Media Production Editor
My name is Georgia Kaufman. I am a junior at Los Gatos High School, and a second generation LG student. My father, Bob Kaufman, graduated from this high school in 1984. Born in 1966, my father lived a wonderful 44 (almost 45) years surrounded by his many friends and family. He passed away on March 9, 2011. I was six years old.
Your first thoughts are probably similar to the reactions of many who find out that I lost my dad at such a young age. They tend along the lines of, “oh, that poor girl,” or wanting to reach out and say that you are “so sorry”; I am here to remind you that it’s not your fault. You and I both know that there was nothing we could have done to prevent the 16 years of brain cancer that inevitably took his life. Please stop apologizing for this event.
Apologizing feels like a proper response to finding out that a loved one has passed away, especially if they were lost at a young age. It’s natural to feel empathetic and apologetic for something that is influential to the development of someone’s life; however, it only becomes a more prevalent and disappointing point of discussion when people continuously ask me if I am okay, or if I have ever spoken to anyone about my childhood trauma.
I have talked about my ins and outs of therapy through El Gato before. I have highlighted that the idea of speaking to somebody about the death of my father and the grieving process I have taken thus far is a little out of reach for me. Being forced into therapy as a young child has driven me further and further away from the ideas of speaking to a therapist — let alone anyone — about what exactly I have gone through.
This is not to say I would not like to talk about my father. I loved the man he was, for whom I remember him as, as well as the person I have known him to be through the stories people tell me. But wanting to talk about my father certainly does not translate to wanting to speak about his death or how it has affected me.
I like to believe that my dad was a good person. I also like to believe that the man was a Los Gatos legend — I know he was. Ninety percent of the time I am walking through the streets of Los Gatos, I am approached by a man in his mid-fifties. Initially scared, I laugh at the greeting from many of my father’s past high school friends, as they feel it is necessary to approach a 17 year old girl in the street and tell her about how amazing her father was. I have also encountered a lot of middle aged crying men. A lot. To say I am proud that I can be an outlet for people who knew my dad is an understatement. Regardless of how it may seem, I really have grown to love and appreciate these older crying men.
I’ve heard the stories, and I crave the ability to tell everyone I know about how great of a person Bob Kaufman was. Instead of apologizing for the death of anyone’s loved one, maybe ask the griever about the life their lost one lived and the impact they made on those around them. It may come as a surprise, but many who mourn would love to speak about the person they knew their lost one to be, not the repercussions they have faced as they have gone through the grieving process.
(the funny, cute girl with the dead dad)
Categories: Opinion, Web Exclusive
Great article, Georgia! Every year I read the book Invisible Strings in honor of you and your family! Hope all is well! I hear you’re up to great things, keep it up! 🙂 Mrs. Babalis
Your advice is just perfect. We all struggle with how to show empathy, but when I lost my mother the best connection is to share what a wonderful person she was (especially her sense of humor).
I wish I had known your father.