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.


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.


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


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.


“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?”


“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.


My great aunt Fanny has been dead for almost 40 years but sometimes a minor thing, like the posture of a stranger telling a story on a street corner this morning, can trigger a flood of memories. 

When we were young, Aunt Fanny would often accompany her sister, my grandmother, on visits to our house.  (I think she desperately wanted grandchildren.)  They would eat cottage cheese with cling peaches in heavy syrup in glass bowls for lunch, because that was the only possible kosher meal my mother could muster.  They would sit at the kitchen table, talking and eating (simultaneously) so I could see the cottage cheese move around in their mouths and creep into the corners and invade the lipstick on their lips.  They wore stockings knotted below the knees, because who needed to do the whole garter thing if it was just family. 

Aunt Fanny used to buy my sister and me matching little girls’ polyester underwear on sale at some discount place somewhere in the bowels of Brooklyn.  She referred to them as panties (eeewww) and danced them around to show everyone.  I felt soooo violated.  I longed for cotton even before I knew what that was.  She would also play a game of smelling our feet and shrieking, “Pewwwww!!” It wasn’t that much fun.  Kinda gross. 

Still, Aunt Fanny would play checkers with us, dance with us and always make Grandma laugh.  And Grandma wasn’t a very happy person, so that was a real, as we say, mitzvah. 

Sometimes Uncle Lou came along.  He blew up balloons (in the days when it wasn’t scary for little babies to play with them) and taught us the finer points of poker (in addition to some card tricks).  

Not long after Uncle Lou died, Aunt Fanny remarried.  We all visited her new apartment with the twin beds in the bedroom.  Someone must have asked, “why twin beds?” because I saw her roll her eyes and heard her respond something like, “he needs the exercise”.   I had no idea what the adults were talking about.  Only now, in this flood of memories, do I think that she was saying, “my new husband is a good companion but he is not much to look at.”

Aunt Fanny was Grandma’s much younger sister and she died young-ish for those days (in her 60s).  I think it might have been the first time I went to a funeral home.  I remember Grandma’s uncontrollable sobbing.  She had lost her sister and her best friend.

Memories of Aunt Fanny come in snippets unbidden, in no apparent order, without story to tell or even a point to prove.

Seder — a chance to mourn, a chance to laugh, and yes, a chance to sleep, perhaps to dream . . . .

Passover looms large in POB’s and my life.

For Jewish women, Passover is very complicated.  And writing about it is complicated, so this blog is complicated.   So sit back and pretend it is a Fellini script.

In our house, Passover is all about MOPOB.  Why?

Passover was MOPOB’s self-designated proving ground as a Jew by choice.  I remember the Seder I attended at MOPOB’s house.  MOPOB was stressed, as if the bubbes (grandmothers) of 100 generations of Jews were looking down at her wondering if she was using the right amount of chicken fat in the matzo balls.  That kitchen was way too crowded with all those mavens; a lesser person than MOPOB would have made a run for it.

In 2006, POB and I started having Seder for both of our families.  POB was desperate to have those matzo balls float (MOPOB’s receipe; and they did).  We had a rigorous discussion (MOPOB’s form of exercise) about an aspect of the Exodus story.  Then we all ate POB’s delicious meal together with family and friends.  MOPOB pronounced herself satisfied with POB’s and my hard work and how we melded two families’ traditions.  And shortly thereafter, she died.

Sidebar:  So, really, really, MOPOB, with that as a backdrop, how could Seder NOT be about you?

MOB didn’t really like all the prayers and stuff, but she loved having people around her table eating and talking and eating and having meaningful interaction (no idle chit chat at the Seder table).  And anything that tripped off MOB’s children’s tongues were quite possibly the most brilliant ideas theretofore uttered in the history of humanity.  So, it was all good.  For MOB, the most important thing was that, regardless of how everyone came to the table, everyone left that table as family, hugging and kissing (and there were no outrageous failures of tradition that would be shondahs for (i.e., embarrass us in front of) the neighbors).

Over the years, POB and I have gotten comfortable with our mothers’ looming large on this holiday.  The kitchen, though, gets crowded, especially when POB is making the traditional foods.  Her mother’s spirit hovers and my mother’s takes a magazine and sits at the counter and reads, ready to pitch in, but not really ever knowing her way around even her own kitchen (this for another blog).

