We were a blended family long before the term existed.
In 1963, my father, Reb Shloime Horowitz z”l, whose 53rd yahrtzeit is today, suddenly and tragically died at the age of 41, leaving my mother with three children, all under the age of five. In the summer of 1965, she married a second time, to a kind and wonderful man, Reb Shlomo Nutovic. He had a son from a previous marriage, and Hashem subsequently blessed them with a daughter in 1966.
Over the next 46 years, until his passing in 2011, Abba (we never used “step-anything” in our family) and my mother raised three sets of children as one family – so much so that all five of us observed shiva together for Abba, and several months ago for my mother a’h when she passed away.
In Blending Families, the five of us and our spouses did our best to capture the extraordinary environment of unity and respect that Abba and Mommy created in the stable and nurturing home they built, and in One Foot in Front of the Other, my mother wrote of her life as a single parent as words of encouragement to others who find themselves in that situation.
For the past seven years, I’ve been writing a yahrtzeit-themed article on Rosh Chodesh Iyar as a zechus (merit) for my father’s neshama (soul); (see Keep Your Chin Up, Father of the Man, and Yahrtzeit).
This year, I would like to share an off-the-cuff comment from Abba that I mentioned at the end of the eulogy I delivered at my mother’s funeral – that so perfectly captured the flavor of the home they created for us.
Abba’s parents were buried in Bnei Brak, Israel, and he had informed us that he wished to be buried with them. So I was rather surprised when he called me about fifteen years ago, asking me to purchase a burial plot for him in the Tzeilimer section of Wellwood Cemetery where my father and maternal grandparents are buried and where my mother had already purchased a burial plot.
“Abba, I’ll of course take care of it tomorrow,” I responded, “But I assumed that you would want to be buried with your parents in Bnei Brak.”
Abba responded, “Being that all the children live in this area, I don’t want you to have to travel to Israel to visit my grave. And besides, the children should have all three parents buried together.”
What was so interesting about that exchange was that Abba said it so casually and I heard it in the same vein. It was only after we hung up the phone that it struck me how remarkable it was that our parents were so selfless and respectful in raising us that the phrase “all three parents” just rang true.
Yesterday, when I went to my father’s grave in honor of his yahrtzeit, there they were within 100 feet of each other – my three parents.
May their memories forever be blessed and may all three parents in Gan Eden (paradise) share the nachas (joy) of the beautiful family they raised.
These lines are written in loving memory of my father, Reb Shloime ben Reb Yakov Moshe Horowitz a”h, whose 53rd yahrtzeit is today, Rosh Chodesh Iyar. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshama.