Thank you, Pat for your Amazing Gift

It was almost 24 years ago that we went on our first date.  It was July 1999 and I asked you if you wanted to go with me to see a play with Judith Licht about a cancer survivor.  It was a very depressing one woman play, and I have no idea why I chose that for our first date.  Perhaps, as we make most decisions today, we chose it together.  After the play we had dinner and it felt wonderful to be with you.  I hoped then, not knowing for sure what would be, that we would grow closer and closer.  But I had no idea, that on that evening, our very first date, I was receiving the greatest gift of my life.   I might not have realized it at the time, but spending my life with you was that gift. 

Our relationship grew very slowly.  We both had children who took precedence in our lives.  They were young, and of course they needed us.  We slowly spent time with our children together, slowly being the key word.  We lived in the same town, but at times weeks would go by where we didn’t see each other because we were both busy with our children.  Even though we both hoped that we would spend our future together,  we also knew that it was never just “the two of us” that we had to consider, but the seven of us.  Pat, you so easily and naturally treated my children as you did your own.  The gift that Caitlin and Gregory received the day they were born, was then bestowed upon my three sons, ages 8, 12 and 20.  Again, whether at the time they  realized it, you were that gift. 

It’s today.  We had no idea what our large family of seven would look like 24 years later.  We are now 12 (almost 13) and growing.  Pat, you have created a home for our adult children and their children, today and for the future.  A warm, central place to gather, to feel loved, and you, always there to support who ever needs it for that moment. You set the bar very high for the next generation.    As you were a surrogate parent to my children, and an amazing parent to yours, you are now the quintessential grandmother to our grandchildren. 

Now of course I am the dad.  I love my role in our growing family, but you Pat, are the center of so much good in all our lives.  You are the one who makes everything work.  From our Sunday family dinners, to our memorable celebrations which are usually at home, you are the one that makes it happen. 

I always tell anyone who would listen that I have everything I ever hoped for.  I have you to thank for that.   You are the reason for my happiness.  I always tell you that for any occasion that comes up you shouldn’t give me a gift.  It’s because you’re the only gift I want or will ever need. 

With immeasurable gratitude, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you. 

I love you so much.    ALAN

Popularity and the Vote

What are the ramifications to celebrity and popularity in our culture?   Of course, to be popular is a wonderful thing because usually it means that you have positive attributes that people like about you, and that makes them feel positive towards you.  If enough people feel that way about you, then you’ve achieved “popularity.”  However, while it seems counterintuitive in some cases, popularity can be a negative.  The following are two examples which are similar but are handled differently and have two outcomes.

My grandson Jake and granddaughter Emma called me last week with one having exciting news and the other disappointing news.  Emma, 10 years old, got on the phone first.  “Grandpa, I have great news!  I was voted to the Student Council to represent my class, and I received 24 out of 24 votes.”  Of course, being the proud grandfather, I was so proud of her and told her so.  Then it was Jakes turn. Jake is 8 years old.  “Grandpa, I ran for Student Council in my class, but I lost.  I only got 1 vote, and that was my own vote.  I was so disappointed that I lost, because I am very popular in my class.”  I told him that I was proud of him for running for the Student Council and maybe he will win next time.  I remember 100 years ago that if you ran for the council you had to make a speech, so I asked them both about their speeches.  They both told me that they don’t give the speech personally, but wrote it down and the teacher read it, without telling the name of the person who wrote it.  Then the students vote for candidate number 1, 2, 3 or 4. This way, the children are voting for substance and not popularity.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that.  What a great idea for deciding who to vote for in an election.

Another election with much more importance is the election for US Senate in Georgia.  Herschal Walker was one of the most dominating running backs in NFL history.  A powerful runner he played in the NFL for 12 years and was a very popular figure in a very popular sport.  Now the rest of his biography is as follows. 

As you read this, make believe you don’t know who this is about and ask yourself if would you vote for this person for US Senate? 

  • After his football career ended, he opened 1 fast food restaurant, and then started a small food production company. 
  • He wrote a book called “Breaking Free” where he describes his serious mental illness, called multiple personality disorder, where he had 12 “alter egos” living in his head.  He claims he is cured, as he puts it, “as you put a cast on a broken leg, and it gets better.”  Any psychiatrist would say that is absurd.  This mental illness can be controlled but not cured. 
  • He has a history of bad behavior towards women, having threatened many women with violence, and many police interactions due to his actions through the years have been recorded.

