Dear Dad,

These days, I keep thinking of the old times.  How you were so playful when we were toddlers, too strict when we were teenagers, my rock during the turmoil of my twenties, and, along with Mom, your kids’ greatest cheerleader.

Sometimes I think that I see the glimmer of the old you.  Beneath the bizarre outfits and the confused talk.

Our weekend of celebrating your big birthday was wonderful.  (After 90, they are ALL big.)  Sometimes you didn’t really understand what was going on, but you were happy that your family was around you.

10630568_10202625072736212_3324593164443517949_o(And you knew to wear the appropriate outfit your aide set out for you.)

And I know you didn’t need the luncheon to be in such a fancy place.  I know if we said, “Dad, we are coming over and we are eating cardboard for dinner [fiber-rich],” you would say, “how wonderful! I can’t wait to see you.”

But you might worry about whether you would get an evening cocktail.

And so I know you have not lost your mind completely.

In the light of day, you know you get confused at night and, appreciating the humor, refer to the nighttime aides as your guards.

Your kids prefer the term, body guards.  So, let’s use that term, shall we?

Today, you were mostly discombobulated and, yet, and yet, you were ready to go to the aid of an old friend whom we didn’t see in the diner today, and whom the waiters hadn’t seen since last week.  You called him to pay a visit and bring food.  In a clutch moment, the old you comes shining through.  (P.S.:  Sam is ok.)

This is a hard road, Dad, for all of us and most of all, for you.

And yet.

And yet, even in the waning days of your life and the continuing diminishing of your faculties, the essential you shines through.

You won’t ever read this.  But I had to write it.

I love you, Dad.

~Blogger

P.S.:  See you tomorrow, Dad.  Same time.  Lunch.  But let’s change it up a little; let’s order something different.  Because I cannot watch you put jam on the tomato slices that comes with your usual order of scrambled eggs.

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time Near the Beach

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, in a snuggly hamlet close to the beach lived — for many summers — about 100 girls, at any one time.  And they would grow up and know each other for decades and decades.  But not yet.

And some years spun by and the little girls became hormonal teenagers.  And, as hormonal teenagers, the subjects of sex, drugs and — alas, not rock ‘n roll, but — punk captivated each and every brain cell in their still-formative minds.

There was one such girl, shy in her youth and averse to tongue kissing (let’s not discuss Greg Pogarsky), whose hormones would transform her, in her teenage years, into, well, let’s think of the caterpillar turning into the butterfly.

And more years spun by and now the girl is 50.  And Septembers bring her back to that snuggly little hamlet filled with love and friends, like a genetic homing instinct.

The smell of the air is the same as it was in our youth.  We all breathe in so deeply as if to capture the memories in our bodies’ organs.

And karma is a boomerang.  And it plays out like a maestro hitting our emotional buttons.

[play music to suggest that the idyllic story takes a turn for the humorous and slightly ooky]

And now she is a mom of a college freshman son.

And in the serene place where we can be as carefree as we were decades ago, technology and too much information intrude.  And in the same place (Google doesn’t discern between the steps of Lodge 1 or Lodge 2) as she pined for a young man named Will, came . . . .

OMG, my son just got to college and he slept with a girl!!!

He texted you that?”  All of us were thinking, but one person said.

They spent the night together but I don’t know what happened, HAPPENED!  I am trying to find out by asking if he put his sheets in the laundry.

GREEK CHORUS: “Understated, yet smart.”

Wrong question.  He is a BOY.   No matter what happened, he is not changing his sheets.

GREEK CHORUS: sigh, “Truth”.

Do you really need this information?” asked a sage one.

GREEK CHORUS: “NO one needs this knowledge.”

DOES HE HAVE CONDOMS?” asked ALL of us.

GREEK CHORUS: “Is this ready for prime time?”

I don’t know!! Ok.  This is a first!!” ["Ok, HOW do you know that?" thought all of us.]

