My late father drove a New York City yellow taxi six days a week, 14 hours a day, to the point of exhaustion.
Yes, driving was how he paid the bills. And when he died at 57, I was a mere 20 years old. Nevertheless, I had a nagging feeling that all that driving had done him in.
We were based out of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, but he made it a point- despite how much driving it entailed- to take us to visit his elderly aunts- Aunt Anna in Philadelphia and Aunt Ida way out on Long Island.
“It was a schlep,” my Mom would note.
Philly’s own Aunt Anna was a tough old broad who maybe drank a bit but seemed fiercely independent, while Aunt Ida was far more fragile- a bit “slow,” as they used to say. Ida would send me a quarter scotch taped to a card with a note in childlike handwriting and had become a kind of pen pal over the years. While Anna was “so happy to see us,” Aunt Ida cried tears of sheer joy when we walked through her door into her modest home. I sensed she didn’t get many visitors nor had many friends. You could feel her loneliness. She hugged us so long and hard that it felt like she didn’t ever want to let go.
The very long drives back felt good, although I was always aware that Dad was beat from the preceding work week and would wake up tired in the dark to drive some more the next morn.
But he had done the right thing and taught his son an important lesson of empathy and kindness.
Shoot ahead some half-century later, and my 83-year-old mom was residing in a rehab center for a broken hip she incurred from a fall. At the time, I didn’t know it would be the beginning of the end, and she’d be gone a mere half year later.
I visited her four or five times a week and felt guilty about the days I couldn’t.
Meanwhile, the staff informed me that “You’re a good son. Most of the seniors here NEVER get visitors. Or just on Mother’s Day or Easter or Christmas. And Birthdays,” they stated matter-of-factly.
“How utterly disgraceful,” I thought.
So yes, those holiday presents for your kids you sacrifice to pay for are lovely. But taking them by the hand to visit that elderly or sick relative, friend, or neighbor for the holidays would be a lesson that would mean much more.
And decades from now, it may all come full circle.
They may just be visiting you.
Evan Ginzburg was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie “The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke, and “350 Days,” with Bret Hart and Superstar Billy Graham. He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring. He is the Senior Editor at www.prowrestlingstories.com.