Dear Mom and Dad;
I know it has been many years since you passed away. Despite that, I still cry when I think of the two of you. Mom, it is so hard not hearing your voice on the phone angrily lecturing me about my penchant for eating as much chocolate as I did back when you were alive and still do to this very day. Dad, I want you to know that despite our differences especially as I grew older (while my mouth got bigger) I miss you! I miss your knowing smile not to mention all the great advice you imparted to me. I wish I could say that I am as involved in as many of the causes you fought for (NAACP, New York City Housing Authority, Victory Day Care Center, Pelham Parkway Jewish Center Men’s Club, and of course the Medical Librarians Association) but sadly it is not so nor will it ever be so. I guess I must apologize to you for not being as connected as you were to the pulse of social activism.
Mom, you wore your heart on your sleeve meaning whatever was on your mind you would not hesitate to verbalize it. Debby and I failed to feel the intense emotional pain you were in after that gruesome discovery back on that sunny fall day in October of 1969. Your tears ran down your cheeks as if they were from a waterfall. Is there any worse pain a mother can feel than burying her daughter who was smitten in the prime of her life? Unfortunately, as your eyes would swell up with tears the word “why?” would fall repeatedly from your lips. Dad, you always maintained your stoic demeanor despite everything. We could not figure out how you were able to do that but that was the way we always knew you to be except when you were angry. Your temper always seemed to get the better of you. Each time you exploded the episode left you feeling worse than time previous to that.
Dad, we told you at your bedside in your hospital room that was a scant few floors down from the Medical Library you brilliantly helped to plan that you were going to be a Grandfather and that Ann was now your daughter-in-law. We will never know if you heard what we had just told you. Just one day later I received a call from mom while at work tearfully telling me that you had passed away. All I knew was that I had to get to Brooklyn from Great Neck to not only identify your body (to this day I do not know how I was able to handle seeing your body on a metal gurney with your eyes covered up) but also to retrieve your valuables. Of greatest importance was your wedding band which mom wanted me to wear on my finger. To this day it has never been taken as I have no desire to remove it. As a matter of fact, having put on weight, my finger is too fat for the band to fit over it. That is a sure sign that the band is a permanent part of my finger. On the elevator that was painstakingly slow taking us down to the morgue people got on who knew you. You were fondly remembered by your coworkers who were shocked to learn it was you under that sheet that covered you. The image of you sitting at your desk with your pipe in front of you stuck in their minds. Your ever willingness to help anybody who needed you along with your smile were your trademarks.
I will ask that you and mom forgive me for writing this letter that is long and often rambling in nature. Each line I write brings back yet another memory of the two of you as well as chapters in our family book that contained so much of life’s events that bound us up together as a family only for us to get to get to that time we all knew was coming but would not admit to being aware that the dreaded moment had arrived for myself & Debby to leave home to go our separate ways. While we did not leave home simultaneously (I was frequently unofficially living in different places while still technically living at home) it must have seemed that way to you. Looking at the empty beds in the two rooms that now lay barren took another chunk of life from each of you. The bags under dad’s eye grew more noticeable while you seemed like you had a sense death was not too far off. Each time I came to visit you implored to come more often. There was always another excuse on my part as I hurried out your door back out to what was then my life.
Prior to my moving you somehow felt that you failed me. Please, mom, do not think that way ever again as it simply is not true! I took so much from you and made it a part of me. We shared a love of chocolate which I was never aware of. The stories you gleefully told me over the phone about where you worked years ago and of course how you and dad you used to walk up and down the boardwalk in Coney Island. I miss those stories. I miss being able to pick up the phone to call you so I could hear your voice one more time. Your phone number is still on every phone in the house and on my cell phone as well. Just like the wedding band on my finger being a permanent fixture on me so to your number will always be with me. My tears are swelling up and blurring my vision making it hard to write. Just as you had a will of iron so must I have one as well. It is not always possible for me to be as stoic as you were.
Mom, while I am the subject of you I would love to know the name of that College Football Team (or was it a College Basketball Team) that you seemed so fixated on. By the way, I have that radio from your bedroom that you used to listen to the games on. There was one Sunday you told Debby and me not to call you. As it turned out one of New York Football teams was missing a key player on their defense as he was hurt. We joked that if turned on the TV to tune into the game we would see you in uniform on the sidelines ready to get into the game. Obviously, we knew you were not at any stadium but you wanted to be alone without any distractions for one reason or another. Gosh, I never realized there were so many memories to the point if I wrote about all of them I would be writing for the rest of my life.
Dad, I was just getting ready to go to bed but then I remembered I never got a chance to thank you for the advice you gave me that there is always somebody higher up than the person you are speaking with who you can and should speak to if you were not getting any satisfaction &/or problem resolution. You gave me this advice when I was having trouble signing up for the courses I wanted to take while attending college. Just last week I was having a problem with my mobile phone service provider (I cannot be sure you would have done this but I can almost hear you asking mom rhetorically what would you do with one of those things) despite call after call. You would not believe how many times I was disconnected. I could not get over their incompetence. After numerous angry e-mails that I sent their way finally I was connected to somebody who was able to put a usage plan together for me that met my needs. Had it not been for you I would not have gotten as far as I did.
The internet would have made your job so much easier. The same way as you typed on a keyboard to write a letter now you tap on the same keys and in a sense tell the computer what you need to know. Literally, within seconds the information you were looking for appears in front of you on a screen. You have no idea how much more research you could have done for the doctors who needed your help to find out about a medication or surgical procedure. Not to mention you could have taken on more malpractice lawyer clients who needed you to do research for them as well for cases they were working on. I did have occasion to speak to one of the law firms you did work for (I do not recall the reason I called them) and sure enough, they did remember you and your work.
Dad your social activism as I call it was a source of pride for you. You did manage to accomplish a lot but there was so much more than was demanded of you to do. Many times your involvement with these organizations led to family conflicts as we (your family) felt you were not there for us. To be fair when it came to Report Cards, Open School Night, and Parent Teacher Conferences not to mention the PTA (you were the only father who was on the PTA) you never missed a meeting. There were times when my report Card was not that great I wished you could not attend the conferences but you did. When it came to our education nothing took precedence over that. My mouth was left wide open while my vocal cords failed me when mom told me you did not finish High School but were going for your GED. Here is a man who was keenly aware of everything around him (you were an avid watcher of the Evening News in addition to reading many of the New York Newspapers along with the two local Bronx newspapers) yet you somehow let your education slide. Despite what may have been your failings there was a never a time you stopped pushing us to go to college. You felt that without a college education it would be impossible to succeed in life. Of course, you know I never finished college but I had successful careers in insurance, (if you recall I started working in that insurance office right after I left college) mortgage banking, staffing, and recruiting with some sales work in between. I was the exception to your rule but I cannot help but wonder what my life would be like now had I graduated college.
Mom and dad what else is there to say (even if I said it before) except that we miss you both because we loved you as much as you loved us. I hope the speeches I gave during your funerals and at your unveilings served to reinforce that fact. Without your love and guidance life would have held no meaning. We are not mad at you for leaving us as but nonetheless to this very day the pain of losing both of you has not gone away or even a little bit easier to deal with. Perhaps it never will.
Thank you again, mom and dad, for all you did, all you wanted to do, and for being there for us when we need you. May we all meet again in Heaven.