We Hardly Know You Anymore

After speaking with you tonight, one thing became abundantly clear which was we hardly know you anymore. The voice I was hearing was both distant and disinterested in what I was trying to say to you. This was yet another anniversary of a day you did what nobody thought you could or would but did. You draw no inspiration from this. Your 33rd birthday is but days away. We want so much to celebrate this day with you but you have every excuse lined up to avoid all of us being together.

You would rather sit home alone in self-imposed solitary confinement than be with those who you mean the world to. WHY? You have hurt me while not meaning to but you did. Why? Are we nothing to you now except for when a hiccup in your life occurs when you rediscover we exist?

Some of the things you told me that seem to cause a smile to be heard from your face were deeply troubling. What in the world do you think you are doing or thinking about if you are thinking at all. This is not who we know you as. Do you know you anymore? It is not for me to like your friends but you can’t say that even with the best of intentions they are leading you nowhere but down a cracked crooked hill road where those who forgot what it means to accomplish something with all odds stacked neatly against them have fallen headfirst into. Is that the life you are looking for?

We know your boss likes to browbeat you into submission as that is his way. Yet your co-workers including his son manage to shoo him away like a pesky fly. When he rants they look downward (or so you have told me) and go about the day as if nothing happened. You are as strong as you are tough but you have forgotten that. Resignation to the misguided notion that this is and will always be your life as it intended to be has sapped your energy while removing your resolve.  It’s hard to smile through the pain. Boredom and loneliness are your frequent roommates. I am sorry I cannot help you with that but I know you can if you decide you need to.  You know if I could help I would. For you, I certainly would but my intervention would be a detriment.

I don’t want you to carry me around like some worn-out knapsack that is held together by the dirt and mud from the bloodstains that cut right through you like a razor blade slicing through flesh leaving it to rot away.

There is no reason to crumple me up like an unneeded piece of paper that is reconfigured into a ball of sorts and throw me into the garbage if not toss me into the gutter until the skidmarks from tires shred me to pieces or cover me in the blackness from the exhaust from every car that runs over me. Why can’t you understand I want you in my life where you belong? What horrible secret do you have locked away in your emotions that force you to keep me at bay?

As I was not and am not the quintessential perfect father you are not and never were the quintessential perfect son. Neither of us has deviated from that path. Yet we have freely shared our mistakes, shortcomings, joys, and fears. There was that unbreakable iron-clad father/son bond that was supposed to endure forever. Perhaps that was just what I thought or imagined would be. Should I have asked you if that was the case? Why would that have been necessary? If you can’t face me in the light as your father so be it but nonetheless say why before you bow left, bow right, take three steps back while stepping back and walking away or standing stoically silent in place.

A response to our invitation to leave the non-luxury of your closet like apartment to visit your parents to partake in a hot home-cooked meal with other savory delights not to mention a very unexpected long overdue surprise for your birthday was rejected due to illness real, imagined, feigned or perhaps the anxiety of a long unfamiliar trip via railroad and subway with a possibility of getting lost in a forever panic-filled moment personal safety concern or getting physically  lost which considering your phone has a GPS along with transit maps and schedules to guide you along your way was a near impossibility. Any of the above would have to be the root cause of a decision you made but in fact, did not.


Thursday morning the phone rang as the caller ID flashed the name, Lee. Our son Lee was calling to say he would be coming to us that day with even better news that it was your intent to stay overnight. Mom could not conceal her excitement as she hurriedly rushed into the bedroom to awaken me to deliver this incredible turn of events. Joel, she called out to me as I lay there with one hand buried under my pillow fast asleep with Juice on the other side of the bed guarding me “Lee is coming.” Half-awake or half-asleep still in the middle of a dream or a thankfully evaporating nightmare I sat up with little to say.

With my morning ritual of pill taking, sugar checking, insulin injecting, eye drop insertions, with the final task of inserting my hearing aids complete it was time to get dressed. Off with the flannel pajama pants and on with my black dress pants. Off with my thermal shirt that was underneath my flannel pajama shirt tucking my white t-shirt into the garment worn underneath clothing. On goes the Tzitzis with my white shirt resting on top. Finally, I was ready to compete in another day.

