Face of Abuse
is the complete text of the speech I wrote to give at
the Ethical Culture Society in New York City on July
19, 2008 at a Memorial Service for my father, Ira
Gollobin. This is the speech that my sister, Ruth Gollobin-Basta did not want anyone to hear . . .
Thank you - all of you - for being here. And thank you Ruth
for putting this memorial together.
I'm Ira Gollobin's other daughter, and I'm not much of a public
speaker, so I may need your help.
also in an unusually difficult position - which I'll tell you about -
so please bear with me - and let me speak until I am
have a story about my Dad that must be told.
Let me start by
saying that I loved my father, loved my mother too, and I was so glad
that my father - after my mother's death - remarried.
never have wished for him - or for Ruth - to grow old, alone.
loved my father. I have some very good childhood memories of
spent with him - and my sister: rowing a boat on the lake at
Central Park, feeding pigeons at Bryant Park, learning to swim in
Rockaway, and picking blueberries where he ate more standing there at
the shrubs than he ever carried home. And I have memories of
happy moments between my Mom and Dad while I was growing up.
These memories - and many other memories of my father - will always
make me smile.
And then, I have memories of him - while I was growing up - that were
My father over and over coming home from the office so stressed, so
tense that we all had to tiptoe around him.
father - dogmatic and so totally convinced of the rightness of his
views - that it was hard to even think a different opinion, let alone
voice it and have a reasonable discussion.
writing his book for 25 years or so with my mother typing and retyping
and increasingly exasperated with him because my father's work, meal
requirements, exercise schedule, and writing his book all came first -
and until she was dying of cancer, he wouldn't stop to spend much time
with her, wouldn't travel with her (so she finally had to travel by
took my mother dying to, temporarily, change him - where his work and
his interests didn't - most every day - come first.
These memories are not warm, but they're accurate and a part of his
life story too.
as we memorialize him, I for one want to remember him accurately - not
to make him larger than life where the myth replaces the man.
father - and my mother - were not "conventional"
They were not Hallmark cards people. And in my comments here
before you, I am going to be their daughter - and I hope you'll
That said, my father was so important to me. I
look like him. And I looked up to him. And in very
significant ways, I am very much like him - and a part of his
As you know, he was a person who chose a line of
work where he could help people. (I expect several of you
will speak about this.) Like my father, I too chose a line of
work where I could help people. I founded a non-profit
organization - 36 years ago - which I continue to direct. And
work state-wide and in multi-states - to help thousands of children and
families. I work with and have been supported by 3 Attorneys
General, foundations, and corporations. And I collaborate
state agencies and many community organizations to do wonderful
projects that helps lots of people - like my father did.
I know my father was self-motivated, persistent, determined, and
dedicated to his work - as am I.
My father - like my mother - donated to causes that help people in need
and worked probono to help many people - as do I.
He was a quiet person, an introvert - and in that way too, we
understood each other because we were so similar.
father was a reader and loved books. My husband, daughter,
have a home filled with thousands of books - we're all
And I actively promote children's literacy nationally, give away
thousands of kids' books, and maintain a children's resource library of
over ten thousand books. Reading was important to my father - and is to
thing worth mentioning - my father was never racist. He was open to all
cultures. And I learned that from him and my mother
- and made
use of this when, among other things, I was chosen to establish the
U.N. child care center with a Board of Directors from 26
How else were we similar? My father - who had
good genes - wanted to live long and be healthy and active - and I'm so
glad he was. He worked hard to take care of himself - as do I
eating right and exercising each day. Health was important to
him, and it is to me too. In fact, my work includes creating
state-wide health project for families and seniors.
so many ways that matter, I'm like him. But in some
ways, I have chosen to learn from his limits so I can be different from
decades, my father didn't make his family important enough. I
told you about my Mom and how, until she was dying of cancer, his work
and interests just about always came first. I watched him do
same thing with his wife, Ruth, for years.
I gave birth, I was turning 40 years old. He was turning 80
old and didn't find the time to see his grandchild for 9 months because
he was busy with work.
years, I begged him to visit more, but
he was always working - going to his office all day, every day, even
into his 90s - thinking he was indispensable.
made very different
choices with my husband and my daughter - balancing meaningful work
with a lot of family time - and making my family very important, the
way I wish he had.
other things, my father missed out on really knowing my daughter - his
granddaughter, who is now almost 18.
like my Dad in a lot of ways. She reads a lot, she
She's hard-working, organized, responsible, and honest. She
to help people - with fitness and nutrition - my father's big
By the way,
she started college - at 14 years old - and has maintained a
straight A - 4.0 Grade Point Average.
his sister, Bea, and brother, Bill, who spent time with their
grandchildren (and were generous and
giving with them), my father never
even invited his granddaughter to come visit - and he needed to be
reminded of her birthday. I think he took pride in her, but he didn't
make time for her. I believe work is important, but so is the
fundamental difference has to do with humility. In the obituary
that my sister wrote for my father, she said he was humble. I
agree he could seem humble, but, with all due respect, he was anything
but humble. A few years before he died, I had a remarkable,
revealing conversation with him about the book he wrote. He
me that he believed his book - after he died - would change the world
and be recognized as one of the three greatest books ever written,
ranking in importance with the Bible. I'm sorry, but he was
In contrast to his quiet, gentle, and charming
demeanor, privately, he held a very high opinion of himself - believed
his opinions were right and rarely - if ever - would admit to a mistake
or say "Sorry." And he went to great lengths to
personal and professional life to receive constant affirmation,
appreciation - and, yes, adoration.
said, he was my father - and he, like all of us, was human and
was my father, and I loved him.
was my father, and I cared about him, loved him, bragged to others
about him, and wanted more time with him.
moved South about 20 years ago, for most of those 20 years, we
spoke by phone virtually every day - long conversations, very
gratifying, warm conversations - we spoke each day at length and he
called them "visits."
