Jeff- Gary and I went to the University of Michigan together for 3 years. The family plan was for him to become a dentist and work with my father. While he was at Michigan he became passionate about literature. He went to Columbia to get his PhD.
I was thinking about our conversations after I had the accident. I wanted to know what my body was saying, what the pain meant, how the connection with how I was named or labelled in the world affected the physical symptoms I had from the accident. I wanted Gary to talk to me about this. He wasn’t interested in talking about his body. All he wanted to do was, by this time, hear literature, remember what he heard, teach and write about it.
Each of us is on our different paths. When I got diabetes, he told me the most valuable way to keep my body functioning. Gary exercised after every meal. Sometimes he went on his stationary bike. Sometimes he walked. When I heard what he did, I thought that if he can do it and live such a good life, I can do it too.
With Gary dying I felt that the connection to our college days was leaving too. Now that he is gone, I know he is much more comfortable without his body. I know he is with his family. I know also that he is looking at his life, moment by moment, asking himself God’s questions. I know how much Gary cared for his sister, Martha. I also know Martha since she was born.
We are a family. She has lost the person who was closest to her all of her life. I know that our connection is not the same. But I will call her and tell her I am here for her. I can do that for Gary. I miss him. His death is the first of the cousins, the first of our generation. His death makes every day I am alive all the sweeter. The older I get, the more I am aware of how much being alive is a gift. Gary was given many more days that any of us imagined. For that all those who loved him are grateful.
Your eulogy-farewell to Gary is very beautiful and deeply moving. Thank you for writing it and for sharing.
When we were kids, I didn’t think Gary knew who I was. For one thing he was older than me. But far beyond age was the fact that he was the focus of all the male Adelmans’ attention. Even Aunt Dorothy paid special attention to him. He was the heir to the Adelman name and hope for continuation of the Herman Lester Adelman line. The rest of us were girls.
Gary received even more attention from my father and Uncle Dave, my father’s first younger brother, because Gary was such a superb athlete – like Uncle Dave and my father – but especially like Dave who was a natural world class athlete. He had the medals to prove it.
Gary’s childhood diabetes started around age 15. He’d been playing stick hockey and been hit on the head. Kids didn’t wear helmets in those days. Several weeks later on a Friday night when we were all gathered for dinner at Grandpa Herman’s apartment, Gary begged my father to help him because he, Gary, knew was sick and dying. Today even I could have diagnosed his diabetes but in those days most people didn’t have any awareness or knowledge of this awful disease. Uncle Arthur made the diagnosis, Gary got his insulin, and his life was saved.
Unfortunately for Gary’s eyesight not much was known about the effects of insulin on the body. Instead of managing one’s diet, exercising, and taking as little insulin as possible, which is what diabetics do today, he was told to eat what he wanted. If he ate more, he should just take more insulin.
In Alice’s comment to you she said that Gary was to go to dental school and go into practice with my father. I had always heard that he was to go to medical school and become a doctor. To become a doctor was still the dream of American Jews striving to become securely middle class. Medicine conferred status, security. Medicine was a much more rarefied profession with far greater financial opportunities for wealth than dentistry.
I’m not sure why or how I began my adult relationship with Gary, especially since he always asked after my husband, Elliott, with great fondness. I ignored his obvious affection for my husband, and my jealousy, and began to share my life with Gary. When I told him I’d been writing poetry, he asked me to send them to him. He was generous with his praise and encouragement. Told me he loved the rhythms I’d created. He urged me to publish. Plus he’d shared my poems with friends of his and they praised my work. Heady stuff.
When I finally told Gary that I’d been drawing, doing collage, and creating “people” on wine corks, he wanted to see what I’d done. When I sent him photos of my work, he asked several of his art expert friends to described and evaluate. He shared with me their praise for my creativity and the fine quality of my art. He was very proud. And so was I.
Right now I don’t feel as if Gary is gone. That will come later.
Gary was one of our dearest friends. Whenever possible, each Sunday morning my husband Fred and I walked the length of Meadowbrook Park in Urbana with him and then stopped to pick up his coffee at Espresso Royale in Champaign. His death leaves a huge hole in our lives that cannot possibly be filled. Who else can teach us how to love books and their authors with such a passion? I know of no one else with Gary’s depth of understanding of literature and its critics. He loved life and he loved his wife Phyllis, his sister Martha, his five kids who had been so important to him as they grew up, and the friends who encircled him, relishing his company. He lived a great life and fought the good fight with great courage. His last book will be published this spring and we only wish he had been able to enjoy its launch. We shall always think of him with love.
Gary was a role model for us all. Despite his illness and limitations, he never felt sorry for himself. He never complained. He never whined, and if you tried to get him to talk about any one of his many ongoing medical hurdles, he refused. He did not want you to feel sorry for him nor did he ever feel sorry for himself. If he did, you certainly didn’t know about it.
My favorite memories of Gary are playing Scrabble with him years back…. and losing! (Me, not Gary). And our Saturday morning walks — at the Park, weather permitting; if not, at the mall. Gary had been my friend for over 40 years. I will miss him.
Golly, Jeff, you have had to say good-bye to so many close relatives recently. It will make you appreciate those who remain, however. You can cherish your moments and hours with the living all the more poignantly now that you have experienced the inevitability of human mortality.