One friend of mine who posts on LiveJournal ends every single one of her posts with a statement of something she is grateful for. While I admire her dedication, I know it's not something that I could ever do personally. And I do wonder if my expressions of gratitude might come off as self-indulgent.
However, this year is different. It can be hard to express gratitude to the universe in the year of a parent's death, especially when it's the second parent one is mourning. I've been reading a lot about what it is like for people to enter this stage of their life, and I've come to believe that it really is unprecedented, something that can't be completely understood by anyone who hasn't yet experienced it themselves.
So this year, with the loss of my mother still fresh in my mind, and the loss of my father still as poignant as ever, I've decided to note a tiny handful of the reasons why I am grateful to my parents.
I am grateful to Dad for my love of and interest in science fiction. Although by the time I knew him Dad's fiction reading was mostly devoted to paperback mysteries, he had been an enthusiastic science fiction reader in his earlier years. Dad encouraged me to read the short fiction magazines, and he would never turn down a request on my part for a book. It was at Dad's insistence that the family shlepped to an Isaac Asimov appearance at the Books of Wonder bookstore on Sunday, November 4, 1979; I still recall that event vividly, and I sometimes marvel at how much that shaped my life. My only regret is that Dad died before he could see how involved I would become in the world of science fiction.
I am grateful to Mom for never throwing out my comic books. This may sound silly, but over the years I've met many people whose mothers threw out some of the valued childhood possessions. I was lucky in a sense, because my father's mother had thrown out his comic books and my father always regretted that. So armed with that knowledge, my mother never threw out a single one of my comics, and today I still own every comic I ever bought all the back to age five. (Well, except for the ones I chose to weed out of my collection myself.) Mom was never into science fiction or comic books herself (except for Wonder Woman, she once told me), but she once called DC Comics for me and got a young artist named Al Milgrom to give our family a personal tour of their offices. I was in heaven.
I am grateful to Dad for my love of the news and newspapers. I grew up in a home that got four newspapers a day, and each paper presented the news with its own slant and ran editorials that sometimes opposed each other radically. The newspaper business may be changing, but I will continue to believe the importance of receiving my news from many sources.
I am grateful to Mom for taking the family to musicals and shows on Broadway. When she had been growing up in New York, her family had gone to many of the classic original performances of well-known actors and actresses. Thanks to Mom, we got to attend revivals of many of these shows. I saw Richard Burton in Camelot, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, Herschel Bernardi in Fiddler on the Roof, Yul Brynner in The King and I, Mike Burstyn in The Rothschilds, and many others. After we saw Brigadoon, Mom took us to meet Lee Sullivan, who lived in a house across the street from ours, and who had played the original Charlie on Broadway. He signed our copy of the vinyl album jacket, and I still have that record.
I am grateful to Dad for instilling a love of justice, and of Judaism.
I am grateful to Mom for the laughter she brought to our world.
Finally, I am grateful to all my ancestors, Bursteins and Cohens and Bakers and Cohns and Sokolovskys who made the decision to come to this country, so I could lead a life that they could barely have imagined. In general, I enjoy my life a lot, and I am grateful for all the myriad steps that led to this point.