People From The Past - robin bidner
I used to see Dr Harris every six months. He looked me over for any signs of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer my father had. He was the surgeon who operated on my father after another doctor had assured him that the mole on his chest was nothing to be concerned about. I too had a couple of lesions removed that were melanomas, but luckily, mine were in situ, meaning they hadn’t moved anywhere else.
Dr. Harris was exactly my father’s age, and after the surgery and years of follow up visits, the two of them grew to have a kind of friendship, not one where they met outside of the NYU Hospital walls, but still one of mutual respect that lasted until my father passed away from an unrelated cancer of the prostate twenty years later.
I continued to see Dr Harris for years after my father’s death, up until he finally retired in his early eighties. “I can’t let anything bad happen to you” he said many times after examining me, a phrase that comforted me, feeling like it was somehow connected to my father.
The other day, my friend reminded me that her daughter was moving out of town and wanted to get rid of her furniture. Since our son Sam moved back to New York, she wondered if he could make use of it. “Yes!” I responded without even asking him, “but I don’t know who I can find to help us collect it." The timing wasn’t perfect because the furniture had to be moved before Sam’s lease starts. So the move had to be done on two different days, with a trip to collect and leave in our garage, and a return trip to Sam’s new apartment.
“Why don’t you call Derrick?” my brother said over lunch a few weeks ago. We laughed. Derrick was someone who worked for my father, moving high tech laser type setters and other machinery, in his engineering business. We all called upon Derrick to help us too, particularly when we changed apartments. Although he wasn’t really a mover even back in those days, he helped us out because he really liked my father.
He is a bit of a character in our family lore, with stories about how he lifted a large leather couch onto his shoulders, and walked out of our apartment with it while we all stood around not doing much. He was just a little taller than me, thin, but seemingly able to lift almost anything. The last time I saw him, I think Sam was about three, and he’ll turn 30 this year.
“You have his contact info?” I asked my brother. “I have something in my phone. No idea if it’ll work but you can try.” I had nothing to lose. I didn’t want to hire a real mover because the free furniture wasn’t worth all that much, and no one else who I left messages with even responded.
“Hi Derrick” I texted. “This is Robin Bidner, Harvey Bidner’s daughter. I’m sure you don’t remember me, but you helped us move many moons ago. Wondering if you still do that kind of thing. In any event, I hope you and your family are well.”
I hit send, and almost immediately, my cell phone rang. “Robin, it’s Derrick”. We spoke for a bit, I learned that Derrick is now 68, and doesn’t really do moves anymore. “But I’ll do it for you guys” he said. “Just bring your son because I might need his help.” We set the date and I couldn’t wait to call my brother and tell him that Derrick was going to help.
We met on St Marks Place in the East Village, where the apartment that housed the furniture was located. As soon as he drove up and got out of his van, we hugged. I hadn’t seen him in almost thirty years and we were never friends. But somehow, we both felt connected, whether through my father or simply, just the past.
We all climbed the four flights of rickety stairs and Sam and Derrick maneuvered the large mattress and frame, kitchen table, and coffee table, with Derrick directing Sam to avoid nicking the walls or knocking out the lighting fixtures dangling from above. They placed the large items in Derrick’s van and the smaller ones in the back of our car.
When we finished, leaving everything in our garage in Westchestesr, I took Derrick’s picture, we hugged goodbye and set the next date to move the furniture back into Manhattan. I was delighted that Sam’s next chapter started this way, feeling like somehow, my father was still in the mix helping us along.
Robin Bidner was born and raised on Long Island and worked as an attorney for New York City, in both child welfare and homeless services. Throughout her life, she remembers writing, beginning with letters to her parents whenever she was mad at them, and continuing to personal essays focusing on family and relationships in general. Her work has been published in Kveller, https://www.kveller.com/how-the-margin-notes-in-my-family-haggadahs-tell-our-story/, Jewish Women of Words https://jewishwomenofwords.com.au/author/robin-bidner/ and the Sad Girl’s Club literary blog https://www.sadgirlsclublit.com/post/does-someone-tell-you-it-s-over-robin-bidner. She has also appeared in Writes and Bites in Rye, New York. Robin lives in Westchester county with her husband Andy, and loves when their adult children come home to visit them and Dusty, their dog. This piece is a short personal essay, nonfiction.