Now after reading this, would anyone really vote for this man?  Well, so far the polls in Georgia are close in the election for US Senate. 

I can only say that the elementary school in Commack, NY has it right.  I cannot say that about the American system and the American public.

The Goodbye- The End to a Perfect Day

I am so fortunate on so many levels.  I love so many people and they in turn love me.  With most people, however, you don’t get reminded how they feel about you too often.  You go on in life, hoping that you are clear about your intentions and interactions and that people take things as it is intended.  Yesterday, I had a near perfect day.  I was celebrated by my immediate family and my closest friends, at a surprise party for my 70th birthday.   I came home from the golf driving range with my two grandchildren, Jake and Emma, and my son Jon, and on my lawn was so many friends and family.  Of course, it was all orchestrated by my wonderful wife, Pat, who always knows just how to make me happy, and spares no effort to do so. 

Yesterday was a validation of my great fortune.  I try to be positive with everyone I am with.  To only give goodness, without judgment, trying not to bring out defensiveness, and never offering advice without being asked. 

I try to bring calm within the storm that life brings to us. 

So yesterday was my day.  Never being the focus in a group, yesterday I couldn’t help it.  I got such positive feedback from everyone.   My ex-wife, Sharon, came up to me and told me that she really values our friendship after all these years.  I felt so good to hear that.  Sharon is part of our family, as is her sister, Marjorie, and niece Jackie.  Then Pat made a short speech about how I am so supportive to her, every day, and of course that made me feel so good.  She spoke about how people sometimes ask her “what would Alan do?” in situations that come up, and that was a total surprise to me.  Old friendships, which span almost 70 years were part of this day, and I just basked in the great feeling and familiarity that these long friendships can bring.  Then came the videos.  One after another, my friends and family made videos telling me how much our relationship meant to them, and I realized that they love me as much as I knew I loved them.  My children thanked me for being there for them, and for life lessons that I thought they always resented.  The evening was wonderful. 

To cap off the evening, we have a ritual that we do when Jon, Lauren, Emma and Jake leave to go home.   I always walk them outside to their car no matter what the weather.  In the spring and summer, I cut off a small rose from our rose bush, one for Emma and one for Jake, and I kiss them good night.  As they are pulling away from the curb, they all open their car windows, Lauren and Jon as well, and yell as they are driving down the block, “I love you Grandpa”!   I yell back to them, “I love you guys.”  We do this every single time they visit.  Then I turn around, choked up, every time, and go into the house with gratitude streaming through my heart.  This time along along with the gratitude, tears were streaming down my face.  The end of a perfect day.

Happy Fathers Day-2022

So my largest personal insecurity, for sure, is how I see myself as a father.  I’ve been a dad for a long time now, actually over 42 years.  (That does make me pretty old)  I’m a father, a stepfather, and a grandfather.  Fatherhood for me is my most important responsibility, and is all encompassing within my emotional self.  Rarely does something happen during the day that leaves me far from thinking of myself as either a father, stepfather or grandfather.  I am not sure why I feel the way I do about my quality of fatherhood.  Perhaps part of it is the divorces that I put my children through.  There is a certain amount of guilt there.  Getting a little defensive, each time I got divorced I pledged to be the best father I could be, yet I can look back on some deficiencies in those attempts.  During their childhood my children had difficulties in certain areas of their lives, and always thinking I can fix anything, perhaps there is guilt in their past suffering through their travails.  Even today, as they are all adults, I see them having the normal difficulties of life and wish I could do more.  I believe that this is their time to learn, and grow so I don’t interfere unless they ask me to.  I didn’t have the closest relationship with my father, and perhaps I am putting those feelings on my relationships with my children. 

I know that emotions, and their source can run very deep.  I have learned through a lot of experience that whatever feels negative in my life is never as bad as the worst of it, and so I am sure that I am a better father than I give myself credit for.

At this moment I am welling up with emotion, because Greg just came into my office and gave me a hug and wished me a happy fathers day. 

I might never lose these insecurities, but I know what’s real and what’s not.  This, for sure, will be a Happy Fathers Day.

