I just came back from New York where I was attending my mother’s funeral. Ruth Lichtenberg Simon was 93.
To say that your mother had a tremendous impact on your life is almost laughably obvious, but in my case its was especially true. I became a writer in part to live out my mother’s dream of being one. Something of a bon vivant, my mother quit college in the late 1930s to go to Paris and take a job with the Chicago Tribune in the hopes of beginning a literary career on the Left Bank. For reasons you can guess, she returned home much earlier than expected. Back in New York she met a young medical resident named Norman Simon – and, in rapid succession, they got married, Norman joined the Air Force and Roger was born. And then my sisters Wendy and Martha.
Like many of her generation, Ruth Simon didn’t get back to Europe for some time and never did become a writer. But she always worshipped them, perhaps inordinately, and imparted those feelings to her son. She also gave me, I now realize, an incredible gift – the sense that I could actually be one. My father, who also admired writing a great deal, was more cautious, warning that it was too risky an occupation. Well, it was, but I seem to have skated through, so far.
Reading was my mother’s passion and her favorite pastime. Up until the last two years or so, when dementia set it, she never seemed to be without a book in her hand. That is how I will always remember her.
There is something about when a second parent passes – my father died about twenty-five years ago – that has a grimmer finality to it. Darker ramifications. You have moved up to next in line in the queue.
RIP Ruth Simon.