The Years Spin By and Now the Girl is 50

Dear Mom:

So I have moved 50 times ’round the seasons.

And my dreams have lost some grandeur coming true.

There were new dreams along the way.  Some of them still matter; some were fantasies of youthful exuberance and abject cluelessness.

I am not scared of growing older.  (Ok, I am not happy with droopy eyelids you gave me.)

And now I drag my feet to slow down time (or the circles, to keep the Joni Mitchell motif).  Really, to hold onto to the stories and memories of you, Dad and the older generation.  I look at the old pictures to remind me of the people who made me (for better or worse) the person I am today.  Those fallible, lovable and wildly eccentric (ok, our family once was poor, so I think we only qualify as “crazy”) people.

I am starting to forget some of the stories. Dad has forgotten almost everything. I can’t lose you any more than I already have.  And I need room to experience and remember the joys of your grandchildren, all three wonderful boys, and especially my little guy, SOS.

Years ago, when I imagined turning 50, I thought I would have security, maturity and direction in life.  And I fully expected that you would be telling me the story about my birth, as you always did.  Life doesn’t conform to expectations; they are really hopes and desires locked into a time and place.

Even though life at 50 is nothing as I expected, I feel lucky looking in my rear-view mirror and I am (cautiously) hopeful about the road ahead.

Ok, maybe I am scared a little about the road ahead.  I have to remember that I am strong and the road these past years hasn’t been a cake walk and I am still standing.  And I have to draw on the memories of those who made me strong without wallowing in the past.

But it is hard when you, my biggest cheerleader, are gone.  And sometimes, late at night, when the world is too much with me, I need a guiding hand, a loving voice, and my Mom who had lived through so much, quieting my fears.  I try to imagine you.  It doesn’t always work.

Tonight, we had a pre-birthday dinner.  SOB and I fought over the check.  (Could you tell her to let me win just a few times?)  SOB and I told the stories you would have told about SOB’s birth, BOB’s birth and my birth on our birthdays.  The same stories, over and over again.  And they get better with each telling.

One of the best stories concerns SOB’s birth.  Aunt Gertie, who had three sons, waited until you opened your eyes to storm into your hospital room and screeched at Uncle Leon [Dad’s brother], “See, Natie could give Elsie a girl!!”  Mom, you always said that was the most painful part of childbirth.

Have I mentioned recently how much you would have loved and adored HOSOB?  Such a pity you never met.  And I know you would be so happy that Cousin Gentle rounds out the crew.  I know, I know, why can’t Dallas be closer to New York?  You tell me, Mom.  You are as close as they get to the Big Guy.  Ask Him to work on plate tectonics or something.   See what you can do.

Mom, you are the missing person at every gathering, every simcha and every sad time.  And I miss your warm hand always reaching out to hold SOB’s or BOB’s or mine.  Even at the end, you always reached for us.

And we still reach back, hoping you feel us across the great divide.

I love you forever, Mom.

~ Blogger

Life in Triage

I have news for you, Forrest Gump and your mama, life is only a box of chocolates for so long, and then it becomes a mine field.

A mine field.  And, still, you never know what you are going to get.

Which is scarier than when the box was really filled with chocolates.

With age, comes crazy issues.  Some older people have an aversion to the sensation of water on their bodies.  They must be reminded to shower.  Others, who were meticulously responsible accumulators of wealth fall prey to scams promising easy money.  And, sometimes, even choices on a menu are too daunting.

There is an art — which I have not learned — to coaxing an older person to the right decisions.  And there are right decisions — yes to shower, no to scams.

There is also a way to guide the choice for lunch while still letting them be in control.  SOB is great at it.  I am — um — impatient.

“So, you will have the turkey club for a change of pace.  And fries, because they taste good.”

“Are you sure about the fries?”

“Absolutely, Dad.  Besides, look around at the rest us hungry people.  We will be happy to snarf your fries.  You brought antacids, right?”

