Ideapad Journal

My Parents Are Amazing

April 29, 2001

My mother is waking up at seven o'clock Sunday morning to help administer a benefit run for the Rachel Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding women in need.

On May 9 she is being honored by the National Council of Jewish Women with a lifetime achievement award. In her 30 years of involvement she has been a local vice president, founded an acclaimed teenage dating violence program and run a domestic abuse support group, among other responsibilities.

My father spent three years as the president of JVS, a vocational program that helps with job placement and English-language instruction. He is still an active member of its board. He also volunteers as vice president of finance for his golf club, a relatively thankless but essential task.

My parents have probably always been this way, yet only now am I realizing the scope of their generosity and caring.

I am unsure why I never noticed this growing up. I knew my mother volunteered, but it never meant much to me, even when she and Pop encouraged me to get involved in nonprofit functions (they always mentioned it under the guise of my meeting a nice Jewish girl. Amusingly enough, my nice Jewish girlfriend is a proud volunteer herself, although that's not how I met her). I never even knew my father did volunteer work until my mother called me one day to make sure I was free the night of his presidential inauguration dinner.

For a while I quietly accused them of not exposing me to their good deeds. I am starting to understand that they probably never felt the need. They were volunteering for their community and for themselves; they volunteered themselves in other ways to me and my brother. They must have assumed I would figure it out on my own.

I know now that my folks are two of the most selfless people I will ever meet. Nothing is as important as the happiness of the people around them, their sons first and foremost. Every decision is based on others; even between the two of them, it's always what is best for the other -- my mother took up golf because she knew it would make Dad happy, and my father takes care of his health these days because he knows how important it is to his wife. Both are happier people for their decisions, yet they were still made with someone else in mind.

Slowly but surely I am acknowledging and learning from their silent example, and I think my brother is as well. It's an interesting process. Right now, the main result is that no one will ever pick a restaurant when my family goes to dinner. In our car, the answer is _always_ "I'll go wherever you want to go." Which makes us bicker. Someday we'll get the hang of it.

But from this inauspicious beginning comes bigger and better results. I find myself doing myriad little things for my girlfriend that a few years ago I would never have bothered to do (making my bed, making _her_ bed, putting the toilet seat down -- y'know, the important stuff). I buy presents for friends without much thought of reciprocation. I throw in a few bucks extra to ensure no one gets stuck with the bill.

Doesn't sound like much, to be sure, but then, I was the one at the dinner table who used to get yelled at for not sharing.

I don't know why this is just happening now. Maybe I was too close to them. Maybe I was unwilling to recognize their greatness. Maybe I wasn't ready to understand, or to take on the near insurmountable task of being as good as they are.

Regardless, my eyes are open now, and I keep watching and learning, fascinated, amazed, and thankful.

My father wanted to drive me all the way home from New Jersey tonight, across and up Manhattan to my apartment, rather than have me take the inconvenient PATH train into town. When traffic wouldn't allow, he refused to not find an alternative, ultimately taking me all the way to the Hudson River waterfront and sending me on a pleasant ferry ride into the city.

At 7 p.m. on a Saturday evening.

Most parents would have plunked their kids on the local bus. Not mine. They do not know how to not give of themselves.

In time I hope to be every bit as selfless, and tremendous, as they are.



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Copyright © 2001 David Wertheimer. All rights reserved.