Make a Wish

Last night was our wedding anniversary.  Pat and I are married 16 years.  It was my greatest blessing to have found Pat, (even though we knew each other for so long) and for us to have gotten together.  Of course, we’ve had our ups and downs, but through all these years never once did we ever waver in the thought that it was meant to be for us to share our lives.  

Last night to celebrate we went to a very nice steak house for dinner.  I was so glad that we were there just the two of us.  We sat and talked about the past many years that we are together.  Reminiscing about a shared life is so enjoyable.  We spoke about our first feelings for each other, our first dates, trips, and past dreams and wishes that came true.  Our conversation was just so special.  It was an intimacy that I truly cherish.  (It’s like sex without the ecstasy).  It’s certainly a manifestation of our deep love for each other.   Anyway, they were so nice at this restaurant that they acknowledged our special occasion and brought us a cake with a candle.  Pat said, make a wish and we will blow it out together.  I thought for a few seconds and could not come up with a wish.  So, when we blew out the candle my wish was just that Pat should get her wish.  Then Pat asked me what my wish was.  I got a little choked up when I told her that I couldn’t think of anything to wish for.  I realized at that moment, that sitting there in that restaurant, with that woman, with our life exactly as it was, I had already received all that I ever wanted. 

The Phone Call

One of the best moments in my life, one that occurs day after day, and year after year is the time when my two grandchildren, Emma and Jake, call me on Facetime before school.  They call from their kitchen, either finishing breakfast or after breakfast, already dressed, ready for school.  Lately they even have their mask around their necks, totally prepared for the day ahead. The calls started many years ago, when Emma first started school.  I don’t remember how it started, but once it did it never stopped, except when there were no classes.  On holidays I miss the calls, and in the summer I miss them the most, but I don’t say anything so that they don’t feel obligated.  Once school starts it continues whether I am in Florida or New York, and the Facetime call is as consistent as the sun rising every morning.  I know the kids also call their grandma in Korea every morning before me, but I don’t know how much they talk, or for how long.  I just know my time with them, and I just know how much it means to me.  No matter how I feel, what my mood is, or what is happening in my life at that moment, I get to have the positive vibes that only grandchildren can give.  I never once got the impression this was an obligation for them.  They never once looked like they wish they did not have to call EVERY morning.  Not once.  That is the blessing.  I know as they get older that attitude might not last but for now, and for the last few years it has not changed. 

So, what do we talk about?  During the year when Lauren would drive them both to different schools, we would be on the phone a total of 45 minutes.  That’s a long time to keep their attention.  Of course, I would ask them questions about school, friends, after school activities, etc. and sometimes they were interested in answering (Emma most of the time, Jake not much), but soon after this started, I realized we needed to have fresh material.  A few years ago, I made a video of me cleaning the spiders out of the lanai in Florida.  Pat videoed taped it and I put on a show while I was brushing all the spiders off the lanai walls.  The kids loved the video so the next morning I printed a picture of a spider and named him Sammy.  I showed the picture to the kids telling them he was real, and he was a new pet of mine.  I created a voice for him, and we interacted with Sammy for very many mornings.  A year later they mentioned Sammy, so I know it was a hit.  Another time I started a game called “guess what this is.”  We would show each other an obscure item from the house and try to guess what it was.  We went over every item in the kitchen and on my desk.  They were always shocked that I knew what everything was.  Their gleeful disappointment made me so happy. 

Emma always went first on the facetime chats, since she went earlier to school.  Jake would sit quietly while Emma would show me first her sneakers, her clothing outfit for the day, her hair bows (JoJo bows were in) and then her schoolwork, projects or current pictures she was drawing.  After hearing Lauren’s loving “Emma get your backpack, the bus is coming, or your ride is here”, she would run out of the house, and it was Jake’s turn.  He would show me his picachu (a pokemon character) shirt, and then he would be a little quiet as he got lost rolling a ball on the kitchen table.  I never mind when he is busy just doing something at the breakfast table.  Just watching him was enough for me.  Being the inquisitive one, then he would stop and would ask questions about something on his mind.   Of course, to find the answer we would google it.  I would flip my phone screen so he would be able to see my computer screen, and we researched things like weird insects, dinosaurs, sharks, or the value of pokemon cards.  So many times, we are both learning things together, and what a joy that is. 

