A Letter to My Folks 2 Days Before Their 84th Anniversary
Because it’s never too late to be maudlin
By Ed Goldman
Dear Mom and Dad,
Had you lived (a very long time), you’d be celebrating your 84th wedding anniversary this Sunday, November 13th.
I remember when I was a little kid, you had some friends up to our New York apartment to celebrate with you. One of them asked me how old I was and I said I’d be five on November 15.
“Why, that’s very soon, Edward,” the woman said.
“Yes, l was born two days after my mommy and daddy got married,” I offered helpfully. It was the first major laugh I’d get in my career as a humorist. (As you know, Mom and Dad, a “humorist” is a comedian who’s never as funny as one might wish.)
We’re lookin’ at you, kid
In reality, I was born two days and 12 years after your wedding, as you know all too well. And before me you had three other kids but Karen (#2) died before I was born and Stuart (#3) died nearly two decades ago. Only Jerry (#1) and I (#4) survive, and frankly, I’m feeling a little under the weather.
I wanted to take a moment to tell you how much the world has changed—and how much it really hasn’t—since your time with the Department of Earth.
We have the Internet now, which allows us to indulge in stupid behavior at a much faster rate than before. We have movies you can have delivered electronically to your home, many of which you’d never have bothered to go out to see. We also no longer have to get off our sofas to change TV channels; not incidentally, many of us are much fatter than the people of your generation.
People still smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol in excess but we’ve added a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals to our menu, many of which are available via that Internet I mentioned a moment ago. I still can’t believe how hysterical your generation was about pot. To indicate how much we’ve learned, we’re now that way about opioids and vaping, which at least we know can harm you. The jury’s still out on pot—and when I went into the room where the panel was sequestered, the air was so thick I came out believing Neptune was trying to kill me.
Your generation had presidents like FDR, HST, DDE and even, for one brief shining moment, JFK. But you also had Herbert Hoover and ultimately, Richard Nixon. At least the former was just tone-deaf. The latter, say what you will, established the Environmental Protection Agency and reopened our relationship with China. It seems that even your so-so leaders weren’t out-and-out villains. We haven’t been so lucky, but I don’t want to upset your resting in peace by offering details. My feelings for you Trump anything I was going to allude to.
We went to space when you were still around and then, once my generation got into power, we stopped going. And we endured a war even longer than WWII, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War combined—a war we neither won nor lost nor are likely bring up on the Presidential campaign trail.
You were still around for the Watergate Hearings and we’ve had our own January 6th Capitol Riot Hearings. Watergate was about a bungled petty theft and January 6th was about the attempted overthrow of the United States. So if you were worried about whether we’d live “larger” than you, and not just in our personal circumferences, I’d put our insurrection up against your Deep Throat anytime.
We now have electric cars. Of course, they were already passé when you were kids, since you were born in 1916 (Pop) and 1917 (Mom) and the first one was invented in 1838—100 years before your wedding. That factoid has nothing to do with anything but I thought you might enjoy knowing I still spend a good deal of time on matters of zero consequence.
We still have hunger—in America, if you can believe it!—and your semi-lovable hobos are now our can’t-hide-them-fast-enough homeless. Our solutions to the problem even incorporate, with different branding, the “Hoovervilles” of your youth, which were named not-exactly-in-honor of the aforementioned Hoover who was the country’s original head honcho of The Great Depression. This time, however, we’re calling the cubicles we’ll try to lure them into for reasons of optics “tiny homes” instead of “shanties.” (“Optics” probably wasn’t part of your vernacular. I think you called them “phony-baloney shenanigans.”)
You had to deal with Joseph Stalin then Nikita Khrushchev; we got stuck with Vladimir Putin, who makes Stalin look like an amateur and Khrushchev look like Santa.
You had the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima to digest, while we had the Twin Towers to remind us that even the strongest nation on the face of the earth is neither invulnerable nor impregnable.
You had the threat of nuclear war. Sometimes, so do we—but this time, the very world you left to us is taking sides. And it’s not ours. It’s called “climate change” and if we don’t get a stranglehold on it, my own kid won’t be writing one of these letters to the late me someday.
I want you to know how much I miss you both. You taught me so many things but the most important was hope.
Whenever I seem to misplace that, a miracle seems to drop into my life. For nearly two years, I’ve been calling her my OSSO—oh-so-significant-other, but in actuality, a wonderful, beautiful woman named Cynthia Larsen—and while Cynthia and I are much older than you were when you began your safari together, I’ve learned that quality of life beats quantity of life every damn time. You also taught me that. Thank you and bless you.
Your loving son, Ed
Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).