Some in my family said that it would never work. When I brought my girlfriend to meet them in 1960, the observation by some was that she did not look Jewish, nor did she act Jewish. To this day, I am not sure what they meant. Yup, I know the insidious prejudices within the Jewish folk that you should not marry outside of your religion, but this was really strange. I figured if Tony Curtis and Paul Newman were Jews who did not look Jewish; it was o.k. for my girlfriend to look like an Irisher.
That kind of continued until we were married on June 23, 1963. My mother, whose non-sequiturs could fill a New York Times book section, even complimented Carol when she told her one day, “I don’t think of you as my daughter in law, I think of you as my son’s wife.” We could never get over that statement. It was said from the heart, but it had a meaning so different from what she meant. Carol spent a lifetime trying to make life easier for mom. I believe she really did succeed. However, if you were not flesh and blood, you were always kept at some arm’s length. It was further complicated by us not living in New York City. Here other in-;law children were part of her daily rituals, but Carol and I were not there to fawn over her regularly.
To compensate for our distance apart, mom would come down for her 2 week visitations and upend mostly everything and break most of our mechanical appliances, including our metal front door. There are stories that I have told about those visitations that I will not portray here. She was a constant presence in our lives even past her death. We still have a video of her singing “My Yiddishe Mama.” We look at it every so often.
Our 53 years together was never a plan. That may sound foolish to some, but it was all too real for me. My dad had passed away when he was 36 years old. Not that I expected to die at that age, but for me it was pretty much in the back of my mind. I have met a number of folks, including close friends, whose fathers passed away at a young age, who feel and have felt the same way. We dubbed ourselves, “The Dead Dad Society.”
Carol and I are two opposite end of the poles. She is soft and I am hard. She entrances with her kindness and I am the bull in the China shop. Over the years we have learned from each other. She has softened my hard casing, and I have stimulated her to get out there and tell what she feels. The climax to this evolution happened in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. We were asked by the President of the teachers union in Pennsylvania to do her a favor and try and calm the waters in this town. We always are ready to try almost anything. We organized a town meeting. I was on first and gave them the hellfire and brimstone speech. Carol’s part was to stimulate them to action. In her usual calm manner, she engendered enthusiasm from the crowd of about 500. When she noted the absence of the Mayor of the town, purely by accident, she enraged some of his family. One of them stormed down the aisle, ready to do her harm. Two large policemen stopped him. I was not permitted to help her. The scene was all over Pittsburgh pt. The next morning I got a bunch of calls asking me why I had started a riot. I had to tell them that it was not me, but Carol. Most of those people did not believe me and think that it was me.
Our relationship has gone through many changes of these 53 years. We have learned that we are not perfect people. We still argue once in a while. We have discovered that we have differing styles when it comes to comforting the other person when they are down or ill. It has taken a long time to come up with that conclusion. We are eternally grateful for our children, who are as close to us emotionally now as they were when they were small. We are so delighted with our grandchildren and the way our children have raised them. As a present to us, our 17 year old grandson is flying to the Charleston Airport this afternoon and we will have him with us for a few days. That is the most wonderful present that our children could have given us on this day. Thank you to all of our friends and relatives for sticking by us all of these years.