GREEK CHORUS:  “We are closing our ears. We can’t HEAR you!!”

Ok, congratulate him for ALL of us.  Now, make sure that he has condoms,” said another sage one.

GREEK CHORUS: “Wait, this isn’t Braxton Family Values or Crazy Wives of [pick a City]. Let’s play on.”

Coincidentally, one among us is not only a professor at the young man’s college, but a professor of human sexuality.

I would be happy to deliver the condoms in a see-through bag while I am on the campus.  Is it ok if I say, ‘a group of your mother’s middle-age friends are very happy for you, but use these, please?

GREEK CHORUS:  “This is a whole new reality genre, like Naked Dating.  Let’s hang out; we may be revived by something other than a Shakespeare festival!”

[Revert to the fairy tale music]

The morals of the story, as you can plainly see:

  • You do it, you live with it (you along with a posse of older women).
  • Stop texting your mother about these things.
  • Things are only sacred if they aren’t bloggable.

And we all lived happily ever after, looking forward to the next visit to Camp Wingate.

 

So thirty or so middle age women are at a reunion . . . .

Sounds like the start of a joke, huh?

Well, we do have our own odd communal sense of humor — and propriety.

First, a little background:

  1. And most of us are comfortably in our middle-age (but we look — to each other — as if we are still campers).
  2. We all feel close to each other, regardless of the facts — many of us only recently met at reunions.
  3. Those of us who did know each other at camp now share each other’s food, drink, and menopausal medications.
  4. As we age, we need to add supplements to our foods, and those supplements vary.

And that closeness has its draw-backs.

Imagine one middle-age camper’s surprise upon learning that, after taking a gulp of another’s coffee, it was laced with the mother lode of Miralax.  One camper’s constipation became another camper’s . . . . well, you know.

By lunchtime, the following conversation ensued:

[Constipated one], I am f^&*ing stinking up Lodge 2 because I can’t stop shitting!  How much of that stuff do you need?

I need a lot because I have not gone in a while.

How constipated?  So long, as in an enema with a vacuum?” I offered (not so helpfully).

Let’s ask the doctors here.  You need help.  And I need to stop friggin’ shitting my brains out!

Oh, gross, we cannot talk about this about lunch.

Ha.  Of course we can.  Those assembled asked about our friend’s colon, intestines and just how much Miralax she takes (with every meal and then some).  I renewed my suggestion about a vacuum.

Thereafter at every meal, we discussed the progress of “things”.  The bizarro nature and the hilarity of it all got people laughing so hard, that yet another camper peed in her pants.

I’ve had THREE children.  These things happen!

And no one thought otherwise.

Next installment:  Twelve 50 year-old women are talking about their children’s sex lives. . . .

 

Wingate 52

Wingate is like Brigadoon. A magical place that exists in the hearts of so many and is accessible once a year in September.  And, during that weekend in September, a cohort  — ages late 30s to early 60s — enters a timeless place, where we bask in memories and incorporate the reality of our lives as adults.

There are rules:

  • We start the weekend at the “Winter House,” where Pearl reigns.
  • We only dance to 70s music.
  • We move in packs, never letting go of a hand, a hug or a smile.
  • Meals are for re-fueling and picture-taking.
  • The bunks are only for the tough; those of us over a certain age must seek refuge elsewhere.

As to the last bullet point, let’s get a few facts on record.

  1. Cape Cod, with a few exceptions, has only motor lodges and similar lodgings.
  2. The Four Seasons, Balazs and the Ritz-Carlton (never mind Klimpton or other international brands) have not come to Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
  3. And we didn’t get an invitation to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis.
  4. We were staying at the Camp until it was time to sleep, so the accommodations needed only to be clean and passable.
  5. I only had to exceed the low expectations of staying in a bunk, with beds that had prison mattresses and communal toilets, etc., that are really only ok if you are under 16.

