Norman David Joeb was just about the happiest man I ever met. Nothing ever kept him down. I met him when I was nine years old when he and my mother began their very long relationship together.
Norman was never bound by practicality and pragmatic planning and budgeting—much like a nine year old girl! As a child and teenager, if I ever said I needed or wanted something, his automatic response was, “Get your shoes on. Do you know where we need to go to get one for you?”
My mother would cringe from his generous spirit and joyful attitude. None of those usual parenting restraints came into play. She would try to explain why he shouldn’t just fill my every whim, but when an adult thinks the reasons are bogus too, it makes it much easier to have your every whim fulfilled.
I sometimes felt guilty for taking him up on his “you have to have that attitude”; I felt I had more restraint sometimes than he did. Mom was there to temper most of it and I was kind enough to not completely take advantage if him. Not completely.
He loved to shop. I think a young teen’s wants enhanced his inhibitions—not to mention a woman (my mother) who loves clothes. A child in the Depression era, he relished the ability to purchase unlike so many from that generation who fear the loss of every penny. Truth be told, my mom could out-shop him. He spent a portion of every trip to the mall sitting in a department store’s shoe department waiting for my mom with the bags of clothes and shoes.
Norm loved pastries and hot dogs and recalled his youth with potato salad made with whipped cream. I still cannot imagine anything quite so indulgent. He was born the same year that Mickey Mouse made his début and that detail of his life did not go unnoticed. He loved to wear his Mickey Mouse watch and loved the ideals held at Disneyland—the fantastic Main Street and all the fantastic details of fairy tails and heroic adventures come to life.
Many summer evenings we drove over to the Disneyland Hotel to see the water show. This predated Phantasmic but was just as spectacular for its time. From the front porch of the apartment my mother and I lived in, we had a perfect view of Disneyland’s fireworks. Each night at 9:30, we would be signaled by a few boom-booms to go out and watch the show.
Since his passing I have retold memories of his favorite places to my daughters as we spend our summer visiting so many of the places he loved. We went to The Grove which is adjacent to the Fairfax District Farmers Market. A lot has changed at that market over the years, but I recall our visits there. Norm loved the pastries and the wonderful things that were made with marzipan. Fancy petit fours, delicious éclairs, and of course hot dogs!
He loved the Orange County Fair with all of its food and the gadgets. He loved a good slice and dice demonstration in the “Hall of Products.”
“Let’s buy that,” he’d say. “We need one!”
Later in life, his enthusiasm had not waned, but my mother’s response changed from, “Oh, alright!” to “Where would we put that?” Except when the object was jewelry, then the reply was still, “Oh, alright!” (She’s no fool.)
Completely congruent with all the things he enjoyed, he loved Christmas. There really isn’t anything else that combines all his passions quite so well—shopping, giving, and celebrating. Each year on Christmas Eve we have a great family party. My sister now hosts it at her house but the menu is a tradition that Norm and my mom started. Huge tiger shrimp for an appetizer with champagne flowing and a prime rib dinner with all the accoutrements. We all dress up for the occasion and Norm always wore red and green plaid pants and topped it off with a bow tie. He preferred the real bow ties to the pre-tied versions that just clip around the collar.
He loved life! He loved it with an enthusiasm few people have. He loved my siblings and I as if we were his own to spoil. Most of all, he loved my mom.
She’s learning to get along without him but I know she misses him. He made life fun for her and allowed the people around him to escape their inhibitions and just live life and indulge. I’m happy that he was in my life and just know that as much as he loved life, he is free from earthly limitations.
I imagine Norm is feasting without regard to diabetes that limited his “approved” menu or the cancer that he fought for almost five years. He’s visiting with old friends and enjoying every minute with the thrill and joy of a small child on Christmas morning.