The story of Sid Gershman’s life cannot be told without interweaving it with the love story of Joan and Sid.
When I was 10 years old, I was visiting my 16 year old cousin Arnold – the one whose recollections Rabbi just read. He had a group of his friends over at the time. I walked into the living room, and my very precocious 10 year old heart skipped a beat when I laid eyes on a tall, dark, handsome boy, who was introduced to me as Sid Gershman. I thought to myself – when I grow up, I want to date him.
Years went by. Sid graduated high school in 1961, and he and Arnie enrolled in Bryant College for accounting. After a year, Sid decided that sitting behind a desk counting numbers was not for him, and he left Bryant to attend RI Radio School of Electronics – a technical school, where he could develop and enrich his natural talent for all things electronic. Now here is where my natural talent for words and language fails me, because I understand nothing about electronics. I can only tell you that he was an expert with every doodad, thingamajig, whatchamacallit, and doohickey that was related to anything electronic that plugged in or in later years was portable. He could work it, fix it, install it, and whatever else needed doing to it.
Our paths crossed again at my cousin Arnold’s wedding when I was 16. I looked up from the table, and there was 22 year old Sid Gershman talking to everyone but me. I was invisible to him, but I recognized him immediately as the boy I had met when I was 10. Only this time, my 16 year old hormones raged, and I wanted a date with that guy in the worst way.
More time passed. His electronic ability served him well when the Vietnam War was in high gear, as the RI National Guard needed his skills in their radio communications department. He was recruited right after graduation to do for the Guard, whatever it was that required his special talent, thus keeping him out of the jungles of Vietnam. He stayed with the National Guard for 6 years, being honorably discharged in 1970.
After graduating from technical school, the foolish boy thought he was in love, and got married in May of 1968. He did not know that his romantic destiny lay elsewhere, but apparently fate did. That short lived union lasted about 8 months.
He and Arnold were now both divorced, and one summer afternoon between my junior and senior years in college, Arnold took him along to my house to visit my mother. I was no longer a 10 year old child or a 16 year old teen. I was a 21 year old woman who looked at that man sitting in my living room, and I knew what I wanted. What I had wanted since I was 10 years old. I flirted, I sat across from him, crossing my tan, toned little legs. I smiled. I lusted. I got nothing.
I returned to college in September, and one night in November, the phone in my dorm room rang. It was SID GERSHMAN, asking me to attend a party with him the following Saturday night. To say that I was ecstatic, after 11 years of waiting, does not begin to describe my feelings of euphoria. Maybe all of that eyelash batting, leg crossing, and drooling had not gone unnoticed after all.
That was it. If you don’t believe in love at first sight when you are 10 years old, or love at first date, then you didn’t know us. There was a comfort level between us that first date as if we had known each other and been together forever. That was the weekend before Thanksgiving, 1969. By the second weekend in December, he told me that he was in love with me and wanted to marry me. By January, we were engaged, and were married in June two weeks after my college graduation.
I never felt more complete, more at peace, or happier than I did when I married Sid. It was as if part of my heart had been missing, and he was the puzzle piece that completed it.
He put his electronic skills to work by opening up two Lafayette Radio and Electronics stores, a popular electronic franchise of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
We settled in Stoughton, Massachusetts with a house full of dogs, and hearts bursting with love for each other and our new baby Joel.
When the big electronic stores came along and pushed out the small neighborhood businesses, Sid sold his stores and went to work for Radio Shack. He had always been a hard worker, a workaholic by anyone’s standards, and he gave his all to Radio Shack. It left little time for him to spend with me and with Joel, so we made the most of every minute we had together. We took pleasure in being with each other, if it was on a week’s cruise vacation or an hour’s jaunt to the grocery store. As long as we were together, we were content.
Carving out time to spend with his growing son was a challenge, but he made valiant attempts at it from teaching him to fish to sleeping in rain soaked tents with him during Boy Scout Jamboree Weekend, to helping him build the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby race car, to teaching him to drive.
Through all the years, our bond grew stronger and stronger. He was always there for me, loving me, caring for me, emotionally supporting me.
Through all of his job ups and downs, I was always there for him, bolstering his confidence, believing in his abilities, and emotionally supporting him. We were truly the wind beneath each other’s wings.
I am most proud of the fact that Joel grew up in such a loving environment. It’s all he knew. I received two notes of condolences that I would like to share with you that address this. This first is from a work colleague of mine with whom I became very close friends. She wrote:
“Although I didn’t know Sid, I have always felt so blessed to have known you and through you to know that the kind of love you had for each other really does exist. I don’t know if I ever told you this but you and Sid were one of only a very few couples that I looked to as an example of a loving relationship. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The second one is from an old friend of Joel’s. One year, when Joel was attending Cape Cod Community College, and living there during the school year, a friend of his was attending a community college near our home. Due to family circumstances, she had nowhere to live, so Sid and I let her live with us that school year. She took Joel’s room while he was at the Cape. Both Sid and I loved having her with us. This is part of what she wrote to me when she heard of Sid’s passing:
“Oh Joan, I am so sorry……. I remember Sid and you together and smile. Growing up, my parents always fought. I loved being in your house and feeling such a sense of peace in your home.”
So that was our lives until the monster Alzheimer’s Disease showed up. Alzheimer’s Disease may have robbed him of his cognition, judgment, reasoning, old personality, and memories. But it could not rob him of his love for me. He never forgot who I was, never forgot how much he loved me. He would often greet me with “Hi Sweetie”, when I visited him in the nursing home, and tell me he wished I didn’t have to go when it was time for me to leave. I never left without kissing him, and telling him I loved him.
At the end, I never left his bedside at Hospice House, except to go home and take a shower. Alzheimer’s Disease shattered my heart over and over again each time that it took another piece of him. I didn’t think it could break anymore until I sat watching him die for 9 days. I held his cold hand in my warm one and told him that I was there for him, would never leave him, and that I loved him.
My grief counselor, Rabbi Lobb, my dearest and oldest friend Ruth, and the Hospice nurses told me that he was struggling not to let go because of me. He did not want to leave me. They said the greatest gift I could give him would be to tell him that it was okay for him to go, and that I would be all right. How could I? How could I tell this man, the other ½ of my soul for 2/3 of my life, that it was okay to die. I couldn’t do it.
But then, I saw how terribly he was suffering and struggling. I don’t know from where I gathered the strength, but I leaned over him, and told him that I had loved him my whole life, that he had been the best husband in the world, that he had given me a wonderful life, and that I would never stop loving him, but it was okay for him to let go and rest. I would be okay. Joel would take care of me. He grabbed my hand, pulled it to his lips, and kissed it. With his last conscious act, he was telling me that he loved me and was saying goodbye.
If I have gotten any comfort from this, it was when Rabbi Lobb told me that because our bond was so strong, that when Sid died, part of his soul would go to God, and the rest would come into me, and live inside me forever. The love of my life may be gone from this earth, but he lives on here in my heart, where he will always rest in peace.