Yesterday Dr. Poen - I always want to type poem - spoke of what a privilege it is to work with people who have been through chemo and are going through radiation, I think I "got" what a "special" group I have been in, and will always be in. Most of us were, I believe, raised to fear cancer, but, here it is now a chance to live the juxtapostion of being inward and outward, out in waiting rooms and medical rooms, and traveling all about, even as there is time and recommendation to cocoon, rest, reflect. In that connection with ourselves and others, we live. Even if I had died, this would have been worth it, but as Dr. Poen said yesterday I am here to live a long, long time.
I am blessed by this experience. I feel myself in a state of grace today as I reflect on all that has come together to give me this experience.
Of course, I am already receiving requests for money. : ) This building is funded by philanthropy, and I appreciate that I can donate in the names of those I love. Clearly, it is a place of Love.
And yet, how does one really thank these people? What can I say?
I read this Editorial in the NY Times today and am deeply touched. I feel Andrew Rosenthal touches on many things, but one is moving out from under the shadow, no matter how wonderful that shadow, of our parents. There is a day when that must be done, when we truly feel we are the elder now, while appreciating fully all that has gone before. I think that is what I am feeling today, like a child, and, also, all grown up. I have grieved and grieved the deaths of my parents. I grieve the deaths of those I love, and yet, today, I feel and see each one of them, standing there, clapping joyfully, with all I have done and become.
I Never Wrote for My Father
Funerals have a way of reframing memories. After the burial of my father, A. M. Rosenthal, who ran The Times for nearly 20 years and wrote a column for 13 more, I recalled the day I met President George H. W. Bush, not long after I became a White House correspondent.
He was angry and would not answer. He said he was "not gonna be sandbagged in the Oval Office."
On the way out, Marlin Fitzwater, Mr. Bush's spokesman, helpfully noted that my introduction to Mr. Bush had gone badly. He explained that Mr. Bush was unhappy with my father for writing in his column that Mr. Bush had appeased the Communists on China and (oh, great!) on Lithuania. "The president doesn't differentiate between you and your father," he said.
I sputtered that the White House owed me for five years' psychotherapy. I'd only just begun convincing myself I was my own man in my father's field, and now I learned that The Leader of the Free World could not tell us apart?
It was naïve, of course, to think I could hide that little coincidence of a last name. Dad was not just seen as the embodiment of The Times; he saw himself that way. During the tumultuous year 1968, my father said I could not wear an Army fatigue jacket because anti-Vietnam protesters wore them. "When you go out," he said, not for the first or last time, "you're representing The Times." I was 12 years old at the time.
Still, I tried to walk around as if I were not really Abe's son, first at The Associated Press, where I was a national and foreign correspondent for nine years, and then at The Times. (I even left the middle initial, M., out of my byline because my father's initials were so famous.)
I started to get the point that hiding in plain sight was not working when I noticed that I hadn't received any checks from WQXR, the Times radio station, for a weekly radio spot. It turns out that WQXR was sending the $70 checks to A. M. Rosenthal, instead of Andrew Rosenthal.
I called my father, outraged. He had been happily cashing the checks. He said he hadn't known why WQXR was paying him, but "when someone gives me a check, baby, I cash it."
I should have found the whole thing funny, but I didn't. Then about a year later, I got a check for a reprint of my father's classic 1958 essay, "There Is No News From Auschwitz." I sent him a copy of the check stub with a note: "When someone gives me a check, baby, I cash it."
Dad thought it was hilarious. And I've long since realized that I overreacted on the "Abe's kid" front. But since my father died, I've realized something else.
When I read his obituary to my children, their amazement at his accomplishments was matched by my amazement at how much I had forgotten, even discounted. Then colleagues began sharing their experiences of my father.
They said what I knew, that he could be stubborn, unreasonable and prone to anger. But what they held onto was how sure he was in his vision for the paper, how filled with exuberance and a certainty about journalism that he freely bestowed. I received dozens of stories about how he'd shaped a reporter's career, how he'd traveled around the world to get a correspondent out of trouble, how he'd stood up equally to K.G.B. generals and to U.S. officials, how he'd helped young people become better journalists, how he'd changed The Times and the newspaper business.
Jose Lopez, a photographer and photo editor, said the first time they met, Abe Rosenthal told him, "Always be the hawk; never be the blackbird that sits on the wire."
David Sanger said when he'd been a news clerk laboring to become a reporter, he'd come to his desk one day to find Champagne and a note: "For an explanation, see the executive editor." Abe had promoted David, and wanted to celebrate with him.
"I wouldn't argue that he was always the easiest boss," David wrote. But, he said, my father "knew how to infuse you with his sheer joy of reporting and experiencing the world."
Alan Cowell recalled how Abe Rosenthal flew to South Africa in 1986 to argue the authorities out of expelling him. John Burns, whose courage is endless, said Abe "set the trajectory of my life." Maureen Dowd reminded me that her mother had kept letters from my father framed in her home until the day she died.
In an era when journalism is commoditized, digitized and endlessly televised, I feel the loss of that passion, drive, emotion and energy. I also feel regret — not for sometimes pushing my father away as I tried to be independent. I know I was right to wait until he'd retired as executive editor before joining The Times.
But I missed something big.
I never got to work for Abe.