Surviving Father’s Day — CHECK!

So, on Saturday morning, I had a talk with SOS, who is dad-less and mom-ful.  We talked about how he felt about this dumb Hallmark holiday (ok, I didn’t say that) and whether there were men in his life whom he wanted to celebrate.

“No, I think that I just want to help you both celebrate your dads.”

Whoa.  Pretty amazing for an almost 11-year old.

Then, on Sunday, at Father’s Day dinner, I was doing the customary toasts and I started with:

“First, a toast to my son, who is here celebrating fathers even though he doesn’t have one and, worse yet, he has two moms.  And, boy, is that a tall order!!”

[Everyone applauded SOS]

“And then, to all of us who have fathers wherever they may be, let’s toast them.  Let’s eat!”

SOS was very happy that I toasted him.  “Father’s Day is ok, Emom.  Really.”

No, my little baby, you are just fabulous.

Seder Part 2

Seder, Part 2:  Subtitled “Kol B’Seder?” (all ok?  literally in good order?)

Meanwhile, Uncle L looked slovenly despite his well-heeled paramour and family.  Just take a look at his coat:  No wonder his paramour thought we were wolves.  A generation from the ghettos of Europe, born in the country, and still.  But he is a Yankees fan, so some things are forgiven.

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Ok, so we started the Seder.  As commanded, we go through our “emblems of festive rejoicing” which are the symbols of Passover:  rebirth, renewal, bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom, and the remembrance of the night of death in Egypt that led to the Exodus.  But wait, there’s more.

In our family, we have our own symbols of festive rejoicing, requiring a second Seder plate.  First, G-d didn’t deliver us from Egypt, then the pogroms of Europe, then the Holocaust, then to two generations of prosperity in the United States for us to drink that gross Manischevitz wine.  So, we have a “Manischevitz Free Zone” in our house, where there is (reasonably) good Kosher wine and some good other wine.  Second, courtesy of HOSOB (we love him so), we have a Moses action figure (which was a bonus with any Nintendo purchase) that has detachable staff and Ten Commandments for the requisite slamming at the sight of the Golden Calf.  Third, have a watch to symbolize the ONE hour that SOB allows for the ceremony before she takes away the Haggadot and announces the first course will be served. In a nod to the modern age, SOB flashes her iPhone timer, so I know exactly, to the nanosecond, how much time I have left.

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Finally (not pictured here), we have a brisket and not a turkey, because G-d didn’t work miracles and deliver us from five millennia of trials and tribulations so that we would have to eat dry turkey.  No, G-d delivered us so that we could enjoy a nice, juicy, marbled brisket with just the right amount of fat to make it tasty and moist.  (Unless you are vegan or vegetarian, in which case we had a delicious Mediterranean bean dish.)  That is my interpretation of the wisdom of the ages.  You can have yours, just not in my house.

We tried a different approach to Seder this year — we would go quickly through the retelling of the story (see the cheat sheet on the chalk board)

photo(12) And then we proceeded to discuss who was the most righteous in the story.  I emailed everyone with the assignment to determine the most righteous person, and people really read up on it.

Sidebar:  GDJOB, who had never cracked the spine of the Bible, was at a loss until her spouse GDKOB showed up.  GDKOB was in charge of preparing for Seder.  Unfortunately, she was a little late for the debate but her righteous person was discussed.  They brought dessert, so all was forgiven.

There was a catch:  what is the definition of righteous?  Depending on our definitions, we had different answers.  There was a second catch:  there is no right answer, except that we can agree that among the wrong answers are: (i) Pharaoh and (ii) the Edward G. Robinson’s character in Cecil B. DeMille’s, “The Ten Commandments” (did he chew on a cigar or is that just my imagination?).

We came up with four righteous people (with our varying definitions of righteousness):

  • Moses (trite);
  • Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law who advises Moses;
  • Tzipporah, Moses’ wife who saves him when G-d tried to kill him; and
  • Pharaoh’s daughter, who, knowing Moses was an Israelite, nevertheless saves the baby from the Nile.

