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Illustration by Ellie Foreman-Peck

My brother Lee called to report that our eighty-three-year-old father died in his sleep, and that the funeral will be held tomorrow. I told him that I shall not be attending, that I still haven't found myself able to forgive our father, and I hoped he, Lee, would understand.

"Ann," he said, "it's been nearly thirty years. Time to let go of all this complicated feeling."

"Sorry, sweetie," I said, "but there's nothing complicated about my feeling toward our father. What I feel toward him is, I assure you, not in the least complicated and richly deserved."

"Still," Lee said, "it's time to come to closure."

Whenever I hear the phrase "come to closure", I always think it's an ad for a spa in southern California called Closure. I suppose it's not surprising Lee would use the phrase. My brother is a psychotherapist, whose patients are mostly well-to-do Jews on Chicago's Northshore. Lee is three years older than I. We were close as kids, until our father destroyed the family. I love Lee and always shall, but our different views of our father have put a distance between us. I owe my father that, too.

My mother, who died twelve years ago, at the age of sixty-eight, of liver cancer, used to visit our father once a month in prison, at Stateville, near Joliet, during the eight years he was there, bringing him cartons of Marlboros and the past month's issues of Time and U.S. News & World Report. When I asked her why she went to the trouble of visiting him each month, she answered, "Because I'm his wife." They never actually divorced, though after he had come out of jail they never again lived together either. Even though she was only fifty-two when my father got out of prison (my age now) and still an attractive woman, the notion of my mother remarrying seemed inconceivable. She must have viewed it this way, too. After my father went off to prison, she took a job as a receptionist for a dermatologist named Stanley Erwin, and devoted much of her free time to her grandchildren, Lee's two kids.

My father went to prison for arranging the murder, never carried out, of the husband of a woman named Sylvia Lippman with whom he was having a love affair. A lawyer with lots of connections, at city hall and elsewhere, my father, Harry Karlin (formerly Karlinsky), had hired a hitman to kill Herb Lippman, a salesman at Nortown Olds on Western Avenue. The man he hired was caught while fulfilling another contract. Attempting to lessen his sentence, he admitted that he had also been contracted by my father to kill Herbert Lippman.

Uncharacteristically foolish, my father had given the hitman a cheque for $2,000, with another $3,000 to come after the job was completed. They had him cold.

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