Vestiges of a past cast off

ULOB was not a religious man.  During his adult life, he went into synagogues only for family rites of passage.  And only if my mother told him he had to be there.

When he was a boy, his mother wanted him to have a Bar Mitzvah.  His father — my grandfather — renounced religion and didn’t care.  But it was so important to Grandma.  She wanted ULOB to be a man — a Jewish man –before G-d.  Even though she was persecuted for being a Jew.

ULOB often talked of sitting with the foul-smelling rabbi learning to read Hebrew and practicing his Torah portion while the rebbetzin (the rabbi’s wife) washed the floor and did any number of back-breaking jobs.

I think his Bar Mitzvah was on a Thursday.  I got the sense that it was mid-morning.  My grandmother was possibly upstairs but definitely behind a curtain (michitza) and at least 10 old men were in the main room of the shtebl.

Grandma brought whiskey and some cake for the celebration afterward.  She had to save to put out that meager spread. ULOB said the rabbi and the other men scarfed down the food and drink so fast that there were barely crumbs left.  No one said a word to Grandma.  She was invisible.  But Grandma was proud.

ULOB never wanted to go back after that.  Even more, almost every touch of Yiddishkeit and every tradition that a Jew learns by osmosis in a Jewish home seemed to drain out of his body over the years.  The transition was so complete that he worked on Yom Kippur, ate ham and cheese on rye during Passover, and AROB and he celebrated Christmas.

Imagine my surprise when, as SOB and I were cleaning out ULOB’s apartment after his death, I found his tallis (prayer shawl) in a bag.  He had kept that tallis for 73 years.

The one vestige.  I bet he couldn’t let go of it because of what that day meant to his mother.

Minding the Elderly Can Age a Person

Today, the paternal side of the Blogger family buried one of our own.  My cousin was not even 37.  Family members spanning nearly a century — 4 generations — were present, as if to beam a harsh light on the tragedy that my cousin would never grow old.

BOB, who flew in from Texas for the funeral, thought that we should visit Mom’s brother, Uncle L., the last surviving uncle of blogger (ULOB), and that he should meet ULOB’s paramour (POULOB).

SIDEBAR:  Why not make it the day a total beat-down?  In for a little hearbreak, in for a trifecta.   Like that penny and pound thing.

This was so last minute.  And I didn’t want ULOB to think that BOB would come to town and not see him (even though that does happen from time to time).  So, I call ULOB from the car on our way back from the funeral and tried to frame the narrative:

“Hi, Uncle, it’s [Blogger].  [BOB] just came into town at the last minute for a [paternal Blogger] family funeral.  We didn’t want to call to early to wake you [ULOB sleeps until noon].  We would like to stop by and visit this afternoon.”

“Can I invite [POULOB]?”

“Of course.  Does 4pm work?”

“See you then.”

Great.  Death. Destruction. Tears. Lamentations. And a visit to the apartment that is gross by the slums-of-Calcutta standards.  I guess I am not getting a nap today.

BOB and I walked [3 miles] to ULOB’s apartment.  It was good to talk to BOB.  I don’t think we have an hour to talk just the two of us in three decades.

But, we were running late.  So I called ULOB’s apartment.  No answer.  Hmmmm.  Odd.

We arrive at his building.  He lives on the fourth floor of a five story walk-up in what is formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen.  We buzz his intercom.  No answer.

I call again his phone again.  No answer.  BOB leans his palm on ULOB’s buzzer.  I go inside the first door (which is never locked) and start buzzing every apartment in the building until someone lets us in.

We walk up four flights to his apartment.  There is a radio blasting.  We go inside his apartment (don’t you mind the details), expecting to find a body.  BOB says helpfully, “you know, bad things happen in threes, so this would be event no. 2.”

SIDEBAR: BOB needs a refresher in the Blogger family protocol, as in “unhelpful comments in scary, potentially life and death situations are punishable by a different kind of scary, life and death situation.”  Rule No. 3, for those of you following in the handbook.