My choice? Pharaoh’s daughter.  Who has no name, except in Chronicles, the Koran and the writings of Josephus.  In the Hebrew Bible, she is known only by her relationship to a man, Seti I, who decreed that male babies of the Israelites must die.  She defied her father’s decree and saved a life and raised Moses as her son.  She stepped outside her rarefied, privileged world and extended her hand to a slave child.  Because a child is a child.  Because a life is a life.  And she risked everything, maybe for the knowledge that she was doing the right thing and her heart and soul would not be sullied by the death of a child.

And she was exiled when later it was found out that Moses, her son, was an Israelite.

Her name was Bithia.

Bithia.  A person to be remembered as a human who saved a life of a baby who would grow up to liberate a people.

Bithia was her name.  And at Passover, I remember Bithia.  Because she is the person I most admire in this story.

Chag sameach.  (Happy holidays.)

Hope came today

I watched President Obama’s speech and I cried.  These words he said, “Stonewall” and “gay brothers and sisters,” rang in my ears, traveled to my heart and emerged through the tears streaming from my eyes.

From the podium of the most powerful came words that said my family exists and I exist.  Yes, it is just a bully pulpit and not the law of the land.  But that vision, that inclusion, can never be unsaid.

Later, SOS and I watched the speech togather.  Because I needed him to hear, as millions of others heard, that we are equal.

Because he needs to know that for most of the population over 30 years old, the president’s remarks were as significant as Dr. King’s words were to his generation.  And he needs to understand that for his mothers, this was, unexpectedly, a day of validation, hope and pride.  Because we have lived through so much and we have seen so much and had our hopes of equality dashed so many, many times.

And we need SOS to understand where we’ve been so he can guide us and forgive us our hardened exteriors and paranoia.  And maybe, just maybe, he will walk with us into a new era of equality and then, only then, will his mothers’ hell slowly go by….

Whatever happens next:  God bless you, Mr. President.  Even if only for a day, today, TODAY, you made our dreams seem within reach.  God bless America.

The Sun Will Come Out Next Week

I have decided that my sad, ponderous, navel-gazing blog entries will end next week. Come this time next Saturday, I will be outraged, outrageous, funny (sometimes), weird, providing too much information, and otherwise being my usual inappropriate self on my blog.

As soon as Aunt R is buried (finally) tomorrow, my dear friend’s 53 year-old brother is buried on Monday and we commemorate Mom’s TENTH Yahrzeit on Friday, I believe that the pall will lift.  And, maybe, I will entitle my entry next Saturday, “The Day After a Fortnight of Three Funerals, a Brain Injury, and No Weddings”.

Nothing on that day will make Dad healthy or sane again, or reverse Uncle L’s precipitous decline since Aunt R’s death on Christmas Day, but there will be, G-d willing, a respite from seemingly endless death and destruction and chaos.

I am still learning this hard lesson of life:  as I get older, I will lose people — sometimes a few at a time — and still I must balance these gut-wrenching events with laughter, silliness and irreverence.   (And, in fact, there have been some very comical moments during these trying times that can only be told after the passage of time.)

But, learn, I must and I will.  Because that is the only way I can survive and see the beauty and fun and happiness in my life (for which I am eternally grateful).  Otherwise, the pain will consume me, and dim the lights in my eyes and estrange my friends and family.

And then, I will have only succeeded in adding another casualty to the list of those loved ones who are dead or dying: ME.

 

The day the questions started

SOS has this elective class in school in which the kids, guided by teachers, debate various subjects, ranging from what are effective recycling methods to whether adoption records should be sealed. 

Adoption.  Yes,  Our lives.  It had to come up.  I didn’t think it was going to be age 10.5.  And for a debating class, no less. 

SOS has always known that a sperm donor helped us have him.  There was never a time he didn’t know that.  He has also always known that POB is his biological mother, but somehow he always thought (however irrationally) that he was connected to me in some way that was in addition to nurture.  Until today.

So we brought out the old records.  Together, we read through the information we had on the donor — his medical history, his academic achievements, his personal statement about funny things that happened to him and his hopes and dreams for his own children.  POB described his voice.  