BOB, SOB and I often discussed various ways of dealing with these issues without making Dad feel that he isn’t as “independent” or in charge as we try make him feel.

It is a tough brew.  The main ingredient is love, cut by family meshugas, simmered to sheer impatience, then mixed with wanting-to-fix-everything, followed by a dash of why-can’t-things-be-the-same-as-20-years-ago, drizzled with a fine reduction of resolution and understanding.  Served at room temperature.

A complicated stew, indeed.  When served, it looks way better than I cut a brisket.

But careful of the exploding ordnances along the way.

Time Machine

I bought an external something-or-other drive for my computer.  It was about time that I backed up iPhoto and iTunes, having crashed my computer a few times.

There is, of course, an app for this.  Time Machine.  And my external whatever drive has 2 TBs of memory.  That means gigabytes on steroids.  Or so I think that that is what it means.

And I have lots of photographs and days of music.

I had been meaning to get one for a long time, but kept forgetting.  That other memory thing.

Pictures are more important to me now that my generation is the keeper of all the memories of the prior generations. But pictures are not the memories.  They evoke the stories that keep the memories of people, and their insane characters, alive.  And the pictures won’t matter when I don’t recognize the people or remember the stories behind them.

And the eleven days of music in my iTunes library won’t matter unless they evoke the emotions and memories that make the music meaningful to me.

If I stick the USB connector in my ear, will this amp’ed up drive store my memories?  Will it remember the stories behind the pictures or the identities of the faces for which I was too lazy to run the face recognition software?  Will it remind me to cry when I hear Jim Croce’s Photographs and Memories?

So, while I finally remembered to buy the drive, it isn’t all I need.  I need to store my memories.  And, that is what computers cannot do.


I am willing to believe that there will, in fact, be an app for this, some time in the future.  As long as the hook-in site is any orifice above the waist, I am good.

Hurry, please.

What’s in Your Wallet, part 2

For those missing my episode of rare charity and kindness, see

I am so better at being smug.

Well, Niki, the man whose wallet I returned, sent me the Book of Mormon, with a passage of scripture marked for me.

SIDEBAR:  Not show tickets, all you incredibly parochial urbane people, but the Mormon Testament.

Niki seemed a little too clueless for New York.  Did he know I was a New York Jewish lesbian? I don’t think he was proselytizing to me.  I think he sent the Book and the quotation as a genuine thank-you, in his belief system.  And I welcomed the gift that way.

And I remember a time when I was easy to trash other religions, belief systems, etc.  And I hurt people.  Because I was parochial and naive and egocentric.  In fact, I remember the precise moment at College when I offended someone from Utah, through my ass-hole-ish intolerance and regurgitation of stupid judgments I had heard in my young life.

This was my moment.  I can’t undo what I was.  But I can be better.  And, somewhere this religious conscientious observer found grace through Niki’s rather powerful expression of the kind and charitable person he thought I was.  But I am not that person, as the following will show.  I sent the following message to Niki:


Thank you for your incredibly thoughtful gift and kind words. I don’t ever need to be thanked for doing the right thing. Simply because it is the right thing. We are all accountable for what we do, whether to G-d or each other. There is a Hebrew prayer that, in modern translation, means “let me live my days so that fear or guilt does not haunt my sleep at night.” I found that meditation quite powerful, although I must admit I do not always live up to it.

Although I am Jewish, I have often meditated on the passage in Corinthians, which is akin to your passage:

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

But, really, “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly”, is a common ground for all of our faiths.

So, I did what I did because I could not do otherwise. No thanks. Just humanity.

I hope all good things for you and your family.  [Blogger]”

Now that I read it over now, I think, did I have to mention so many times that I am Jewish?  Or did I need that passage from the Hebrew Bible about humbly walking with G-d? Did I have to mention (in a smirk-y way) how close the Mormon passage is to the other Christian Bible?

In the guise of “common ground,” I pointed out the differences, and missed the basic message.  And missed an opportunity to reach across a divide.  Instead I demarcated ever more profoundly the De-Militarized Zone that separates us.

