The following is my “Life Report” sent to NY Times columnist David Brooks on October 28, 2011.
I am the daughter of first-generation Italian-American, Catholics. In the middle of World War II, my parents followed my father’s dream and moved from a small, familiar city to a farm twenty miles away. From age 5 – 18, I grew up among farmers, farm laborers, chickens, their eggs, tomatoes and peppers. More importantly, I grew up in a loving, supportive atmosphere beginning with my parents, but including my teachers in elementary and high school who encouraged me to reach beyond the every-day, to strive to better myself. No wonder at eighteen years of age I entered a religious order. One could aspire no higher than to be betrothed to God!
Fifteen years later, in the aftermath of Vatican II and the Civil Rights Movement, I left the convent, began teaching in an inner city school and, in a short time, married a first-generation Russian Jewish Professor of Art.
My husband and I spent the next thirty-five years together: working as teachers while attending post graduate school, becoming parents to a foster son, dabbling in the arts – he the visual, me the verbal and traveling abroad. My teacher/artist husband remained an art professor for the rest of his career. I moved from teacher to supervisor to principal in the same inner-city public school district. When we retired we received pensions, health benefits, social security and investment dividends – all of which allowed us keep our life-style intact.
My husband devoted his new found time to his art work and to his collection of classical CD’s. I followed a daily schedule which included exercise, Mass attendance, reading the New York Times, writing and, sometimes, volunteer work. Together we did the things that we both enjoyed: classical music concerts, traveling abroad, and weekly dinners with our friends.
When my beloved husband became ill, I nursed him at home where we listened to our favorite compositions or discussed controversial topics and gossiped with our invited lunch guests – and counted our blessings. We knew that we were born at a time and in a place in history which afforded us opportunities to become productive, appreciated citizens who respected and were respected by the rule of law. We knew that we were of “The Luckiest Generation”.
My husband died two years ago. In my mid-seventies, I have the privilege of daily exercise, Mass attendance, reading the New York Times and of working part-time in an art gallery named after my beloved.