"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, September 12, 2020

My father's blind date with Leonard Cohen's Sister

his was not as a young man; my parents were married when they immigrated to Canada. It was shortly after my mother's passing, which would have been 1990 or '91.

The date must have been arranged through some network of Jewish widows and widowers in Montreal.
My father was an arrogant self-absorbed person at the best of times, his main charm being as a raconteur. He had a repertoire of stories and jokes, but a hard shell beyond that point and an astonishingly complete lack of human empathy. As he got older, he lost the knack of being a good center of attention without picking up any skill at paying attention to others. So I'm not surprised there was no second date.
I found out about it because my father asked me if I had "ever heard of this Leonard Cohen", which shows how well he knew me. I had collections of his poetry from when they were small runs on a marginal press in Montreal. He's been a huge influence on me all my life. I allowed as I had heard of him.
When my father found out Esther was related to someone famous that he had never heard of, he was eager to meet the fellow, but Esther said "well, he's a very private person" or something to that effect.
A few years later, on a pilgrimage to City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, I picked up a recent volume of Leonard's and chanced to mention my father's blind date to the dude at the cash. He said "wow, so Leonard Cohen could have been your uncle!"
It was a confusing observation, but I'm good with it. Leonard Cohen is my contingent imaginary uncle. I feel even closer to him now. But just the same I'm glad the poems about my father never got written.