The year that Lauren drove them both to different schools was especially enjoyable for me.  I would ride along with them, in the car, first to drop Emma off and then Jake.  Jake would carry the phone, every morning into the school, through the front entrance where he would introduce me to his friends, and then into the hallway of the school where so often I would say hi to his teachers.  Most mornings everyone who past him by in the hall would have a friendly “Hello Grandpa” for me.  I am so proud of Jake that he doesn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to walk into school talking to his grandpa and letting everyone know it! 

The love the two of them show me every single morning brings tears to my eyes.  I never hang up from them without saying how fortunate I am.  Lauren, their mom and my wonderfully caring daughter in law started this.  I don’t know if she reminds them every morning or if they remind her, but I am grateful nonetheless to her.  They are her and Jon’s creation, and they are perfection.  The call never ends without them both saying that they love me, and that I tell them that I love them.  I feel a part of their life, daily, and am so grateful for this. Emma and Jake have so many years ahead of them, so many adventures and experiences that will be so amazing.  I hope they remember these days when their morning started with a friendly call to grandpa.  I know that these memories will be with me forever. 

A Story from My Past; Out of our Element

My brother Russ was married to a very sweet woman, Karen, who also lived in Brooklyn. We lived across the street from this very large park called Marine Park, and Karen lived on the other side of the park. I’m not sure how they met, but they fell in love and eventually got married.

Aunt Karen had very interesting parents. Dorothy was a very large and tall woman, with an outdated beehive hairdo who never left the house. She was a true recluse, who got all of her food delivered from the local deli. The only time she would ever go out of the house was one evening a week, when she would go to George’s Restaurant and Bar on Flatbush Avenue near her house. She never drove a car so she would take a car service. They knew her well there since she never missed a weeks visit. She would dress in pink chiffon dresses, with jet black dyed hair and being about 6 feet tall she was a true sight to be seen. There was no one nicer, or more innocent than Dorothy. Walter, Karen’s dad was the complete opposite on every level. He was a tough, gruff, ex con who had connections that we, as innocent Jew’s from across the park could never imagine. We knew he had a trucking business, and we knew who ran the trucking industry but that was all we knew.

Now for the story. After Uncle Russ and Aunt Karen were married Walter told Uncle Russ that if anything ever happened to him he should find a guy on the waterfront named Pimpinelli. He knew Dorothy could never handle anything on her own so he gave this task to his son in law. As you can imagine, one day, unfortunately Walter died. Uncle Russ immediately calls me to help him figure out what to do to help the Widow Hannon. (That was Dorothy’s last name)

We knew that Walter had a small office somewhere on the waterfront so we went there. It turned out Walter owned two trucks, and had a desk in a seedy office. When we got there, we found the two drivers that worked for him. The diesel tractor trucks were parked but still running. I asked them why are they running? Are you making a delivery? They said no, that if they turned off the trucks they would not start gain. These trucks are so old that they can’t be restarted so they run them all night. Okay! Now I see what we are working with. Being me, I go right to his desk. I find a stack of checks, and some paperwork, and I can then figure out what kind of business Walter had. His trucks would pick up containers from ships at the docks and deliver them. The containers were the ones you see all the time, and they sit on carriages which the trucks pull. Then he returns the carriages to the dock. He got paid a few hundred dollars for each delivery. How the drivers got paid I have no idea. I doubt there was pay stubs in this picture. Of course, the docks and the entire waterfront was run by the Italian Mafia, so this is where the story gets more interesting. We have to find Pimpinelli!

Uncle Russ and I feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable in these environs. We had to talk to people who know we don’t belong there; about things we know nothing about. But we need to help Dorothy so we push on. We ask around if anyone knows where we can find a man named Pimpinelli. If we didn’t look so pathetic, they probably would have killed us right then and there. We were told that he can be found most days at a certain address in Red Hook Brooklyn. We went to this block in Red Hook and if I tell you, it was all dilapidated buildings, I would be nice to the description. No one was on the block, and it looked like no one could or would live on this street. We found the building and knocked on the door. While we were shaking in our shoes, someone answered the door, and we politely asked if someone named Pimpinelli was there. He said to come in and we did. Inside the place was gorgeous. Expensive wood paneling and very fancy furniture. It turned out that we wandered into a mafia clubhouse, and this guy pointed to a graying, potbellied man, immaculately dressed in a suit and tie, with an apron tied over it, standing at the stove cooking a huge pot of sausage and peppers for the boys. I could not make this up.