We showed SOS the petition for adoption and report by the social worker which was submitted to the Court, as required by law.  I didn’t tell SOS this, but the social worker interviewed me for 4.5 hours and made me cry.  She asked about my recently dead mother and other pressure points in my life.  At the end, she asked how would I deal with having a straight son.  I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted that I responded honestly, “It happens in the best of families.  And I understand attraction to women, so I would be totally good with it.”  The social worker was stunned and I thought, “oh, no, I have blown it now.”

Luckily, the social worker’s report was strongly in favor of the adoption.  The judge who originally contorted New York law to allow same-sex couple adoption was the judge who heard SOS’s petition and, as her last act before retiring, she so-ordered our joint adoption of SOS.  We told him that this was a big deal to have this judge approve his adoption.  He asked to feel the official seal on the certified copy of the order.

SOS told me earlier in the day, in anticipation of this afternoon’s discussion, that I am just as much his mom as POB.  I think he was scared and, yet, he was trying to protect me.  But new information can change things.

At the end of the discussion, SOS was concerned because he finally realized that it is “only” nurture that connects him and me and that 50% of him is the donor’s genes.  So we talked about the power of nurture, love and commitment.  I told him that before I adopted him, I could have walked away, without legal liability for his well-being.  But I took on that responsibility and I can never undo that.  I chose to be responsible for him.  That had some resonance, but I could hear the wheels of his brain turning about the donor’s genes.

“Dude, this is not the only conversation we are going to have about this.  You may need to seek out the donor.  It is ok.  I am ok.  You are my baby.  Ok?”

“Ok, [Blogger], I love you.”

“I love you, too, buddy.  More than you will ever know.”

And so ended the first episode of “The Questions”.

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Sights and Vision

You know how when you hear a new word, all of a sudden you hear it everywhere?

It is the same with emotions or family crises.  The more you share, the more you realize what weights others carry daily, just like you.

And then you start to look around at the nameless faces on the subway, young and old, well-dressed and not, white, black, brown and every shade in between.

And then, you wonder, are we carrying similar burdens, like taking care of an ailing elder?  Or worse, a sick child?

And if we are carrying similar burdens, do we also have similar hopes and aspirations? Why else would we be cheek by jowl in a subway car rushing some place?

I surveyed the subway car today.  People with iPhones.  People with ear buds playing music way too loud.  People not moving into the car to let others on.  People having tooooooo much attitude for a crowded mode of transportation.

But, if I talked to each of them, alone and in a quiet room, would I find that 95% of them shared my fears, my sadnesses, and my struggles?  Even if different in degrees?

Aren’t we all more alike than we think?

Another Gut Check Moment in New York City

I don’t take cabs as much any more — economical and environmental reasons — but so often when I do take cabs, I learn life lessons from the drivers.

Thursday night was no different.  The driver had a French African accent I found hard to understand and identify. After we both understood our destination, I asked, “Where are you from?

Africa.

Where in Africa?

Burkina Faso.”  This was the first time I had ever met anyone from there.  And now that I am used to the cadence of his English, he is very well-spoken.

I have heard of it. It used to be called Upper Volta.” I said more for my benefit as if telepathically showing to my parents — one dead, one alive — that there was something to my liberal arts education after all, even amid the four years of debauchery.

Is your family there?” I continue.

Yes.

That must be hard. Do you see them?” (Of course, I make that inappropriate assumption that others have families like mine, whom I would dearly miss.)

Ten years.

How long have you been here?

Ten years.

Do you have a family here?

I come with my friend.

My friend. Ahhhhhhhh.

I am a lesbian; is your friend a man?

Yes.” He says with openness but no relief.  We weren’t navigating the great divides between our lives.  We were just able to be less vague and more truthful.  I was still a white, well-heeled American sitting in the back of his cab and he was the refugee driving me around and trying to make a life in a strange and, at times, harsh city.

And you can’t go home?

I would be killed.  Even by my family.

We reached our destination.

I am glad you are here and I am sorry that you had to leave your home.”  Not a brilliant sentence but heartfelt, even if for a stranger.

It is the punishment.

“It is the punishment.”  As much as this man traveled to be free, he carries the homophobia inside.  Two people in the same car, worlds apart.

