For the Times Herald-Record
January 21, 2007
Michael Kurt Levine, our dad, died on Jan. 14 at his home in Monroe. In the name of love for all fathers, we share this letter with you.
Everyone knew you as a writer; eloquence was your gift. Many knew you as a friend; you were brimming with compassion and laughter. Fewer of us were your family; you brought joy and love to every room.
And if anyone knew you as any of those things, they knew a man who couldn’t be a better fit for a father.
As a writer you wrote stories and columns; as a dad you wrote the book on fatherhood.
So to all fathers out there, here’s some of what our dad taught us:
• Hug your sons and daughters and tell them you love them; it’s OK.
• Make sure your children know that anything they feel is the right thing to feel. It’ll come in handy later in life.
• Baseball is fun. End of story.
• Support whatever decision they make, even if you know it’s not the right one.
• Teach your children to live, then let them live. They’ll love you for that.
From the moment we were born, you taught us to do the right thing. To you, Dad, the “right thing” was repairing this tattered world into which you brought us.
We grew up understanding that not every kid had a safe neighborhood to play in before coming inside to a warm meal.
So we walked together in the poor neighborhoods, picking up each burger wrapper and empty cigarette box, just to give back some of the dignity that the people living there so clearly deserved.
You brought us to serve Thanksgiving meals to people who couldn’t afford them.
We grew up knowing this: It doesn’t matter if you are born a Vanderbilt or a vagrant, you better help someone. This world needs it.
Dad, you instilled a goodness in our hearts that will last for generations.
You made sure that we were thankful for everything. As little boys, we knew that Yankee tickets were a treat. As we got older, we knew that each breath was a blessing.
Today we are also thankful for your many other gifts.
• You taught us how to write. It wasn’t always easy. After a bout of writer’s block, you’d offer your favorite antidote: “If you’re having trouble writing, son, try writing a letter to a dead person. It will flow right out of you.” (It works.)
• Four words: The New York Yankees. Because of you we know why Bernie Williams is a “good guy of baseball” and why Kevin “Game Seven” Brown is simply not.
• “TV just ain’t the answer. Read something; it’s good for you.”
• Your gently sarcastic and ever-self-disparaging sense of humor. You’d catch us completely off-guard with that genius wit.
As we write this now, it’s been days since we’ve seen you, heard your voice. Reality is setting in, and we miss you, Dad.
Come this Friday, the head of the Shabbat table will be empty. The next time we hear a great song or get our hearts broken, we won’t be able to call your number and tell you about it.
We thought that the next time we were all in a hospital together you’d be a new grandfather. Instead, we stood over you, gently kissing your forehead, saying goodbye.
We wrote this letter to you in your likeness. Each word we choose with you in our thoughts and we will forever choose our actions the same way. Our lives will eternally be intertwined and your passion for life will not meet its end.
We love our dad, and he loved his boys.
Ben and Sam