Morris & Royce Epstein, the parents of yours truly, have been on my mind a lot lately.
Why write about my parents on a blog dedicated to Lee Marvin and Lee Marvin Point Blank? Well, Marvin’s family background encompassed much of the history of our country and in my opinion, my parents did the same when it came to the 20th century. My father escaped the Nazi Holocaust in Poland (just barely!) and my mother survived the Great Depression (also, just barely!). Consequently, my two older sisters and I are all “Baby Boomers,” and experienced all that the generation entails, culturally.
Now, with the Corona Virus pandemic, we are dealing with something nobody has ever had to deal with, that includes Lee Marvin..and Morris & Royce Epstein.
However, allow me to recount a little anecdote about my folks. When we left New York for California in 1968, my father was able to get another job as a Teamster truck driver as he had in NYC. He made friends with a guy named Chris Mojica who helped get him the job. Mojica was very philanthropic with his free time and convinced my father to help with several of the charities Mojica was involved in. Every Christmas, he and my dad would drive to Tijuana with a truckload of toys to give to the needy children there with my father dressed up as Santa Claus. My father loved doing it and told me he got a great kick out of hearing the little children say, “Gracias, Santa Claus!”
One of the many charities Mojica needed help with was a clothing drive for homeless families he was organizing. I was a teenager at the time so the idea of spending a Saturday morning at a homeless shelter helping out the underprivileged was not my idea of a good time. However, Mojica needed the help and BOTH my parents were going and ‘volunteered’ me.
It all came down to one amazing moment for me. Anyone who knew my mother knew how feisty, aggressive and head strong she could be. My cousin once aptly described her as a force of nature. It’s for that reason I witnessed her do an astonishing thing that day. The rule was individuals could go through the lines of clothes and get what they need but only once. A woman got a bunch clothes for her children, left contented and then suddenly came back in stating she needed a warm coat for herself and forgot to get one. The place was pretty crowded so she was politely turned away. She left in tears when I saw my mother rush over to her. My head strong mother literally gave the woman the coat off her back. The lady tried to return it but my mother would have none of it. The woman thanked my mother profusely and as my mom walked back we made eye contact: “Shut up,” was all she said to me.
When we went home my father asked my mom what happened to her coat. My mother feigned ignorance and then glared at me to make sure I didn’t say anything about it.
I guess you can figure out now why I posted this story. In the current climate of fear, stress, and social isolation, even the worst of us can and do rise to the challenge. My parents were living examples of that and I’m trying to do the same. Stay safe everybody and don’t ever stop rising to the challenge.