One Year

One year ago.


Dad died.

It was peaceful.

Janet pronounced him gone, but not dead.  Just as she had pronounced Mom gone but not dead, 15 years before.

Not dead. Not either of them.  Not as long as those who love them are alive.

They live on.  In us.  In the good we do.  In the quirky things we do.  In the things we say (and then shake our heads because we never imagined those words coming from our mouths).

″Everything dies; that’s a fact,  Maybe everything that dies some day comes back. ″

I think Mom and Dad are here, hovering over their children.

Still, one year later, I am having a hard time thinking about life without you, Mom and Dad.

Just yesterday, we were kids and we were playing with our cousins while the uncles and aunts were gathered.  The clan that made it in America and pushed their kids to heights they never imagined.

Now, the kids are the elders. And still I can’t let go of Rosh Ha-Shanah on hot days on Wellington Avenue in New Rochelle, playing on the lawn. The sunlight in my memory still blinds my eyes.

We are old now.  Time to take our place among the generations.

But we didn’t fight, we didn’t starve, we didn’t want for much.  How do we stand with those who came before?

How do we take our place?

What have we done to deserve to stand next to Mom and Dad and their siblings?

And, all of the questions we have that go unanswered.  Questions that we didn’t have until now.

And that is where the loneliness comes in.  The questions we never knew to ask that now go unanswered.

Mom and Dad, please don’t make us find out the hard way.  Just visit us in our dreams.

Love, Blogger.

Crazy is as crazy does

So many questions:

  • Is Agent Orange crazy? Probably.
  • Is he illiterate? Most definitely.
  • Does he have a narcissistic disorder? That was a rhetorical question.
  • Does he have high emotional IQ (as to others)? Undoubtedly. He is a tremendous salesman.
  • Will he use his powers to punish his enemies (real and imagined) and states that went for Hillary? Undoubtedly.
  • Is he mentally unstable? Narcissistic disorder isn’t his only psychological issue.
  • Does he let the truth get in the way of anything?  That was another rhetorical question.

Too many questions; no legitimate psychiatric analysis.

Except the one theory, which resonates for me:  that, as head of state, he is woefully ill-prepared to lead and dangerously disinterested in learning how to do so.  And lazy, to boot.

Personally, the bright spot in all of this is that the veneer of him as a populist president is cracking, even among his supporters. 

[SIDEBAR:  Different parties can have control and implement their policies, as long as they are based on reason, research and love of country above party.]

This has given me hope now.  But not when I needed it last February.

When Dad died, I looked for hope.  Dad was such an optimistic person.  He came from nothing to rise in the tide of the American Dream.  It was not an easy rise.  Not for him and not for his brothers.  They fought in the wars — the ones that meant something and those that didn’t.  But he had an optimism that every day could bring something new and wonderful.

So, I looked for reasons to be optimistic after he died, to balance the grieving.

[SIDEBAR: I did not inherit the optimistic gene.  Don’t ask me whether the glass is half full, ask me whether there is even a glass there and, then, whether you are filling it with water or poison.]

And I found nothing in the national conversation, nothing in the political rhetoric, nothing in the day-to-day anti-immigrant, anti-religious, anti-persons of color, anti-LGBTQI — just “anti” — incidents in our streets and in our communities.  His seeming iron grip over a volatile voter constituency darkened my everyday.

I was lost. 

But even despair inevitably gives way to hope because despair is so very exhausting.

And the current open conversation about this potential evil despot being unfit gives me hope.

Because tyrants must fall if we are to be the democracy of our forefathers’ dreams.

And, they are my dreams, too. 

Rest in peace, Dad.  Your youngest child was wounded but recovered and is battle-ready.

The Wreckage

Mom’s and Dad’s house is empty of the objects that made it our home.  In fact, worse — the built-ins have been torn down with the most ginormous crowbar and sit as wreckage in the living room. 

The apartment looks like sullied shambles of an ordinary place. 

But it isn’t ordinary.  It is where our young lives happened and generations argued and celebrated, laughed and cried, welcomed new life and mourned those who died. 

And it is ok that realtors fix a value to a life-battered, empty, and unrenovated space.  The price is what the market will bear.  Memories don’t add value.  How could they?  They are only priceless and unique to us who lived them.  And those memories — the love and hurts and pain and epiphanies (few) — don’t live there.  They live in the three of us — my siblings and me.

So, on Saturday, as we schlepped the last boxes of slides and books that HOSOB (husband of sister of blogger) so lovingly packed up, POB (partner of blogger) asked me if I wanted to take down the mezzuzah on the doorpost of house.

I couldn’t.  At the time, I didn’t understand my visceral “nooooooo!”

Later, I realized that removing the mezzuzah was the final, symbolic gesture that would transform my parents’ home to a vacant apartment up for sale.

But, at the time, I knew it was too much for me to bear.  And too much to do alone.  It was a moment that needed all of us kids to do.

