By Larry Feinstein

Ida

Listen, Mom, there are a couple of things I need to straighten out right away. In 2004, around a year after you died, something called Facebook happened. I am not sure what you know and what you don’t know at this point. There really isn’t any forwarding address to get in touch, so letter writing is out of the question. Writing to you now, I am kind of assuming you’re going to read this, but let’s leave sorting that out to any other readers, plus all of that is out of my league anyway.

I am not going to bother trying to explain what’s been going on since you passed, because I’d never get to the purpose of this letter. The only thing to keep in mind is that using Facebook means some friends of mine and other complete strangers are going to read this. For us, it’s like putting a message in a bottle and having it picked up by others until it finally gets to you.

I never got a chance to tell you how incredible you were in those last few weeks of your life, following the awful stroke that put you down. Listen, I am going to be crying on and off writing to you and I’ll try not to take too much time out. I am just so incredibly grateful to have been your son and my love for you has grown with time, the gatekeeper on all that is deemed to be true.

You showed an elegance and grace during your departure that was simply stunning to me. It became the crown that anointed all my memories of you. I remember holding your hand as you lay motionless in bed and you softly patted mine, wanting to make sure I’d be alright. Even at the very end, you were more concerned about my well-being than your own.

Bear with me here when I talk to those other people for a minute. Aside from the moron in the White House and his endless drool of inanities, the forever mistreatment of women has exploded and there is a possibility that systemic change will actually happen. My mother was out there early, showing a strength of character not terribly common in the 1930’s. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and spoke no English. She became a bookkeeper and didn’t marry until she was in her thirties, dangerously close to Spinsterdom back then.

Marty and I were incredibly fortunate to have you for a mother when Dad died. In 1954, there was no real precedent for the single, working Mom. You were left with no money in the bank and two boys, 9 and 12. You probably hadn’t worked in 15 years and you needed to be close to your children. You got a job at the Hillcrest Jewish Center and stayed there for several decades, long after we left and even after you sold the house and moved to the apartment in Fresh Meadows. You were stubbornly independent. I owe you my life in many, many ways, including that double edge trait.

I remember being monumentally excited about the prospect of finally moving out of the house when I graduated college, soon to start a career in broadcast advertising. I couldn’t wait to be grown up, no longer having to account for my time. The exploration into my independence was cut short by marriage, followed shortly thereafter by the birth of two beautiful boys, your grandsons.

Visiting you began to feel like an obligation, and I confess to resenting it. By the way, I am happy to say that I didn’t screw up your grandsons in that regard. I am thrilled you occupy a very special place in the hearts of my boys. After my divorce, seeing Grandma was part of our routine and you were wonderful. As a kid, Dad’s parents were gone and yours lived in a linoleum smelling, dimly lit, four story walk up, a mausoleum for aging Jews. The lack of connection to grandparents and the loss of my father, created an emotional blank page that I have tried to fill with my writing, just in case anyone happens to be curious. I wish I knew more about where I came from, especially at this point in my life. I decided writing was a way for me to live on and be less of my own blank page.

When I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, you called every Friday afternoon to see how I was doing. You didn’t always approve of my choices, absent the cautious predictability of normalcy. A couple of times, I got myself jammed into a money corner and after briefly venting about not understanding me, punctuated by “Oh, for goodness sake,” you came through. I have no idea how you managed to do what you did, while earning a meager income, somehow even leaving Marty and I some money.

You did not take my pending move to Kaua‘i very well, but you did what you’ve always done, which was to support my choice if it was what I really wanted. As you know, I was on my way here, when Marty called to tell me about your stroke. I was in Los Angeles, on my one-way flight. I was shot between the eyes, my worst childhood fear of being an orphan finally coming home.

I wish we could talk now, now that I am old, just the way I used to see you. I write this to you from my heart, with a depth of understanding and love that can only come with time.

I love you. Larry.

 

 


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