From The East Side To The East End

Written By: Aggie  Burns


When my father moved from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the East End of Long Island in the dead of winter in 1966, his departure was sudden and unexpected. He left behind a wife and two young daughters, shell-shocked and too numb for words. Photos of his new residence were hidden away in drawers, as it was too painful to cast our eyes upon a lonely reminder of a previously happy family life. I often wondered why he left without a word of good-bye.   I never heard from Daddy again.

Several decades later, as snowflakes drifted from the sky on a cold and gray winter’s day, my mother went to join my father out in the East End.   Although my mother had his address all these years, she knew that if she wrote to him, he would not reply. When my mother re-located to the East End to join my father again, this act cured my mother’s insomnia, long suffering depression and anxiety. My mother’s leave taking was also sudden but not quite so unexpected.   My mother had long missed my father, but suffered in silence. Right before she made the move, my mother found some old photos of my father and used to enjoy gazing at them. I could only guess at what her memories of him were. My mother did not speak of my father often, as it seemed that references to him were too painful for her to bear. So my sister and I grew up in a home of silence, with a phantom lurking in the shadows.  Someone—or something—always seemed to be missing. The house was too silent, the holidays too silent, and while others at school, throughout high school and college, regaled each other with stories of happy family vacations, I found I had little to contribute in this area.  And when I graduated from high school and college, as I was far from home, neither parent was available to come see me.   It is only now, looking back, I realize the profound depth of the void that existed, both physical and emotional.

My parents are now together in the East End, well-looked after in a community comprised of well-manicured lawns attended by professional gardeners. The neighborhood is populated primarily by adults with a sprinkling of children here and there.   The seasons descend upon this hallowed acreage like clockwork.   The shifts in weather bring flowering buds of spring, warming rays of summer sunshine, bursts of golden foliage, and blankets of snow with a regularity that can be counted upon as the turning of the pages of a calendar. Although many residents are fond of having pets, they are not allowed, so they sadly have to leave them behind or find other homes for them when they depart for the Promised Land of the East End–a place to get away from it all–and a place whose impact on new arrivals is so profound that they vow never to return to their former way of life.

Visitors are most welcome. While some visitors bring flowers or token gifts, others decide to picnic in the open air, communing with nature while visiting and chatting with friends and relatives. Although the setting is bucolic, the skies over the East End provide a wide ranging variety of changing vistas—dark brewing skies warning of impending storms, puffy peaceful clouds drifting lazily overhead, thunderous buckets of rain, or delicate snowflakes falling silently upon the earth. When you’re ready to lay down your cares and worries the East End awaits, offering peace and quiet and respite from a noisy, hurried, frenzied world rushing by.

My parents, realizing this would be a good place to be together again, reside at their permanent and final address: East Farmingdale, in Long Island’s National Cemetery.   My parents, together again at last, no longer speak to me. But I would like to think that they are speaking to each other—and laughing once again.