The place looks like it has been ransacked.  BOB is a little rattled, but I remind him that that is usually what the place looks like.  I am still calm.  I start to look around for a body.  The stench of 54 years of filter-less cigarettes would cover any smell of a decomposing body.

No body here.  Thank G-d.  But nobody here either, so he must be dead in the street.

BOB and I decide not to panic.  Instead, we sit at an outdoor cafe doing our version a TV crime drama stake-out, only with cocktails.  I watch his building while BOB looks for him along the street.

We leave countless more messages on ULOB’s message machine in case he shuffled in while traffic was stopped and a bus obscured my view.

ULOB doesn’t have a cell phone.  We don’t have any contact information on POULOB except her address and her phone number is unlisted.  (I tried.)  This is the time when I wish I didn’t avoid information about her and just embraced her, regardless of their relationship’s beginnings.  Sometimes, principles just bite you in the ass.

SOB knows POULOB’s phone number.  Except, SOB is in London. My phone is running out of juice. And I am rattling off phone numbers to BOB as my phone dies.

BOB calls SOB, “Hey, [SOB], [ULOB] is a no-show at his house.  But he isn’t dead IN his house.  We need POULOB’s number.  Oh, I love you, [BOB]by.”

We abandon our stake-out after 1.5 hours.  Police work is not for me, unless lubricated with a nice cabernet.  BOB goes to Dad’s to have dinner with him.  I go home, preparing myself to call hospitals or go to POULOB’s house and knock on the door.

I get home. The doorman hands me a message from ULOB and POULOB. They were here, thinking the gathering was here. The message says they are at a nearby restaurant. I RUN there.  We clear up the miscommunication.  POULOB says ULOB told her we were having a gathering either at 2, 3 or 4.  They opted for 4:15. Ok, I am not so devastated about missing them.

I say, “we were at a funeral, although I could understand the mix-up”.  Wow, cabernet is the opposite of a truth serum.  Because, who, in the world invites guests, who don’t know the deceased, to a post-funeral gathering?

We resolve the following things:

  • ULOB needs a cell phone.
  • POULOB needs all of our contact information and we, hers, because she is here to stay.  And she does take really good care of ULOB.
  • Nobody dies on my watch.  And when I say nobody, I also mean no body on my watch.

I did remember to text SOB that we were really sorry we gave her a heart attack, especially when she would get care in the UK hospital system.  I called Dad to tell him to tell BOB that all is well, but Dad already started cocktail hour, so at some point I ask him to pass the phone to his attendant, because I could not live another moment in loopy land.

This Abbott and Costello afternoon happened on the heels of the real tragedy — my young cousin’s untimely death.  Today I experienced universal grief, elderly confusion and existential anxiety, some at both ends of the spectrum of life.

For now, I am grateful to be in the middle.

 

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.

photo(12)

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.

passover(1)

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.)

Seder

One month ago, when I invited the “family” to Seder, there was some trepidation.

Why trepidation at just another annual ritual?  Well, here is a partial list of the invitees:

  • Dad (who is not the man he was prior to his brain injury), accompanied by his Guyanese home attendant who had never been to a Seder;
  • Shelly who is not romantically involved with Dad, regardless of what Uncle L thinks (we will get to THAT later);
  • Our g-ddaughters, who are not Jewish and one of whom has never cracked open the Bible (but she makes amazing Kosher for Passover desserts, so go figure);
  • My Uncle L, who having recently lost Aunt R just a few months ago, wanted bring his paramour of 25 years (will someone PLEASE shoot me);
  • My Aunt R’s blood nephew and his wife, who may not be so psyched to know that Uncle L had a side gig (a shonda — embarrassment — for the neighbors);
  • FOPOB who is not always emotionally or mentally “present” and SOPOB who is not always physically present;
  • Cousin Gentle, CB, SOB and HOSOB — thank G-d; and
  • my personal trainer who gave me good arms for my wedding dress.

