Category Personal Reflections

The Lasting Emotional Weight of Childhood Memories

I’m 3-something years old, and my family is living in an upstairs apartment in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

My dad is working two jobs, 16 hours a day, just a few years after we have immigrated without a penny in our pockets from a ravaged post-war Europe. There’s a howling nor’easter going on, buckets and buckets of rain. Probably some vestige of a hurricane.

I have somehow managed to sneak downstairs and out into the little spot of dirt and concrete that serves as a front yard. My mom is no doubt occupied with my newborn sister, her fourth child in nine years, and I am roaming free.

But as I’m looking up, I suddenly hear a voice rise above the storm. Where is it coming from? I finally manage to focus and see my mom’s head sticking out the upstairs window.

She’s bellowing.

“Andy, what are you doing?”

It is a very good question, for all times and seasons.

What I seem to be d...

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On Paying Attention: Ryan Lochte and Media’s Junk News

So we are at the end of these Olympic Games. Mammoth undertaking, nearly the entire world enthralled to some degree or other with these contests reflecting intense passion, competitive fire, and, for the most part, a sense of universal brother-and-sisterhood, human solidarity writ large across nations and cultures and even religions of the world, oh my…

All of it reflecting years of effort and training and dreaming for a select few fortunate enough to make it to this pinnacle of the sporting world.

(Yes, I know it also reflects rampant commercialization, politicization, fraud and influence peddling etc.; I’ll get back to you the very moment I find a large human endeavor that is free of those…)

In the midst of it all, a quartet of lunkhead male swimmers, who I’m sure are fine sons and friends and teammates with many scores of good people who can vouch for their essential good character, get too much ...

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In Praise of Mourning: the Assisted Suicide Party of Betsy Davis

For many years now I have been both pleased and troubled by the trend of turning funerals and memorial services into “celebrations.”

Pleased because the “celebratory” theme does justice, in a profound way, to the whole of a person’s life and character and resounding impact upon those who still live.

Troubled because I fear it can easily lapse into denial and suppression of the honest, healing emotion of grief.

Case in point: the altogether remarkable tale of Betsy Davis, the 41-year-old woman with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease who took her own life last week, but not before she threw an extravagant two-day party for some 30 close friends and relatives to “celebrate” her life at her home in Ojai.

There was much to admire in Davis’s decision to take charge of her own fate in sovereign possession of her own body, about as fundamental a right as we can or should conjure in any world where freedom is ...

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A Happy Birth Day Adoption Memoir

I’ve had a stack of black book personal journals occupying various spots in back bedrooms for many years now. They are the product of an effort for the first five or so years of my daughter’s life to provide a record, a kind of daily diary, of not only what happened, where we went, what we did and who we saw, but more importantly for two people who came very late to parenthood after long efforts to first prevent pregnancy, then to become pregnant, then to become adoptive parents, to provide a chronicle of the heart, of the vast reservoirs of love and delight and appreciation that suffused our lives when she came into them exactly 18 years ago today.

I wanted to give her a taste, many years down the line when she might take a peek at my scrawlings, of just how much she was cherished, not to mention how much sheer fun we had in profound activities like…watching her sleep…and changing her diapers…and clea...

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Memories of Early Jobs

 So my daughter is searching for a summer job, which, provided she lands one, will be her first job of any consequence, save for the very occasional child care gig or house-tending for vacationing neighbors. As a recent high school graduate, she’s a little late to be entering the job world—that’s right, a child of privilege, ’nuff said—but her quest has put me in mind of my own early jobs and the deep memories and images they have left me with most of a lifetime later.

My first sort-of-real job was as understudy for my brother’s paper route. He was three years older, and once he landed the job, he appointed himself CEO. Then he hired me, his 9-year-old younger brother, to get up with him twice a week at 5 a.m. I’d deliver the Eagle Rock Sentinel up one side of the street while he did the other. We did this over a whole bunch of streets.

For this, he paid me the princely sum of $1 each day, $...

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