On the way home when I picked up the bag with the oversized cake box in it the box tore through the bottom of the bag. Of course, I missed my stop which meant I had to stay on the train until the end of the line until the motor was rebooted so we could head back the other way. I frantically sent a message home I was one stop away and needed somebody to meet me on the platform. I could not carry the cake box which had nothing to hold onto to it along with three stuffed plastic bags filled with food. When I finally arrived home (Lee greeted me on the platform smiling broadly to take a couple of bags) collapsed on the couch ultimately drifting off to sleep.

How is it possible that he and I could speak on the phone for a couple of hours joking, talking, laughing yet in person I did not know him? What is wrong with me?

Dinner time. Lee had a hot home-cooked meal. With a contented grin, I handed Lee a birthday card that he loved but was caught off guard by the amount of money in it. Next, I gave him a blank envelope that I told him it was important he open it right away. In the envelope was more money. I was not trying to buy his love as by that time it was evident neither of us ever stopped loving each other but the gift clearly touched him. The cake was delicious. The night was perfect. Then it happened. I had little to say to Lee. It then dawned on my scattered mind I did not know him. This person who sported a thick black beard thick arms with a stomach that was not much smaller than mine that I help create with a seed from my body was somebody I did not know. The whole time Lee sat on the couch while I took up residence by the computer. I could not bring myself to sit next to him on the couch. How is it possible that he and I could speak on the phone for a couple of hours joking, talking, laughing yet in person I did not know him? What is wrong with me?

Friday morning the day of his birthday was here. With some semblance of consciousness, I located the sock that had fallen off my foot during the night and proceeded to open the bedroom door walked out dressed for sleep (why was I embarrassed to be seen in a thermal undershirt and flannel pajama bottoms) into the kitchen. The words happy birthday never fell from my lips. Lee was reluctantly leaving that morning. Before I started to make my way to the front door to catch a train to the Boro Park section of Brooklyn where we do virtually all of our shopping (Kosher food is not found in Bensonhurst) I slapped him on his arm while enthusiastically telling him how proud of him I was and how great he was doing. Our eyes met one last time as I implored him to visit again soon. When I returned home he was gone. He was sent home with cake, baked ziti and whatever else mom could stuff into his bag. He looked happy. Once he arrived home he sent us a text message.

Saturday evening on Facebook Lee posted a thank you message to all of his friends and his siblings for the birthday wishes. He gave prominent thanks to his parents. That is the Lee we know. When my wife went into bed for the night I sat on the couch in the darkened living room. Soon thereafter I broke down into tears. Juice did her best (she is an amazing cat) to console me but it was no use. The truth in my mind was that was no truth at all was as a father I failed. All I could feel was a hole in my life that I helped create.

My final thoughts from last weekend were that I felt anger or remorse towards my son since I did not believe he felt ill on Wednesday and thusly would not be coming to visit.

We are who we are for a reason. Who we are, who we were, where we came from, and how we got to here is of tantamount importance.

If you don’t know who you are how can you claim to know somebody else. You can bury yourself in a someplace hoping you do not have to be you in front of a world who knows who and what you are even if you don’t but in the end, you are who you are and that is who you will be.

“Now the years are rolling by me / They are rocking evenly / I am older than I once was / And younger than I’ll be / But that’s not unusual / No, it isn’t strange / After changes upon changes / We are more or less the same / After changes we are / More or less the same.”

–The Boxer by Paul Simon.

“But it’s all right, it’s all right

You can’t be forever blessed

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day

And I’m trying to get some rest

That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.”

–American Tune by Paul Simon


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

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  1. Joel, your passion and emotions are highlighted in this piece. We want our children to be every bit of what we dream for them to be. We have big plans for them in our minds. They will always detour from the path our minds have them on and when they do, they often lose themselves. We see it happening but can only stand on the sidelines until they see they are different, often worn and tattered from being who we know they are not. My daughter is my example of this. God bless you and your family. I wish nothing but peace and love to continue to bind you all together.

