Friday, December 19, 2008

A Wealthy Man

In recent days both my mother and my mother-in-law have been in the hospital. My mother-in-law is still there and my wife is with her in Washington, D.C. I decided that I’ll fly up from my Florida home and spend Christmas with my mother and brothers in New Jersey and then take to train to Washington to be with my mother-in-law.

I was talking to the manager in my building the other day, and I told her the story I am about to tell you. I don’t cry but as I started telling it to her, I started to cry and as I write this I am crying too, and I can’t stop crying.

My mother came from a poor family in Westport, Connecticut. Her father worked in a lumber yard and as a chauffeur for the owner. She was the only one of six children to go to college. She was very smart and she received a tuition scholarship to the University of Chicago, in the Thirties probably the most exciting college in America. She didn’t have enough money even to sit up all night on the train to Chicago. She took a bus. The driver worried about this innocent young woman finding her way in a difficult part of Chicago and he drove the bus out his way to deposit her in an on-campus building. She was too afraid to go out and she sat her room eating a Hershey bar for dinner.

My mother needed to earn room and board. First thing in the morning, she went into the office that handled these things. They told her that she should go to see Mrs. Hays because if Mrs. Hays liked you she would hire you right away. So my mother walked over to this great house, and Mrs. Hays, who was the great granddaughter of President Rutherford B. Hays, hired my mother to work twenty hours a week taking care of her four and five year old sons and doing other duties.

The first evening Mrs. Hays asked my mother to set the table. She went into the dining room and carefully set the elegant table. When she finished Mrs. Hays came over to my mother and said, “Helen, you’ve made a mistake.” My mother was mortified to have make an error on her very first day, and she went back into the dining room to check everything again. But as hard as she looked, she could not see what was wrong. So she came back to Mrs. Hays and said she didn’t understand. And Mrs. Hays said, “Helen, you didn’t set a place for yourself.”

And so for four years my mother sat at that table. In class she met my father who was a graduate student and became a professor at the university. I remember growing up Mrs. Hays visiting us. She was just another friend. My father has left this earth and my mother lives in a continuing care community in New Jersey and has what she unfailingly tells me is a wonderful life. And a few months ago the two Hays men, now old and retired, came to visit my mother and pay there respects.

And so I’m flying up to New Jersey for Christmas to be with my Mom and my two brothers and their wives. I’m sorry my wife and my mother-in-law won’t be there for family and friends are all that matters. I don’t care how much money you have, how much money you lost, if you have family and friends you are wealthy. And I am a wealthy man.


LiFe by the Pond said...

Hi Larry,

I've actually been following your recent blog postings on the Huffington Post web pages which ultimately led me to you own web page. This entry speaks so highly of your character, a man with a loving family is indeed a wealthy man. When we spoke - could it be ten years, or more? - you struck me as a most honorable person as well. Those, like Madoff, who apparently have an obsession or sickness when it come to money are really worse off than the poorest of the poor. He has no honor, no empathy ...only delusion.

Have a great holiday in New Jersey, you may be getting the same snow storm ... a lovely change from Palm Beach!

Linda Fehrs

Morag said...

A beautiful story - blessings to you and all your family, especially your mother and mother-in-law. Thank you.