Jillian Livingston: Guest Opinion | AspenTimes.com
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Jillian Livingston: Guest Opinion

Jillian Livingston
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Much to my regret, my family, my sisters, my mother, my aunts and the Queen of Holland are being recognized all over the world thanks to Bernard Madoff, who made off with our money.

Everywhere I turn there are sympathetic people offering their condolences. They are sorry that my family is suffering an injustice. I look at them and smile and wait for comments to sink in like, “It is not right that society thinks it is OK to be a voyeur in other people’s private lives.” I wait longer and find myself making assumptions about their thoughts: “I didn’t know she was part of that wealthy Jewish society that got suckered by a fellow member of the tribe. Why does she still look happy? Would a person who thinks that she is a princess be offended if I invited her to live in our basement if she loses her house? I really should help out with the kids, make them dinner and send them some money.” Wait, that was me trying to infuse my thoughts back into their sympathetic brains.

Growing up, my two sisters and I endured endless lectures from our father as he attempted to train us on the importance of a secure financial future. He was obsessive about making the most of his hard-earned money and build upon the savings that he and my mother had inherited from their hard-working parents who had lost their family and everything they had owned in the Holocaust. With sheer determination my grandfather started from nothing and built a shoe manufacturing business in England. It was my father’s lifelong ambition to ensure that he was doing his part to add to that legacy.



We would hear him from afar stating that he was going for a walk and we would scatter. Inevitably, he would seek one of us out and demand that he be accompanied. Our eyes would roll back into our heads as he would talk stock market jargon and finance. If only he had an interpreter to explain things to us in laymen terms, we might not have immediately zoned out and missed so many opportunities for valuable advice! Capturing us in the zone, he would tell us to make sure we landed where we took off from. He took pride in the fact that all of his research and connections led him to Bernard Madoff who was bringing in a consistent and solid return. In 1997, my father passed away from melanoma, convinced that he had done well for his wife and children.

It is very surreal for my husband Wade and I to become part of the stereotype connected to the Ponzi scheme victims. It is also maddening to read the comments stating that people were greedy or stupid to invest with Madoff. Greedy? Is it greedy to try to make the most out of your money? Investigating and trusting a highly rep­utable investment firm is not greedy behavior. We thought that we were safely saving for our future. Were we stupid for not diligently following the proper steps to check up on Madoff? We were fol­lowing some of the most brilliant people in the world who had also invested with Madoff. We felt secure in doing the same. Like the other victims we have been reading about in the papers, we have no idea how this devastating situation will be resolved. When my 4-year-old overheard Wade and I talking about how Madoff was going to jail, he quietly and sadly asked why Rudolph was going to prison.




My family and I have been laughing hard together a lot lately. We are living month to month, hanging on by a thread and our thermostats are on 60. In the mornings we all converge in the kitchen donning our hats, huge Quicksilver sweaters and slippers. We look like some sort of rock band.

Our values and our priorities have been set straight. We will build a finer future for ourselves and for our children. We are trying not to harbor bitter thoughts, but we wish Bernard Madoff bon voyage on his way to prison.

Jillian Livingston is a resident of Old Snowmass who writes about her family at her blog, http://isdisnormal.com/2009/01/30/welcome.aspx


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