    • Thank you, Valerie! Please forgive me for not writing more but my computer is down so I must type from my phone where the keys are smaller and close together. I can only use one finger to type. Once my computer is fixed I will respond to your very wise and true thought.

  2. Joel, I would give you a hug my friend, but you’re a thousand miles away. Your story touched my heart, and I can relate in many ways. My parents divorced when I was young… so young I don’t remember any of it. I visited my dad on weekends, and for a few years I remember him as a role model. He had the easy job, taking me to ballgames, to the beach. My mom had full custody and did all of the dirty work to put a backbone in me. As I grew older, my relationship with my dad slowly changed. He became a slave to his business and alienated my siblings. I am still friendly and cordial with “the old man” but I don’t understand what planet he is living on. He is a brilliant guy, and at times he can be a storyteller and a show-off, but at least during those times I can see him happy. Otherwise we have nothing in common, and he is ultimately a very moody individual. Although he took us on weekends, he never actually played with my brother and I when we were kids. To this day we simply don’t share things that many fathers and sons have. I’ll always love my dad, but I can’t talk to him about how I feel as I don’t believe he is capable of having feelings. To say he’s a pain in the ass is an understatement. Just take this knowledge with you Joel – we are not perfect people. I accept my father as he is, I love him the way he is, and I don’t expect him to change after 72 years. Now I have an eight-year-old boy and I am trying to build a healthy relationship with him, to be there for him every day. It’s not easy, but reading stories like this anchors me to my commitment as a father… win, lose or draw… You take care my friend, don’t beat yourself up too hard. We all need to work at this thing, every single day!

    • Aaron, first off thank you for sharing your experience and making me feel less alone. My son and I can talk on the phone for a couple of hours each time either one of us calls but when he came to visit I had little to say. On the morning of his birthday, I didn’t even wish him a happy birthday (somehow I stupidly forgot it was Friday) which broke me up and probably had him wondering too about who or what his father is and when. Each mistake I felt I made (not pushing him to go to college) was magnified in my head. I love and accept my son for who he is but seeing him struggle to find a better place to live along with a higher paying job breaks my heart. It seems like such a shame that this visit my wife and O looked forward to so much turned out to be a mental nightmare to me. Not only did I discover I did not know him I barely knew myself. We are all back to living our lives but I can’t shake last week. Thank you again, Aaron

    • Joel, I believe your son may be happy with what he has chosen. Or perhaps he has convinced himself that he is happy. All you can do is sit him down, apologize for whatever you may be feeling and try to open up. Tell him how much you love him. Tell him why you are hurting and that you want to start over. It’s never too late to start over. It is okay for fathers and sons to talk this way, it is lacking in the world as we know it… Even if you try and fail – it will be better than living with the constant grief inside. Good luck my friend, we’re all here to support you…

  3. Joel, as usual, your writing conveys so much emotion. The story is haunting, and I know the saga as of now has caused much anguish. As someone who has a bit of unusual circumstances in my family of origin, I can relate to feelings of loss and dismay. As you know, we cannot predict how certain events will unfold no matter how much we try to help or right the situation. Because we do not always know the end of the story, let us hope things take a different course for you and your son.💖

  4. Oh, Joel! My heart is breaking for you right now? One question: Why are you beating yourself up? I must have been reading another story, because the message that came through for me, was: You are a caring, loving father. You know that some things are out of our control, no matter how hard we try to grasp them. Families are tough. Really tough. One thing I haven’t mentioned…yet…in my stories here is that my beloved sister and I haven’t spoken to our brother in nearly five years. He dropped the ball when it came to our sick parents, and to me, his older sister. I implore you to be kind to yourself and keep on trying with Lee. That’s all you can do. Thank you for sharing this very personal story. We are all here for you.

    • Thank you, Sherry, for your encouragement and understanding. When Lee fails I feel like I failed him. When I could not talk to him I really felt like I failed for not keeping in touch with him. Had it not been for his birthday I never would have known anything was wrong. My sister is out of my life because she treated our mother poorly as her mind and life were slipping away. Sometimes it’s all too much.

