Jan. 31, 2012
Today is my late mothers 90th birthday. We sometimes had words. For starters, she couldnt abide George W. Bush. Of my last visit in 2005, however, my memories are sweet. I did not know how ill she was. She told me how my dad had proposed to her. They shared a love of poetry, especially Robert Burns. Praising the Scots lyrical Mary Morison, Ma Jo (My Joy), my father said: If you marry me, your name will be Mary Morrison. What poetry lover could resist?
My mother told me how shed walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight during World War II. She crossed over walking arm-in-arm with her young sisters-in-law. The kicker: I was carrying you then, she said. We differed strongly on abortion, but I will always cherish those stories she gave me as her parting gifts.
Frieda was the mother of one of my best friends in high school. Often, Id drop by their home, looking for my friend. Id often linger talking politics with Frieda and her husband, Irv, even if my friend was not at home. Irv was a Democratic zone leader in our town. Frieda did not suffer from polio. She suffered from nothing. Her lively talk distracted me from the special shoes and hobbling gait that polio had inflicted on her. She was totally like her beloved FDR. He, too, used witty repartee to distract everyone from his polio. Frieda and Irv named their black Scottish terrier after FDRs little dog, Fala, and they moved to his town of Hyde Park when they retired. Frieda and Irv instilled in me an indelible memory of the Holocaust and a deep concern for Israel.
In the midst of many a passionate debate on Fridays, all talk would come to a halt as the sun set. Frieda would be transformed from a strong advocate to a glowing follower of Judaism. Were political liberals, she told me, but were conservative Jews She lived her faith. I envision Frieda putting on a veil-like head covering and ceremonially lighting the Shabbos candles. Frieda would say the prayers that welcomed the Sabbath like a treasured guest.
Last week, on January 22nd, of all days, my wife, our daughter, and I helped celebrate Maries eightieth birthday. She has been like a cherished aunt to my daughter and son-in-law ever since they moved into her town several years back. Maries late husband, Joe, had been my seventh grade civics teacher. Joe later volunteered to be my campaign manager when I ran for the New York State Assembly. Joe drove me to Albany to meet the leaders of our party. Learning I had not previously visited our state capital, he said: You must say a shehechayanu, a Hebrew prayer for the first time you do anything. Joes father was a rabbi who made an aliya to Israel. His father had taught him: Blessed art Thou, O L-rd, Master of the Universe, that Thou hast preserved us in life to savor this experience for the first time. And Joe taught it to me. When I took a public stand against abortion, Joe was upset. He told me Marie disagreed strongly, too. But he and Marie never stopped working hard for my election. Frieda and Irv never slackened any effort for me, either.
As I think of these pro-choice women I have loved, I am most grateful for their being in my life. My wife and daughter are pro-life. So, I pray, will be our twin granddaughters. Each of these women, I believe, deserved a birth day.