My parents have been married for 50 years. And, in keeping with tradition, they pretty much poo-pooed the whole anniversary thing today.
That’s typical Joan and Stan Pearlman, and it’s something I greatly admire. They’ve never been flashy, lavish attention seekers. They’ve never driven the fanciest cars. They’ve never sought out a mansion. They don’t brag. They don’t boast. They don’t see competition in neighbors, in co-workers. They live for contentment and family. Small pleasures—for my dad, a bagel and a newspaper. For my mom, Mahjong and caring for plants. They’re unbelievable parents and grandparents. They put me and my brother through college. They’re always there for us. Always have been there for us.
I’m 45, and I’ve never had closer friends than my mom and dad. Which might sound weird, because are mothers and fathers actually our pals? In my case, yes. Back when I was a boy, I’d take these long walks with Mom around Mahopac, N.Y. They’d be three-, four-, five-mile treks down Emerald Lane, left on Cuddy Road, up and left and left and right … and we’d chat about school, life, girls, religion, drugs, sports, work. Everything. Anything. There was, literally, no topic off limits. I could be open and not find myself punished.
Back after my sophomore year of college, I landed a $5-an-hour internship at a newspaper in Urbana, Illinois. I was 20, somewhat immature and nervous. Yet my folks encouraged me to pursue the opportunity, then let me use one of the two family cars for the summer. My dad actually drove out with me. I still vividly recall being on the road, opening up to him how, halfway through college, I had yet to kiss a girl. It was something I’d never admitted to anyone, and he sat and listened and promised me it would come. I was crying. Mortified. Humiliated. He was calm and cool. Again—it will come. When I finally did kiss a girl (shortly after our chat), I called him. “Dad, guess what!?!?!?!” My friends thought it was weird. Maybe so. I didn’t care.
My dad taught me how to drive a car. My mom taught me how to read people. My dad taught me how to do math. My mom taught me how to not take shit. My dad taught me about pursuing dreams. My mom taught me about the steps one must take before pursuing dreams. My dad taught me the value of a good back scratch. My mom taught me the value of listening when people talk. My dad took me to my first NFL game—even though he surely didn’t want to go. My mom used to let me do aerobics with her—even though it had to be sort of annoying. My dad wrote a book, and it kickstarted a dream. My mom sued Putnam County when she faced sexual discrimination, and it was lesson No. 1 on standing up for yourself.
My parents attended my Little League games, my races, my track meets. They listened as I read all my high school newspaper stories aloud on their bed. For years they tucked me in every … single … night. They let my brother and I see an R movie before we were of age. They let a curse or two slip by. They didn’t punish us for the sake of punishing us. They didn’t encourage us to drink underage—but if we did, their first concern was making sure we had a safe way home. My parents let me host an annual Super Bowl party. My parents took us to look at colleges. My parents let us know they were proud. And when they weren’t proud, they pretended.
I still call my parents five or six times per week. And while I’m sure they think I do so out of some sense of obligation, nothing could be further from the truth.
I call because they’re my mom and dad.
I call because I love them.