And it’s high time she knows it.
Once upon a time, I introduced my mother, Nettie Eisenberg, to her favorite soap opera star.
A Mother’s Smile
I Had the Opportunity to Make My Mother’s Dream Come True. She’s Still Smiling.
I felt fantastic about this, thrilled I was able to create a once-in-a-lifetime (or so I thought) memory for the woman in my life … who taught me how to love.
As a Child I Loathed Affection
Kissing was verboten, and I was not a hugger. That made for one very lonely child.
The more interesting part of this, however, at least to me, is the absolute belief that I had been fortuned with the world’s greatest upbringing. My dad, who passed on January 11, 2011, was in so many ways the finest man I had ever known; my mom, well, she remains the epitome of everything a mother is supposed to be: one who loves without judgement.
Back then, I was so shy as to be stand-offish. I had friends early on, during my native Brooklyn days to age 7, then Aurora, Colorado until 11 — where we all relocated in a largely successful effort to help me lose my asthma — and back to New York, newly healthy.
Somewhere along the lines, though, extreme shyness gripped me and I stopped relating to other people. I was bored with the daily routine, and in my retreat became uncomfortable around others. I took refuge in monster movies, comic books and writing, finding my world of make believe far more enjoyable than the usual grind of going to school, doing homework, and going to sleep. Though I quietly suffered moments of losing my mind by not having a girlfriend, or a sexual relationship — I had neither until college as I was far too self-conscious — I kept a game face and admitted nothing of my mindset. In high school, as I avoided dating, I was called “fag” and worse. My being straight was of no matter, and I was bullied mercilessly.
I became angry.
Dad was offended and ready to stomp into the school and confront the principal. Mom spoke to me and told me not to listen to the “bad kids,” because I was “a good kid.” I needed that validation.
Mom, like Dad, was always there for me. One day when I forgot my lunch, my teacher stopped the classroom cold.
“Joel, you’re mother’s here,” she shouted.
The kids were laughing in their unease, even more so when my mom entered the classroom, standing by the doorway, waving my bag lunch.
I was mortified, and subsequently teased for weeks as students would shake their lunch bags when I entered the cafeteria.
But … others have forgotten their lunches before. None of their mothers drove 10 miles in snow, as did mine, so they could eat. Not a one.
Today, I look upon this incident with appreciation.
And these as well:
- Whenever I was short on funds, Mom was always the first to offer help;
- She set me up on blind dates, because she cared and wanted me to be happy;
- She always bought my favorite TV dinners (trust me, that was a thing);
- She did not spoil me, she treated me with respect and love at all times. There’s a difference.
- She was the first to welcome me and my brothers when we returned home from school.
- Mom, to this date, is a worrier. She gets emotional when it comes to her children. Her heart is extra-large, and we worry about her too.
- She was a Den Mother when I joined the Boy Scouts, and always the first to volunteer in an effort to help me find my way.
She did help me in innumerable ways, spoken and not, to break out of my shell. I became quite the affectionate kid moving forward. I realized I had no reason to be so angry as I was so loved.
I was one of the lucky ones. I just needed to open my eyes, was all.
I was happy in college. I found my space, and many like-minded friends. Most importantly, to me, I had a steady girlfriend for two years.
Following college, I moved to Los Angeles to begin my journey as a professional writer. I’ll never forget the look in Mom’s eyes as I pulled away in a U-Haul, about to drive cross-country.
She barely held up, and yet managed to offer a supportive nod, and wink. Dad did his best to be strong for her. He was biting his lip, his jaws clenched.
I can only imagine what went on by the time I got to the end of the block.
Mom wrote me every week. Every single week. 52 snail-mailed letters a year, every year, for a decade.
I kept each and every one. After some catch up, they went a little something like this:
I just want you to know that I love you, and I love that you are fighting for your dreams. We both miss you so much. We’re proud of you. Keep going, save your money, and let me know if you meet anyone new!
The Jewish mother thing, you know.
The college girlfriend and I split, and I married at 36 to a terrific lady. Mom’s letters stopped. Finally, a new woman was able to take care of her oldest boy.
She was cool with that.
A Promise Kept
Just before Dad died, I spent a week writing his obituary. I created a story out of it, which you can read here:
I promised Dad, in that obituary, that I would call Mom every day. My two brothers, Mike and Neil, promised to do the same.
Our parents have meant the world to us, you see.
Today, Mom is a world-traveler. She has a smart phone too. With her still-thick Brooklyn accent, she’s all the more lovable. (“I’m getting new curtains for my windiz.” “Let me tawk. I don’t understand Ubah. I’d rather someone picks me up and drives me somewheah.”) When she becomes frustrated with her cell, we’ll be on the phone for over a half hour figuring out a quick function.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Mom makes me laugh.
She zip-lined for the first time in her 70s, and she dances every weekend. She lives in Florida, has good friends, and is very happy.
Nettie Eisenberg has become a badass.
I’m thrilled for her. My brothers are as well. After a rough start, as they were married nearly 50 years, my mom has thrived since my dad passed.
He would be so proud of her. We all are.
I love you Mom. You oldest boy is so grateful.
Thank you for everything.
As I read through this before pressing the submit button, I asked myself, Why this article. Why now? It is not my goal to simply indulge with this post. I prefer my words to have meaning.
To the moral of this story, then: Tell those who are still around how much they mean to you, how much you love them.
Tell them now, before it’s too late.
As Dad used to say, “Life is far, far too short.”
Thank you for reading, everybody.
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