So I picked the Days Inn.  Not the Travelodge (more of a story) or the Econolodge.  The Days Inn.  Why, I thought, pay a lot for sleeping in a bed?  Our Brigadoon awaited us a Camp Wingate not at any hotel, motel or bed and bugfest.

Of course, because many decided that the bunk was too harsh and wanted a reservation at the Days Inn, I overbooked.  And, in my anxiety to book as many rooms as we all needed, I accidentally also booked the Travelodge (who can really tell the difference on-line????)  AT LEAST I ESCHEWED ANYTHING WITH “ECONO” IN THE NAME.

I have the dubious honor of being a rewards customer at the Days Inn.  If you book a zillion non-refundable rooms reservations by accident, you not only get special passes, but a visit from the CEO.  It is like having a platinum Sears card.

Still, the masses were not happy. They read reviews on-line about the “hotel”.  I had just spent visiting day at a “fine lodging” and it was gross.  So, I knew that the Days Inn was no better or worse than anything else.

After much hemming and hawing, and Pearl’s having laughed at my choice, my dear friend concluded, after some equivocation, that it could be worse — we could be in South Sudan.

South Sudan?  Whoa, I feel sooooo much better.  At least there is a worse place on Earth than where I had booked so many rooms that there is an indoor pool named after me in the very place we stayed.

We all laughed, knowing, tomorrow, we would drive back to Brigadoon.

Next installment — Janet2’s ebbs and flows and how Goldie literally ran afoul of them.

10626871_10204737569977895_2418587291594829880_n

Hello! Yes, it’s been a while Part 2

SOS (my son, source of sanity) was away this summer —  7 weeks at camp.

He came home with some virus, etc., that eventually infected everyone in his wake.  But more on that later.

Shortly after he came back (with clothes so gross that they needed to be burned), he started sneezing and blowing his nose.

“DUDE, get a tissue!!!”

“E-Mom, it was just a powder, not a mucous heaver!”

Ok, not only does my son have huge, smelly feet, and that slouchy style of sitting but he was distinguishing sneezes for me.

“Dude.  Dude. Dude.  Dude.  Every sneeze needs a tissue and I never want to see a mucous heaver.  That requires an exit — post-haste — into the bathroom, ok?”

The “mucous heaver” was a scab waiting to be scratched.  I resisted and inquired after the more dainty powder.

“I get what a mucous heaver might be — and all of the joy of living has left me just visualizing it — but what is a powder?”

“A thin, gentle spray.”

Ugh.  A thin, gentle spray of typhoid.  I renew my demand that all sneezes need a tissue.

A few mornings later, I have a stuffy nose and other symptoms of my son’s “sharing is caring” largesse.

As I am clearing my sinuses in my bathroom, I hear SOS shout from the hallway, “E-Mom, awesome HORNBLOWER!!!”

For a small, embarrassing and base moment, I have fit squarely into my 12 year-old’s world.

Just call me Horatio.  Horatio Hornblower.  My son is elated.

Hello! Yes, it has been a while. Part 1

I hope everyone had a good summer.

Time for Fall.  Time for the Jewish High Holy Days.  Time to sit in sack cloth and ashes and mourn the long sunny days and the sultry nights of summer.  And that my summer was not anything like the summers I remember when I was younger.

I have learned many things this summer, some profound and some not so.  All important.

Dad continues a slow downward trajectory but never loses the essential elements (and annoyances) of the man he is.  Dad called me one morning

SIDEBAR:  how DOES he call on my cell phone and office phone simultaneously???

He was quite fussed about the bank calling him about credit and debit cards, etc.  He couldn’t understand what the caller was saying.

Dad, I will call Chase and find out.  Did you give the caller any information?

No.  Nothing, but the caller seemed to know all my card numbers.

That’s a good sign, Dad.  There is no odd activity on your accounts [I have them linked to mine and pulled them up while we were talking].  I will call and find out and call you back.”

Thank you, darling.  I feel so much better.  You will call me right back?

