Life with Liz

How does a Jew from Brooklyn meet and marry a Methodist Hoosier?

Early Days Together


  • I worked in a sub sub-basement because we needed to have vibration control. We had a grating that was 40 feet in diameter and we’d put plates in it and it was very sensitive to vibrations. I was living down in the sub sub-basement and sometimes I would take exposures that were 7 or 8 hours and I had to develop them down there. I spent a lot of my life in the basement. Every once in a while, I would come upstairs to get my mail and Liz was working in the physics office. I came up I saw her in the physics office and I asked her to go out on a date with me. I asked her to marry me and then a few days later I said, “No, let’s not get married,” because I suddenly realized I didn’t want to get married right away but I liked Liz and so we kept on dating. Have I got the essence of it?


  • I was due to graduate in 1959, but I had changed my major three times and needed two more courses to graduate. So, I took the two courses and worked in the physics office from ‘58-‘59. And that’s how I met him. We started dating in August, and, in November, he asked me to marry him. Then, four days later he took it back – that was ‘59. I said, “Is it that you don’t want to go out with me anymore or is it that you don’t want to get married?” He said, “It’s just that I don’t want to get married.” And I said, “Well, can we continue to date?” I was very fascinated by him. So, we continued to date, and then he started talking about this or that as far as the future went. You know, what kind of family would we have or this sort of thing. I said, “Well, should I have my mother plan a wedding?” And this was all within one year. This was from August of one year and then it was in June, I told my mother to plan a wedding. We were married that following August because we were married in ‘60.


  • The wedding party was held in her mother’s backyard. Nuts, mints and lemonade. My parents were horrified. Jewish weddings were different than Methodist weddings. I think Irwin may have gotten either Phil or your dad to share a few drinks with him. I think Irwin told me once that they had a couple of drinks. You father was ok. He was a reasonable guy.


  • We loved it (the early time in Berkeley). We would go into San Francisco then because we were young, and we had a car. It was the best car I ever had. A ‘54 Bel Air Chevrolet. Blue and white. Irwin was running the automobile agencies then, and they gave it to me when I graduated from college. In New York City, you didn’t drive a lot. I never learned to drive until they got me a car, and I had to learn then. I remember driving that car from New York to MIT and hitting Boston rush hour as I was coming up Route 9 and then over to MIT. I was in a cold sweat by the time I parked the car somewhere. The first big trip I took in the car was when I went from MIT to Purdue.

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Liz and Herb on their honeymoon


Family Traditions


  • The only family tradition Liz and I have – and it didn’t come from our parents – is to try and get everybody together, on Nantucket as it turned out. I would say that is as close to a family tradition as we have. Many times, we have been apart for Christmas or holidays. It just wasn’t feasible to get everybody together. The greatest joy we have is when everybody is there. It’s a commotion and sometimes it gets on our nerves because there is so much noise and bantering but it is the greatest thing that we can have that still makes us happy.


  • Family is the most important thing in the world to him – taking care of his family. Like when we go out to dinner, he has to pay. That is part of his family tradition. While I still can, you know. If we go broke, I will stop paying. All 3 of the families to my mind are moderately successful financially and in other ways. When they were younger, I used to take care of everybody. Now I can’t take care of any of them in some sense but I figured a while ago, I thought well, what can I offer a family? Well, I can give them some money to some extent and I can give them time – babysitting and stuff like that. Now, all the babies have grown up, and Liz and I have deteriorated to the point where we can’t really do babysitting anymore. We can still maybe while Liz and I can drive, provide modest transportation now and then. The amount of money we can provide is now not as significant as it might have been 20 years ago. I can still impress the grandkids with gifts.


  • I am the way I am about family from watching my father. I remember him, he had sciatica very badly as he grew older – when the sciatic nerve gets you, you’re writhing in pain. I remember him lying in bed writhing in pain but he’d still get up at 2 am because he had to work in the bakery. My kids all got to know my father a little bit. I think they all remember him as being a good guy. From him, I learned that family is the only thing. Even after my father died, the kids would all go see my mother occasionally. She was so proud of them.

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Everybody together, 2015

Reflections


  • I’m not sure what a good life is. I see my children and my grandchildren and I feel that Liz and I have, however inadvertently, done the right thing. I see nothing wrong with any of them. I think basically our job now is to stay out of their way - just try not to bother them too much. The young ones wear me out. Just watching them can wear me out. The older ones are either teenagers or almost teenagers and they have their own special world that they live in - that I don’t think grandparents can enter very easily. So, I try as best I can to be a grandpa figure and let it go at that. The children themselves – I love talking to them. I love being with them. If our grandkids like us, that’s icing on the cake but I am more interested in their well-being and how they turn out.


  • I am hoping that my children are close to each other. Probably the only thing left that I really wish for is that when Liz and I pass, that the three families stay in touch with each other. I think is it easier now because people just message each other. But what I am saying is that I want them to talk to each other. I never knew - I mean I knew my cousins because I sort of knew my uncles. But once I went to MIT, I never saw any of them again. I must have had 10 or 11 cousins because there were 4 brothers and my mother.


  • Life goes in different phases. There was the phase when I was a grad student. There was the phase when I was a post doc. Then there was a long phase at Lincoln Lab. Then the post-Lincoln Lab slide down 9 or 10 years until I really retired because the brain wasn’t really keeping up with what needed to be done. Lincoln turned to a lot of software and I never learned to program well enough to be competitive there so that’s when I packed it in because I wasn’t contributing anything anymore. And now there is this phase. It’s marvelous having all the children living here and seeing the grandchildren. And taking care of Liz as best as I can. So, I’m happy with that.

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The kids and Herb in Nantucket, 2017

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