Like many children of successfulphysicians, I'm frequentlytold that I lived a privilegedlife. My usual reply is, "Yes and no."
For 20 years of my youth, ourfamily of 10 lived in a large Tudorhouse about a quarter mile from thebeach on the Jersey Shore. Myphysician-father had purchased the4000-square-foot house in 1963 forabout $17,000.
That majestic old house was thecenter of our family's universe, and,together with my parents and 7 siblings(5 sisters and 2 brothers), welived a very dynamic life. My fatherused to say that a doctor's homeshould be a place to relax andunwind. While that wasn't alwaysthe case, I do believe that he lovedhis home and its atmosphere andfound great comfort there.
He never profited from it economically,though. During themid-1970's energy crisis, my dadtried to sell the house (with noinsulation, 80 windows, and $1000monthly oil heat bills), but got notakers at $59,900. He ultimatelysold the house for about $125,000,some 10 years later. The improvedhome could easily fetch $2.5 milliontoday.
As a kid, I remember our houseas happening place. While mydad craved quiet, my mom alwayssaidâ€”unlike so many other parentsI knewâ€”that she didn't mind havingmany of our friends at thehouse. "At least I know where youall are," she would tell us. Actionand adventure were constant.Today, 20 years later, I frequentlyrun into people who tell me howmuch they appreciated our family,its spirit and character, and theinviting warmth of our home.
DIFFICULT TIMES, TOO
All enduring homes have memoriesâ€”good and bad. Ours was nodifferent. Over the course of 3 yearsin the early 1970s, I lost 2 youngsisters (both under 22) in 2 separatecar accidents. One November 1971morning is seared into my memoryforeverâ€”when my dad woke mythen 9-year-old brother and me totell us of the death of our oldest sister,Claire, the night before. Duringhis medical career, dad had to makevery difficult decisions and deliververy bad news. But I know he neverfaced a more gut-wrenching taskthan on that fateful winter morning.
That my parents endured thisdevastating heartbreak, stayed together,and raised the rest of us,continues to inspire me to this day.As a parent, I can't even imaginethe pain of losing a child. Whatevertheir personal flaws, I revere myparents for holding their familytogether in very rough times. Theytaught us that life goes on and todaymy siblings and I are not just greatfamily, but great friends.