Growing Up in Monmouth Beach
For over 20 years of my life, our family of 10 lived in a large Tudor house about a quarter mile from the ocean in Monmouth Beach. My dad purchased the 4,000-square-foot house in 1963 for about $17,000.
That majestic old house was the center of my family’s universe and together with our parents and 8 siblings (5 girls and 3 boys) we lived a very dynamic life. My father always said say that a doctor’s home should be a place of peace and relaxation. While that wasn’t always the case, I do believe that he loved his home and its atmosphere and found comfort there.
He never profited from it economically, though. During the mid-1970s energy crisis, dad tried to sell the house (one with no insulation, 80 windows, and $1,000 monthly oil heat bills), but got no takers at $59,900. He ultimately sold the “mansion” for about $125,000 some 10 years later. Today, the much improved home could fetch near $3 million.
As a kid, I remember our house as the happening place. While my dad craved quiet, my mom always said — unlike so many other parents I knew then — that she didn’t mind having people at the house. There was close to an “open-door” policy for friends and relatives. “At least I know where you all are,” she would tell us. Action and adventure were constant in the household. Today, nearly 40 years later, I frequently run into people who tell me how much they appreciated our family, its spirit and character, and the inviting warmth of our home.
Difficult Times, Too
All enduring homes have memories — good and bad. Ours was no different. Over the course of three years in the early 1970s, I lost two young sisters (both under 22) in two separate car accidents.
One November 1971 morning is seared into my memory forever, when my dad awoke my then 9-year-old brother and me to tell us of the death of our oldest sister, Claire, the night before. During his medical career, dad had to deliver lots of bad news — but I don’t think he ever faced a more gut-wrenching task then on that winter morning. Tragedy struck again in 1974, when my sister Alice, a 21-year-old nurse, died in another auto accident during the Thanksgiving weekend.
That my parents endured those devastating heartbreaks, stayed together, and raised the rest of us, continues to inspire me to this day. As a parent, I can only imagine the devastation of losing a child. It doesn’t get rougher than that. So, whatever their personal flaws, I revere my parents for holding their family together in sad times. They showed us that life goes on.