And, as the years spin by, the elders have gotten, well, even older and a little more forgetful and a little more eccentric in their actions.

Sidebar:  If truth be told, age earns our quirkiness or idiosyncrazies (no misspelling here) the more refined term, “eccentric”.

I had arranged to pick up an extra table from DOB’s house. on Friday  He also bought some wine for us.

Sidebar:  Dad buys wine that is, well, barely usable for cooking.  But it was such a good price that he couldn’t resist.  “And who can tell the difference?” he asks rhetorically.  Dad, I am no connoisseur(se), but you buy rot gut wine.

Sidebar on sidebar:  FOPOB is no better.  He goes for the cheapest Kosher wine he can find.  One year, he told us not to buy wine because he was bringing wine.  He brought ONE bottle and he knew we were having nearly 20 people.  Are you kidding me?  Good thing I always buy non-kosher GOOD wine.  Clearly, we only serve DOB’s and FOPOB’s wine to someone on his or her fourth glass, because that person is too shiker (Yiddish, meaning drunk) to know the difference.

I arrived at DOB’s house around 1pm.  He decided that he will just come over early and hang out with us, while we are trying to put together a sit down dinner for 16.  Oh, goody.  But DOB is such a lovely guy and very lonely, so how could I not bring him along?  I called POB, who primed SOS to read books with Grandpa DOB.  Ok, they went through a survey of American history, and the origins of the Silk Road and it was only 2:30pm.  Time for reinforcements.  I called HOSOB, who is busy working on commissioned pieces of art.  But I know SOB was working hard at the hospital, so she couldn’t stop my asking HOSOB to drop the paint brush, shower and run over to our house to entertain the “boys.”  SOB might have stern words for me later for my having taken HOSOB away from his work, but that day it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

HOSOB, a fabulous member of the clan, came over and took over, leaving POB and me to our preparations.  At one point, DOB was tired and SOS needed a little more exercise so HOSOB took SOS for a walk.  (Some days, I think we really should have a treadmill . . . .)

Meanwhile GDJOB arrived with Kosher for Passover cakes (which were indeed FABULOUS).  As she walked in, she said, “I know you thought I was probably [DOB] . . . Ummmm [as she saw DOB seated]  Oh, hi, [DOB]!!”  Ah, yes, GDJOB, careful when you walk into our house, because as DOB gets older, his sense of appropriate arrival time can make you wonder whether he thought Passover was a lunch or dinner affair.  OOOOOOOOhhhh.  The first of many, many, uncomfortable moments chez nous.  Luckily, GDJOB had to park the car and run some errands.  She exited stage left, post-haste.  And we have a memory for the ages.

Fast forward . . . .   Seder time.

Sidebar:  Elders, children and the sandwich generation. Believers in one thing or another, non-believers and people just having a power nap before dinner.  There was one moment when I looked at my assembled family and remembered when they were the giants of my youth, when they were young and strong and idolized by my sister, my brother and me.  Wasn’t that yesterday?

We all sat to fulfill a commandment that binds the past with the present and the present with the future:

We will go, young and old; we will go, bored and snoozing; we will go, Jew, non-Jew and Atheists; we will go all together to observe the Passover ritual for we shall tell our children, on that day, G-d freed us from slavery, from the house of bondage.” 

Pretty profound stuff.  That is until I noticed my 80+ year-old uncle was already napping and drooling, and FOPOB had taken the whole bowl of haroset and started eating out of it with his spoon. . . .

Also, there is a personal corollary theme: 

We were not delivered from slavery to eat turkey and drink gross kosher wine.  We were liberated to eat a lovely marbled brisket cooked to perfection and delicious Cabernet that can stand up to a Yiddisha brisket.

We don’t follow the Haggadah religiously (as it were).  I like to make the Exodus story relevant to the modern day.  I pick the passages and copy the relevant pages so we can all read together and discuss.  I find portions of the story disturbing and don’t shy away from that.  There is a reason why Jews “tremble” before G-d.  The G-d of the Hebrew Bible is pretty violent and mercurial.  But we must observe the traditions, from generation to generation, even if one year, my theme was:  Saddam Hussein and G-d, compare and contrast.”  Yep, step away from the computer, lest a lightening bolt destroy you and your family.