Ok, simply?  I am a schmuck (in the figurative sense of the word).

When will I ever learn?  And worse, yet, am I passing it on to SOS??



Life with Father, episode 16

At the Passover Seder, brisket is served, because:

  1. the majority of the attendees are, well, carnivor-tarians;
  2. we have delicious things for the vegetarians, vegans and those gluten-free; and
  3. G-d did not deliver us from Egypt to eat turkey.

Dad likes a thinly sliced and lean brisket.  I like thick slices of the marbled cut, so it is moist but not fatty.

SIDEBAR: Also? I cannot cut brisket in thin slices.  I suck at it.

Dad is quite forgetful nowadays; yet, he is capable of moments of startling clarity.   Especially concerning the cut and the slicing of the brisket.

In the run up to the Seder, Dad instructed me any number of times about how my slicing is too thick (dare he say, in-elegant? (yes, yes, he dared)) and that the meat was not lean enough.

SIDEBAR:  Tell it to the poor grass fed cow who guest-starred at dinner.

When it came to the stressful moment when I had to cut the brisket, my hands were shaking.  And, as the meat crumbled under my slicing, I was almost in tears that Dad would notice the disastrous cutting of the brisket more than anything else about Seder.

Seder seemed to go well.  Dad ate his fill and was in a good, if disconnected, mood.

I spoke to him this afternoon.  As he complimented me on my leading of the discussion about the Exodus from Egypt, he also mentioned the “crazy style of food” at Seder.

My heart sank.  I couldn’t hold it in.

“Daddy, I am so sorry about the crumbly brisket and the thick slices.  I just can’t cut it the way you do!”

“Well, darling, why didn’t you ask me to cut the brisket?  I would have been happy to.”

UH OH. It is a delicate balance: elegant brisket AND a deranged old man with a knife or safety and not so pretty brisket.  I know, it is a toss up.  

“Dad, let’s discuss this next year, ok?”

“Ok, darling, but it will look and taste a lot better . . . .”

And so we add another prayer to our Seder:

Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’alom, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitsivanu al slicing of the brisket.

Blessed is G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, Who hallows our lives through commandments and Who has commanded us regarding the slicing of the brisket.

Happy holidays.


What’s in Your Wallet?

On Friday, I found a wallet on a New York City bus.  Money still in it.  Driver’s license. VISA card. Debit card.  Picture of Jesus.

I called the VISA card company and reported the now-found, but previously lost, wallet.  And I gave my name and number so that man could call me and we could arrange to meet so I could give him back his wallet.

This man has an out-of-state driver’s license  — and I don’t mean New Jersey.  The state was clear across the country.  What if he cannot get home because he has no ID with which to board the plane?  I felt bad for this man I did not know as I imagined how unnerved he must be not to have the contents of his wallet.

After a few hours of not hearing from the man, I started to go through his wallet more fully.  It felt ooky.  His wallet told a confusing story.  Why two NYC metro cards? Why so many New York-related business cards?  They were not new cards; they had frayed edges.  And a New York State health insurance card.

At least it was clear that the resolution would NOT be sending the wallet to the address listed on his driver’s license.

All of the detective shows started rushing through my head, complete with Law and Order music. Except this was nothing so dramatic.  I was not searching for a missing person, just a person who was missing his wallet.

Next course of action?  Social media.  That scourge and blessing.

I found him.  He does, in fact, live in New York.  I sent messages to him through various social media outlets.

On Saturday, he responded and we talked. I told him I also called the debit card company to report the lost card and there was still money in the wallet.  He seemed happy and relieved.

We arranged to meet on Sunday.  He brought his wife, and two kids with him, so they could all thank me.  He was in his early thirties and she was younger.  I was introduced to his son as the “person that Mommy and Daddy had prayed for” and the wife was grateful to God that I used my “lawyer mind” to figure out how to find them.  (She had asked my profession.)

“So, you aren’t from around here, are you?”  I asked with a smile on my face.

