Many, many years ago, when I was a speechwriter for Mr. Nixon at the White House, my father, Herbert Stein, was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He was a brilliant man and a loving, devoted father to my sister and me.
One day in 1974, I needed a statistic for a speech. My father and I both worked at the Old Executive Office Building. I trekked up two flights of stairs and went in to see my Pop, who was, as always, deep in thought.
“Pop,” I said, “may I ask you for a little bit of help finding a number, if you’re not too busy on something else.”
My father put down his Kent cigarette and looked at me with his soft brown eyes.
“Benjy,” he said, “what do you think I have to do that would be more important than helping my one and only son?”
That has stuck with me every hour of every day.
Recently, my wife, with whom I have been together since 1966 when we were both students, has been chronically unwell. She needs a lot of tending to and caring for. She also needs a fair number of trips to doctors. Whenever she has one of those appointments or when I bring her a strawberry milkshake from the Beverly Hills Hotel, her favorite food, she always thanks me as if I had done something heroic. I always say, “Alex, what do you think I have to do that’s more important than helping my one and only wife and keeping her company?”
Of course there is nothing more important than that. And she always thanks me. But there is a larger point here.
Life is short. We must prioritize. At this point in my life, I can put bread on the table. We have a roof over our heads. We have our two dogs and seven cats and our son and our beautiful daughter-in-law and our granddaughter, Coco Puff, taken care of, for now. My sister is far more robust in every way than I am.
So then what could be more important than taking care of the love of my life? And when my son needs help with something or my daughter-in-law, what could be more important than helping them? I cannot affect the stock market or the Presidency. I can affect the lives of those close to me, and especially of my spectacular wife, who has been more loyal to me than any husband could reasonably expect.
I offer this as a lesson for when your spouse or your best friend or your son asks for something. What could be more important than helping the ones we love?
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