I have a colleague in my office and a deadline, but this is my dad.  “As soon as I get some answers.  Don’t worry I am ON it.

I call.  Chase is being cautious with recent security breaches, and is sending my father all new cards.  I asked about any odd activity because what I see on the computer looks to be in real time but there may have been odd charges rejected.

I am sorry, M’am.  I will need your father on the line to answer these questions.

I have power of attorney.  His accounts are linked to mine.  Why do we have to involve my Dad?

This has to do with his profile.

I have no idea what this means.  The most important aspect was that for all of the planning, for all of the day-to-day handling of my father’s affairs, there are some places I cannot go without his express permission on tape.

I LEARNED THAT WE NEED TO MAKE BANKS ISSUE “FORMS OF POWER OVER EVERYTHING, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WHATEVER” so that we can sign these and be finished with the chaos.  Because there is the law and there is banking law.

I call Dad back on a three-way conference.

Dad, I have you on the phone with Chase, so that I can talk to customer service about our inquiry.

Don’t you already have that authority?

SIDEBAR:  I love that Dad can still identify stupidity, even in dementia.  Which really makes a person wonder about banking in general.  (Sorry, Mighty.)

The woman talked, doing her level best to ascertain that my father was who he was, etc., but he was too stressed and needed a familiar voice to prompt him.

Dad, Stacy need your name. Dad, would you tell her your name?

Dad“.

SIDEBAR:  I love that Dad thinks that being dad is who he is.

Daddy, that is great.  Can you give your full name now??

So, he pretty much got the information right.

Dad, that last question was do you give me, [Blogger], permission to talk to Stacy about your affairs.

Of course; I thought we did that already.”

Ok, Dad, you can hang up now and I will call you back shortly.”

Ok, darling.  I love you.

I love you, Daddy.  Thanks.  I will call you back soon.

All was ok.  I resolved the matter and recapped with Dad.

I am a lucky man, to have the kids I have.

We are lucky.  These things are complicated and we can do this for you.  And we want to do this for you.

With nothing to worry about, I might live past 120!!

Don’t worry, Dad, we have that covered, too, but your children will be on social security, so we will have to pool resources. . . .

Another day, another problem resolved.

WHAT I LEARNED (AGAIN):

  • Little kids, little problems.
  • Big kids, big problems.
  • Aging parent, a combination of both and . . .

And I can only hope that, from day-to-day, there are mostly little problems until the day that it is THE BIG PROBLEM.

 

The truths about roller coaster rides.

The first truth about roller coaster rides is that it can be scary, exhilarating, fun and vomit-inducing, but, at its end, it delivers you to its starting point and you wobble out onto terra firma.

The second truth is that you don’t need to go to an amusement park to ride one.

Thursday began like any other day.  I was late getting to the office for a call with opposing counsel. I didn’t even try to blame the trains.  I emailed him on my subway ride to push back the call 15 minutes.

When I get out of the subway, I receive a text from Dad’s home health aide (HHA).

“Have your sister call me immediately.”

My sister, SOB (sister of blogger] is a doctor.  This is not good.  I call SOB immediately.

SOB, it’s [Blogger], call HHA immediately.  She just texted that she needs to speak with you.  Call me after you speak to her.”

I am shaking.  Is this the day?  I don’t exactly remember the walk to my office.  But as I start to turn on my computer, my ringing cell phone snaps me back.

“It’s [SOB], HHA had to call 911 because Dad is basically non-responsive.”

Is this the day that Dad dies?

SOB and I know that we have to run to Dad’s house before anyone takes him to a hospital, so we can evaluate the situation.  He is almost 94 years old and has told us, again and again, that he wants to die in his bed.  And, unless there was acute pain or discomfort to relieve, being in a hospital is only torture for a person his age.  Old age is old age.  This is not a curable condition.  It is a fact of life.

