Daddy’s Girl, a Tribute

April 13, 2014, by Cathy Fischer

Ralph and Cathy, Fair Street (?), Paterson, NJ, 1959 (?)

This is an updated version of a post written for Father’s Day in 2008. Ralphael Benjamin Fischer passed peacefully on April 9, 2014, at age 91, surrounded by his loving family.

I don’t’ really see myself as a “daddy’s girl” but I sure do love my dad, and yes, he spoils me.

In some ways he’s typical of his generation, distant but close. Born in Poland in 1922, he lived through the horrors of WWII, lost his entire family, and amazingly rebuilt a life in France then the U.S. Both he and my mother worked in garment factories in New Jersey, then their own lumber and hardware store in South Central, L.A.; immigrants dedicated to giving their children everything they didn’t have.

In many ways my father Ralphie, as we liked to call him, was special — an unedited, unfiltered, tell-it-like-it is person, with a wicked sense of humor. He spoke his truth and people appreciated it. To say that he was a “character” is an understatement.

My father’s passion for music, film, and performance is something I inherited and treasure. One of my favorite memories is around age seven when on a rare Sunday when he wasn’t working, we would walk from our West Hollywood apartment to Hollywood Blvd to see a matinee, just the two of us. And although we never went to a father/daughter picnic and with his work schedule he missed many of my dance/drama performances, I still feel like he always cheered me on.

When shopping for a Father’s Day card, I never had an easy time of it. Year after year I would pass on the golfer, the grill master, the fly fisherman, and the beer-drinker. I always gravitated towards the humorous ones, cards that rang more true: a father holding out his empty inside-out pants pockets or ones that said, “When I think of all those years you provided a roof over my head, why did I ever move out?”

My brother Claude came up with the brilliant idea to give our father a computer for his 80th birthday and Ralphie took to it immediately. He would read newspapers online — in five different languages — and although he couldn’t type very well, he would forward me (sometimes multiple times) jokes that were “so-bad-they-were-good”; beautiful panoramic slideshows and performances (the Chinese State Circus Frog version of Swan Lake was a favorite); and the occasional baby animal “I love you” poem.

I always liked to keep Ralphie au courant. I bought him his first pair of bellbottoms in the ‘70s and fancy sneakers in the ‘80s. He was fashionable and appropriately hip. In his later years, he not only embraced the computer, but a brand new passion, the L.A. Lakers. He continued to love films, especially classic Westerns and MGM musicals. Recently, he took to social media by having his own Facebook page and got great pleasure from the 100 plus comments and “likes” he received on his birthday.

While he loved quiet time sitting in his lush green backyard and he also embraced bold symphonies played at full volume. My father appreciated the company of family and friends. He enjoyed having young people around; they cherished his stories, smart insights, and affectionate teasing, and felt honored to be called “hippy”, “baldy” or “zaftig ”.

Like I mentioned, Ralphie loved a good joke, like this one he forwarded to me a few years ago:

Subject: Getting Old in Florida

A man was telling his neighbor in Sun City Senior Center, “I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it’s state of the art. It’s perfect.”

“Really,” answered the neighbor. “What kind is it?”

“Twelve-thirty,” he replied.

I gotta give props to my pops. A dedicated husband, grandfather, and father, my dad was the most genuine and generous man I’ve ever known. I am lucky and proud to be Daddy’s Girl.

My brother on our dad and the American Dream >>

ralph1sm

Ralph Benjamin Fischer
October 28, 1922 – April 9, 2014

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6 Responses to “Daddy’s Girl, a Tribute”

  1. Denise Kaufman Says:

    Beautiful, Cathy. Thank you for sharing Ralphie’s spirit. I honor his courage, his tenacity, his humor and his open-hearted embrace of new ideas and passions. Reading this helps me understand your juiciness more fully!!! No wonder!!!
    Sending love to you and your family in this tender time.

  2. Prudence Baird Says:

    Your relationship with your father is enviable, Cathy. I don’t know many baby boomers who had fathers like yours. Ralph seemed to give, give and then give some more. He even let you dress him in bell-bottoms! Talk about giving–as in “giving in!” Having a giver for a father is what has made you the remarkable woman you are today. Behind your class-act exterior and beyond your whip-fast wit, you, too, give and then, give some more. Thank you for giving me the chance to be your friend and to know fathers like this don’t just live in fairy tales. If you are fortunate to have been his princess.

  3. Lala Says:

    A sweet tribute to a wonderful man. What an honor to have known him. I think his nickname for me was “that wild one”. ;-)

  4. Conz Says:

    One of the things I’ve always envied in you, my Cathikins, is your deep and abiding love for your father and family, and theirs for you. That has most certainly enriched all of your relationships and colored your true and lasting friendships. I’m so lucky to have known King Ralphie, and to have a girl friend like you. Peace to you and to those you hold dear.

  5. julie Says:

    Dearest Cathy, I am blessed to have known your brilliant, strong, loving, kind, and humerous father for over 40 years. When we were young girls climbing in your loquat tree I enjoyed visiting with your Ralphy and Rosette as much as I loved being your friend. Your home, with all it’s delicious smells and palpable warmth, felt like my second home and our enduring friendship has always felt like kinship… you are the sister I never had. Through the years, space and time do not matter and love and kindness prevail. Ralphy was, is and always will be in my heart, smiling, only wanting the very best for his beautiful Cathy. Sending you and your entire family love during this delicate time. Your daddy’s spirit is truly a blessing.

  6. Pam Meyer Says:

    You did a good job describing your dad Cathy. I don’t know how you made it without him eating you alive you were so unbelievably adorable!
    He was adorable too. Such good energy – he was the definition of charisma.
    He will surely live on in you.
    What an amazing legacy!
    I love you,
    Pam

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