    • I have found that my children make their own choices in life. Our job is to love them without expectations. They will walk their own path, take their own journey and live life as they choose. All we can do is love them with a love that lasts forever and ever Amen. Joel you are a kind and loving man. A man that I am honored to call my friend.

    • So many years have passed since all the children moved away. We let them go their own way while living their lives as so chose. It seems that independence in a lot of ways made them more dependant as they made terrible decisions whereupon the calls home for advice which they never take. With Lee, I just can’t shake the feeling that if I had pushed him to go to college he would have been better off today. After he graduated high school he still lived at home but at the same time, he was on his own. Perhaps if I held onto the leash a little longer he would have a better job, more friends perhaps a wife and children. When things were going really good I could have put money into a fund so he could go to college but I did not do that either. A happy day made me feel so down. Larry, friends like you are few and far between. Perhaps it’s just me but I find the friends you have online are better than those you see in person. That is the case with you. Thank you for your treasured friendship.

  5. Joel This is an amazing journey full of emotion and in the hope and change. Sometimes in life we need the road, need the journey yet in the end we all want a place to call Home.
    Do you ever wonder why we leave a light on? It is comforting when you’re coming home and see the glow. As a kid I associated it with warmth,comfort, a hot meal and a soft bed. Mom called me her wayward son and told me she would always leave a light on and keep a place at the table for me. I guess home is always a light in the darkness, a safe haven for the night.

    • Thank you, Larry, for your comments as well as your tremendous insight. The home lights became home lights elsewhere. The home was never the same as the years went by we were never the same nor will we ever be.

  6. Joel – So much emotion in this story. Just let me say this. I made a choice to enlist in the Marine Corps and then to make it a career. The cost of that decision was I no longer from in the place I called home – not because I wanted it that way – but because I had changed and they had changed and we did not know the history of each change – the result was I did not know my family and they did not know me. I loved them – they loved me – but the time and separation had made us strangers. Now that I am older, I am trying to repair these important relationships. But, I am honest with myself that they will never be the same as when we lived under the same roof where we ate together – played together – laughed together – shared secrets together – celebrated victories together – comforted together – grow up together. Those days are sweet memories that will bind us forever – but we can’t go back – time marches on. But, the love is still there – and that is all that matters. Peace, my friend.

    • Len, thank you for sharing your experience with me. It’s comforting to know I am not alone. I guess all the changes in life’s courses took too much away. What is lost will obviously never be regained.

    • Joel – What you say is true but remember…as parents our responsibility is to raise our children so that they can take care of themselves and their family, contribute to society, and pass on our heritage. We can call ourselves successful if we accomplish even a little of that in our society today. So, take note, from what I read, you and your wife did an wonderful job of raising your son.

    • Len, thank you for your reassuring words. When our son struggles it always provokes feelings of if I had done this or that things would be different. There are plenty of those perceived missteps on our part.

    • Joel – Let me tell you what did not happen when you brought your baby boy home from the hospital – the nurse did not hand your wife the baby and then look at you and say, “Here, Mr. Elveson, is the instruction manual that goes with your son. Make sure you read it so you don’t make mistakes when raising him.”

      We do our best – we love them even when they make it hard – they love us even when we make it hard. Today, he stands as his own man – a testament to you as a father – mistakes, good advice, funny stories, tears, guidance, and love. That is all we can do.

    • Len, I can’t believe what you just wrote which I do not mean in the negative sense. When things got rough I would often say there was no instruction book so all I can do is go by what I feel is right or wrong. The second paragraph of this comment was not only factual but very touching as well. When two people connect we often believe it is for one reason when it fact G-d had other reasons. In this case, you were meant to be a part of my life that goes well beyond just being fellow columnists. Thank you, Len, for all the help you have given me today.

    • You have been and continue to be a true friend throughout the course of our relationship for which I must again say THANK YOU!

    • Sherry what you are saying is so true. My other family is the people I have come to know right here on BizCatalyst