Bears, manhood and fatherhood

May 1, 2013
Sitting Bear, by Linda Israel
The bear was my father’s icon.
Born of Italian immigrant parents, he was first generation American,
the only one of his parents’ five children to make it past the eighth grade.
He became a pediatrician.
Compared to my life, he lived in a much smaller world. He was born and raised
in Rochester, NY and stayed there the rest of his life.
His aims were small, too.
Enough money to live comfortably and put his kids through school.
A nice house.
A new car every three years.
And a vacation every so often.
My father believed men should be macho and one way he proved that out was by hunting.
I am not a fan of hunting, but it was a rite of manhood for my father. He didn’t go often, mostly because hardly anyone he knew hunted, but one year, he made a dream come true and hunted bear in Alaska.
After that, a bear rug graced my mother’s living room.
I’m not so sure she enjoyed the way it looked on the sculpted white rug
next to her Italian provincial furniture.
But for us it was a visible representation of my father,
a constant reminder of who he was.
It seems strange today that a dead bear would have meaning for me
since I don’t believe in killing animals for sport.
But I can’t see any representation of a bear without thinking of my father.
I loved this painting the moment I saw it in a Boulder, Colorado art gallery.
He seems so stately and alert.
So very beautiful.
I probably should have bought it.

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