Avram's Past

The life and death of my mother, Marilyn Miller (1926-1992)


Today would have been the 90th birthday of my mother.  She was born in San Francisco on Oct. 16, 1926, and died on Dec. 10, 1992.  My mother had just turned 18 years old when I was born.  She got engaged to my father on her 17th birthday and married him six months later.  My mother and I were children together.  I wish we could have grown old together but that was not to be.  She was just 66 years old she took her own life.

My mother was a troubled woman who suffered from what we now call bi-polar disorder.  She was generous, passionate and funny.  She was also manipulative and vengeful.  I suffered badly from childhood asthma and even spent a year at the age of seven in a convalescence  home.  My mother told me that if it was not for her and her love, I would die.  She also told me that if it was not for my love, she would die.  This meant that if I did not love my mother, I would die.  It was my first exposure to symbolic logic.  But my mother did love me and I never doubted that. Her love for me was the foundation of my life. 

I was a strange kid, what we call these days “nerdy.” I had trouble tying my shoelaces. She said, “don’t worry, Einstein could not tie his shoelaces either.”  I am sure she made that up.  She was just 36 years old when I left home to become a merchant marine and sail to Asia.  I was 18.  My mother always accepted me. She was, of course, proud of the things I accomplished but she loved the essence of me.

My father left my mother when I was eight years old and she was just 26 with three young children.  She went to work in a donut shop where she later met her second husband, Joel Miller, who was just 24 years old.  She worked very hard to support her children and only stopped working the last few years of her life.

My mom did not finish high school.  She got a job at the age of 15 working at the telegraph company.  She would move documents from one part of the building to the other, wearing roller skates.  Her own mom, my grandmother, was just 20 years older than my mom and was 37 years old when I was born.  She pretty much ignored my mother who was more or less raised by her own grandmother and my great grandmother.

Often, my mother would attempt suicide.  It ran in the family.  Her own father took his life when I was just three years old, at the age of 50.  My youngest sister took her life at 27 years old.   I had to talk my mom down many times.      

There is a saying amongst Jews that you die twice.  The first time is when your body dies.  The second time is when the last person that remembers you dies.  I think the internet has probably changed that. It is now possible for memories of people to live beyond the people that have known them.  Not only memories about them, but photos, videos, as well as their voices.  I regret that I do not have any recordings of my mother’s voice.  I can no longer recall it except sometimes when she comes to me in my dreams.

One of the reasons that I am writing this blog post is to make sure that some of my memories of my mother are on the internet where they may survive indefinitely.  It is ironic that on the day she took her life, I was at a meeting with General Instruments where we developed our plan to create the  cable modem and get the cable companies to offer high-speed residential broadband. Our meeting was in Pennsylvania. I flew back to California after the meeting.  I called my assistant once I arrived at the airport.  I will never forget that moment.  She said, that my stepfather asked that I call him once I arrived home but not to call him from the airport.  I knew in my gut that she was no longer alive.

She was just 66 years old, five years younger than I am now.  There is hardly a day that goes by  that  I don’t think of her. 

Here is a slide show I put together.

10 thoughts on “The life and death of my mother, Marilyn Miller (1926-1992)

    • OOOPS, did not mean to send yet. I learn more about you Avram through your blogs. I am so sorry that your mom struggled, can’t imagine the questions she left you with. She left you with her love, though. It doesn’t ever leave us.

      By the way Einstein’s difficulty with his shoe laces had to do with his dyslexia. : ) in a brilliant mind.


  1. A truly beautiful tribute to your Mom. My mom was also born in 1926, who died 10 years after yours. Your photo album – which was wonderful – contained a number of pictures which reminded me of my Mom. May your Mother’s memory always be for a blessing.


  2. Avram …have you ever thought about “high functioning autism”? Which is perhaps best understood through the paradigm of ADHD. But we are smart, and cover it so well.

    Recently Jerry Seinfeld (and maybe Larry David) have come forward with the realization they are “on the (autism) spectrum”. A number of things you say / recollect about your mother strike that chord. Polarization in the mind. In or neglect in feeling and thinking. In my and my brothers experience (he’s early Google), that brain paradigm explains so much of our lives … better.

    But then also, when I think about it – its explains my parents lives. The acute love and care. And the places of neglect. Mostly neglect! Experiences you describe as “bi-polar”, which is a misdiagnosis of ADHD (IMO). The simple day-to-day of the ADHD brain creates the emotions (which are misleading). Psychs are all wrong (and self-serving).

    Thank you for the history basics. I love the history of your family. Great pictures. Can you believe the magic of life progress? The beautiful changes … the justice, the technology? Bill Gates ranks #1 the book “Better Angels of Our Nature”. Obama! That we will never have “war” again! Wow.


  3. Avram – this is a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I never knew your history and how much you overcame, I only knew the successful executive and investor at Intel. My mother died of cancer at age 69 and I think of her often. I love how you celebrate your mother here. Hope you are well. Stephanie


  4. Wonderful tribute, Avram. Memories of her will indeed endure long after those who knew her are gone through the internet –as you had hoped.


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