Sons in Mourning: Remembering a Deceased Father During the Winter Holidays

Joel Eisenberg
The author and his father, Richard EisenbergNettie Eisenberg

Author’s Note

As with mothers and daughters, the bond between a son and his father is unique in every circumstance.

The purpose of sharing this piece on NewsBreak is to help any grieving son of a deceased father who feels compelled to reflect on their unique relationship during the winter holiday season.

Those with more complex parental relationships may not look upon the holidays as wistfully. Nonetheless, such reflection can still be cathartic, and healthy.

The words that follow are written in part from the perspective of a loving son… and a former mental health professional. I was a licensed special education teacher for ten years with a substantial course load in the field of Psychology. I well understand the process of grief.

Regardless of your circumstance, I hope the following personal anecdote compels you to similarly share memories of your late parent in the comments section to this piece.

I lost my dad nearly 12 years ago. Not a day goes by where I do not think of him.

My Remembrance

Dad could barely get out of the car. He was 70 years old on the day the above photo was taken, and we had just arrived at a restaurant to celebrate.

It took a couple of minutes before we made it inside.

I treasure this photo, as it was taken at the precise moment he realized the dozens of people inside were there to honor him. Relatives he hasn’t seen in years, friends, his children from far away states ... all corralled by my mom, Nettie Eisenberg.

Richard Eisenberg was dead less than six months later. One of my relatives whispered to my mother during the day of the party that “Richie doesn’t look good.”

She had a bad feeling about the coming days; she was right, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the present. Dad had his last great time.

As the weeks went on, we were led to the hopeless reality of watching my father decline. And the memories came flooding back...

He was the same man who elected with my mom to move my two brothers and me to the better climes of Colorado when I was seven, so I could escape a life of ongoing asthma and hospitalizations in Brooklyn.

He saved my life, actually.

He was the same man with whom I built Aurora monster models. He was the same proud man who displayed a quick temper if anything negative impacted his family. When I told him I was picked on in high school, he was ready to get in the car and meet the bullies’ parents himself.

A couple of years prior, I was about to be left back in junior high as my reading comprehension scores were insufficient to advance. Or so my principal said. I was, in reality, bored. My parents knew that. Dad worked out a deal where I would write a final book report on a novel of my choosing. Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” was my choice, and my A+ report stunned my teachers.

Dad wasn’t at all surprised though. He taught all three of his boys self-reliance. He made me really consider my choice that day.

And man oh man he loved my mom.

They almost made 50 years together.

My dad supported my writing, though he disliked my first script, that took me months to write, as the character I had very loosely based on him had some issues in my tale.

“Is that how you see me?” he asked, sincerely curious.

“No,” I answered, veering on despondent as my heart and soul was in that piece. It’s about how the love of a father and son is one of the biggest loves of all.”

The story was about a kid whose dad played an ill-fated TV superhero. He didn’t get the full metaphor.

But he loved me more than anything.

After the below picture came weeks of hospitalizations and ultimately hospice. I stayed with my mom and quite literally smothered my face with my pillow, sobbing, so I wouldn’t wake her up in the adjoining room.

I asked him when he still had the power of speech, “Dad, are you scared?”

He responded, “What do I have to be scared of?“

Dad, during this holiday season I would give the world to hug you, and thank you, one more time.

To you, these words have been respectfully dedicated.


To NewsBreak readers, I hope this piece encourages you to share some meaningful experiences about your own father during the sometimes difficult winter holiday season.

I wish you all a happy and healthy remainder of the season. Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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