So, bottom line:  lesbians, their baker g-ddaughter, an uncle, his lover, a Greek Chorus and a brisket.  La follie. Madness.

Ok, by the grace of G-d, my aunt’s nephew and his wife couldn’t come so we didn’t have to create even more lies about the state of affairs (pardon the pun) of the family.

Because Uncle L keeps white wine in his refrigerator for his paramour, I bought very good bottles of various white grapes. Only to find out that she likes red wine, but Uncle L won’t buy red because he thinks it doesn’t keep for long.

Sidebar:  Really, Uncle?  Dirt has thrived in your home since 1954.  New life forms and strains of antibiotics could be discovered in your slums-of-Calcutta-apartment and you are worried about whether red wine will go bad?  I know people draw lines in the sand but, but, whoa, that is really strange.

A second sidebar:  I asked S, Uncle Larry’s paramour (and our new relative), whether she had been to a Seder before, and she said she had been to four, to which SOS exclaimed, “wow, she has more Jewish connections than we thought!!”  Oy. Oy. Oy. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed, but, sometimes, a muzzle would work just fine.

Even another sidebar:  When will I stop calling her, “the paramour”?  Check back with me in 25 years.  A generation is a biblical time period and quite possibly after 25 years we will not remember that there was an “overlap” when Uncle L was with Aunt R.

I told S she was welcome in our home as long as she could handle loving references to Aunt R.  Wow, now that was a tense moment.

And I haven’t even talked about the preparation for the Seder or the Seder itself.  More anon.  Stay tuned (with pictures from SOB).

 

 

In a flash

It is day three of the second worst ordeal of my life.  The first was the death of my mother.

On Monday, Dad came to Rosh HaShanah luncheon — cheery as always, gracious as always, happy to be with family, as always.  Lest you think he was an angel on earth, he did hold forth as to matters of politics, HOSOB’s painting, or poorly behaved people in his congregation.  He doesn’t say anything in a catty way; as to the latter category, he merely sees their inadequacies as explanation of their behavior.

As the lunch wound down, we all said our goodbyes.  We all kissed and hugged Dad and wished him a happy and healthy new year.  He wished us the same with a force that can only come from a parent to child.  It was not unusual.  No portents of the coming events.

SOB and I often talk about that one day when Dad is late to a dinner or doesn’t pick up the phone.  That one day when Dad leaves us.  We always wanted it to be quick and painless – a coda for a life well-lived and a fortunate man who shared his good fortune with others.

We were not prepared for a call that Dad collapsed in the street (on his way to a doctor’s appointment) and had a huge contusion on his head and some bleeding into his brain.  SOB and I rushed to the hospital.  As the day wore on, the confusion seemed more pronounced and settled.  He knows us but he doesn’t really except that he is calm with us and he trusts us.  So, there is some comprehension through the haze.  And his essential personality is intact.  He is a lovely man and the nurses are happy to take care of someone who says please and thank you and generally grateful for the help.

Dad is in ICU and there is a kids’ playroom, so the nurse gave us a ball to throw with him that first day.

Final score:  Reflexes: 90%;  Cognition: 0%; His humanity: 100%.

For day two, he mostly slept, with notable interruptions of bursts of songs from the Big Band years.  The nurses love it but, then again, they haven’t heard Dad’s limited set for as many years as we have.  Late that night he got confused and fell.

Day three started with physical therapy.  He can walk, with assistance.  He had a vague sense of POB and me.   He quickly fell back to asleep.  He slept through an echo-cardiogram (which looked good even to a non-doctor).  He had another round of physical therapy.  He walked fast and steady.  And he did call SOB by name (no, he does not call his eldest daughter “SOB”).  I hope the anti-seizure medication will wear off because it is adding to his confusion.  He seems to remember us by name now.  A few minutes have passed.  Ok, not so much any more. Reflexes: 30%; Cognition: 0.5%; His humanity: steady at 100%.

But wait there is more.  Today, the Kumbaya Guitar Lady/The Singing Nun came by because she heard that Dad likes to sing.  Fortunately, he slept through it.  We, however, could not.

