A tribute to my father
from Michael Kulich
On November 4th, 2007, the metaphorical line of life took an unexpected turn for me; I lost my father. A son burying his father is one of the hardest things a boy can do. To say goodbye to the man that gave life to you and taught you everything you know is a sad and daunting task.
My father was a great man. In his 52 years on this earth he encountered people from all walks of life and treated them all with dignity and respect, just how he would have wanted to be treated. It was hard to dislike him.
My father was born in Odessa, Ukraine into a musical and artistic family. His father, Emmanuel was a professional violinist who supported his family by playing in a philharmonic orchestra. This was the root of his love for classical music. Also, his older brother Sasha was a very well known writer in the Ukraine who wrote under the pen name Alexander Kulich. A few years before my fatherís death, he was determined to have Alexís poetry and writing published into a book but he never got around to it. My father was born with a rare decease called Emery Dreyfus Syndrome (EDS) which is a mild form of muscular dystrophy. EDS took the life of my fatherís brother Alex at the age of 39 and would eventually take my father, but not without a fight.
On July 31st 1976, my father married his college sweetheart Sophia in the Ukraine. They were young and in love. It was a love that would flourish over the years and fulfill the commitment of their vows; till death do they part. They became intertwined as one and became the same person. It was a bond that many people hope and pray for, but few can ever find. A year after their wedding my mother gave birth to Edward on November 21st, 1977. A few years later, as soviet Jews living in a communist and socialist society, my father saw that there was no future for Jews in that country so he packed up his family and embarked on a journey that would eventually lead him to the United States. Everyday, he had the American dream in mind and he knew he would achieve it. It took almost two years to get to the US, having many hurdles and obstacles that stood in his way but my father never gave up. He set his goals high and it paid off. When my father arrived in the US with his family, he had $36 in his pocket. He knew he had to act fast and he did. His uncle Ilya, set him up with a job in WANG laboratories and co-signed an apartment for him. He also got him a car. Ilya was not just an uncle doing a favor for his nephew. He was in fact my fathers best friend. For as long as I can remember, he talked to him everyday. He was an uncle, a best friend, and as a second father to my dad. To this day I have never met anyone that I respect more then Ilya.
Ilyaís kindness to my father and all his help inspired him. My father wanted to be exactly like him and contribute the same types of deeds to people who were suffering in his situation. When he had our bathrooms remodeled he hired a struggling Russian immigrant with a contracting business to do it for him. The contractor became a friend of the family and appeared at many of our dinner parties. My father was also friends with a woman he had grown up with who had settled in a neighboring town in Connecticut. Her sister had just immigrated to the US and was a struggling artist looking for work. My father hired her to paint a portrait of our dog Timmy for $500 just to get her started. My father never believed in handouts. He believed in an honest days work, and he never thought twice about helping people in need who shared the same attitude for success.
As many of the Russian immigrants that came to this country, he first settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Many of the immigrants will stay there for the rest of their lives but not my father. He assimilated into American culture and saved up enough money to moved to Stamford Connecticut. After his short stay in Stamford, he kept saving and eventually moved to Westport Connecticut. He always wanted things bigger and better. My father loved Westport, it was a small, pleasant little New England town. He didnít want to leave it, so instead of going elsewhere, he bought a bigger house in Westport. He saw the market potential with Westport. Nowadays, it is ranked in the top 100 richest towns in America. I was lucky to grow up in such an affluent town and receive a great first class education. My father was so proud that he was able to provide this for me and my brother.
My father loved music. Because his father was a professional violinist he developed a passion for classical music, most notably Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. I remember whenever he had any spare time, you could find him in the family room playing guitar or piano and singing. He would also love to go visit his father in Brooklyn and listen to him play the violin for us. Music was a bond that he shared with his father and something that he tried to pass down to my brother and I.
When my father was 39 he suffered a major stroke as a result of EDS. His heart stopped and it formed a clot in his brain. We were able to afford great medical care but his chances of recovery were very slim. I remember visiting him immediately after the stroke. He was trying to talk to me but I couldnít understand anything he was saying. He had lost all function. He fought back hard and recovered 95% within a year. He was working a fast paced job in New York City at the time and decided to slow down and take life a little easier. He began working from home and starting up his own businesses. We all felt that his stroke was a curse, but looking back now; I see it more as a blessing. Because of his stroke, he got to stay home and spend a lot more time with me. Every day he would pick me up from school and give me a high five and ask me how my day was. He eventually joined my mother in working for her travel agency which he loved. Together they saw the world together. He visited twice the amount of places most people see in a lifetime. He rode elephants, he dog sledded in Alaska, he hiked through rainforests and so much more.
When I left for college it was just my father and my mother alone in the big house in Westport. My dad put the house on the market and made a great profit. He purchased a beautiful home in Florida the same size for half the money and invested the rest of the money successfully. He had everything he wanted in Florida; A beautiful home, his dream car, the woman of his dreams, his older son Edward, and his grandson Jason. My father passed away seven months after he had moved down to Florida in his home doing his favorite thing: cleaning his pool.
It is hard to measure the life of a man. Many people say my father died too young. If you measure his life in years, then I agree. However, I measure his life differently. I measure it through his accomplishments, his defeats, and his goals. My father accomplished everything he ever set out for. He set his goals and standards high, and that is what made him a success; his unrelenting perseverance of life. He brought light to all of our lives and raised his children to be upstanding members of society. He was a man of pride, dignity, and respect. I have never met anyone who has lived a fuller life then my father. If there is a such thing as fate, and fate is the thing that took my father; I know the reason why it did; he simply accomplished everything and there was nothing else left to do. If my father is out there somewhere looking back at his life, I am sure he has no regrets.