EDITOR’S NOTE: TVWriter™ legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus Herbie J Pilato brings us a very personal message for the new year.
by Herbie J Pilato
A little over ten years ago, a dear friend gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received, if in a near cryptic and daunting manner.
“Herbie,” he said, “I’d rather see you move back to Los Angeles, work your ass off, strive to be the best you could be, sacrifice everything you’ve ever known, and never succeed, then stay in Rochester and rot.”
At the time, in January of 2009, my Mom had passed away a few months before. I had served as her caregiver for more than 13 years, after the death of my father, for whom I also served as a caregiver in the last stages is life. He succumbed to lung cancer in April of 1995. My Mom died from complications of Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
It was all horrible. As any caregiving relative or friend will explain, watching those close to you slip away on any consistent basis, whether physically or psychologically, is heartbreaking and exhausting on every emotional and practical level.
Like the time I wondered how I was going to commute to a local college in a family of three drivers and one car, only to have my Dad rectify that issue by pulling up in front of our townhouse with a new car for me to drive.
Or how my Mom would bless me with her rosary beads each time I visited or left her apartment. She’d stand by the window when I would leave, push back the vertical blinds, hold her hand up and make the sign of the cross with that rosary in her hand.
I was gifted with many creative talents. I can’t play basketball, and I can’t count, among many other inabilities. But I can sing, dance, act, and write, or anything else that has to do with the worlds of entertainment and publishing.
For one reason or another, namely, caring for my parents, I never fully pursued that stardom. Some say I have may used caring for my parents as an excuse not to succeed; or that I never gave it my all.
I was surrounded by all the new furniture I had purchased for my Mom. My apartment now mirrored hers. She was gone. And all I had left were memories and the furniture I had purchased for her. Again, that’s all I had inherited. My own financial investment in my love for her had now come back to me.
But they were gone. And I was 48, with no to show for my accomplishments except my accomplishments. I was then the author of a few books about classic TV shows, which I was given the opportunity to write because my parents allowed me to move back into the room I grew up in to do so.
I know there are many writers out there who work full-time jobs, raise families, and still, somehow find the time to write. But I have never been that prolific and talented or blessed with that kind of stamina.
I cared for them in their elderly years because there was no other choice. I was compelled to care for them; I could not abandon them. And I never felt that Heaven would abandon me — and Heaven has not, especially with my Mom and Dad there now, routing for me from above.
And so I prepared to leave. I started selling furniture to make money for the move. I started borrowing money for the plane fare and the miscellaneous tasks that were required for the cross-country journey that I had made so many times before.
And so I left, and in the now over ten years that I’ve been back in L.A., I write five books, formed a nonprofit organization, and starred in my own TV show. None of my books have ever made to the New York Times Best-Sellers list, and I am considering closing my nonprofit, and my TV show may move forward with a second season or a spin-off. But the point is, I moved forward. I didn’t rot in Rochester, which, by the way, is one of my favorite places in the whole world, and I may one day return there and retire.
And for all of those times when I did return to Rochester, with her my tail beneath me, or to care for my parents, I remember more sound, spiritual advice I received, if not from another spiritual friend, but a very close relative.
And that my cousin Evie, who is also now gone (much too young, I might add). At one point, in some by-gone year, I asked Evie if I should stay in L.A. to try and succeed, in part so I can buy my parents everything I always wanted to buy them?
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host ofclassic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.