A Tribute To My Brother On His 81st Birthday
Notes on time’s inexorable—well, you know….
By Ed Goldman
When I wasn’t quite eight years old we moved to California and spent the first few months staying with my dad’s parents in an apartment house they owned in Elsinore. The Riverside County town’s main amenities at the time included a dried-up lake, sulfur-laced water coming out of the tap and an abundance of retirees darting about the desert town in golf carts—without, I might add, an abundance of driving skills.
Jerry Goldman at 80. Photo by Joan Bernstein Goldman.
One day, my parents, grandparents and Jerry’s and my middle brother Stuart drove to Lakewood to attend the funeral of my dad’s kid sister, Lillian. She’d died of cancer at the age of 33. They left Jerry to take care of me, figuring I was too young to see someone get buried (in hindsight, a very wise decision).
He and I walked down the very steep hill into town, where he took me to lunch and bought me a Stetson cowboy hat (we were major fans of western movies and TV shows, especially any cowboy film with John Wayne and ABC-TV’s “Cheyenne” starring Clint Walker). We listened to some ancient musicians play Dixieland jazz in the town’s old-fashioned bandstand gazebo and Jerry bought me an ice cream cone.
When it came time for the walk back up the hill, Jerry took pity on his pudgy little food-stuffed brother and carried me all the way up that very steep hill on piggyback.
Because we’re nine years, 10 months and three days apart—and have been since I was born, so don’t bother to check my math or an astrological map—I’ve enjoyed when we were in the same decade for a couple of months. For example, if I turned 20 on November 15th, he got to be 29 until January 12th, not quite two months later. This situation has continued unabated through the past half century, and by now I’m sure we both find it mildly aggravating.
There had been two kids between us: My sister Karen, who died at a year-and-a-half old, long before I made my debut; and then my brother Stuart, who died in his early 50s when Baxter Laboratories sent out batches of gamma globulin tainted with Hepatitis C. Stu had been getting regular infusions because he was tired of getting more colds than Jerry and I did and was on a quest to build up his immunity. The tragic result was that he contracted Hep C and this lifelong non-drinker thereafter developed cirrhosis. He died waiting for a liver transplant at Stanford University.
Baxter, of course, denied any responsibility. Stu’s attorneys managed to get Baxter to fork over $2.2 million to my brother even though the company had been so clearly innocent of any wrongdoing but apparently enjoyed giving away money in class action lawsuits (and there were many).
Jerry and I were understandably devastated by the wasteful death of our respectively younger and older brother—Jerry even more so because he admired so much about Stu, an engineer who owned a dimensional inspection lab in Freemont and which, like many Bay Area tech firms, had grown by leaps and bounds and beeps and boings.
This left two brothers separated by nearly a decade, interests and jobs to pick up the pieces, realizing that soon, each was all the other would have left of his original, immediate family. Our dad had died at 60 in 1976, though our mom didn’t pass until 2006, when she was 88.
Jerry once said to me that our mom’s longevity boded well for our own survival prospects. I felt compelled to point out that our mom didn’t, as I do, smoke cigars or drink vodka martinis. “Yeah, but I don’t,” he said with a wide grin.
It reminded me of the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto getting surrounded by a warring tribe of Apaches. The Lone Ranger says, “We are in serious trouble, Tonto,” to which Tonto replies by glancing out at the approaching Indians dressed just like him and says, “Whaddaya mean ‘we?'”
In his career Jerry was a revered high school baseball and football coach and a teacher. He’s the father of two grown kids and the husband of more than three decades to my adored sister-in-law, Joanie, also a retired teacher. They lived in Houston for 30+ years but had to sell their home because of near-irreparable damage caused by near-biblical rains in 2015. They now live in Watsonville.
At 81, my brother is still movie-star handsome. But his years as an athlete have taken their toll on his otherwise still-strong body. He uses a cane but he does so with determination.
The Flying Goldman Brothers: Jerry, Stuart and Ed, circa 1974
One year, our mom had sweatshirts made for Jerry, Stuart and me after she saw a rare photo of us together as adults which I dubbed “The Flying Goldman Brothers,” as though we were a once-celebrated trapeze act, reunited for a photo op.
The sweatshirts indeed said “The Flying Goldmans”—and each of us in turn, we later shared with one another, was questioned about it when we wore them. I’d always answer we had in fact been circus acrobats—and then I’d move along before I’d get further questioned about it or not be able to stifle my laugh.
Jerry and I are now senior citizens and no longer share a decade. Along the way, we’ve lost our parents and siblings and other loved ones. But we’ve stayed in contact with each other and still share a love for westerns and for some reason, that Lone Ranger joke. And I have a feeling that if the day comes when neither of us can make it up a steep hill, we’ll still carry each other home.
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank
photo by Phoebe Verkouw
Charles Dickens began his marvelous novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with this lengthy but valuable sentence:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
How the Dickens could the author of “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist”, “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Great Expectations” have been so accurate about the years 2020-22?
Most of us thought (and hoped) that after the horrors of 2020, when COVID-19 first began its terrifying reign, 2021 would look brighter—and by 2022, the pandemic would be a tragic glimpse in our collective rearview mirror.
But it was not to be—at least not yet. With the emergence of the Omicron variant and the continuous pummeling we’ve received from the Delta variant, things have turned topsy-turvy once again. CDC and OSHA and some other conflicting agency guidelines seem to change daily, the masks we reluctantly wore are now being found to be not enough so we’d better switch to ones made of new material, restaurants are open (no, they’re closed; no, they’re open) and we’re all being urged to return/not return to our offices, and our kids to embrace school at home.
I do think we’re exhibiting a greater psychological resilience this time around, growing to accept COVID as a part of our lives, as influenza finally became. But we can’t ignore that the pandemic threw off not only our home lives but also our business planning.
For our part, Golden Pacific Bank is continuing apace, offering online and telephone banking, drive-up windows and, of course, in person services. We want everyone to be safe and healthy but we also recognize that daily commerce, despite the continuing disruptions, doesn’t rest.
So don’t give in to the worst of these times; plan for the best of them because they’ll be back. And that’s a promise you can take to the bank!