Remembering Poppa Cy

Last night, while looking for something on my computer, I stumbled across my notes for my grandfather’s eulogy. My Poppa Cy spent his life in the furniture business, retired to Palm Springs, and died about eight years ago. I still miss him. So, in his honor, here’s an excerpt from those eulogy notes:

My Poppa Cy was a character. I guess that’s a nice way of saying he had a strong personality.

He could be intimidating, generous, embarrassing, reassuring, terrifying, overpowering and hilarious… frequently all at once.  And if his strong personality didn’t knock you over, his taste in clothes certainly did.  I’d arrive at his house in Palm Springs  wearing  jeans and polo shirt, and he’d be standing there in his orange pants and purple shirt and red sweater, shaking his head in dismay at the way I was dressed.

“What’s the matter with
you?" He’d say. "Haven’t you ever heard of color?”

And I’d laugh. He always made me laugh.

When I was a student at UCLA, I would go and stay with him to study for
mid-terms and finals. I loved those weekends. He’d get me up at 8 a.m., chide me for sleeping in, we’d have a little breakfast, read the paper, he’d criticize the furniture store ads, and then I’d study for a few hours.

Then we’d have fun. Or he’d have fun, and I’d have fun watching him. Maybe I was more of a co-conspirator.

We’d go to a furniture store somewhere and pretend to be customers. Poppa Cy would tell some poor, unsuspecting salesman that he was interested in a sofa. The salesman would show us around the store, Poppa Cy would ask a few questions and basically behave like the cutomser from hell and then, when the guy least expected it, my grandfather would whip
out his Visa card like it was some kind of badge and say:

“I’m Cy Goldberg, United Furniture Company, I was in the furniture business for 55 years… let me tell you about all the mistakes you made trying to sell me a sofa." He’d then lead the poor guy back to all those sofas while I collapsed into laughter.

Or we’d go to a car dealership. Poppa Cy would say he was Harry Himmelfarb or Frank Kales or George Rosencranz and he was shopping for something sporty. He’d torture the salesman,
taking him to the brink of a sale, and then leave.

I think the only thing he
enjoyed more than teasing people was furniture…

Furniture was his world.
His love. His oxygen.

To him, furniture was not
something you sat on, slept on, and ate on… no, furniture was a state-of-mind,
a culture, a language, an art to be admired, studied, and deconstructed. And he
had a furniture analogy for everything – sex, acne, divorce, fast food, you
name it. Anything a human being experienced could be compared to a comfortable
recliner, a sturdy couch, an inexpensive lamp. One of my lasting regrets will
be that I never wrote one of those analogies down.

When he saw my first TV
show, he asked “So, where do they get all that furniture? They aren’t renting
it, are they?”

Whenever I wrote a book,
he badgered me to make the next one about the furniture business. That, he
said, was where the excitement is. And I’m not sure he was kidding.

Poppa Cy was a man who
never had any trouble expressing his opinions which, in an odd way, was how he
expressed his affection. He was not the kind of guy who gave hugs, or told you
that he loved you. I learned early on that teasing, chiding, needling….okay,
criticizing you… was his way of showing he cared about you. Not everyone saw it
that way… and he drove a lot of people out of his life because of it.

Not me.

I loved my Poppa Cy.  Thanks to him, I’m a stronger person. I’m not
afraid to fight for what I believe. And I will never, ever buy a white couch

I know what Poppa Cy is
doing right now. He’s up there, shaking his head in dismay:

“What kind of phony deal
is this? You call those pearly gates? I know where you can get pearly gates. I
got this friend in Portland in the pearly gate business…"

Poppa Cy wouldn’t want us
mourning his passing, he’d want us to celebrate his life. So go out and buy a
recliner or a couple barstools. Preferrably in yellow.

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