Dear readers, you have probably noticed that I haven’t written anything new in the past few weeks, except for a scheduled post for #WorldKidLit Month on my work as a translator of children’s books. That’s because on September 19, I lost my husband of 38 years, Richard Lachmann, to a heart attack at the age of 65.
Richard regularly contributed to my blog, mostly restaurant reviews read and trusted by people visiting Portugal and cities around the world. He also wrote a piece on Covid-19 and the decline of U.S. power, as his 2020 book First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship was one of many that came out just before or during the pandemic.
Richard and I met when we were both 19, in a sociology class at Princeton University. He was the best student in the class. I was in over my head. He tutored me, and I came to see that sociology wasn’t the easy A that I had been led to believe. As he approached the discipline, it was far more abstract and philosophical, while I gravitated to history because of its focus on individuals and their stories. It was through history — stories — that I became a novelist, but his focus on broader social forces deepened my own work.
Although we were married for 38 years, we were together for 45. We waited to tie the knot until he received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and had a job offer in hand from the University of Wisconsin so as to receive the blessing of my very traditional family in Houston, Texas.
Richard’s intelligence initially attracted me to him, but over the years of our courtship, I came to see what a truly good person he was. He was devoted to his family. His own father, with whom he had a close relationship, died when he was 12, and as the eldest he took over many of the roles. He started doing his mother’s taxes when he was 13 and had just filed her 2020 return. His father traveled all over the world as a United Nations official — once in elementary school, a classmate teased him by saying his father was going to be eaten by a lion — so it was important for him to be around for his own children. He took an active role in raising Derrick and Maddy and set a good example for Derrick to become an involved father in the lives of his children.
People always said Richard and I had the perfect relationship. Sometimes when they say things like that, they don’t see the more complicated underside. In our case, however, they were right. He brought his intelligence, his kindness, his worldliness, his endless patience, his attention to detail. I brought — I don’t know — a sense of humor. Poetry. Whatever the case, he never seemed disappointed.
After seven years in Wisconsin, Richard took a position at the University of Albany, and we were able to move closer to his family and the city of his birth, which he always believed was the greatest city in the world. After our return from a semester in Portugal thanks to a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, we decided to make the move to New York City, at first part-time, then full-time. My essay, “A Midlife Crisis and a Big Move” was my Valentine’s Day gift to him in 2015, the year we moved for good.
Richard loved his life in New York, being close to his family. He loved his teaching and being a mentor to several generations of young scholars throughout the world. His classes and workshops took him not only to Portugal, where he continued to teach at ISCTE, the graduate institute of the University of Lisbon, but also to China, Russia, Abu Dhabi, and Kyrgyzstan. He loved his research and was working on three edited collections of scholarly articles as well as a long-term project on changing attitudes toward war casualties in the U.S., Russia, and Israel. I wish he had more time, and I wish we all had more time with him.
From time to time, I’ll share some of the work he was doing on this blog, because his ideas influenced many of my posts, and in some cases like the war casualties, we disagreed. When we met, we saw ourselves as opposites — a determined intellectual from New York City and a wide-eyed but somewhat aimless kid from Texas. Over the years we grew closer in temperament and interests. We were the couple who finished each other’s sentences. I became the person I am because of him, and my life from here on will be part of his legacy.