Rozner: Common to the world, special to me

Updated 2/17/2019 5:31 PM
  • Marvin Rozner died late Friday night in Florida at 88. He is seen here with wife Gloria on their wedding day in the early 1950s.

    Marvin Rozner died late Friday night in Florida at 88. He is seen here with wife Gloria on their wedding day in the early 1950s. Courtesy of Barry Rozner

My father was an ordinary man.

I guess he was just about as ordinary as anyone you've ever met.

In the old neighborhood, sure, he was the electrician, plumber, roofer. If there was a Hall of Fame for putting in sump pumps under pressure, he might have merited consideration.

But there was nothing extraordinary about his life -- except the way he survived.

That, to me, was extraordinary.

I honestly don't remember much good happening for him, but the list of terrible was long and painful. Yeah, that he had plenty of. He never lacked for oncoming train lights.

But he always survived and moved on. He didn't blame the world for his pain. He kept his feet moving and went about his life, a sometimes lonely life, remaining along the way a kind man with a warm smile and a good heart.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants forced from their country, he survived the Depression, but lost his mom when he was a young boy.

When his sister died of cancer, the sister who raised him, it hit him hard. Thick as thieves they were. He said the laughs they had together were the stuff of legend.

He lost a daughter, my sister, in 1985, and my mom a couple years after that. The doctors said it was cancer. I don't believe it. My mom died of a broken heart.

My parents were married 37 years. I've never known two people closer. That funeral was one of the few times I saw him buckle.

But he survived. He kept on living. One foot in front of the other.

He suffered financial hardship most of his life -- the man epitomized "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" -- but if I needed new skates or pads, a helmet or stick, he always made sure it was there.

He coached hockey teams because it was fun. He ran a hockey association when there was a void. He helped found and build a synagogue. He filled the gaps in people's lives.

And then, like always, he faded into the background. No one needed less to be at the center of it all. To borrow from Joe Walsh, he was just an ordinary, average guy.

He was a great dad, fun and caring and always available. He was the type that would encourage a certain child to bolt from school early and go to a ballgame.

Marvin Rozner, 88, died late Friday night in Florida, a half day after I arrived to say goodbye. It's almost like he waited, like he knew I would get there in time.

Sick and broken and wasted away to almost nothing, unrecognizable and fighting to breathe, I told him it was time to go, to finally rest, to find peace and bequeath his pain to others.

He was gone two hours later, his most meaningful victory. Unable to speak, this time my dad had the last word.

He will be remembered quietly this week at a veterans cemetery in Florida. There won't be a crowd. No parade. The number of mourners will be counted on one hand.

So why tell you? I don't know. Maybe because it's all I know to do right now. I am broken, to be sure. But I'm a writer. Something happens, I write. And perhaps I thought someone should know that this unspectacular, indistinguishable man was important to the people who knew him.

I will always feel bad because someone so decent deserved better than the life he lived. And in this regard, I'm grateful for your indulgence.

There's no allegory here. No lesson. Really no reason. Just that I needed to say it out loud.

He was a great father, husband and friend. He was special only to those who loved him. And he never did an extraordinary thing in his life.

Except, I guess, survive.

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