When I received your Tribute issue of the Megillah, I first read your moving
tribute to Michael. Then I read the moving tributes from three of your regular
column writers--and my first thought was: Who are these people? Michael was my
And then I realized that since Michael was dear to me and I am a writer, it's
time I wrote something about Michael.
My relationship with Michael began several years ago with a tirade on my part.
Someone had told me about the Gantseh Megillah and when I went to the website,
what did I see but an article by Phyllis Schlafly, an arch-enemy of feminists,
such as I, and a former member of the John Birch Society. I was aghast and sent
off an angry email to Michael blasting him for publishing Schlafly.
He saw this as an invitation to a loving friendship, which he then embarked
upon. He told me he didn't know that much about Schlafly, that the article he
published dealt with a subject unrelated to women's rights, and vowed never to
publish her again. (He never did.)
That was the beginning of my close friendship with Michael and you. I cannot, of
course, write about Michael without writing about you, Arnold. I have always
referred to you as a saint and I see no reason to stop now. Because of Michael's
physical disabilities, it fell on you to do all the work of running your
household: you did the grocery shopping, cooking, driving the car, taking care
of your two dogs, and worked hand-in-glove with Michael on publishing the
monthly and weekly Megillahs. I remember the beautiful artwork you did for some
of the Megillahs. With regard to your work on the Megillah, Arnold, I think you
forgot that you are not Jewish. I never heard you voice a complaint about all
this. Instead, you considered yourself lucky to be sharing your life with
Michael. I've known many people in my life, Arnold, but have never known anyone
like you and don't believe there is another person like you on this planet.
I had the privilege of being with you and Michael twice: first, when you visited
me at my townhouse in Potomac, MD, and, second, when I came to Montreal for your
wedding. As I mentioned, I still have and treasure the cup from your wedding
with the picture of the two of you. When I came to Montreal, I visited you in
your current apartment and remember watching the two of you seated on your
couch, in front of your computers, being together happily side-by- side.
Michael published a number of my articles in the Megillah; one that I recall is
Love Letter to Ostuni," about my experience teaching school in Italy. He
reviewed my memoir, Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The
Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter.
In 2005, I had to travel from my townhouse in Potomac, MD, to Cleveland, OH, for
surgery--and the recuperation turned out to be longer than anticipated, eleven
days instead of just a few. Michael called me every single day to see how I was
doing. Only my brother called me as often. So, when Michael was in the Montreal
Jewish Hospital this past year, I was able to return the favor and called him
just about every day. During this time, I developed a pattern of sharing
information with Susan Smolenski, who, with her husband and family, also met
Michael through the Megillah and became a dear friend of his. Whenever I spoke
to Michael or you about Michael's condition, I'd email or telephone Susan about
it and she did the same with me. Sadly, I was the one to telephone and speak to
her husband, Tony, when you told me we had lost Michael.
There are a great many people who come into one's life during a lifetime--but
only a handful truly love and care about us. Michael was one who loved me, and I
him. His loss is devastating and his presence in my life is irreplaceable. I am
so glad, however, that I can continue my loving friendship with you.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes
Speaker, Author, "Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give
You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter"
a letter to the Editor