I run part of the way there.  SOB is still in traffic.   I look at Dad.  He is now alert and comfortable on the gurney.  He knows me and seems relieved I am there.  He has no pain but looks so tired.  He smiles as he does when family walks into the room.  Our embrace is awkward because he is on a gurney.

“Dad, [SOB] is coming any minute and we will figure out whether you need to go to the hospital.”

“Yes, darling.  Let’s wait for [SOB].”

The EMTs tell me all his vitals are good.  Apparently, Dad slumped over at breakfast and HHA couldn’t rouse him.  She literally lifted him and had him lean on her while she got him to his bed in his bedroom.  The EMTs said he was non-responsive when they got there but with a little rubbing on his sternum, he started to wake up.

Dad hovered between life and death and came back to life.

So, TODAY IS DEFINITELY NOT THE DAY.  Still, the crisis isn’t over until the EMTs unstrap Dad from the gurney and they leave his house.

And Dad had mentioned heart disease, so the EMTs want to take him to the hospital.

“Dad is in mild heart failure.  Who isn’t at almost 94?  There is heart disease in his family, but he takes no medications, except an evening scotch.”

And then Dad says:

“They might not get paid if they came all this way and don’t come back with a patient.”

The EMTs smile.  They understand that my father wants to do the honorable thing.  They are also a little confused by his seeming clarity in one moment and his dementia in another. The EMTs wait for SOB to arrive (G-d bless professional courtesy).

Then Dad said:

“Before we go anywhere, I have to say goodbye to my wife.” 

The EMTs look at me and look at HHA, who is 50 years his junior.

“NO, NO, NO,” I say.  “Look at the wall.  See the painting?  That is Mom in 1967.  He needs to say good-bye to HER.”

341279902308_0_ALBOMG OMG OMG.  This still could be the day.  Oh, SHIT.

The EMTs were fabulous.  One was a little circumspect, probing about my knowledge of Dad’s medical and mental state.  I appreciated his concern and we walked a little away from Dad.

“Look, my father has been exceptionally healthy his whole life.  He is at the end of his life.  If he is not in pain or gasping, why would I want newly minted doctors (it IS July, after all) poking and prodding him?  But, let’s wait for the real doctor, my sister.”

Then that EMT starts to test my knowledge of Jewish culture and Yiddishkeit. The Blogger family name is stereotypically Jewish.  And he was testing me to figure out if I understood the Commandment to honor my father and my mother.

SOB walks in and consults with the EMTs.  Then she says to both of them:

“Last time he was in a hospital, it was for a brain bleed resulting from tripping on the sidewalk.  Although he was in neuro ICU and was watched by a private nurse, he got out of bed twice and fell both times.  Since then he wanders.  A hospital is not a safe place for him.  He has terrific 24 hour care at home.  And my sister and I are each a cab ride away.”

Both EMTs understood.  The circumspect EMT (who turned out to be an observant Jew) was more comfortable when we knew some Yiddish and when we told him that we had been through this drill before and we had tended to our mother in her dying days.

He said, “We have to call the supervisor.  I fear Hashem [G-d], my wife, gobblins and my supervisor, and your dad said he wanted to go to the hospital before you both arrived.

“I get that.  Make yourselves to home.  Can we give you something to drink or eat?”

The observant Jew demurred.  The other EMT said, his wife packs food.  So I asked, “you fear both your wife and Ha-Shem on this score.”  He nodded.

The EMTs and Dad start to talk.  They ask how he feels.

“It is the end.”

“End of what, sir?”

“The end of my life.”

Those words hang in the air, until interrupted by the arrival of the supervisor.  The supervisor calls the doctor on duty.  Everyone groans.

“What’s wrong with this doctor?” I ask, thinking the nightmare has just begun.

“He’s been sued a lot.  He will want to enforce transport to the hospital.”