Yes, we were out of our element.

We politely asked if we could have a word with him. He took us to the side and we told him the story about how Walter Hannon told us one day if anything happened to him, we should find a man named Pimpinelli and ask him for help. We told him that we find ourselves with this small trucking company and we are trying to sell it so that Walter’s widow, the Widow Hannon could live. He, of course knew Walter, and said he would see what he could do. He would call us in a few days. We thanked Pimpinelli and gladly left this place.

A few days later Uncle Russ gets a call from Pimpinelli to meet him at this other address on the waterfront. We go there, and are led into a large, beautiful and impressive conference room with huge windows overlooking the river. Sitting in this room are younger men, all dapper looking, in suits and ties, but with an air of danger surrounding them. We don’t get introduced to anyone there but are given a chance to plead our case. We explain that we are hoping that they can help us liquidate the trucking company so that Walter’s widow will have money to live on. We know we are totally at their mercy and we say so. We know that Walter had some low-lying connection with them and so we hope for the best. They acknowledge that they heard us and tell us politely to leave. We go outside the conference room and wait for the verdict.

Soon after we are told that they will buy the trucks and seedy desk for $50,000. We are grateful beyond measure. It is the only time in my business career that I didn’t negotiate. Dorothy got her money, and was able to be carefree about cash for the rest of her life. And so that you know that she was such a nice person, she gave me Walter’s aging Cadillac as a thank you for helping. As I always say, as crazy as things might seem, it always works out in the end.

Reflections on Thanksgiving 2020

This year, 2020, will go down in history as an incredibly trying year.  Since the early spring there has been much fear in the air, due to a worldwide pandemic.  It has been 8 months already, and there are many more months ahead of us filled with death and suffering before a vaccine should become available.  When thousands die each day from this disease you know it affects everyone.  When millions of people in our country must wait on huge lines at food banks, because of economic hardship, you know it affects so many Americans with even more fear than just getting sick.

During this Thanksgiving holiday it might feel exceedingly difficult to find things in which to be grateful for.  Having the “wisdom to accept the things I cannot change” gives me an opportunity to find my gratitude even during a time like this.    

On Thanksgiving Day my whole family came together in one way or another.  Pat and I are blessed with an exceptionally large immediate family.  Children and grandchildren, significant others, fiancés and even some recently married.  We are so blessed, and I absolutely love them all.  However, COVID has made it that we cannot be with any of them on this most celebrated holiday.  Pat and I, for our own safety must leave them to celebrate on their own.  Sure, I feel terrible that many of them will be together, and we will be alone.  But they are all so beautiful, and I feel such gratitude for having them all in my life.  The adult children will cook the food, take care of our house, and make sure that this wonderful holiday is celebrated as it always is.  Pat cooked so many of the family favorites and left it for them, but they are baking, and cooking also to make sure that our family does not miss a beat. 

Jake and Emma will miss us, and that is a tribute to our close relationship with them, of which I am most grateful.  They know we are travelling by car to Florida, so they made us a snack bag of our favorite candy to eat on the way and wrote the most amazing cards to us to travel safe and enjoy Thanksgiving.  Since we all could not be together, we did the 2020 version of safely getting together.  We did a Zoom.  We had Mike and Mell in Lakeland, Eric and Katie quarantining at home in Queens, Caitlin, Greg, Jon, Lauren, Emma and Jake in Plainview, with cousins Glenn and Brittany, Sharon in Baldwin, and Pat and I in Naples. 

This will be an incredibly positive Thanksgiving despite the pandemic, due to the love our whole family has for each other.   My family is the greatest gift I have been given in my life.  Pat and I created a blended family, and our greatest blessing is that our children see each other as brothers and sisters, with never a “step” mentioned.  This holiday proved to me that it is not the two of us that makes it so amazing, but the 13 of us, and our loving feelings for each other. 

Really, under any circumstances, who could ask for anything more?

