This letter was a little hard for me to transcribe. It’s from 2011, when my dad was 79, still living on his own in his condo. His health would start failing soon after, and by the time we went to South Florida a year later for his 80th birthday, I believe he had moved up to Jacksonville to live with my brother. A year after that he was diagnosed with the cancer that he would beat back twice before it killed him in 2015.
That said, this letter is funny and very very Harv — even though it is, by and large, positive. It’s a response to a long letter I wrote him when I couldn’t sleep one night, worried that he was sad and lonely. My sister and I used to talk about this a lot, worried that he didn’t have friends or do much; eventually we came to terms with the fact that Harv was just kinda antisocial in his later years, and happy as a clam like that. At least that’s what he said, as you’ll read below. And who were we to argue? But before we came to that conclusion, I wrote him a letter with all these suggestions of how to spend his time, including the adoption of a pet and a list of local museums and organizations with special programs for community members in general and seniors in particular. Remember, my father didn’t use the internet; I thought my Google-fu would be a godsend for him. Turns out, not so much.
A little context to explain some contents of the letter:
- Phyllis was a woman who my father dated, on and off, over the course of at least five years. She lived in his apartment building when we were all still up in NY. They had a very tumultuous relationship, and yet, not long before he retired in his late 50s (having taken the offer of an early pension from the public school system where he’d taught phys. ed. for more than 30 years), Harv married Phyllis. The marriage lasted about eight months.
- In 2006 my dad and I went on a cruise with my brother, his son, then-wife, and her parents. Harv and I shared a stateroom so, when I caught a nasty norovirus (likely from spending time in the arcade, touching video games that had been handled by all the filthy, sticky children) halfway through the trip, we were both quarantined. Once we were cleared, he returned to his deck chair and I went on a hike on St. John. The next morning he came down with the same norovirus — only worse because I was 34 and he was 72 — and we were again quarantined together.
Once again, all spelling and punctuation oddities are Harv’s
Sun Nov 27th (2011)
My dearest daughter,
Words to express the joy and smiles your letter gave me escape me. Suffice it to say thank you. What a good feeling I have to know you think of me (albeit at 5 am) with such love and warmth.
I’m sorry that when we talk you feel that there is a twinge of sadness in my voice. Perhaps it’s that I wish I was 65 again. On the other hand if I can live to my mother’s age I still have 20 years to go. My darling daughter, just imagine your life with the following: 1) healthy and still cute 2) living in an upscale condo with a very nice entertainment center nearby that offers all sorts of courses, entertainment and other good stuff 3) not having to work and getting paid hundreds of dollars every month 4) lovely weather 5) the opportunity to do whatever you felt like doing whenever you feel like it. And thats my life, not bad at all. Throw in 3 lovely children and 4 grandchildren and that aint bad. I hesitate to add a bunch of other stuff as there is that old Yiddish saying of Poo Poo & spitting over your right shoulder to ward off the good fortune genie.
All of the suggestions you listed are wonderful. In reference to a dog, the condo board does not permit dogs (thank god). I’m toying with the idea of a fish tank.
I don’t know if I can put into words my thoughts of what I am. I admit to myself I am selfish as to what I want to do and when I want to do it. I’m not a snob, but I found I am happier by myself doing “my thing(s)” than with others. I don’t seem to enjoy socializing a great deal. Although I’d rather be around the French Canadians than the other residents here. They seem to have a broader view of life than the “Jewish” elderly.
In short I have come to terms with what I like and do not like. I’m 93% happy with my life. 93% as I remember “show me a man who smiles all the time and he should be in an asylum.” So 93% seems like a good number.
I read, exercise, play a little golf, do xword puzzles and putter around my apartment fixing things. I’ve seen the whales, been on a cruise (need I say more about that), been cross country with my family in a motorhome.
I look back on my life and my experiences fondly (although I still can’t figure out why I married Phyllis) (Must have been the sex.)
I’m disallusioned (God I cant spell) with politics, and have decided to leave the battle to the young. I’m of the “Golden generation.” Pension, health care, modern medicine. God knows if + when we will see those benefits again. In short my dear, I am a happy man. Albeit slightly eccentric in some of y ways, but happy with what I am and what I have.
So my dear, when I get my car, which should be soon, I can then drive to the beach, sit at the outdoor bar on the beach and watch the waves and the young girls go by. I sleep when I’m tired eat when I’m hungry and for the most part laugh with and about my life. So don’t you read into my voice anything negative (Perhaps the twinge you hear is because I have my teeth out)
I thank you for your love and concern. All is well.
Love the father
Give a hug to the hubby as well
You guys are un my prayers and I think of you often.