A Blog Post for My Father

With my dad, circa 1967

This blog has been dark for several days, since my father died on Saturday, an unbearably sad event made worse by the circumstances surrounding his passing. Temporarily, our family has put these events out of our mind to focus on his life and our memories like these. Regular postings will resume early next week.

My father, Milton Elefant, was the kind of guy you’d never notice in a crowd but the one whom everyone would come to rely on nonetheless. A quiet, trustworthy and self-deprecating chemist, (when complimented on the reputation of NYU, his alma mater, my dad always replied that it was walk-in admission back in his day and an easier commute than CUNY), my dad was the one chosen to head up the lab at his company even though he never earned an advanced degree, and probably sat on 6 or 7 juries, since he was chosen every time he showed up.

As a chemist, my dad had that mad-scientist thing going, and was both absent-minded and curious.  For my 9th birthday, he lead me and ten friends on a hike inTourne Park, and somehow managed to get us lost – so he left us by the roadside, hiked to a house and hitched a ride back to the picnic tables to pick up the car to retrieve us.  My dad would take my sisters and me to his lab on weekends, letting us run wild, mixing compounds like phenolphthalein and HCl, the latter which I didn’t recognize as a potentially dangerous acid til high school.  He was the most popular dad on career day with the dry ice and color changing experiments. He’d bring us guinea pigs and mice from the lab for pets and the mice, especially always got loose (they kept having babies;forever-multiplying mice). But my dad would fish the drowned bodies out of the sump pump without a word. One time, three of the escaped mice stayed loose in the house for probably 2 months – my dad trapped them in a bucket and simply couldn’t get over how they’d survived for so long. “They must have crept into the bag of dog food to eat, and drank water from the leak in the sink,” he speculated. “They were real Amazons.”

Needless to say, in a houseful of women – a wife and four daughters, my father scarcely had a chance to get a word in edgewise, and he wasn’t a macho, domineering type. He was the one whom my sisters would come to at night when we were feverish or had nightmares, and he’d let us play “beauty shop,” brushing the ring of hair on his balding pate and affixing bows to the single tuft on top. When my mom returned to college to finish her degree when my sisters and I ranged in age from 2-8, my dad took responsibility for dinner and religious school pick-up and bed-time two or three nights a week for the next five years.

Although we were girls, there was never any doubt that we’d all go to college – though back then, some girls were still directed to secretarial or two-year nursing school. My sisters and I received some aid and took out loans to cover about half of our tuition, but my parents borrowed money to make up the difference. I have no idea how my dad slept nights under that burden of debt but he never begrudged paying, never held it over our heads or demanded anything — even a glance at our grades – in return.

My dad paid for college because it was the right thing to do. Just as he paid for four weddings, and cleaned up under the table at night and rose at 5 am to jog with the family dogs that all of us wanted, but no one wanted to take care of and spent much his retirement watching grandchildren whenever he could to make my sisters’ and my life easier (And his grandchildren adored him, with even the 2 six year olds and eight year olds insisting on speaking at his funeral and proclaiming the date of his death, Remember Milton Day).  Not because he sought awards or praise or (heaven forbid) to be cutting edge but because it was the right thing to do.

My dad was an ordinary man, someone you might easily pass by in a crowd. Yet in today’s often selfish, self-centered world, where we expect a pat on the back every time we help a spouse or go the extra mile for a client, or force our children to make sacrifices so that we can do what we want rather than the other way around, that my dad did everything he did, without complaint or expectation but simply because it was the right thing to do is, really, nothing short of extraordinary. May his memory be an inspiration.


My father with all 8 grandchildren (a matched set; 4 boys, 4 girls)


  1. Matthew Levy on February 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm


    I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a great guy.

    Matt Levy

  2. Kwallis on February 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    No words can fill the hole in your heart.  I hope that the memories of your dad, like those you shared here, will continue to flood that hole, eventually, making it a bit smaller and life without him more bearable. 

    Celebrating Remember Milton Day with you.

    Kathy Wallis 

  3. Susan Minsberg on February 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm


    May his memory be for a blessing.


  4. Jennifer McCoy on February 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Carolyn.  May his memory be a blessing.