Enough is Enough

Today a book by Bob Woodward came out disclosing how Trump knew about the seriousness of Covid-19 in the beginning of February.  He played tapes of Trump’s own voice saying how it was a very serious disease.  He then for the next month told the American people that it was not a serious problem and that one day soon it would just go away.  He did this, downplaying the virus for political reasons.  Now, 200,000 American deaths later I (we) realize that this is proof that he manipulated politics and many American’s died because of it.  I was upset with this disclosure and wrote a Facebook post insulting Trump and anyone who voted for him.  I realized, a short time later, that I might be alienating people close to me, friends and family.  I also realized that I have become part of the “divisiveness problem” in our nation.  So I wrote this on Facebook. 

Note to my Facebook Friends

First of all, I want to apologize if I have offended anyone with my most recent comments about Donald Trump. 

I only have my personal opinions, and they are no more valid than anyone else’s opinion.   During this time in our history so much rhetoric, and politics affect us.  It is hammered into us daily, by both sides, especially so close to an election.  I realize that most likely how we each feel about the coming election will not change, because we have formed our personal opinions based on how we each see the world, and that differs greatly from person to person.  So many people that I love, admire, and respect for things other than politics have different opinions than I.  It would be a sin to hurt those very important relationships. 

Therefore, I pledge to keep my opinions to myself from now until the election.  I pledge to not have inflammatory conversations with anyone regarding these topics, and most important, I PLEDGE TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 3, and live with the decision the great people of the United States will make on election day.

The Great Divide

There is so much divisiveness in our country today.  Unfortunately, division has become a part of our society.  It hits us in the face constantly, and sometimes it can even be between us and people we love and otherwise respect. Passions arise over everything from politics, to birth control, and gun control. If we disagree with someone, not only do we see different sides of an issue, but sometimes we get angry and try to change the other persons beliefs.  Due to this divisiveness we seem to be losing respect for each other.  There has always been disagreement.  It is this loss of respect and anger for the other side that makes me most uncomfortable.  I think a big reason for this comes from above. Our president reflects anger all the time. He shows anger to reporters whenever they bring up something he doesn’t want to talk about.  He has called politicians who disagree with him ugly and disrespectful names.  Instead of respecting other opinions and other people, he gets angry at anyone who disagrees with him.  Agree or disagree with his policies, his reactions aren’t the epitome of decency.  Great leaders welcome those with different opinions so that the discussion might lead to a solution.  This type of politics leads to an uncomfortable divide in our country.  However, this is not what I am thinking about right now.

There is a difference of opinion today that has valid arguments for both sides.  It’s more important than whether to have more guns, or less guns.  It’s even more important than right to life choices.  The Great Divide is over what to do about our country’s reaction to the pandemic and the situation that we find ourselves in.  We all know the facts.  The deaths from this will exceed 100,000 people in a VERY short time.  How we became the largest victim in the world of the Coronavirus doesn’t really need to be discussed in this moment.  There will be time for that later.  Now we need answers.  The question really boils down to which do we value more, the economy or our citizens lives.  The facts are pretty clear.  If we don’t open up our economy soon there will be more and more damage and it will take a long time to recover. I understand when a person says that they need to work to pay all their bills.  Most working people are not at the risk that older people are.  But if we open up the economy, as we are doing right now in so many states, the death toll will continue to rise, and most of those people who die will be over age 60.  If we don’t open up the economy there could be economic damage that takes years to reverse.  If we do it too fast many of our loved ones will die.

What an insane choice!

As time goes on, and the death toll reacts the way the experts say it will the Great Divide will get bigger.  Already people are saying to older, and more vulnerable people, “If you are worried, stay inside!  It’s your choice, but I have to go to work.”  I get that.  I’m over age 60 and don’t have the financial worries you have, but on the other hand, you don’t have the life and death worries I have.  What a terrible position we find ourselves in.

One thing I hope for is decency and understanding.  This will end, eventually, with either a valid treatment, and/or a vaccine.  In the meantime, let’s find common ground and respect for both sides.  I think we are angry because of the situation we find ourselves in, and not because others disagree with us.  And please believe the scientists, and doctors who are experts in this field.  This is not the first time we have faced a horror such as this.  The experts know what to do.  They don’t deal in opinions.  They deal in facts.  We must reject political answers or self-serving politicians on both sides of the aisle. The experts are all in agreement on how to handle this dilemma.  Let’s be grateful that we have such renowned doctors and scientists and follow their intelligence.