“We are not.  We did not think that we would ever get the wallet back, here in New York City.”

Oy.  Oy.  Oy.

“Well, as someone born and raised here, I think you will find as many good and kind people here as anywhere else.”

SILENCE.  Did they want this to be Sodom or Gommorrah?  And raise kids here?

“How can we thank you?”

“You seem like a lovely family and kind people.  That is thanks enough.  All the best to you.”  And I shook their hands and we parted.

Back into our separate worlds.  Because strangers don’t have to become friends.  And not every chance meeting needs to be a religious and cultural enrichment moment.  We, strangers and friends, just have to watch out for each other sometimes.

Social Security

Contrary to what our “rugged individualists” and Tea Partiers say, relying on social security is a little like being on death row.  You just never know when the Great Machine will stop payments and you will die in the streets.  Ok, it IS different.  On death row, the Great Machine actually kills you.

I had to go to the Social Security Administration the other day to get a replacement 1099 for ULOB.  I walked in, without an appointment, and was stunned by the stench, the number of humans and the number of crippling ailments in this vast room.  I immediately thought that this could be in a scene in the streets of Calcutta or Mumbai.

I spoke to the security guard, who told me I was in luck!  For replacement 1099s I got to go a different floor, to a quieter room.  As I got onto the elevator, I held the door for two people who could not stand up straight or walk without assistance.  They were indigent, in bad health, and had atrophied limbs.

I got off at my floor and walked into a room with upbeat and helpful security guards and less people.  Still the intermittent, pungent wafts of air made me want to faint.  There, as I soon understood, slightly demented people sat waiting for information.  Some, frankly, had no where to go and wanted to ask hypothetical questions, which were met by screams from the Social Security Administration staff who stood behind bullet-proof glass.  Although doctors and hospitals cannot give out medical information without violating a myriad of laws, everything is OUT LOUD and PROUD at the SSA office.  Or, OUT LOUD, anyway.

After many hours, it was finally my turn and I presented my uncle’s death certificate, my letters of administration and my driver’s license and asked for a 1099 for his social security income so I could finish his final tax returns.  The lady behind the bullet proof glass looked at me, looked at my papers, looked at me, did stuff on her computer, looked at me and then got up.  Uh oh, I thought.  But she walked over to the printer, brought back a piece of paper, stamped it and said, “here you go.”

It was the 1099!!!  I thanked her for a most enjoyable experience with government.  I even thanked the nice security guard.

I told this story tonight to someone who is an advocate for the indigent and the sick.  What was a funny story became less so because all of a sudden I realized that I sailed through the morass (relatively) quickly, but there are some people who are stuck in that vortex, deserving of aid but without the right paperwork necessary for the vast governmental program.

Yet without social security, even more indigent and tragically maimed people would be on the streets.  And our cities would be indistinguishable from Calcutta or Mumbai.  And then all of America would see what our nation would look like without social security.  And then we wouldn’t think of our nation as the nation of the able-bodied and young and fearless.

We would know that social security is to protect our most vulnerable, our tragically ill, as well as our seniors.

When I looked at the mass of humanity in that first room I entered (and even in the smaller room), I knew these people cannot be hired, cannot be trained and cannot survive without our society’s help. They are not lazy.  They are just, sadly, not competent.  Even to help themselves get the social security benefits they need to survive.

No one would trade places with these people.  They are not laughing, collecting money off of our hard work and living the high life.

If you believe that every life is valuable (and not just at conception), then you need to believe in social security for those who are physically or mentally or educationally unable to work and support themselves.  Because they are part of us and the American Dream — while some achieve great things (and even fortunes), all our citizens deserve at least an opportunity to live in a clean home with enough food.

This started out in my mind as a funny story of the privileged New Yorker enduring the vagaries of government sponsored programs solely for the purpose of paying taxes on ULOB’s social security benefits.

It turned into a lesson about all the politically invisible people in our society who need us.

Let us not turn away from them.