I loved my father. He mattered to
me. And I told him that all the time. And whenever
visit I'd wait on him hand and foot. There was almost nothing
wouldn't do for him.
And up to a few years ago, we had a very close
had a very close relationship. And my husband
and I did whatever we
could to make him and his wife, Ruth, feel welcome. (Here are Ruth and my father at
our property relaxing by the pool while I cook dinner)
other things, several years ago, we offered to care for them in old age
in ill health - should they want or need this - either in our
home or next door
to us on a property we own (see photo, right). Our
offer to take
care of them was a loving offer - and it was made with our eyes open to
what it could and would involve.
after a lifetime of
closeness, my father a few years ago suddenly started acting very
differently with me.
father, I believe, was influenced by my
sister - who was on the scene helping him, giving
flattery, lobbying him about her needs, and I believe passing on
some serious "misinformation."
My father became suspicious of me.
started wrongly believing, based on something I think my sister, Ruth
(photo, left), said to him (which I
only recently learned) that
my husband and I secretly planned to put him in a nursing
home. This was never
true, and his mistrust was completely undeserved - and very
distressing to me after a lifetime of loving him and feeling such
closeness with him.
That said, my father did assure me on
several occasions - in person, by phone, and in writing - that he would
- when he died - treat my sister and me equally with his estate:
would share equally the value of the apartment which my Mom and he got
back in the 1950s where my sister and I grew up,
we would share equally the things in the apartment which included
things of my mother's and things which came from both sides of the
And my father assured me that he would also treat my
sister and me equally with the money he had in the bank.
having been raised by my mother and father where equality was preached
and practiced - including within our family in terms of my sister and
me - I counted on this and believed him. And I thought it was
But after he died, I was given a copy of his will.
I found out that my father left a few thousand dollars to 2
organizations. And that my father left ALL of the rest -
million dollars of assets - ALL
to my sister . . . and nothing, NOTHING to
me. Nothing to
my husband who's a good man. Nothing to our
daughter who is one of Ira
Gollobin's three grandchildren - and the grandchild who
happens to carry on his
genes, that part of the Gollobin legacy, along with a lot of his traits
and values - which she has - and which I
He turned his back on me,
my husband, and our daughter - a person any
grandfather should be proud of and care about. He even said
his will that if my sister predeceased him, he'd give EVERYTHING to my
children for THEIR education, weddings, and first home purchases.
What he did is shocking, very painful, and very wrong.
My father, who publicly professed fighting injustice and fighting
inequality - in his final act - chose to create inequality and create
And he has made it impossible to simply remember the good times and his
Please understand that I'm not here to damage his legacy. He damaged his legacy.
stand before you, having loved my father and having been betrayed by my
father. I'll let you imagine the pain. Imagine
your father, who you dearly loved, lied to you and chose to hurt you at
the end of his life - and to harm you and your family in every way he
could - emotionally and financially.
So today, I am the
whistleblower - a role my parents always said was important in
society. I am the messenger with some bad news - and wise
don't blame the messenger. And I am the victim - not a role I
I am also one of two daughters who loved
him. And I
am the daughter who will keep carrying on his values helping thousands
of people - and who will give credit where credit's due.
you to know that I have asked my sister several times to help right
this wrong which my father did at the end of his life - and to share my
mother's and father's estate - and her response has been silence -
which is quite a loud answer. The only thing that she has
with me are some of my mother's and father's ashes.
believe in equality. And if my father had done this to her
and her family
- no matter what I thought of my sister - I would have immediately
righted this wrong and given her and her family half. She and her
husband deserve that. And their children - my father's
grandchildren - deserve that too.
hope my sister will
finally do the right thing. But if she doesn't, she will be
perpetuating the worst of my father's legacy - and
dishonoring what my mother and father all their lives said
I don't want to end on a bad note - even though my father did.
I want to end by thanking you so much for listening.
And I want you to know that I am truly glad for each of you who were
helped by my father - as I was, at times.
I am truly glad for each of you who
learned something from him - as I did.
I am truly glad for all of you who enjoyed him - as I did for many,
In closing, I stand before you - damaged - HONORING
my mother and father by refusing to be silenced, being brave, standing
up for principles of equality and justice - and speaking the truth.
you for reading my speech. This is the speech
my sister, her two children, and a few other
people stopped me from fully delivering at my father's
this Memorial Service, my sister distributed a
sizeable "memorial book" which she compiled and had printed for the
occasion. It's full of wonderful photos
and contributed essays
from a wide range of people who knew my father.
am not in that book.
my sister never told
me that there was going to be such a publication. She never asked me
(or my husband or our daughter) to write anything about him.
is just one
more example of the way my sister has treated me over the
a continuing effort to misrepresent my love and
caring for my
father. I believe my sister had a
significant hand in persuading my father to do what he did to me and
my family at the end of his life. That said, it was still my father's
doing . . .