Saturday, September 01, 2007

November 25, 2006

Yesterday one of my best friends and I were having an email discussion on some things, including my ailing dad. He ended one email by saying, "it’s always sounded to me like there was as much affection as respect between the two of you and that is a very good thing. And he kept the Chevy."

Yes, he did. Not that he kept it in perfect condition, but he did keep it.

So I wrote back:
Did I tell you about our last trip to NJ as a family? Aaron always asks to go for a ride in the Chevy. So, last day home, he convinced my dad to start it up. After a couple tries, he got it running. It wasn't exactly stable, but it ran. Then he said to get in, I figured he'd take it around the block. But, noooooooo!! He goes past the school. and out to Millburn Avenue. Holy shit, we're all going to die. And the kids aren't even scared! Then he turned on to Vauxhall Road! My dad was never much of a driver anyway, and I'm wondering if he's totally lost his mind. Then he kept going! Out to Librty Avenue, and on to I-78!! I'm basically gripping anything I can now; the car doesn't have seatbelts. He took it halfway to the airport before getting off the freeway, and then coming back home. Whitest knuckle ride of my life. And Aaron wanted more. So I took over behind the wheel, and drove it around the neighborhood, feeling my pulse return to something approximating normal.

So, last night, I went in to iPhoto and found the photographic evidence. Here it is, from November 25, 2006, Millburn, NJ, and some scary places nearby:

It starts with Dad driving Aaron around the block. This part isn't so scary.

Now Elianna has gotten in, and I'm in too, and we are all trapped!

I won't swear it, but I think this was on I-78. I figured there might as well be some evidence in the aftermath...

I think Aaron enjoyed it more.

And somehow, we all made it home in one piece. I'm in the reflection of the garage window.

Two final pictures:
November 23, 2006. When we went in for Thanksgiving, Aaron loved a chance to use the electric knife on to help carve the turkey.

November 26, 2006. The last full family photo.

If you have any remembrances, please comment.
Leo Orel, 1920-2007.


Gwen Orel said...

Matthew, these are beautiful. And so recent. I've never seen them. Now that I see Elianna in these pictures I understand why Dad kept calling her "Gwennie." He loved that she posed for pictures. And he loved that Aaron always loved the "knife that sings." Thanks for posting these.

andreashotkin said...

Dear Matthew,

I was so sorry to hear about your father. It must be very hard for all of you to have to bear this loss, but I'm glad that you had such a close relationship and that you have wonderful photos like these to help you remember happier (and in the case of the Chevy, scarier!) times. Our deepest condolences to you and your entire family.

Andrea (Shotkin), and Roger, Charlie, and Matthew (Litow)

Mike said...

While this happened seven years ago and my memory is hazy about even yesterday, the emotions of that time are still crystal clear to me. First, I have a confession to make: I am a Springsteen addict, and I’m helpless in the face of a Springsteen concert. So when it was announced on December 12, 2000, that Bruce was going to perform in a couple of Holiday Shows on December 17 and 18, a wise man in the middle of the Midwest would have accepted fate, but I was not one of those men. I immediately plotted to try and get tickets when they went on sale on the 13th, but I struck out. Then a friend got me a line on a ticket for Monday, and this made an offer by Matt for Monday all the more intriguing: He had an extra pair of tickets for Sunday, but the catch was both pairs of tickets were in his name, albeit at different addresses. Therefore, I would have to be related to him, specifically as "Cousin Matt." After a bit I decided I was willing to give this a go, but as I was trying to get all of my logistics figured, it suddenly dawned on me that unless something changed fairly rapidly, I could not afford this trip. This would have crushed me as these were the first (and as far as we knew, last) Springsteen Holiday Shows ever, and I desperately wanted to be there as I knew they would be special. Many folks helped me out with favors small and large in realizing this dream, but the people I want to talk about today are Leo and Beverly Orel.

Again, due to my memory it is difficult for me to separate specific details (I do have some notes to help me out with dates, though), so many of my remembrances of that time are of Leo and Beverly as a unit instead of as two individuals. Maybe that’s the way it should be. So how did I meet them? To help cut down on my expenses, Matt (forever known to me now as "Cousin Matt," as I also am to him) offered to let me stay at his parents’ house on Saturday night. Now I don’t know about other people, but it was difficult for me to imagine MY parents welcoming a total stranger into their house to spend the night, especially one with the dubious distinction of being a Springsteen freak. I, on the other hand, was thrilled with the offer because it would be a HUGE help in making my trip financially feasible. I knew it would be awkward, sure, but I would get through it.

Did I say it would be awkward? How foolish I was. Leo and Beverly welcomed me into their house as if I was a relative, not as if I was a complete stranger merely pretending to be a relative. They fed me, made sweet comments when I showed them pictures of my two children, talked about my cats, and made me feel completely at home. It was as if they ran into this situation every week, and they were totally comfortable and accommodating. After a fantastic and fun concert that night, I remember thinking the next morning with a bit of wonder how Leo and Beverly had made a potentially very complicated and stressful situation so easy for me (I also remember Matt bringing some lox in for breakfast—must be an acquired taste in the early AM!). The experience simply would not have been possible without them, yet they treated it as no big deal.

Sometime well after the visit I sent a picture of my two kids and our then five cats, but I didn’t have contact with Leo and Beverly after that. But I have never, ever, forgotten their effortless kindness, and I am proud to think in at least some regard I am a member of the family (even with Matt for a cousin!).

Best...Mike (AKA Cousin Matt)