  5. Emily McNeil on February 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    An amazingly beautiful tribute to your father…an amazingly selfless man. My heart aches for your loss. It seems as though people like your father should be allowed to live forever. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  6. Mo on February 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing such a sweetly told remembrance. Your wonderful father provided you with plenty of solid ground beneath your feet. May your memories comfort you.
    – Mo Hernandez

  7. Elizabeth Gloger on February 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Baruch dayan ha’emes…that photograph will be cherished by all of your family I’m sure.  He truly sounds like someone who lived well because he chose to be a mensch, without needing praise or acknowledgement.  Those souls are on a far higher order…may his memory be a blessing.

  8. Cynthia Gilbert on February 1, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Carolyn – Condolences to your entire family.  

  9. Wendytech on February 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    What a beautiful life and a beautiful post. My heart goes out to you and your family. May many memories of your dad make your grief bearable.
    –Wendy Leibowitz

  10. Ken Adams on February 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Carolyn: What a lovely column. I’m thinking of you. Ken

  11. Laura Mcfarland-Taylor on February 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. Blessings to you and your family during this difficult time.

  12. Jenni Sawday on February 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    What a beautiful tribute. Again, my sincere condolences on his passing.

  13. Mitch Jackson on February 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your wonderful family.

  14. michael moebes on February 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Sounds like a great guy…sad to learn of your loss. 

  15. Dawn Trainor-Fogleman on February 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Carolyn, My thoughts & prayers go out to you and your family.  What a beautiful tribute, forever etched in the internet and, of course, in your hearts.  Thanks for sharing!

  16. Barbara Nelson on February 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I don’t think there is any relationship more important in a girl’s life. You are a tribute to your dad,Carolyn, and this post is a lovely one too. I am inspired, indeed.  Condolences and comfort to you and yours.

  17. Jeffrey Bedell on February 2, 2012 at 12:30 am

    That was really beautiful Carolyn.  I’m sorry to hear of your loss.

  18. Matthew Rappaport on February 2, 2012 at 3:36 am

    יְהֵא שְׁלָמָה רַבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא, חַיִּים וְשָֹבָע וִישׁוּעָה וְנֶחָמָה וְשֵׁיזָבָה וּרְפוּאָה וּגְאֻלָּה וּסְלִיחָה וְכַפָּרָה, וְרֵוַח וְהַצָּלָה לָנוּ וּלְכָל עַמּוֹ יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.
    Blessed is He; above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say, “Aw-mein.” 

    May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, “Aw-mein.”

  19. Jim Malone on February 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss

  20. Natarafeller on February 2, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Carolyn, what a lovely way of honoring your father.  So sorry to hear of your loss.

  21. Lisa Hopkins on February 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    May your memories always be joyful. May God bless you, and your family. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family as you go through this difficult journey. 

  22. karel on February 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Carolyn, that is a beautiful post about your dad. Sorry about your loss.

  23. Melanie Shapiro on February 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I’m sorry about your loss, Carolyn.

  24. Pierre on February 3, 2012 at 8:48 am

    May his soul rest in peace

  25. Tammy Heffernan on February 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Carolyn, my heart goes out to you. I also have lost my father, quickly and unexpectedly and I think that my heart literally broke. I wish that I could tell you that you outgrow it or get over it, but neither of those things are true – this being the 10th year since his passing. I think of him often and wish that he was still here with us. Sincerest condolences on your loss, thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. Your post is a beautiful tribute to your dad.

  26. Bob Ambrogi on February 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Carolyn, so sorry about your loss. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to him. 

  27. Pamela Starr on February 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    A lovely tribute to a man who obviously made a huge impact, not only on your life, but also on the lives of everyone around him. May his memory be as a blessing.

    Hamakom yinachem eschem b’soch sha’ar availay Tzion v’Yerushalayim.
    May Hashem, Who is everywhere, comfort you amongst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

    May Hashem’s promise to us soon come to pass: “I will overturn their mourning to joy, I will comfort them, and I will give them joy that will be greater than their former pain.”

  28. Susan Gainen on February 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I was the one in the airplane window seat sobbing her eyes out. Thank you for a lovely, loving tribute to a wonderful man.

  29. Sheronda 'Shay' Lawson on February 7, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    This was a great tribute. My sympathy is with you and your family.

  30. JoAnna Forshee on February 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Carolyn, I’m so sorry to hear about your father and I’ll be thinking of you…

  31. Afi Johnson-Parris on February 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I’m so moved by your loving words about your dad. Just beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss.

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