Foreword by Stan Lerner: my dear friend, the great writer, Alec Silverman has mentioned to me, on more than one occasion, that he and perhaps other readers would like a more personal glimpse into my life—one that does not look through my comfortable prism of fiction. Alec suggested a memoir, but for now I can only offer a eulogy—a eulogy that I wrote a few years ago for my Aunt Rose, which until now had never been published.
Dear Aunt Rose,
I wish I could say these words myself, but my heart is too heavy to speak, forgive me. I know my sister feels the same way, as both of us have always loved, and will always love you in the deepest place in our hearts.
To say your name, is to say a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a great grandmother, a friend to many, a business woman, a woman who God blessed with almost a century of life, a success in every possible way. When I say these words to myself, they flow so easily that it gives me pause. The magnitude of a life so well lived is not easily comprehended. A woman of such strength, dignity, stature, and humility, your life towers over most, yet it is your loving smile and kind eyes that always come to mind.
As a young child I felt a special bond with your mother, my own beloved grandmother. A matriarch who possessed the strength and the foresight to move her family from the small village you were born in, to Canada, and then to America. You left a land ruled by a Czar where Jews cowered and barely survived. It was a place where the darkest days of mankind were soon to come. You left to a place of good life, religious freedom, and endless possibility. I think of your parents, my grandparents, and I am utterly humbled by their sacrifices for our family. In my earliest memories I see the way you cared for Grandma in your own home. The warmth, the love, the dedication, could any mother have asked for more? Even as a small child I could see that Grandma, the woman who gave us all so much, saw much of herself in you.
Your brother, my beloved father, simply held you in awe. My dad was a man of many words, yet he was difficult to know. This was not the case with respect to you or Aunt Gerry. My father, a man of large physical stature, a man of considerable intellectual prowess, a man who served his country with distinction during World War II looked up to you and loved you so. I don’t think there was anything my father wouldn’t have done for you. He told me once that you and Aunt Gerry had been so good to him that it troubled him that he had no way to reciprocate.
It’s impossible to think of you and not think of your husband, my Uncle Chuck. Certainly, it’s no surprise that you married such a wonderful man. I saw how you worked by his side, hard work and long hours. How did you do it? What a joy it was to see you two together. My sister Sarah, also known as Pappi, would take those little paper bags that you would give her at Chuck’s Liquor Store and fill them with candy. I think it was the little root-beer barrels she liked the most. It always struck me how happy you two were at work and at home. Uncle Chuck was one of the nicest and happiest men I’ve ever known, and I have no doubt that it was in no small part due to having you.
Your daughters, my cousins, you gave to our family these two beautiful girls. After a sixteen-hour day at work, you would wake them from their sleep, and measure them so that you could make their clothes. I wish that all children could have a mother that loved them the way that you loved your daughters. In the year prior to you moving from your home I visited with you often. We would sit in your den, the room where my grandmother once slept, the room where I would sit with Uncle Harry, Uncle Chuck, and my father Norman before family dinners. Those wonderful family dinners that you would have at your house…we would sit there and you would show me family pictures. The love that filled your voice when you handed me pictures of your girls and your grandchildren, not only filled my ears, but my own heart.
As your nephew, your brother’s youngest son, I can only feel incredibly blessed to have an aunt such as you. And, because I am selfish, I am incredibly saddened that you have gone on to a better place. As I write these words, memories flood into my mind. The booties and the blankets you knitted with your own hands for your family, and for people that you didn’t even know. I see you and Uncle Chuck in that big black Cadillac coming to my parent’s home after having played some golf. I see you out on your driveway washing your car at an age when you probably shouldn’t have been…
You were born into a world that was drawn by horses, and only the strong survived. You listened to music that played on a phonograph. You watched radio and later television. The horse gave way to the car, as did the train to the plane, in your lifetime. You witnessed man’s first steps on the moon. The phone, the fax, the cell phone, the Internet you saw all of this. And yet, never lost sight of that which was truly important.
In a world that is difficult to trust, you were a rock. You were always there for me. You celebrated my successes and you comforted me in my times of sadness. Extraordinarily, you stood by me during troubles that most did not. Of course you did, because you were a great woman that understood the meaning of family. With your passing from this world your family has lost its last link to the old country, its link to the past. The world has lost a gentle giant of a woman, not large in physical size, but colossal in strength and character. Your nephew has lost his Aunt Rose. You were and always will be one of the best parts of my life. I know ninety-four years in this world was a long time, but it was not long enough for me.
I close my eyes and see all of us at the table. It’s Thanksgiving, it’s break the fast, it’s Passover. I’ve slid down your stairs with Ryan and Jana. I’ve sat in the den with the men of the family. Uncle Chuck has made drinks. Keith has explained to me that his shirts are handmade. My dad has explained to Keith that he shouldn’t be explaining these things to me. My dad really loved Keith, probably more than Keith ever knew. Uncle Harry has smiled that movie star smile. Uncle Harry was a great man. Ronnie has walked in and changed the topic to Nixon. Back in the dining room Angie complains that she is too old to sit at the kid’s table. I explain to her that she is certainly not. I look around the table and think this is my family. How blessed am I? I blink and I’m sitting by your side for what will turn out to be the last time. We talk about old times and you smile, your eyes twinkle, and like all those years ago…I think to myself, how blessed am I? How blessed we have all been to be part of your family.