While Dad slept, we spoke with nursing services and got things in order for Dad.

Then I called his long term care carrier.  After one hour of terrible telephone music, only interrupted by being transferred from claims to intake to woman from hell, I learned that long term care kicks in after 100 days of 24/7 care diagnosis.

“So, if Dad is still alive, we’ll talk,” I said.

“Oh, no, someone will contact you in 5 business days to go over everything we just went over.”

“But we just went over everything, didn’t we? And what if I am unavailable when the  call comes?”

“No problem, m’am, you can schedule the call.”

OK, I thought, let’s schedule a call for a hypothetical need that 3.5 months from now and they won’t pay the full freight. “Great, mornings are best for me —“

“Oh, no, m’am,” she interrupted, “you can’t schedule with ME.  When you missed the first call, you can call back to reschedule.  But we promise that we will make the first call within 5 business days.”

Oh, great.  “Take your time, really,” I said.

It was 5 pm on a Friday and the private nurse service hasn’t called.  So I called the service.

“Your call is important to us so please continue to hold, or if you would like, leave a message and we will return the call in 30 minutes.”

Really?  Nah.  So, I wait on the line.   After hearing those words not less than 9 times, I have imagined that the recording said, “if you are a patient and have died while waiting for us to answer, please accept our condolences.”  Actually, they were lovely when I finally reached a human.

So now we need to have someone manage the care that Dad needs.  A house manager, as it were.  We can sit with him and talk to him and feed him, but fill out the forms?  Are you kidding me?

So, SOB, POB and I chat while Dad is sleeping.  We discuss that HOSOB should bring the painting that Dad critiques and tell Dad that he won’t change the size of the car in the street scene.  Just get it off his chest.  Or maybe HOSOB can tell Dad about the dangers of fracking, because while we agree with him, we don’t need the details.  At least not now, when we can only focus on Dad and, possibly, showering and brushing our teeth.

BOB arrived and we sat with Dad through dinner and for a while afterward.  Dad was awake but confused.  BOB got to do the manly things that we girls hesitate to do so as to give Dad some privacy and dignity.

Sidebar:  BOB asked Dad if he was sleeping well in the hospital, and Dad nodded yes.  This surprised BOB because unfortunately he has been hospitalized a few times and can never get a good night’s sleep.  SOB offered matter-of-factly, “sleeping well in a hospital requires a brain injury”.  We say the craziest things when we have to wear hair-nets and sterilized robes, while sitting on in our Dad’s room in the ICU Burn unit because there are no beds in regular ICU.  All these plastic surgeons running around and my father is in bad shape and I have to stop from thinking, “should I ask someone about my droopy eyelids?”

So, what have we learned today: brain bleeds are bad but if you have one you can sleep soundly in a hospital and everyone looks ugly in hair-nets.  Was this knowledge really necessary? Nooooooooooooooooo.

I always worried how Dad would die.  But I never worried that there would be anything left unsaid.  I am lucky that way.

Cycles

It is the year 5773 in the Hebrew calendar.  A new year.  Jews commemorate the birthday of the world (and start a 10-day introspection period culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement).  We don’t sing happy birthday to the world and there is no cake.  I don’t think G-d eats cake.  And it would have to be accessible to all, so it would be gluten-free, sustainably made and of recycled left-overs of other birthday cakes.  But sitting in synagogue makes me pretty hungry, so I would have had a piece of the cake with a cup of some tea.  Well, now that I think of it, maybe I would pass on this cake.

For Jews, the world was born on the 6th day of creation and, soon after, G-d rested.  Let’s be honest, this is true for some Jews because, as Jews, we are genetically coded to be contrarians.  If you say tomayto, I’ll say tomahto.  And not only that, I will tell you that the Torah supports me.  It is not a Jewish holiday if there are not at least ten opposing views and interpretations.

But I digress.

