My Mom and Larry on a favorite hike in West Marin
I was 23 and in my first job out of college at the Marin Community Foundation in Larkspur, California. My Mom worked down the street.
We met for lunch at our usual spot, and my 55-year old Mom started gushing like a teenager. She told me how she had met a funny red haired man while on a Sierra Club hike. They were in a large group, but fell into step with each other, and spent the afternoon talking and laughing. The hike turned into dinner and a long conversation.
Clearly, she was very smitten.
My parents had divorced eighteen years before, and my Mom kept her focus on raising kids and working hard to support us. She attempted a few dates, but I am afraid that I scared them all off. I was terrible, I mean really terrible. When not throwing death stares their way when they came to pick up my Mom for a date, I found ways to demonstrate horrible manners as a teenager. My poor mother.
As we all moved away to college and our new lives, she started getting interested in health and exercise. She gave up smoking, and started hiking. Always self-determined and strong, she blossomed.
Which led her to that fateful day on a Sierra Club hike.
My Mom and Larry had a whirlwind romance that quickly led to marriage.
I got two new younger brothers, Steven and David. We bonded immediately, which was very easy to do because they were so open and funny. Steven and I would meet for lunch when we were both working in San Francisco, and would howl with laughter about stories inside our respective cubicles.
Larry was Jewish and grew up in a working class neighborhood in The Bronx. He brought a clarity and honesty to my Mom’s life that she loved. “He is right out there,” she used to say with a grin, and I could tell that she derived strength and courage from him. He made her laugh hysterically.
Their love for the outdoors led them to kayak with whales in Baja, hike between chalets in Austria, and explore islands in the Galapagos. Nature was their joy, their temple, their shared passion.
Larry faced a number of health challenges throughout their 22 year marriage, including heart surgery and cancer. Throughout it all, he was brave, hard working and optimistic. He would endure tough treatments, eager to feel well enough to go for a hike. That was the ultimate barometer of his recovery – how soon he was able to go outside.
My Mom was an amazing caregiver . She faced each challenge with a positive attitude, and especially in the last few years, learned more about medications and treatments than an RN. She cared for him gently and consistently, and he was always extremely grateful for her support.
One of the deepest beliefs I have about the human condition is that we can transform, we can heal and we can rebound from the most difficult situations.
Both my Mom and Larry faced some big challenges in the first halves of their lives. But because of their strength, their courage, their willingness to be open and accept love, they built a strong and powerful second chapter. I will always be grateful for this example, which I lean on when I face my own challenges. If they can do it, I can do it. I know this to be true.
Larry, I love you so much and thank you for all the wonderful years you gave to our family. Thank you for your wonderful sons and grandkids. Thank you for accepting me and my family as your own. Thank you for believing in me and my work. Thank you for always saying what was on your mind, and helping us to speak the truth, even if it was uncomfortable.
Most importantly, thank you for loving my Mom the way she deserved: with honor, with respect, with admiration and with deep affection.
Larry passed away yesterday, two weeks after his eightieth birthday.
This morning as we stepped outside to go to school, Josh noticed the gentle rain. “Mom, I think that is Grandma Earth welcoming Grandpa Larry into the spirit world.”
I think so too.