Because of Arab Spring, SOS has become very interested in revolution and civil wars that inevitably follow.  So, in my preparation for the Seder, I read the Exodus story to find elements that spoke to heady days of freedom and the subsequent factionalism once the common enemy is vanquished.  There is a lot of turmoil following the Red Sea crossing.  The fluidity of the story is both a strength and a weakness — anyone can find something to support his or her thesis, whether for good or malevolence.

And of course, in addition to the usual “emblems of festive rejoicing,” we have our own:  (i) the Moses action figure (with detachable commandments for easy throwing); (ii) a watch symbolizing that we only have one hour before my sister takes the Haggadahs away and declares the ceremony at an end, and (iii) a bottle of the two-buck chuck my Dad will always bring and we will never, ever, drink.

We will fill in this second Seder plate as our tradition continues….

But for now, the matzo balls floated and that is indeed a blessing.


A zissin Pesach to all.

The Checklist

In my professional life, I always having a closing checklist for each transaction.  Every piece of paper, every action, every issue goes on a centralized list, with responsible parties, deadlines and status.  Good practice (or malpractice) starts with organization.

As for my personal life, well, not always.  I try to maintain some type of order amid chaos, but let’s face it:  without POB, my life would be a compost.  Even POB was surprised, initially, at what lurked under the veneer of successful urban professional: my bespoke blazers and trousers held together with staples and scotch-tape (but never spit).  Indeed a metaphor for my life then.  The saving grace:  I did have someone come in to clean, do laundry and re-stock toilet paper and other essentials.

So, I wasn’t joking 10.5 years ago when, during a discussion about whether to have a child, I asked POB, “am I not baby enough for you?”  And now we have SOS and I have matured beyond my post-adolescent years.  I am now a somewhat disciplined person in my personal life.

Still, a wedding.  That is a huge undertaking and our mothers are not alive (and even if alive would not be young enough) to take over the process, make it their own, and forget about the two main characters.  How I long for that.  Yes, I said it.  If I could outsource this to our mothers, I would in a heartbeat.   I would get endless blog material.  So, clearly, outsourcing to a professional wedding planner is, well, no fun.

So, here is where we stand (using lavender, as the official color of gay weddings):

  • Dresses:  
  • Undergarments: next weekend (stay tuned)
  • Shoes: next weekend (stay tuned)
  • Flat tummy and chiseled arms:  works in progress
  • SOS’s suit, shirt and tie: next weekend
  • Rabbi: 
  • Venue: 
  • Caterer:  tasting ; final menu:  open
  • Photographer:
  • Band:
  • Centerpieces:  in process
  • Wedding cake:  
  • Invitations: in process (proofed; waiting for printer to send)
  • Ketubah: in process (actually waiting for feedback from rabbi)
  • Chupah: in process (poles reserved; cloth to be determined)
  • Ceremony:  needs work
  • Vows:  oy, don’t ask
  • Our song: still need to tell the band
  • Get:  get what? 

A get.  Let’s just say that one of us needed a religious separation from a long-ago prior commitment.  Traditionally, a get is something that a man gives a woman.  But a man can say no and still, he can remarry (I think).  If a woman doesn’t get a get, she is in limbo; she cannot remarry and her community will shun her.  Forever.  And there are horror stories even today about women in this very circumstance.  It is a terrible rule that confirms a woman’s second class status in traditional Judaism.

In our case, the prior commitment was with a woman, so no need to get a get, right??  Pretty good argument, eh?

Well, since marrying two women under religious law isn’t exactly, let’s say, kosher, our rabbi considers that the getting of a get should also be gender neutral.  Especially since, according to our rabbi, in its best sense, a get is a mutual release from the past.   Really, rabbi?  Sometimes, the past should just hang out there in the ether.  No one ever got bit from a sleeping dog.

Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok.  Service of papers at last known addresses, summons to appear before a Beth Din, a religious court of three rabbis.  Pretty serious business.  The religious court convened on Friday, in the West Village.  The three rabbis, two lesbians and one transgendering person, conducted the proceedings and finalized the releases.  (To show our diversity, the rabbi officiating our wedding is straight.)