During these days of awe and atonement, we celebrate the cycles of life and the blessings of the prior year.  And we pray for our lives.  Just in case that isn’t too big of a task, we also try to re-set our internal compasses for the coming year: do justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  It is hard to do in our crazy, fast-paced, instant-gratification world.

No year is ever the same as before or after.  I am a different person every year, shaped by my growth and my failings.  And the future always seems to hold different promises and lurking tests.  And life comes at you.  You just have to be ready for it.  I believe that every event offers a prism of paths a person can take.  The question is which is the best action to take, or is it inaction?  And the event isn’t always about you, but your action or inaction helps define and redefine your character.

And there are temptations and tests.  We all give in to temptation (did I need that extra glass of wine?) and we don’t always step up to the tests of our humanity and our sense of fundamental fairness (the person begging in the street).  Sometimes we take the easy way out, sometimes we indulge in pleasures to excess and sometimes we forget to notice that a friend needs help.

So, this year, as I have done for some many years before, I am looking to the New Year as a chance to discard the ruts of last year, to navigate the world as best I can with limited indulgences and maximum humanity.  And forgiveness for my frailties and those of others.

Yes, I have dumbed-down my expectations of me for these holy days.  Mostly, I just hope that I have the fortitude in the coming year to navigate the crises that lurk and protect POB and SOS and their happiness and security.  And for the happiness, health and life for those whom I love — my dear family of origin, my friends and my friends-who-are-family.  If they are ok, then I can fend for myself.

May it be a sweet, healthy and prosperous new year for all.

This day in Bloggerville

Forgive me, Joni Mitchell.  But it is my birthday and I can’t help but fixate on my mother (z”l) and these ten birthdays since she died, so I made up a verse:

♪ And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round . . .♬  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5HXT0bn7QY

♪Ten birthday cakes and candles come ‘n gone now,
brown hair has turned to gray hair ’round her crown.
She is joyful, even happy ‘though not completely,
’cause Mom won’t see her in her wedding gown.♬
 
♪ And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round . . .♬ 
 
The Blogger family 1966 (I was 2).

 

Dear Mom:

Ten wishes on ten birthday cakes that will never come true.

Every year on your birthday, SOB recounts what you said on your last one, December 11, 2002: “if only my wish could come true . . . ”  I get it.  Hope, reined in by reality.

Dad remembered to call (SOB reminded him).

Remember my short-lived practice of sending you a “thank you” note on my birthday?  The first year, you thought it was very clever.  And then, as you did every year, you launched into the apocryphal story of my noble birth.

SOB and HOSOB sent flowers.  I am giving SOB the silent treatment because I told her to focus on her re-certification exam tomorrow and that she was excused from familial obligations.  If SOB doesn’t realize that I am giving her the silent treatment, I will wait until exactly one minute after her exam to tell her.  It is the least I could do for my big sister.

BOB sent me a positively hysterical email:

“Hope you are having a good day. Maybe you are even playing hooky from work, having a leisurely breakfast with [POB], planning to have lunch with [SOS], getting a relaxing workout in or nap after lunch, then go out to a nice sushi dinner and enjoy a nice glass of wine, read with [SOS] at bedtime, and watch an old movie before drifting off to a relaxing night sleep… or NOT. You are probably getting worn out by some asshole lawyer or ungrateful client and worrying about getting paid or getting business. The life of a lawyer.

Seriously, I hope you do get to enjoy your day. We are all looking forward to coming up in a few weeks. Everyone here sends love and hugs.

I love you,

[BOB]by”

BOB nailed it. Very funny and very true tableau of life as a lawyer.  But actually I did take the day off, because you and the wedding loom large on my birthday and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

This is our unique day; we were one, and then we were two.  48 years ago, I emerged from you, cranky and crying.  plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  That’s what POB would say if I said this to her.  Yep, she’s right.

I blew out one candle for me and lit another (a Yahrzeit candle) for you.  Because this is our day.

Now that you are gone, I carry you inside of me.  (Just so you know, you are looking slim in our wedding dress.)

