Reflections

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4 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Sunday Afternoons
    by Helen Sive Paxton

    Sunday afternoons will never be the same. When Mom and Dad moved to Montclair a couple decades ago I was thrilled, happy to have them close by to us and two of their grandchildren. But I didn’t know at the time how much it would mean to me at this stage in my life to have a closer relationship with my parents.

    Of course we never appreciate our parents enough when they are in their most active role early in our lives. So I consider it a great gift of my mature life to be with and learn to appreciate my parents more “holistically” that is, for who they are as full people, not just for the role they play in raising us. I’ve almost always had a more natural rapport with Mom, particularly starting from the time William was born. We always have had plenty to talk about — professional work, parenting and family.. But Dad was harder. He connected for sure, with me on a professional level, and asked all the right questions about my family, but I can’t say I ever felt a level of comfort in conversation with him, until maybe around 10 years ago.

    That is when I sensed Mom needed a break from the constant care she was giving to Dad, and I said, why don’t I pick Dad up after my Sunday afternoon swim at the Y, and go for a walk, or a coffee, or whatever he wanted. Thus began the period in my life where I got to know my Dad. His strengths, his weaknesses, his kindness, and most especially his love.

    These Sunday afternoons began when he was still in relatively good health, though he had slowed down a bit. We often went to Brookdale Park, and depending on how he was feeling, we would walk a lot, or a little, stop a lot or a little or not at all. I think the walks were the best way to get to know him then, as it almost always is when you are walking or hiking with someone. The exercise and fresh air really help. Dad sometimes wanted to stop at “Starbuck” after the walk, I smile to remember this, it seemed that being there, amid the younger folks and the buzz,, brought him back to the feeling of being in the thick of things in his younger years in New York City.

    Once Dad moved to the Green Hill retirement home the Sunday visits continued, The walks continued, mostly around the grounds there, and I always enjoyed his company. He was a most sympathetic and non-judgemental listener if I was having some issue that I wanted to discuss, either personal or professional. He almost always asked the same questions, after Will and Emma, after Art, after what was happening at work, about my upcoming travels. He wanted to know if I was busy at work, and I usually smiled and assured him I was. This question continued up to my last visit with him this past Sunday, March 9, 2014.

    Once Dad became bedridden, which I initially thought was so tragic, I learned perhaps the most valuable lesson from him. That life, even in such reduced circumstances, and as he then experienced for so many months, was still very precious. The visits at first were harder, as I kept thinking it might be the last time I would see him. But after so many months, his condition seemed to stabilize, and the visits became easier, more relaxed. He always, up till last Sunday, seemed to have a good appetite, so I started to bake cookies to take to him on a fairly regular basis. Will and Alfred ate the last of the peanut butter cookies I made for him this morning when we cleared out his room at Green Hill. Dad didn’t have much appetite for them last Sunday, and I guess that was a signal that the end was coming.

    Sunday afternoons will never be the same, but they will always be a special time for me to remember my Dad.

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  2. My first job after I graduated from Law School was as an associate (with Mark Chertok) at Winer, Neuberger & Sive. My favorite recollection of David during the two years I was there is of a Saturday when I was working with David on a brief in a major environmental lawsuit against the defense department. David sat at his desk with two piles of books and dictated portions of the brief (compeletely off the top of his head) for about 45 minutes, pointing to quotes from cases that he had marked in the books and instructing the secretary to insert those quotes at various points. He then turned to me, asked me to write one paragraph about a particular topic and to review and correct what he had dictated. He then turned to the second pile of books and a second secretary and proceeded to dictate another brief for an entirely different matter dealing with a completely different issue of law.

    I returned to my office and spent the next two hours trying to write my one paragraph. I probably wasted more paper and trees in that attempt than we could have saved in one of David’s cases. Then I started to read what David had dictated. I tried as hard as I could to find something to correct, but it was impossible to do so. His words and arguments were concise, correct and very persuasive. He was one hell of a lawyer!

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  3. In September of 1977, I was a 17-year-old receptionist at Winer, Neuburger & Sive, until I returned to college in 1979. They called me the following summer to fill in for my replacement when she took vacation.

    At the time I started the job, I had no idea that such an important figure in the environmental world was a partner in the firm, but I’d already had a lifelong interest in environmentalism. I had a good relationship with the other lawyers, especially David Winer, who called me “lovey”, and thought I could do no wrong. I guess I was the office pet, especially among the secretaries. But somehow, whenever I wanted the firm to contribute to Save the Dolphins, or the Whales, or to the Cousteau Society, or to an animal shelter, I always went to David Sive. Perhaps due to my youth and the type of causes I championed, he always agreed and authorized generous checks.

    I remember when I first met David Sive, thinking he was the quintessential absented-minded professor. My job was to announce all calls, and I’d buzz him and tell him “Walter” was calling. He’d mumble, “Who’s he?” And I’d try not to smile as I answered, “Your son.” Another vivid memory I have is of him riding his fold-up bike from the commuter train at Grand Central to the office at 425 Park Avenue.

    One time his long-time secretary, a wonderful older woman named Kathleen, called to have me messenger something to the Environmental Law Institute in Washington. I had a pretty obvious crush on the executive director there, and they wound up sending me instead. David Sive actually stuffed waste paper into an envelope and handed it to me, telling me it was very important and I was to make sure to hand it to the man personally.

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