So, I will wait for SOB (sister of blogger).  Next weekend, she and I, with our brother on the phone, will take down the mezzuzah.  We, three.  Together. 

And, we, three, together, will close a chapter. 

Memory and Meaning


“So beautiful and yet, what is too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”

Barbra Streisand is right.  She sings the definition of nostalgia — a glossy overview of the truth.

Today, I was alone in Dad’s apartment.  Mom’s and Dad’s apartment.  My siblings’ and my home.  55 years of life and memories and stuff.

Alone.  With the walls that talk. 

While I unscrewed the extra shelves in the closets and bathrooms, in preparation for the walls to be skim-coated and painted, I was bombarded by memories — some good, some great, and other not-so-much. 

Teenage years.

Being gay before Mom and Dad accepted me.

Other painful times, just because parents and children don’t always (or often) get along.

I think the physical activity of cleaning made it easier to process the memories. 

And, I was afraid of some of them, because they do not fit the vision of perfect parents of my blogs  — an assault on my revisionist memories.  My “truth” of later years.

And with all of it,

the teenage “I hate you, FOREVER” moments and

the moments of abject despair as Mom and (to a lesser extent) Dad seemingly turned their backs on me because I was gay,

it all turned out ok.  (We all figured it out.  They forgave me for being gay and I forgave them for needing to forgive me.)

Our parents loved us.  And we loved them.  And no one was perfect.  And we were safe in our homes and knew that every resource would be available for us.

Why am I nostalgic?  Because through the shit times, Mom and Dad were present and connected (not always in the way we wanted).  But, when we needed them, they were there. 

I often wonder if I will measure up to their commitment when tested.

So, I was bombarded by memories of shouting, anger, etc. today, and still I think I am incredibly lucky. 

So, to Mom and Dad, on Mother’s Day — thank you both for nurturing me and standing by me (almost always), whether or not you agreed or approved.

I love you.

The Dollars and Cents of Lives

So, my dear and long-time friend, who is experienced in estate matters, came over to Dad’s house to help me assess how to clean out everything.

As gently as she could, she told me that there was very little there of any intrinsic value.  Maybe the silver.  The rest would essentially cost money to remove.

Of course it was true.  But it was hard to hear.  My parents’ possessions are just like the detritus of any other people’s lives, and often laid bare in garage sales.

But these were not any people.  These were my parents.

And these were not just any possessions.  They cluttered a home and carry all of the appurtenant emotional value — and baggage — of more than 50 years.

And some, like PanAm playing cards from our 1969 family trip to Europe, are — to us — priceless.

Other than masterpieces of art (which themselves gain and lose value according to prevailing tastes), I guess things only have the value you give them. 

And, when you are gone, they are only as valuable as the good memories they evoke.


Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out But Never Moving On

When Uncle Larry and Aunt Roz died, I was part of the family team to clean out their homes.  We found things we never needed to see.  In fact, I never needed to see pictures that blinded me for days.

When I had to clean out family friends’ final effects, I had to surrender an unregistered fire arm.

I was scared to clean out Mom and Dad’s house.  Because private lives are private until death.  And while I am somewhat inured to kinky facts about relatives, I would have a hard time processing that information about my parents.

Maybe my siblings cleaned that stuff out.  If they did I am grateful.  Because all I have seen is tarnished silver and keepsakes amassed over the decades.

We found the manifest for my parents voyage on the QEII in the late 1950s.  The dinner menus and the passengers at their dinner table each night.

We found our letters from camp.

We found our art projects from Kindergarten (ok, my sister’s hung in the Lever House lobby on Park Avenue in the 1960s).

We found commendations and letters of recommendations and war commendations.

We found 100 year-old pictures with Yiddish on the back.  Mom was the repository for all family pictures because many of her aunts and uncles outlived their children.

We found a scary looking dude with an old-world kipah who turned out to be our great-grandfather.  (We still refer to him as Super Scary Man with the Beard.) [Great-grandpa Eli to others.]


I recognize a lot of the people in the photos.  Osmosis, I guess.  Maybe I am channeling Mom.  Mom always knew.  Even for those on Dad’s side.  Dad would say, “You can’t prove by me.”

Thank G-d Mom knew.  And now, my siblings and I have to know.  We have to dig deep into the recesses of our memories.

Because if we don’t remember, no one will.  And then, Aunt Fanny, Uncle Lou, crazy Cousin Eli, Uncle Lazar, Aunt Jenny, etc., will never live again in someone’s memory.

We are now the keepers of two generations of memory.  There is no time to waste in passing those memories on to the next generation.

Lest we forget.  Because then members of our family — including , after we are gone, our own grandparents — will become part of the nameless sea of souls that came in and out of the world with no one to claim them.

Every time I see a picture in my parents’ house — and which I will bring to mine — I will remember those in that picture. 

I will claim them as my own.

Because I am part of the unbreakable chain they started.

Because if I don’t remember them, then they will truly die.

And I hear Mom’s voice telling me that that can never happen.  And so it won’t.

