portrait here of a human being, with both the admirable traits and the not-so-admirable traits.
    From how you describe your Dad, I think he would have liked this portrait.
    I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Jeanne Armstrong

    1. I hope he would have. Like me, he didn't sugarcoat things. None of us are perfect and nobody should ever expect perfection from another human being. It is in the flaws that we find uniqueness. He was unapologetic about his life and that comforts me.

  11. Ann,

    As always, a poignant piece on a man whose very dysfunction brought his love, imperfection, humor, and larger-than-life personality to help give the rest of us ... you. Your keen ability to combine your intelligence and humor with your added gift of honesty as you share earnest and open thoughts, helping be the voice for so many others around you.

    You are clearly carrying only the good traits of both of your parents. :) You're a gift!

    I'm very sorry for your loss.

    Love, Nicole

    1. Nicole, this is very kind of you to say. But I certainly have some negative traits of my own, which I work on daily and not always successfully. All we can do is the best we know how to do.

  12. Dear Ann,
    We loved your Father. He was a very special Man and a great friend. It was an HONOR to have been a part of John's life for over 25 years. We will surely miss him.

    Our Sincere Condolences,
    Art & Betty Rankin

    1. Art and Betty, I remember my dad talking about you often, with great fondness. Thank you for your kind words. I really miss him.

  13. Hi Ann,

    We are all deeply flawed. The wonderful thing about families is that despite the flaws, there is love. Thanks for sharing about your dad. I'm sorry for your loss.


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