Vision and Sight

Sometimes I wonder about Judaism.  Some laws are aspirational; others acknowledge the base nature of humanity.  For example, “don’t talk unkindly about the deaf” or “don’t put a stone in the way of the blind”.

Nevertheless, a good reminder.  But there is a greater imperative: guide someone who is blind if requested, or if you think that the offer of guidance would be well-received.

I went to the gym for exactly one-half hour.  (SOB is wearing off on me.)  I stopped at the wine shop because I deserved a treat after so much (okay, so little) exertion.

I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman.  The man was describing the stores to the woman.  He was very formal, as if they hadn’t met before.  I looked back and I saw that the woman had a blind person’s walking stick although her eyes didn’t have the tell-tale signs of long-term blindness.

I slowed my gait to listen.  The man, Richard, was turning left on 97th Street, and the woman, Debra, was continuing on.  On the northwest corner of 97th Street, I introduced myself to them and asked if I could be of assistance.

Debra and I walked along for a block and I described the new stores and the general scene.

Then I asked, “It seems that your blindness is recent.  May I ask what happened?”

“Glaucoma.  It was gradual.  I can see big objects, but I can no longer read.  I am what people call ‘legally blind’.  But I can’t just sit at home.  I have to make the best of it.”

We continue along and I describe the stores and our relative location.  Of course, I can’t ever remember what the new store replaced.  Because I don’t have to rely on my memory rather than my sight.

And people don’t get out of the way of a blind person.  They really need to read the basics of the Hebrew Bible.  Mostly because I was ready to rain down vengeance all over them.

She asks, “is the Starbuck’s still here?”  “Is the jazz club still here?”

I answered her questions.  We talked about family and kids.  She is 61 and her mother is still alive and is inconsolable about her daughter’s glaucoma.

At 106th Street, my turn-off, I decide that Broadway and West End converge in way that is difficult to navigate.  I decide to take her to the Rite Aid on 110th Street, which is her destination.

“Why this Rite-Aid?” I ask.

“I grew up in this neighborhood and now I have moved back.  But the last time I was here was five years ago.  I figured that Broadway on a Sunday in the summer was quiet enough that I would try an adventure.  To be honest, I was relying on nice people in the neighborhood who might help if I needed it.”

I walked her into Rite-Aid.  She blessed me and my family.

But I felt blessed.  Blessed that I don’t have her impairment.  Blessed that two strangers can walk along amiably for a half-mile and both leave the encounter feeling very positive, even if for different reasons.

 

Fat Deposit?

I have this bump on the palm of my hand.  I wouldn’t have noticed it except I do push-ups (and other torturous exercises to stay in shape), so I am aware of this constant bruised feeling,

I mentioned in passing to POB that the bump hasn’t gone away and the bruised feeling remains (probably because every time I work out with my trainer, I exacerbate the problem).

“Maybe it is a fat deposit.”

WHOA.  I know we are lesbians and we have to fight that creepy urge to merge into one being and all, but who, WHO, said it was ok to suggest that I might have a fat deposit?

In fact, I reviewed our wedding vows, both in Hebrew and in English, and I did not find any authority whatsoever for the proposition that POB could safely (and thus without consequences) intimate that I have a FAT deposit wherever found in my body.  Not even in the innocuous place like the palm of my hand.

In all honesty, I do have some deposits in other parts of my body, which are increasing at the same exponential rate as oil reserves are being depleted.  (Why, oh why, can’t modern science suction cellulite and use it instead of fossil fuels?)  But this is AFTER the wedding, AFTER I fit into an unforgiving dress, AFTER I wore body armor.  So, go on, make my day.  Get a GET (a Jewish religious divorce) at your peril.

I know, I know, POB didn’t suggest I was like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (Chunky Monkey) or suggest the FAT DEPOSIT was in a place that would offend my inner diva.

Ok, it is in my palm.

But it is a fat deposit.  So, POB has to climb out of the ditch on this one.

Maybe I will send her out for Chunky Monkey.  Ahhh, a Pyrrhic Victory if ever there was one.

But a VICTORY nonetheless.  And when you are 40-and-over, every victory counts.