I love you,

Blogger

GDJOB

So GDJOB has converted to Judaism by osmosis.  In one set of email exchanges, she hit the all the major nerve centers and satisfied all of the prerequisites.

***************************************************************************************************

I get an email, which is an antiquated form of communication for the younger generation, but they humor us old folks.

Somewhat cheek-in-tongue respect for elders: Check minus 1/10th point for the smirk.

She mentions that she will have a sling at the wedding.  Surgery scheduled for Monday.

Worry now, I will tell you later.  Check plus bonus points for the nuance.

We had an opportunity to get all upset, letting emotions roll and imagining the parade of horribles . . . .

Recognition that Jews need these episodes for spiritual balance.  Check.

It’s her shoulder.  But, it won’t stop her from winning a Nobel.

She understands that this does not derail our expectations.  Check.

I ask if we know her doctor and is he/she the best?  “I like him.  And the surgery is happening in a specialty pavilion where the care is more individual and the place is cleaner than a hospital.”

Independence, with a nod to the important things: he’s a specialist and the place is clean.  Two checks minus 1/2 point for independence.

GDJOB did not give us enough information to take over, but just enough to wait on her every missive.

Controlling, yet using her powers for good.  Check minus 1/10th point for being a little TOO  precocious.

Welcome to the Tribe, dear GDJOB.  Just you wait for the hazing rituals.

I love you.

~ Blogger

SNOBFOB

On Monday, I was checking my personal email, which I do every other day or so.  SNOBFOB sent an email blast late Sunday night that her father had died and the funeral was Tuesday 10 am.

SNOBFOB has lost both parents in a two-year span.  Her mother had cancer and her father was in a long decline.  She was the child in charge.  Painful and stressful on a daily basis.  It makes my heart break.  I quickly rescheduled things to make the funeral.

This time, the trip to New Jersey was not schlepic; the Never-Lost Lady came through, although when the Never-Lost Lady announces the route or street in New Jersey, there is a pause after which she switches to this crazy-sounding phone-sex voice.  No, really, I am not making this up, well, because I am not that creepy.

I walked into the room reserved for family members of the deceased and saw SNOBFOB.  We hugged and then she said, “Oh [Blogger], my life has been soooo bloggable these last few days.  I will have to tell you.”

Sidebar:  Ok, I did NOT see that comment coming.  But I do hope that SNOBFOB’s thinking about how her life would appear in print on my blog somehow offered a few moments’ comic relief from the sad realities of life and loss.  (And, stay tuned for those bloggable moments in future posts.)

I sat in the chapel, and an elderly — no ancient — woman stopped by my seat and said, more as a statement than a question, “we know each other, don’t we?” 

Sidebar:  Ok, I did NOT see that comment coming, either.  0 for 2.

After an uncomfortable pause during which I was trying to stand (out of respect), make room for her AND come up with a polite way of saying, “well, no, we have never met,” she continued, “we saw each other at [SNOBFOB’s mother’s] house and, of course, the funeral.  So, we shared good times and bad together.  And now here we are, sad again.  I am glad we know each other.”

All I could do was take her hand and say as meaningfully as I could, “I am, too.”  Because by that point, I really wished I knew her.  She did not sit with me but preceded toward the front, just behind the family.   I was more than a little relieved that I didn’t have to keep up a charade.

SNOBFOB gave a wonderful eulogy of a man who loved his family, did what he thought was right and stood by the people he loved.   I thought of the prophet Micah’s imperative, “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with thy G-d”.   I see where SNOBFOB’s gets her sense of fundamental fairness and parameters of acceptable behavior.  Strong genes.

Sidebar:  But it wouldn’t be my life without a Seinfeld moment.  All I can say is that since I am glad I had a rental car, so those people who followed me back to New York, erroneously thinking I was part of the processional to the graveside, can’t identify me.  (And I am REALLY sorry.)  OOOoops, I guess they can now.

