Monthly Archives: March 2014

Happy 40th Nora and Richard! Art… in life.

richard and nora

As Richard Nixon was being named co-conspirator in Watergate, Randolph and Catherine Hearst were pleading for Patty’s release – two grueling months after her abduction.  Hank Aaron was rounding his 715th homer, surpassing Babe Ruth’s legendary record.  Chet Huntley died and Golda Meir resigned… (both as mutually exclusive events… lol).  A gasoline shortage coincided with an overabundance of feel-good TV sitcoms – including Happy Days and The Waltons.  Who knew that all of these 1974 events could be trumped by something even more historically significant:  the marriage of Richard W. Berlinger to Nora J. Land!

Now, I was only fifteen years old in 1974.

For several years prior (to which some might refer as my “impressionable years”), I had steadfastly pinned my ear to the heater vent in my bedroom, hoping to hear the physical manifestations from the juicy relationship of my (MUCH) older sister (of eleven years) coming forth from her room which was two floors directly below mine.  She had dated Richard for a number of years – and (YIKES!) he was even OLDER than she was!  As it turned out, I was not influenced at all by what I heard… which is either unfortunate for me or laudable for them (I know, you need to think about that one); Richard and Nora did (or didn’t do) things the “right” way… and then they got married.

This coming April 6th will be their 40th anniversary and, while I didn’t follow in all of their footsteps, I have been around to witness their abiding love and devotion to one another for more than two score (as Abraham Lincoln would say), so I felt it was an appropriate time to point out a few of the observations I’ve enjoyed during that very long stretch of time.  Clearly, this is a risky proposition; by doing so, I reveal my true age (55) which differs from the youthful 30 I know my readers assumed I was.  In addition, I know I run the risk of completely embarrassing their son (my nephew) Eric, who fully believes he was immaculately conceived.  I also risk confessing my humility and my reverence to my sister and her husband; from this day forward Richard will fully leverage his age, experience and intelligence upon me, even more than he does already.   Oh well.  He’s still bald and I’m still thin.  That should even things out, regardless of all else.  Here goes.

Nora and Richard met when Nora was the organist and choir director at the Germantown Presbyterian Church.  Richard was the (OLD) guy with the buzz cut in the choir that she thought was cute (PSHHHH)… just about the same time I was dating guys with long hair and Marlboros in their back pockets.  He was an attorney with a law firm in Philadelphia and, together, they began to discover that they made beautiful music together – quite literally.  Since that time, over the past forty years, however, they have discovered much, much more.  They have discovered that they have a deep devotion to one another and respect for one another to which many people can only aspire.  In forty years, I have never known either to use a foul word toward the other.  Neither have they ever fundamentally lied or deceived one another – or those around them.  What I believed to be stodgy, boring and stuffy about Richard ( in those teenage years), I matured to recognize as tolerant, honest, humble and refreshingly simple (in my adult life).  The sister with whom I once fought over closet space, became the sister I tried to emulate in my own marriage, decades later.  Nora and Richard have something very special: a real partnership.  Their marriage is a model to many.

And, Eric, as your own marriage looms nigh, I am here to be the aunt who reminds you that you would do well to take more than just a page from your mom and dad’s example.  Take their example of fighting fair.  (Notice that I didn’t say not fighting at all.)  When differences of opinion or perspective present themselves, be the gentleman your father has always been to your mother.  Further, anticipate and fully expect that Louisa will love you as Nora has always loved your dad – with fierce loyalty, unyielding forgiveness, and with a deep understanding about the character that always lies below the surface of each and every little thing he does.    You and Louisa are so incredibly blessed to have them in your life.  Never forget that.  Never take that for granted.  I so wish I had had your grandmother and grandfather (my mom and dad) in my married life.  Nora and Richard have given you so many gifts but, most of all, I believe the best gift of all was the one they jointly gave you almost 33 years ago – their trust of you to God and their belief in you as an individual.  I encourage you and Louisa to look to Nora and Richard as two of the finest examples of a married couple, and as parents, there is.  I also know that, as challenges arise, they will continue to always be there for you.

Nora and Richard have also been there as a couple for others.  That is, perhaps, a much-overlooked quality of a great marriage.  They reach out to those who are sick.  Nora always has time to lend a hand, a kind word, to make a meal for someone who is hurting or to lift someone up who needs love.  Despite the fact that he is a LAWYER…. (joke there!), Richard also uses his gift of intellect and deep thinking to be kind and thoughtful; recently, as I was diagnosed with cancer, he offered some wise words of advice, having been through the cancer journey himself.  After I chose to ignore his suggestion that we could be bald, together (through chemo), I actually have heeded his loving invitation to read the 23rd psalm in my moments of anxiety.  Unlike some, Richard does not try and wear religion so all can see it.  He lives it in a deeper, more authentic way that counts for much, much more.

In recent months, Nora and Richard have been challenged by circumstances regarding some personal and professional matters that have deeply impacted and hurt them.  Certainly, we all face troubled waters from time to time.  The mark of great character, however, is how we tread those waters when we are in them.  Life can seem unfair and petty people can act in evil or vindictive ways.  It need not change our spirit, our resolve or our faith.  Nora and Richard’s strength as a couple and love for one another cannot be daunted or dashed by the ill-will of those who are filled with anger, resentment, animosity or hate.  Richard is too good a sailor to get swept up in waves of mediocrity.  Nora is too forgiving and faithful to let her heart be poisoned by a drop of antagonism in a sea of human kindness. Love trumps all of that.  Love conquers all.  Nora and Richard know love.

