The mind’s eye

Jeff Grossman

Allen Fleishman, 59, and his wife Nancy, 57, are jubilant on the day of their son Craig’s graduation from New York University School of Law. Here the family is en route to a celebratory lunch, accompanied by Craig’s friend Mary Yates. As a corporate lawyer, Craig, 29, seems poised for a life very different from that of his father. Or is it?

Allen: I feel [my son] is a total professional, and I am not. My first job was at a Loews movie house. I worked for a dollar an hour as an usher. Later, I got a job as a bank teller for $60 a week. I worked my way up to controller of a textile company. I didn’t have the schooling, but I learned it.

In my day, it was a 45-hour week. But I had a three-hour commute. I wasn’t home until 9:30 P.M. My wife and kids would be asleep. I would look at them and miss not seeing them. Then, at 5:45 A.M. I was off again. I really didn’t know my family.

I’ve been working almost 45 years of my life, and I feel a bit tired. But I would never sit my kids down and say, “Don’t be like Daddy,” or “I want you to be better than me.” I feel secure for my son, now that he graduated law school. He has carte blanche. I didn’t have that.

Craig: My parents were always there, always engaged. When Dad was at work, we always chatted on the phone. He would ask, “What do you want me to bring you?” We didn’t grow up with very much, but if I wanted something, he’d find a way to bring it home.

When I was growing up, there was an opportunity for me to work in a store doing manual labor. And my parents said, “That’s not what you’re going to do.” I recognize all the crap my parents had to go through. And I see that I don’t have to do that. Yeah, it sucks to work back-to-back all-nighters, but the bottom line is I’m doing it now so that when the opportunity arises to do something better, I’ll be prepared for it. It’s OK to work until 3 A.M. when there’s nobody waiting for you at home, but I don’t want to be that guy at 40.

There’s always part of me that’s on the outside looking in. During law school, when I worked for former President Clinton in his New York office, one of the very first things I did was wash dishes. I remember thinking that if this is what it means to arrive, it’s pretty silly. I realized it’s no different than anywhere else. Every experience is what you make it.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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