WAIT. WAIT. I have power of attorney.  My sister has health proxy.  We, and our 24/7 nursing care, take excellent care of Dad.  We see him all of the time.  We know his wishes, his medical history and, hell, what eats in the diner and what he hates in a museum.  We speak to him everyday and see him every weekend.  Dad has told us what he wants and he trusts us.  And we love him.

DIDN’T YOU SEE THAT HE WASN’T AFRAID ANYMORE WHEN HIS CHILDREN ARRIVED?  THAT HE PERKED UP? HOW CAN THIS DOCTOR OVER THE PHONE ENFORCE THE TRANSPORT TO THE HOSPITAL?

Well, he did.  SOB and I would not stand for it.  Dad was sitting in a chair talking and feeling comfortable.  He didn’t need to go to the hospital.

“Call the doctor back. NOW!”

At this point the EMTs are rooting for keeping Dad home.  And I was ready to name Dr. [Blank] in a lawsuit.  After the doctor spoke to Dad, he asked to speak to the daughter who is the lawyer. NOT THE DAUGHTER WHO IS THE DOCTOR.  This is some paranoid dude.

“Yes, Dr. [Blank}.”

“Ms. [Blogger], BLAH BLAH BLAH. BLAH BLAH BLAH. BLAH BLAH BLAH” – I made the universal hari kari sign so everyone in the room could feel my pain — “Your father could have any number of issues.”

“Dr. [Blank], he is almost 94 years old.  Can any of those potential issues be prevented by a hospital visit today? We can agree that the answer is no.  And you have our family’s thanks for not compelling transport to a hospital.  I appreciate your advice on guardianship.  Thank you, doctor.”

The EMTs cheer the outcome.  We hugged one EMT and I said to the observant Jew, “I won’t hug you or shake your hand, but I would if you weren’t observant.”

“Thank you.  In this case, I fear my wife first.  Hashem, second.”

SMART MAN, THAT EMT.

All non-essential personnel left.  I went out to get pizza for everyone.  To celebrate success after the two hours that felt like ten.  We ate.  We all sacked out for an hour.

SOB went into Dad’s bedroom to check on him.  He was glad that he stayed at home.  He was glad to have his children around and he felt loved and supported by all of his children, even though our brother lives far away.  He told SOB what a lucky man he is and what a good life he has had.  The drift toward the inevitable is beginning.

We all got up a kibbitzed.  Soon it was cocktail hour.

“Dad,” SOB started, “there needs to be a new rule in the usual [Blogger family] protocol in these circumstances:  If ambulance comes, no scotch at cocktail hour.”

Dad wasn’t so ok with it.  So I had to draw it from him.  The new addition to our protocol:

IF AMBULANCE,

THEN

58128Dad fought it tooth and nail and enjoyed the tussle with his kids.  He was present in a way he is not usually.  His mind was more clear (but still out there).  He was a little pale, but he survived.

The day turned out to be a great day, because:

We met wonderful people — the EMTs — who care about the people they help.

And, Death took a holiday of sorts for our family.

SOB and I stagger off the roller coaster.  The ride was rough but everyone survived. 

Jericho

In the Book of Joshua, the Israelites destroy the walls of Jericho by walking around it with the Ark of the Covenant for seven days, once per day for the first six and seven for last, blowing the Shofar (rams’ horn) and shouting to make the walls fall down (Joshua 6:14-15).  [Courtesy of Wikipedia].

Well, I wasn’t so lucky.  Or maybe that Jericho was an easy mark.  Jericho, Long Island ain’t no biblical anything.

I was cleaning out a storage room of deceased family friends (don’t ask), in central Long Island.

SIDEBAR:  There is a reason why their remaining worldly possessions are house in mid-Long Island.  That is for another blog (maybe not; too boring even for this blog).

Almost all of the valuables have been sold; I must go through the rest to make sure that there are no undiscovered valuables wrapped together with the bed frame.

[NYCFOB: I could not even ask your help until I gain control of the contents.]