The ancients and the current, living orthodox would have keeled over.  But they would have keeled over at the thought of the wedding.  So, I say, let ’em roll, let ’em roll, let ’em roll.

So, to update our checklist:

  • Get:  GOT

Absolutely Flabulous

I am working on my abdominal muscles.  But the leaner I get in front, the flabbier I get in the back.  What is with back flab?

I asked POB who is my oracle on things like this.  She said that back flab is, in fact, a topic of articles in those self-help/keep-it-real magazines.

Essentially, it is an aging thing.

It’s a little like the hint of Hadassah arms (fleshy upper arms prevalent among members of the Women’s Zionist Organization of America) that appeared one day four years ago.  No amount of tri-cep exercises can change it.  Hadassah arms are a real advantage when entertaining young children — they make excellent flapping noises when one is trying to mimic a bird in flight (what, you mean, you don’t often, and spontaneously, do avian impressions?)

Despite my best efforts at the gym and POB’s best efforts at feeding us healthy, lean foods, I have a vision of turning into Grandma Dora, with the house-dress, the Hadassah arms, the corset pushing her sagging breasts up to her clavicle, and the bra-strap hanging half-way down her arm.  And those old people shoes that were gentle on the bunions.  And wait, the stockings knotted at her knees.  Just the vision could trigger a fatal seizure.

I know, I know.  I started with back flab and ended up with corrective shoes.  From the Upper West Side, Manhattan, 2012, to Pelham Parkway, Bronx, circa 1969 in three paragraphs.  But maybe I am just overreacting.

But the back flab is seriously unappealing.


Songs in the Key of Life

This was a particularly hard weekend.  In the Jewish calendar, Friday was the 9th anniversary (a Yahrzeit) of my mother’s death.  We went to synagogue together:  Dad, SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB) and I.  We endured the endless rituals that preceded the recitation of the names of those with Yahrzeits and saying the mourner’s prayer.  Each year, SOB and I ask each other “why is Mom on the list with all the dead people?”  Both of us pull out worn pictures of Mom and run our fingers over them.  I also have an emergency Mom slideshow on my iPhone in case we still do not feel her presence.  “Blogger family does death” is not for the faint of heart.  We pick every scab, open every wound, dredge up every Hallmark moment.

Dad loves the Oneg (the after-service nosh and schmooze) especially when there are Bar and Bat Mitzvahs the next day because there are really good hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us wanted to get out of synagogue because HOSOB and SOB were particularly afraid that my constant transgressions might cause a biblical conflagration that would consume the congregation and they didn’t want blood on their hands. Wow, they think I have power.  I surveyed the attendees at the service and I assure you that there are others whose trespasses run afoul of Big Ten (the Ten Commandments) constantly and consistently.  So, my snarkiness and anger at G-d (we are not close, G-d and I) pale in comparison.  Mom might send a flicker to remind me to mind my manners, but there were way bigger fish should G-d want to fry.

Dad poured himself a wine in a water glass (good thing he is still steady at 91) and dug into the not-so-very-kosher looking edibles (it is a Reform synagogue, but STILL).  The Onegs also attract homeless people who don’t abide by ritual cleansing before entering a house of worship.  They should eat and be full, without curling my nose hair.  But I digress.

SOB and I were heartened when people came over to say Shabbat Shalom and tell us that they still remember Mom and miss her.  Each said that how shocking it was to hear Mom’s name on the Yahrzeit list.  Once we counted 10 people who remembered Mom, we were ready to have dinner.   We made sure she lived on in others, even nine years later.  Mom was indeed remarkable and her memory is a blessing.

We peeled Dad away from the cheese tray and went off for some indigestion-inducing Indian food.  We had a lively conversation because, around Mom’s Yahrzeit, Dad is really clear-headed and “present” in the way he was when Mom was alive.  As sad as it is to hear her name on the list with the dead people, the people who remember her and our presence at synagogue invigorate Dad.  He said he feels as if Mom is right next to him.

The conversation went along crazy tangents about Dad and others his age finding new companions and his comments about the capabilities of men his age made us need to stop the conversation and move to another direction.  His comment about what an 85 year-old man can really do with a 45 year-old made us laugh, cry and turn purple.  He is still married to Mom, he says.  Somehow, it makes us want him even more to find a companion to fill his days in his final years.

