23 February 2013
by Elizabeth Zelvin
Not everybody has good parents. As a kid, I took mine for granted. As an adult, both working as a psychotherapist and in the addictions field and as a mystery writer, paying attention to crime as part of the job description, I learned that dysfunctional families are the norm and some parents the stuff of nightmares: addicts, batterers, child molesters.
My parents were both first generation immigrants: my mother from Hungary at age four, my dad from Ekaterinaslav (Dnieprpetrovsk during the Soviet era) in the Ukraine at age six. Both were encouraged to assimilate, to become Americans, as quickly as possible. Both spoke English without an accent, and both got started on the American dream by entering law school in 1921. That's where they met. By the time they graduated, three years later, my father had already proposed—and been rejected. The family story went that Dad, who was honest, hardworking, and unambitious his whole life, made the mistake of telling Mom, “Judy, I’ll never be rich.” What young girl would go for that so early in life?
My dad’s whole legal career took place at a salaried, low-pressure job. My mother, more ambitious, had to deal with the gender barrier of the time. She ended up writing and editing legal books, got a doctorate in political science at sixty-nine, and taught Constitutional law as an adjunct professor in her seventies. They loved to travel. In their eighties, they were still jumping around on glaciers on a trip to Alaska. My father did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink every Sunday. My mother was an indefatigable swimmer who could never resist a chance to go in any body of water in her vicinity—in her underwear on the rare occasion when she hadn’t brought a bathing suit. She swam in the ocean till ninety and in the bay till ninety-five.
There are many stories I could tell, but for now, let me say:
Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad!
Posted by Elizabeth Zelvin at 00:01