Yes, I am insane to take such a curatorial tact with this stuff.  But they were a very special and wonderful couple, deserving of love and care even with the disposal of the detritus of their lives.

BUT THEN I HAD TO GO TO JERICHO, LONG ISLAND. A decidedly, non-biblical place.

WHYYYYYY?

The nearest Good Will drop-off was along the Jericho Turnpike.

The Jericho Turnpike.

The Jericho Turnpike?

The Jericho Turnpike was a thing a folklore, where 1970s radio advertisements told you to go to get the best deal on 8-Track tapes and Betamaxes and shag carpets [yes, yes, we are THAT old].  It WAS the place for all things advertised on the summer Top 40s radio shows.  Casey Kasem was the king of Pop and the Jericho Turnpike.

Still, still, while I am not “Legally Blonde,” I am the quintessential “Parochial Manhattanite“.

As a proud and parochial Manhattanite, I go through life without owning a car, without thinking before hailing a cab and without wondering that I am lucky that everything I want is within three blocks (or it must be delivered).

So, the CITY GIRL INVADES THE MID-ISLAND.

There couldn’t be a better horror story.

There should have been a travel advisory.

And, my rented minivan (which takes TWO parking spaces on a Manhattan street) didn’t have GPS.

AND, NO, GOOD WILL DOES NOT PICK UP EVEN IF YOU ARE UNLOADING APPLIANCES, FURNITURE, CLOTHES, ETC. IN BULK.

SO I GO TO HEMPSTEAD, ON THE JERICHO TURNPIKE (so why is it called Hempstead and not Jericho?)

And I have to look for the Sleepy’s across from something else and turn off into the mall to get to the Good Will place. [The people there seemed to be out of the good will stuff.  Just sayin'.]

Did the customer service guy ever hear of map coordinates like, say, 56th Street between First and Second Avenues???  NAAAAHHHHHH.

And, so, I have to turn off at Sleepy’s.

As if I know where the Sleepy’s IS.

As if I have GPS.

As if I could tell the difference between the Sleepy’s and the OTHER bed store across the way.

Ok, I unload all of the stuff, valuable to someone but unsaleable in the conventional sense.  Then, back to the storage room to get the rest of the items that can garner some money for the estate.

Except, I am stuck in Jericho.  Prisoner of a Biblical tale.  Without the Ark.  Without a Shofar.  Just a lot of traffic and malls.

Joshua, Joshua, Joshua!!! where are you?  Didn’t the Israelites conquered Jericho?

Then I remembered that I believe that the Bible is a written collection of oral history and legend.

OOOPS.  Bad time to be a Conservative-yet-Reconstructionist Jew

Ain’t Biblical justice a b*tch.

 

And the White Knight is Talking Backwards

What do Grace Slick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Slick) and Dad have in common?

Ok.  It sounds like a trick question.

Grace Slick’s nickname was Acid Queen.  Dad’s nickname was Nachy, short for his given name Nachum (his older brother later changed it to an American name).

She was the doyenne of Acid Rock and her heyday was the 60s.  Dad’s heyday was the 40s and 50s.

Grace Slick tried to slip Nixon LSD (we later learned that he was on far better stuff).  Dad made a killer Rob Roy — very, very dry, with a twist of lemon.

Grace Slick’s songs had surrealistic, metaphoric lyrics, sometimes using the mundane as “cover”.  Dad, a sculptor, was firmly rooted in realism but sought to imbue a sense of emotion and motion in his work.

But both believed in change; both were against Vietnam.  Grace protested on stage.  Dad marched on Washington.

I loved Jefferson Airplane as a kid because it spoke to my as-yet-unidentified angst and different-ness.  When things didn’t make sense, I would think of the lyrics of “Go Ask Alice” — “and the white knight is talking backwards. . . .”

And when, as a preteen and then a teenager, I knew I didn’t fit into the heterosexual world and felt let down by everyone and by G-d because I was different, the first lyric of “Somebody to Love” reverberated in my head:

When the truth is found
To be lies
And all the joy
Within you dies

Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug32SjIWfKs

So, what does any of this have to do with Dad?

