• you’re not like your parents? really?


      Psychologists would say that we naturally identify with our parents, either modeling ourselves on them or establishing independent identities by choosing the opposite path. The perfect example of conscious rejection is the 1980’s TV series, Family Ties, starring Michael J. Fox as the hyper-conservative son who mocks the liberal values of his baby boomer […]

  • bellicose bambini


      The history of Italy is a gory tale of non-stop internecine fighting. If Disney had animated it, the tongue would be trying to devour the toe, the grommet to strangle the lace. To walk the otherwise charming old streets is to tread on centuries of dried blood, fratricidal blood. Other travelers may focus on […]

  • the bugs and us


      My parents, like the Monarch butterflies, wintered in Central Mexico. Fleeing icy Manhattan to join their friends in Palm Beach or Palm Springs would have been too easy. Instead, after my father retired from dentistry at 80, they set up house in Ajijic, a small lake-side village outside Guadalajara with a big ex-pat community […]

  • Edna’s list


      After my mother’s death at 83, I was surprised to find among her personal papers a frayed and folded magazine clipping entitled Wonders of the world. It consisted of two lists: one proclaiming the world’s ten greatest sights and the other hedging with another 25 runner-ups. The clipping was tucked into her pocket date […]

  • travel wars: us v. them


      To most, the sixties “generation gap” was a vague, pop-culture generality. To us—my parents on one side, my husband Michael and I on the other—it was my family’s defining motif. We were deeply, truly, madly split on every subject. Police brutality. Dean Martin. Grey Poupon versus French’s. It was all equally significant. Where you […]

  • to look or not to look


    Hunting an illustration for an essay about my father’s late-life mutation into a skirt-chaser, I googled “lecherous old men painting,” and up popped Susanna and the Elders. There were dozens of versions. The paintings depict a biblical story of lechery, a popular subject in the Renaissance and beyond, and fit my subject only too well. […]

  • diagnosing the dirty old man


    This essay was previously published in a somewhat different form on Cognoscenti.wbur.org on April 22, 2015.   The stock character of the dirty old man dates at least from the Romans and is a comic staple today; but, when your own father becomes that character, it’s no joke. If it’s someone you’ve always loved and […]

  • family miser


    The journey into old age is not all downhill. In fact, one of the pleasant surprises is the fresh, hilltop perspective that it offers on the past. Now, nearing 70, I am more inclined to see the important people in my life in the context of their own backstories and times. The inconsistencies in the […]

  • Glimpsing the Father Who Was


    Watching my widowed father age as he neared 90 was like watching an old photo fade: every time I saw him, he was a little less himself. Day by day, Leo, a humanist, a devoted Central Park South dentist, a lover of opera, golf and political debate, shriveled into a generic old man, irascible and […]


* indicates required


×