My good friend Les Kozerowitz and I are making biographical videos on Zoom for our children, now very much adults in their 30s and 40s. They’ll learn much—but not everything.
We’re recording ourselves—each asking the other questions—because many kids never get to it. Also, we’re not among the many elders who resist being questioned about the past. My father Morris was among them. I once asked what he thought of his immigrant parents. He answered, “They were greenhorns.” End of story.
My mother Blanche was different. In 1987, I interviewed her on audio cassette—four one-hour sessions. Carolyn and all three kids joined us in the living room. The kids were fascinated. I knew what to ask, and my mother freely provided details. Did she tell me everything?
I’m sure she held some things back just as Les and I are doing. We know each other well enough to pass on certain questions or not dig further on others. That might disappoint investigative reporters, psychoanalysts and apparatchiks in reeducation camps. We don’t care.
I’ve explained to Carolyn that there are a few things in my life I don’t want to tell anyone, including her. Not terrible things. But still. This somewhat annoys her. She wants to know everything.
Not happening. Even husbands married for 51 years are entitled to a measure of privacy.
In the digital age, privacy seems a vanished concern. The ease of accessing and contributing to social media often prompts people to reveal things that don’t do them credit. This accompanies the practice of many memoirists and biographers, who believe in leaving no stone—or pile of dirt—unturned.
Healthy social media enables us to share experiences, explain what we’ve learned, give our take on the world. I do this nearly every Friday. My blog is nearing 500 posts.
But there’s a difference between self-expression and self-flagellation. I suspect some therapy patients indulge in the latter when their lives have gone sideways. Maybe it works. Yet social media often takes people down rabbit holes, impels them to post nasty sexual images and lurid details of lurid deeds to draw clicks and likes. The need for attention is seductive. It also can be damaging.
When we complete our videos, Les and I will provide our families with a great deal of information about our backgrounds, achievements, missed opportunities and attitudes. When they’ll want to check them out remains to be seen. We’re alive, promoting the belief that we’ll be available for many tomorrows. That’s an illusion.
One day, our kids no longer will have access to us. Aware of their own mortality, they may wonder, “Why did Dad do that? What was he thinking? What would he do now? Am I really so different?”
I hope that Seth, Yosi and Aaron will watch the interviews, acknowledge my humanity in what I’ve revealed and appreciate my low-level guardedness, no matter how insignificant in the scheme of things. Even if posthumously, I hope to shed light in a few dark corners.
The videos won’t make me immortal. But after my death—not for some years, I anticipate—they can keep me more alive in my children’s memories. That will offer me great satisfaction in the World to Come. The thought offers me great comfort now.
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