Thursday, November 28, 2019

Be Thankful

It's Thanksgiving Day and I'm in the snowy Minneapolis area with my younger sister. I am extremely grateful to my sister. In 2011, she saved our mother's life. She saved Mom's life thanks to inspiration she got from one of Mom's favorite films -- and one of mine too.  NOW, VOYAGER starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains. It's a long story, but if my sister had not had a hunch to embark on a road trip that day after Christmas to go to Mom's house, where Mom lived alone, and contact firefighters to help with her wellness check, Mom would not have seen 2012. She would've died in the house. Her condition was critical. Mom told me that herself as she was recovering. A long undetected bladder infection had clouded her senses, making her reclusive and delusional. Thank Heaven for my sister -- and NOW, VOYAGER.
Mom passed away in 2017. From the day my sister saved her life the last week of 2011 to the month she passed, our often frayed relationship got stronger than ever. She made me feel very significant in her life. My sister does that. So does my terrific cousin. Here's a story about following one's heart: Ever since I was a youngster, I wanted to pursue a TV career and work in New York City. My mother had a different idea. She wanted me to be a novelist/schoolteacher in a nice heterosexual Catholic marriage that produced three children (that I'd probably name Liza, Lorna and Joey). When my cousin was a youngster, he wanted to be an airline flight attendant and travel the world. My parents divorced when I was in middle school. I'm the oldest of three kids. When Mom divorced Dad, she also divorced his side of the family -- even though Dad's side of the family was in L.A. not far from us. Having fun with my cousin when we were grade schoolers was a hoot. Divorce changed our family dynamic. I went away to study at a Milwaukee university and my sister followed. I graduated and had just started my professional broadcast career there when Mom had another idea that really altered the family dynamic. She would move to Milwaukee where my sister and I were. I told her a) I did not intend to make Milwaukee my permanent address and b) that she had not been in snow for decades. She'd moved to Southern California in 1950 before she and Dad married.

She sent our brother ahead of her by one year to live with me and complete his parochial high school years in a different part of the country. LAVERNE & SHIRLEY started in Milwaukee and then relocated to Los Angeles. Our single parent black family did just the opposite. Also, despite all her sophistication and education, Mom relocated without a plan. Without a job lined up and without a place to live. My sister had her own apartment. Mom said to her, "I can live with you." This caused my sweet sister to walk around with a facial expression that said "I wish I could smoke a joint the size of a kayak."

I got myself to New York City. Two years after I got there, I had my own celebrity talk show on VH1 and daily on-air segments as a veejay. I loved that job. What a great opportunity it was. A dream come true. I was interviewing the quality of notables you saw with Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin and David Frost.  Also, the money helped. Mom got a house in Milwaukee but she didn't have a job and didn't keep up the monthly payments. A few months after I arrived in New York City for my first job, I assumed the mortgage on her house. I always needed a side gig so I could play my rent and her housenote.  By the time I was on VH1, I had not seen my cousin in about 20 years.

One day, I told a funny childhood memory story about him on VH1. A few days later, I got a FedEx envelope containing family photos I'd never seen. They were from my cousin.

The day that VH1 segment aired, he happened to be on vacation in Hawaii and had the TV on in the background in his room. He heard the story, it sounded familiar and he raced over to the screen to watch. Then he called his mother back in L.A. and asked her "What kind of work does Cousin Bobby do?" He realized it was me on TV, he got the VH1 address and sent me fabulous photos. That was in the late 1980s. We've not been out of touch since.

If he had not followed his heart's occupational desire, he would not have been in a fellow employee's condo in Hawaii on vacation. I'd followed my heart's occupational desire and was on national TV talking about the cousin I'd not seen in a long, long time. Think about it. Like my sister, he always makes me feel that I'm a significant part of his he is in mine.

I know. That's some wacky family history. My message? Follow your heart. Be kind. Let loved ones know that they're loved. That does not cost a thing. Happy Thanksgiving. Here's a holiday tune written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby. Save me some turkey.


  1. What a lovely story! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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