My heart is heavy and sad today. A man I knew to be one of the best is gone. Looking back I had many “mothers”. Lots of women I looked to as examples and who were there for me throughout my life but not many “dads”. Lenny was one of the wonderful few.
In the late 70’s & early 80’s, I was an awkward, nerdy teenager whose family was broken and hanging by a thin, unraveling thread. I found myself drawn to friends who had “real” families. Not perfect but real. With parents who loved each other no matter what and were in it for the long haul. Not like my family, whose individual problems seemed to outweigh what was best for the whole. Families who loved each other more than they loved themselves as the Pearlman’s did.
Lenny was the glue that held them together, even though he was completely outnumbered, being the only male in a home full of females. He loved his wife and two girls who each had wonderfully strong personalities and no problems voicing their many opinions. He laughed, let them be heard and then with a shake of his head, hand raised, and a “No, no, no” they were all on to something else. Done and done. Lenny had spoken and they loved him. Not too many men could handle a houseful of women with a complete absence of fear, a heart full of love and so much laughter.
He was one of the best examples of “dad”. Growing up, absent fathers were unquestionably common. The majority of my friends fathers were not present in their lives. Some were weekend dads but most were emotionally and/or physically unavailable. Lenny was not one of those dads. He was completely committed to his life as a husband and father. Their family had trials, like everyone else, and he made sure they soldiered on. No question, lots of arguing for fun and sport and on they went. Lenny leading the charge, they stayed together and that was never going to change.
Lenny was a family man. Coming from such a fractured family myself, observing how their family interacted surprised and entertained me. In my house if someone was mad, everyone acted like nothing was wrong. The bright, pink, sparkly elephant in our living room was wholly and unceremoniously ignored.
At the Pearlman’s there was no elephant. If someone was mad at someone else, they hashed it out, loudly and with great enthusiasm. They would argue, food would occasionally fly across the room, there would be an abundance of sarcasm but they were first and foremost, a family. Lenny was the heart of it, never letting the hurt feelings get in the way of his family staying together, he negotiated expertly.
In their home I was treated as a beloved daughter. Lenny and his wife, Cindy, always stopped what they were doing to catch up and ask what I was up to. Throughout my teens and early twenties, their home was a haven for me during some of the most difficult times in my life. I’ll never forget how they made me feel welcome and treasured. When tragedy struck they were there, doors open, happy to listen and bring comfort.
As a married adult, when I came to visit, Lenny spoke of family. He took his job as a parent seriously but was ecstatically joyful about being a grandparent. He raved about his grandchildren and how wonderfully they were doing in school and in their personal lives. He enjoyed their individual personalities, and even bragged with glee at their sassy fabulousness, as one would expect in a family where individuality was honored and strong opinions expected.
Lenny’s smile was infectious. His laughter booming. He loved life and more than anything he adored his family. I am honored that he included me in that number.
As sad as I am at his passing, I’m grateful to have had him in my life. He was a man who loved his family above himself. It takes courage, stamina and strength of character to hold your family together for fifty plus years when bailing out and thinking of yourself would be easy and excused by modern culture.
Lenny gave much, loved abundantly, and was greatly loved in return. He was a modern day hero. Godspeed Lenny. You will be remembered as an amazing man of character. Well done.