It just won’t.

Darling, so good to hear your voice

My calls with Mom and Dad (and then just Dad) always started:

“Hi [Mom][Daddy], it’s [Blogger]”

And every time, no matter the hour and what I might be interrupting, Mom or Dad would say, in the most enthusiastic and happy way:

“Darling!!! So good to hear your voice!”

Everything else was gravy.  And now I just smile at the memory.

Last Passover to this Passover

Last Passover, Dad was not well enough to attend.  That freaked me out. 

And, in one of those moments that, even then, you realize are precious, prescient, and Heaven-sent, BOB (brother of Blogger) decided to come North and bring his sons to Seder.

It had been more than 35 years since BOB, SOB (sister of Blogger) and I had shared Seder.  And the last time, we had both parents, scores of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great aunts and uncles. 

With Dad’s absence feeling like a foreshadow of recent events, I was so grateful to share Seder with SOB and BOB. 

Like the old days. Only not at all. 

We were older.  The traditions meant more.  The togetherness was special. 

The years in between had smoothed our rough edges. 

Ok, just mine. 

Ok, Ok, Ok, only SOME of mine.

We had come full circle — us, kids — and found togetherness in our religious traditions.

This year, we won’t all be together.  But I will carry my visual memory of last year — looking around the Seder table at my siblings, all of us gray-haired (if left untreated), carrying on the traditions handed down through the generations.

And, even though, we won’t all be together for this Passover, that memory sustains me.  Because we have reconnected, in life and in tradition.

Hey, bro, next year, OK?  We will miss you and your family something awful.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad:

I am writing but I don’t know what will spill out or whether it will make any sense.  I am not going to edit it afterwards.  I am just going to write.

Friends from high school (and Facebook) lost their dad a day ago.  It seems we are at that age.

And, a young girl whom we know from Benny’s school died from an anaphalactic reaction to medication when traveling in Asia on a school trip. 

So, I feel so lucky that you lived a long and happy life.  Even when I resented the pressure, and frankly the fear, of how to make it all work financially.

I think you died exactly when you knew it was going to be more than I could handle emotionally or figure out financially.  You never wanted to be a burden.

I am going to the apartment this weekend.  I am scared.  Right after you died, I cleaned out some rooms.  I think I was channeling energy into something that seemed constructive.  SOB (sister of blogger) and BOB (brother of blogger) have taken some stuff that they wanted.  I haven’t been back in more than two weeks.  Because the place will not look the same.  

We all talked about what would happen to Mom’s portrait.  But I didn’t think about what would happen to our portraits.  The ones that hung over your bed for literally 50 years.

BOB took his.  SOB took hers. 

Mine is left.  I will take it this weekend.

And, with that, the deconstruction of our home.  A small place.  Way too small for all of us.  I know we had the country house but we were crammed into the apartment growing up.  I know Mom and you wanted to give us the best of everything, and some things had to give.  I get that now.  I used to be embarrassed, but now I get it. 

And now I want to emulate you both as models of parental love and sacrifice.

And this weekend, I will take my portrait down from its place since 1967 and I will take more boxes of pictures.

And I will try to absorb all the memories dancing in the ether.

And I will relish the years in this house and regret the toll of my adolescent years and my embarrassment in front of my rich friends.

I will learn again that I am so lucky.  That I didn’t bury a sibling or child.  That I can take care of my family.  That I have wonderful memories of the old days and the knowledge that Mom and you enjoyed your lives.

But I will still be a child in the deafening quiet of an emptying house, taking down my portrait.  One of the three that hung above your bed for 50 years. 

50 years.

50 years.

And a generation of the family, and my childhood, comes to an end.

I love you forever, Dad,


P.S.: I imagine that being with Mom again is the same as it was.  She is deep in conversation with a stranger and you are worried that you are going to be late to meet people to go to a museum.  I bet the show is “Earth on Heaven: The Horror, the Horror.”  If Mom doesn’t know about Trump, don’t tell her.



Just the word evokes a sigh of relief. 

It has a different meaning — perhaps more than one — to each of us and, even that meaning may change over the course of time and our life experience.

Lately, I have been thinking about what home means to me.  And I know it is affected by the passing of Dad and, with him, the last of our elders.

Home is physical and emotional.  Two physical places — an apartment on the east side, where I was raised, and an apartment on the west side, where we raise our son.  Together, they are where I feel safe and where memories of the generations dance in the ether.  They are my past and present, and they indicate my future. 

And home is the place where Mom’s portrait hangs, as it has for literally 50 years in the home of my youth.  [One of Dad’s sculptures is in the foreground.]

I am unsettled that this will be the first time we kids don’t have a common place.  A place where the three of us belong and that belongs to us.

I think we need to figure out a place for Mom’s picture, in one of our homes. Because that is where the memories of Mom and Dad, our aunts, uncles and grandparents, will dance in the ether, and where we can feel safe and loved.

Because, without that, home is incomplete.