Well, it is complicated.  As little as Dad understood about the turmoil in me, he was my champion.  He held me once in what was almost my rock bottom and said, “hold onto me.  And nothing bad can happen.”  He held onto me then and so many times thereafter when I thought I would have otherwise been consumed by my demons and by my different-ness.

Over these few years, Dad’s mental capabilities have diminished.  Most times, in person or on the phone, he gives me enough reality so I can make a conversation around it and maybe even garner a laugh from him.

In the last week, it has become almost impossible to identify something in what he says that I can’t spin back to reality and bring him back to us.  And I keep thinking, “Oh shit, the white knight is talking backwards and I hate Alice in Wonderland.”

And Dad probably hated Alice in Wonderland.  We are too logical.  Which makes this most recent decline even more difficult.  He is still razor sharp on some things, but those things have become islands in an archipelago, where once the archipelago was a seamless land mass.

And so Dad is talking backwards.  And he lost his love, my Mom.  And he lives a psychedelic existence that is not tethered in reality or surreality.  But is not just a “bad trip” in 60s and 70s parlance.  It is old age and the vagaries that come with a life (maybe) too long.

But he is truly happy when his family is around him, even if he cannot follow or contribute to a conversation.  I feel it in the hug and our saying, “I love you” to each other.  And through the haze, he sometimes says that he knows we are here and he is grateful for our love and support.

And I cry.

Because he lives life like a Grace Slick song.

Because my white knight is talking backwards and it is my turn to save him.

 

FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT

Early last week, before the city emptied out for the long holiday weekend, the west side subways were few and far between during the height of morning rush hour.

Apparently, our ancient and under-maintained system is sensitive to heat and humidity, just like its average rider.

When the train finally arrived, there was barely any room to squeeze on, even to this experienced native.  We were so packed in that no one could feel the air conditioning.  And I was too close to someone whose bathing rituals are far too intermittent for a New York City summer.

The car started to clear out a little at 96th Street, as people ran across the platform for the express train.  I moved into the middle of the car, where there was a little room to breathe (other than in someone else’s arm pit).  There was even more room than usual because I was standing in front of half a seat, you know, what remains after “spill-over” from adjoining seat holders.  A regular size human could not wedge into that space with a crow bar.

An old woman boarded the train. She looked like the kind grandmother of a Hallmark TV movie (and not the hatchet-bearing psycho nana from a “Lifetime Original” one.  And I am not talking about a buxom Yiddisha bubbe.  She was frail, diminutive and wore a sweater she could have knitted.

The half-seat was just right for the old lady.  I motioned to the people closer to Grandma to get her attention.  Only one man in his early 40s saw me and asked her if she needed a seat.  She smiled in gratitude and maneuvered in front of him.  He looked up and pointed her three more seats down to the half-seat.

DUDE:  ARE YA KIDDIN’ ME?  REALLY?  AN OLD WOMAN MISTAKES YOU FOR A HUMAN BEING AND YOU DECLINE THE COMPLIMENT?

OK YOU ARE MARGINALLY BETTER THAN THOSE WHO REFUSED TO LOOK UP FROM THEIR GADGETS, ETC., OR DIDN’T CARE THAT SOMEONE NEEDED A SEAT.

Luckily, the old lady made it to the half-seat.  And, it turned out that she was more of the hatchet-wielding psycho nana than the sweet old doting kind.  (She got a little nasty about the train not going fast enough and the appointment she had.)

BUT IT ISN’T ABOUT WHO SHE IS.  IT IS ABOUT WHO WE ARE.

SO, TOMORROW, IF SOMEONE MISTAKES ME FOR A HUMAN BEING, I AM JUST GOING TO FAKE IT. AND IF I AM LUCKY, IT JUST MIGHT BE HABIT-FORMING.