Life Legacy from Dad by Janet Shlaes, Ph.D.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things. ~ Kurt Vonnegut
Time is subjective. Sometimes it moves slowly and other times it appears to fly by. Today marks 12 years since my father’s passing. Sometimes it feels as though he’s been gone forever and sometimes it feels as though just yesterday we were having a conversation. Everyone who had the good fortune to know Herbert Cyrus Goldman was enriched by his love, kindness and playful sense of humor, which was sprinkled with his customary puns. They also had the pleasure of reading his beloved poetry, filled with passion, joy and wisdom. Dad loved and was proud of his family; he was dedicated to doing whatever was needed to support them, financially and psychologically. He had a passion for learning and could always be found reading a newspaper or book or listening to the news on the TV or radio.
As a child, we tend to have a limited understanding of our parents. We enter their lives at a point where they are mostly formed into their adulthood, unaware of the life events and experiences that contributed to the making of the adults they had become. When I was in graduate school many years ago developing my love for life-narrative, I had the good fortune to facilitate life-story interviews with both of my parents. At first dad was reluctant to being interview, but he quickly embraced the experience which took place over an eight week period. As his life-narrative unfolded, I was able to experience him as a young boy, teenager and man. I learned about his past experiences and context of world events that shaped him.
Dad was an ambitious and athletic youth, earning a city-wide tennis championship in high school. He adored his sisters Millie and Sadie and always felt protective of Sadie. Dad grew up in tough times financially. He worked hard academically and graduated high school in three years so that he could help support his family. Dad served in WWII and helped liberate a Nazi Concentration Camp; the images of this assignment remained with him throughout his life. He had dreams of becoming an attorney, which his daughter Natalie lived out for him. When he was supporting his young family, he often moonlighted selling beer at White Sox games. I remember him coming home from the games and telling stories about his customers, making his work into a grand adventure. I know that I inherited my work ethic and love of learning from Dad. My favorite stories that he told during his life-narrative interviews were about his courting mom; they were young, on a double date with other people, were strongly drawn to each other and wound up dancing together all night. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful marriage.
Although he’s been gone for 12 years, dad’s love, legacy and wisdom will live on through his three children and extended family for many years.