I wish I could ease my friend’s pain.  May her father, Benyomin ben Mordechai, rest in peace and his memory be a blessing.

 

A Sunday

FOPOB called in the morning to say that he is coming for dinner.  He was wavering through the weekend.  I guess he didn’t get a better offer than his daughter and grandson.  Pause.  Laugh or be sad if you want.  We negotiated that he would come at 5pm for dinner, even though people come at 6pm.  Recall what I have written about whether the early bird special was just a name for a phenomenon or a proactive marketing technique.

That afternoon, after obligatory cartoons and some wrestling with SOS, POB, SOS and I took a long walk on a wonderful day.  SOS even deigned to throw a football with me.  He throws a good spiral but he needs some attention to his stance and footwork.  He isnot interested.  “Emom, I don’t like competitive sports!!”  “Dude, good form is not competitive.  It is just good form!!”  This went on for a while, as his stance and his consistency got better.  There was one catch that made me so proud that I hugged and lifted him up.  We high-fived rather than a chest-but, since that is both ooky for a boy and his mom as well as painful to the mom.

Back story:  I throw a really good spiral, thanks to BOB.  BOB, needing someone to play with him at our country house and finding no others (we were pioneers in this part of the Berkshires in the early 1970s), determined that if I were his designated play mate, I couldn’t throw any type of ball like a “girl”.

After lunch, SOS and POB went home and I went to the gym to make sure that my arms look ok in my wedding dress.

Sidebar:  I used to believe that only crazy 20-something brides bought ridiculous gowns.  But now I realize that there is a second group — the peri-menopausal bride who buys an unforgiving wedding dress to prove a point about beauty and aging.  But the point gets really obscured when the bride is faced with Super, Double Fudge Chunk Chocolate Ice Cream on a warm day.

When I got home, SOS was having his Hebrew lesson.  It was 3pm and I tried to rest a little but as it was getting close to 4pm, when DOB usually arrives, I couldn’t nap because I am listening for the door bell.  Frustrated, I got up.  I logged on to do some work all the while worrying why DOB was late.  I got an email from SOB, with the subject line, “Don’t Worry” and a message “Dad got to the Upper West Side early, so he is here talking to HOSOB.  Just didn’t want you to start calling the area hospitals.  Love, [SOB].”

Sidebar:  The blessing of SOB is that she knows what I am thinking and when.  She knows that at 4:15pm I would sound the Emergency [Blogger] Family Protocol, because DOB was 15 minutes late for his (too) early arrival.

As soon as I emailed back thanking SOB for the warning, the door bell rang and it was FOPOB.

FOPOB is not what one would call a conversationalist.  It was 5pm.  I thought, “where is DOB?? Where is SOB and HOSOB?”  Not one to hold back, I called SOB.  No introductions, no niceties, just down to the nitty-gritty.

“Hello.”

“When are you coming?”

“We wanted to give you time to relax.  We are ok here.  [DOB] is talking to [HOSOB] and I am safe in another room.”

“FOSOB is over,  so, really, when are you coming?”

“We have to get ready and we have to pick up dessert.”

“We’ll unfreeze something.  So, five minutes?”

“We have to shut things off . . . [SOB is torturing me with her new-found power] . . . ”

“So, you’ll take a cab?”

Pause.

“Look, it’s been 5 minutes and we have run out of things that interest him.  He asked when you all were coming over.   I need you to contribute to global warming and get into a cab!

Now, you may think me selfish about the global warming thing; but, shalom bait [peace in the house] is held even higher than emet [truth].  And we needed a little more of . . .  take a guess.

SOB, HOSOB and DOB arrive within 20 minutes of my distress signal.

I hug and kiss each and then say to SOB:

“what took you so long?”

Aaahh, the quintessential Jewish greeting that conveys happiness, reproach and aspirations belatedly fulfilled, all at once.

Ok, so the difference between Yiddish and English is that, in Yiddish, words alone convey these sentiments; in English, you have to see the body language and hear the inflections.  The traditions abide, albeit in a less succinct form.