Jerry was my brother-in-law. I admit I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked. We were about the same age and went to college at about the same time. We both intended to go into the health sciences. He persevered; I didn’t.
That was one divergence in our lives, but our other interests all line up. We both possessed a deep love of music, the theater and the arts. We thus had a lot in common. Going back to college days, I was a smoker and kept fairly long hair. He too, so I heard, but neither of us turned into hippies. Funny that we both morphed into quite “respectable” members of the establishment after all, even though he continued to wear turtlenecks a lot. What I mean by all this is to say that Jerry and I got along pretty well, and we would have spent more time together had we not lived so far apart - he in wholesome Los Gatos and I Bagdad by the Bay. I suppose we could have managed in our retirement more time to reminisce about the sixties or marvel at the complex meters of Brubeck. Well, too late.
In the Cha family, Jerry was the model son-in-law. He was always respectful and circumspect in the presence of Lucia’s parents. Yes, he might have been somewhat quiet there. Perhaps it was a matter of language and culture, but it showed that he was brought up properly. I remember the first time I met him. It was the occasion of his meeting Lucia’s parents, also for the first time. On the side he asked me, as a potential brother-in-law at the time, how he was to behave. I said, “Just be yourself.” He did, and did it perfectly. With Lucia’s siblings, however, he was a little more relaxed. He was open and jovial, and I couldn’t help but notice that he was much amused by the hysterics of that bunch. He and I used to have a good laugh about it too. Sometimes we didn’t have to say much; we just rolled our eyes in unison. As to the younger generations of the family, I could observe he took on the role of stepfather and grandfather with great aplomb. He loved it, and I suspect it gave him that part of life he had missed. The grandchildren adored him.
Now, Jerry was also my dentist. Let me testify that he straightened my teeth, replaced many of them in fact, and finally put a smile on my face. At times all I wanted was a simple dental fix, but he was such an aesthete that he wouldn’t stop there, because whatever he fixed had to look good too. He was such a perfectionist in that sense. For instance, he once ordered a brand new crown returned because he was not completely satisfied with the gap between the crown and the neighboring tooth. It was an imperceptible issue. I thought it was just fine, but Dr. Jerry was adamant on doing it exactly right and to his standards. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain as a patient, but pity me that I had to drive from San Francisco to San Jose again for that replacement. Another thing I noticed about Dr. Jerry at work was his ability, and propensity, to talk to his patients and his staff about almost anything under the sun. To do that is not simple, but to be able to do that every day is a natural gift. It showed me that other side of him.
The last time I saw Jerry was at the Bay Club in San Francisco, as he and Lucia were spending that week in town. He had lost some weight and was moving not so sprightly. However, he was cheerful and still working out with weights. We bantered only a little, since I was busy with my trainer, and we laughed at ourselves for being not so fit. On the prior weekend, Lucia had arranged a dinner for the extended family. Jerry and I ordered the same kind of steak and it seemed to me he genuinely savored it. I felt he was quite cognizant of his own condition at the time but bravely soldiered on anyway to take in whatever he enjoyed in life.
I never found out whether Jerry was a Christian, Buddhist, or anything else. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the legacy he left with his family, his colleagues and his community. It matters that this legacy will live on and that we will all remember him dearly in our hearts. Yes, I wish I had gotten to know Jerry better, but that was the way it was. No more needs be said.