Iím Jane Buchbinder and I grew up next door to the Zeitlins. A thin stretch of lawn separated my dining room from the Zeitlinís kitchen. Iím going to guess that the Zeitlins took care of that patch of lawn, because I remember it as being green, and the Zeitlin kids all had lawn chores while the Buchbinder kids did not - which, I think, bothered Ed. Our lawn was more like barnyard hay - in those patches where there was grass - which Iím nearly certain bothered Ed. Lawn care issues aside, the Zeitlin family provided benefits for a child that the Buchbinderís did not, so I grew up in the best of two households - my parentís laid back, low discipline style, and the Zeitlinís bottomless jars of chocolate licorice and m&mís at my disposal whenever I wanted.
The boundaries blur in relationships that begin at the beginning. And after Diane and Susan and I were all walking, there wasnít much to keep the three of us from wandering over to one anotherís homes where we played excellent board games (Zeitlins), watched important TV sitcoms (Buchbinders), raided one anotherís refrigerators (Zeitlins: bagels and peanut butter; Buchbinders: left over Chinese food), and received extra attention and parenting from any of the four adults taking care of everything around us. This continued when we went away to college. In fact, my father just told me that Ed had a picture of me on his office desk. When I came home, I visited my parents and Ed and Renate. Diane and Susan were no strangers in the Buchbinder home as well. In the more recent years, Iíve been a part of the Zeitlinís family vacations on Cape Cod. A reunion thatís been a pure pleasure.
Iím sure that this is why when I think of Ed, I think of home. My home will always be infused with his cozy, warm, generous, thoughtful, delighted, playful, caring, curious, loving and supportive personality. He was around while I was forming and heís not going to leave me now.
I suspect that you didnít have to be next door to know these parts of him. Where I was lucky to have a little more Ed than the rest of you is in those ordinary daily parts of lifeóplaying with Diane and Susan while heís ambling from room to room singing so joyfully it filled the house, being repeatedly subjected to his corny dad jokes, watching his lip-smacking chewing style inspire ire in many of his family members during late morning weekend breakfasts, and occasionally become the focus of his philosophical point of view, just because I happened to be in the room and I might as well sit down right now because he was a thorough- and nuanced-thinker and he wasnít going to wrap it up anytime soonÖ.Well, I bet a few of you knew that about him.
Iíve also heard him raise his voice. And I know he had the kind of verbal serve that asked for a hard, fast return. The Buchbinders could hear this sometimes, across that little stretch of grass and through the aluminum siding, when we were all eating dinner at the same time. My parents never ever fought, so it was strange and exotic to hear Ed and Renate raising their voices. They werenít afraid to go at it, which balanced my view of how adults act. In fact, they must have been the ones to teach me that itís okay to argue when thereís something to argue about.
But the times I most enjoyed being with Ed were when the warm chocolate milk swirl of smoke from his pipe filled the den where we all sat and talked and got teased about who knows what, now, for so many years, through all the phases young people go through, while he and Renate and my parents appeared so rooted and stable and loving that I came to think in a very childish, demanding way that you should always stay the same no matter what I do, and most certainly of all, you should never die.
There are very few people to love any of us for 43 years in that perfectly imperfect familial way. And thereís little thatís better than returning that love.
About a week ago, I visited Ed in the hospital. I held his hand and he told me that I was family and that seeing my smile always made him happy. The only word that comes to mind to describe the feeling Iíve had in my heart since then is complete. The thing about completeness, however, is that it doesnít have a voice or an action to display itself, so I didnít have much to say to him that day. I couldnít think of much to do for anyone except to be there and let all the years of being together merge with this new moment that had to happen despite everyoneís fiercest wishes. I feel your love still, Ed, and we donít have to say anything more about it to know that itís not going anywhere.
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Last Updated: January 17, 2007