It was a cramped place and Dad is hard of hearing so we had to talk very loud.  Dad says there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  I tell him he can’t hear when the ear doctor recommends a hearing aid.  At various points in the conversation, I needed to repeat things right into his ear so he could catch the conversation.  I always started by saying, “I love you Dad and you need a hearing aid. . . .”  He laughed and repeated that his hearing was excellent.  But then why was I screaming into his ear?  “Everyone mumbles.”  Look, everyone needs a good dose of rationalization every single day.

POB (partner of blogger) left a Yahrzeit candle out for me to light in Mom’s memory.  The acts of striking the match and lighting the wick really personalize the moment in the way a recitation of a prayer in a congregation cannot.  In the darkness of my kitchen when my family was asleep, I lit a candle to remember my mother and bring light into the darkness she left behind.  Imagine Carly Simon’s song about losing her mother.  Weep.

HOSOB had lunch with Dad on Saturday and took him to a museum.  Dad called each of us Saturday night, a little bored and somewhat despondent.  Imagine Jim Croce’s “Photographs and Memories.”  It is a hard time for all of us.  We are glad he reached out but we cannot fill the void.  We can just be on the other end of the phone line.  I wonder how much that helps him but I hope it eases the loneliness.

Dad is man with a past much fuller than his future.  I love him because he kind, generous and able to be vulnerable in front of his children, and acknowledge our love and trust our decisions.  Enter a medley of “Sunrise, Sunset” with a smattering of “Circle Game” and “Life is Eternal”.

But then there is Sunday night dinner.  The weekly ritual during which my father pushes my emotional buttons the way Cole Porter could make a piano sing.

Since I was kid, Dad and I fell into this rhythm that a 8pm on a Sunday night, we would get into an argument about something.  Many times, neither of us had any basis for our opinion.  Other times, one was indeed an expert (me, for example, when it comes to life as a lawyer in law firm) and the other (Dad) was not.  Most times, it was about politics; sometimes it got personal.  Mom and SOB used to set their watches by the argument because it was more regular and constant than any clock in the house — 8pm.  Mom and SOB also tempered the “conversation” and brought us back to civility.

Over the years, we have dinner earlier because of SOB (son of blogger, our source of sanity), so the argument starts promptly at 7:15 and lasts to 7:45pm.  Usually, Cousin Gentle, CB (cousin Birder), HOSOB and SOB come over, too.  So there are plenty of people to help Dad and me back from the brink.  Tonight, everyone was busy. Dad came over at 4pm because he was lonely.

Tonight’s argument was triggered by my young cousin’s desire to go to law school and my visceral “NOOOOOO!!!!” response.  I thought he should do something with a better business model and that could not be outsourced, like plumbing.  My point was that law school is not the default choice of this generation if the student was paying for his or her own education.  For me, it was easy.  Mom and Dad were paying.  But life in a law firm is hardly the easy life or the cash cow it was a generation ago.  Dad wouldn’t listen to me and continued to discuss how important and rewarding was the practice of law.  He did admit that it was snobbery that precluded him from considering non-professional avenues.  I applaud his self awareness.

Of course, I went to law school because I was not fit for medical school and I didn’t want to be a pariah in my family.  I guess I wanted some acknowledgement, at long last, that my parents’ dreams were not mine and didn’t turn out the way everyone imagined.  I wanted Dad only to say, “we did the best we knew how.”  That would have been enough.

These arguments are about mental exercise and the eternal struggle between parents and children for acknowledgement, acceptance, honor and respect.  We have settled the struggle, more or less, but there are occasional border skirmishes.  But we always leave the table hugging and kissing and saying “I love you”.  And then, if SOB is not present, I call her immediately after I come back from putting Dad into a cab.  I must download the events — for guilt, for the collective memory, for the continuity of family.  What guilt you ask?  The guilt of putting the welfare of sick people in the hospital over the mental health of her sister.  SOB should be indebted to me for decades to come.  [There must be some song from old Yiddish theatre that captures all of this.  If I find it I will update my blog.]

Of course, notwithstanding the sometimes harsh words, Dad is coming with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow, because  . . . he needs us and we need him.