So, Nora and Richard, as you celebrate your 40th, I am sure you will be toasting to your many blessings… but, as you do, many will be toasting you.  Many will be thanking you for your example, your love as a couple, and the legacy you leave to others.

While I can truly say that I never learned anything of real use by listening through that heater vent from two floors up, I have learned a lot since then.  I learned many things from the two of you that has made my own marriage wonderful and lasting.  I’ve learned about the force that a real marriage can be, each and every day, through better and worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  I’ve learned that what God puts together, no mere man can ever put asunder.  I’ve learned that the two of you have more home runs to your name than Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth did, combined.  I’ve learned that “Happy Days” was just a show and that the “Fonz” could never have imagined anything cooler than forty years together with someone you truly love, respect and cherish.  I’ve learned that Randolph and Catherine Hearst weren’t half as wealthy as you.

I love you both.

Happy 40th Anniversary!  You are art… in life.  xo



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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Parenthood


For our daughter, Jordan, in honor of her 23rd birthday…

She’s the only survivor from Krypton’s sister planet, ARGO.  She’s got countless gifts – among them, flight, x-ray vision and speed.  And, since the arrival of Supergirl, there’s been nary a human being who’s come close to her… until my daughter arrived on Planet Earth, that is.

A funny thing happened on the way to parenthood… (and then Facebook gave it even another forum): BRAGGING.  Ugh.  Yes, we all know people who brag and, while we may not loathe them (personally), we loathe what they do.   Our fellow parents often dazzle us with constant reports of their children’s achievements – ad nauseam – and sometimes in bad taste.  We are either too polite to let them know what a turn-off the constant clucking is, or secretly delighted to let them carry on; after all, their unsavory habit of seeking attention can become almost entertaining if one is  smart enough to mentally catalogue it all for what it sometimes actually is… transparent, pitifully insecure and a woeful acknowledgment to just how inadequate they, themselves, actually may be.

I’m about to take a hiatus from social networking, but certainly not before I have a little fun in the spirit of such bragging to wish my supermodel daughter the happiest of birthdays, today.  After all, it’s that one day per year that I schedule in an extra six hours to sleep and to write and to take time from the world which is all-consumed with her accomplishments!!!.  Thank goodness Jordan understands this needed break from our extreme exhaustion, which includes taxiing her from runway to runway (especially as we shield her from the Paparazzi who are clearly as impressed with her as we are).  After the expose’ on her ultra-superior I.Q. (featured in TIME Magazine in case you missed it – June, 2013 – page 17), it’s a wonder she even had time to do that cover shot in this month’s Vogue.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at her do-it-all abilities.  Twenty-one years ago, when she was only two, she shocked the fashion world by designing her own line of toddler clothes (“Bling Baby”), right before her musical debut at Carnegie Hall, in 1995, as she rounded her fourth birthday.  By six, the hard decisions really started mounting:  black belt competitions on the weekends interfered with family bungie jumping outings, and poor Parker had to sit through her world chess tournaments, sacrificing his precious playground time in honor of his older sibling.  By nine-years-old, she had written her second best-selling novel (each in three fluent languages) and was on a speaking tour. By age ten, Jordan had discovered the cure for cancer, using the home microscope we found at the local Toys-R-Us; however, sensing the tension with the boy genius down the street from us, we did a great job keeping it all under wraps, until the prestigious University of Denver found out and offered Jordan a full academic Dean’s scholarship at age 15, having never accepted someone so young into their student body.  By 16, she was a five-time winner in the National Piano Auditions and by 19, she had completed college, with honors.  Now, at 23, she has established her own business and is a consultant to the likes of Warren Buffet, Steve Forbes and Bill Gates.  Of course, the list goes on… but there’s only so much time in the day and, after all, there’s so little time to write as Gary and I try to manage her affairs – in between managing Parker’s psychotherapy – which came, sadly, as a result of our constant, overwhelming awe of his sister……….

Consequently, I’ll stop here.

Now, there are actually six truths in the sarcastically-humorous tale, above, although I’ll let my readers figure out which ones they are.   My tribute to Jordan, as she turns 23, isn’t about what she’s accomplished or how many notches in our parental light post we’ve entered.  It’s not about how she completes us or about how she gives us something to talk to others about.  It’s not about comparing her to anyone… or competing with anyone.  It’s not about waving her accomplishments in order to impress or to brag.  My tribute to Jordan, on her 23rd birthday, is the same as it was on her 5th birthday… or on any birthday.

Jordan, every birthday – and all the days in between them – celebrates life and meaning and goodness of heart.  As we watch you grow – imperfectly at times and perfectly beautifully at others – we are so grateful to be your parents.  We are grateful for your fullness of spirit and generosity of soul.  We are grateful when we watch you being kind to others, especially to your brother.  We are grateful for your gift of laughter and for your deep faith in God.  We are grateful for your humility, even in the light of your admirable and many accomplishments.  Even in light of these things, we need not brag or boast or hold you up, on any given day, to the scrutiny or for the applause of the world… or for purposes of malice… or as a result of misguided, ugly conceit.  Our love is yours, forever, no matter what.

Supergirl has superpowers, for sure… and, her ability to see through walls is, by all accounts, pretty cool.  Jordan, seeing through people is even cooler, and doing so will help you navigate life and avoid pettiness and traps in it – just like, well, avoiding kryptonite!  The adventures of Supergirl still makes for some exciting tall tales and entertainment.  However, as we turn the calendar on your big 23rd today, we’ll be giving endless thanks for the real and more important things in life – who you fundamentally are and who you are yet to be.  We don’t need a flag or a flagpole for that.  We just thank God each and every day that He blessed us with His very best – YOU!

Happy birthday!  We love you!  XOXO

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