Life Is Beautiful

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the immense joy in seeing my nephews happy and proud.  Never did I think I would have a child, much less adore him, warts and all.

Never did I imagine that I had warts.  (Ok, we ALL grow up.)

Never did I imagine that my brother-in-law would be my brother, too. Or that my sister-in-law, 7 years my junior, would evoke such respect, love and awe for her “male management” in the Shap Shack.  [I wish we were closer in geography, time and heart.]

Or that my brother and I, sometimes so diametrically opposed yet so alike in manner, in humor and in comic timing, would sit companionably at a table where he and my son were feasting on pork in a Jewish home.

Or that my brother’s son would come north and share sleep away camp with my son, his cousin.

These are the gifts of family.  Gifts of age. And, with age, the gift of perspective.

But most important, these are, yes, the gifts that make life beautiful and bountiful and safe.

The gifts that wait for us to grow, change, reject what was, and then, coming full circle, accept what was and, as a consequence, what is.

And the gifts for which, even in the moments of sorting out the affairs of the living and the dead (and those hovering in between), I am grateful.  Because it means that SOB, BOB and I will have each other. And, that, in bad times, in desperate times, in unfair times, we can rely on each other. 

Because no matter how far off any of us travels, or how bad things get, there is, at long last, the ties that bind. The door that is wide open.  Even more important, the loving arms that beckon us into a secure embrace.

And that makes life, indeed, beautiful and full.

[P.S.: I rented a Texas-size car for visiting day at camp.  Just in case SOB and HOSOB want to join the road trip.]

 

 

Life as told by a snail’s shell

fossil spiral snail stone real ancient petrified shell -

I have listened to a lot of people these last months, because I needed guidance through the morass of life.

Many friends recently have expressed regret about not having visited so-and-so and spent more time with great aunt [fill in the blank].

I have lived almost two years in the eye of family death and destruction, some of which I have not shared on the blog out of respect for others.

In the last few months I haven’t had so much to blog — I have been so overcome by illness, loss and regret.

I have come to a conclusion.

And the snail shell is the guide. 

See how it moves out from a tight center and gets larger?

The ones we hold very close are at the center.  If everything is all right with them, then we move on out along the spiral to others or adventures  — we become expansive and welcoming.  We reach out and explore. We are intrepid.

But, like a snail, if we or those who are close are threatened, we recede to the recesses of our shell.

We, humans, prioritize expenses, resources and goals.  And that affects the people in our lives — those immediate and far flung. There is no shame in that.  But there are regrets.

Sometimes we prioritize out of selfishness, fear, worry, competing needs, inability to cope. Name the issue or “ism”.  At some point, I think we mature toward a more stable and responsible and loving set of criteria for the core and then the outer spokes of the snail’s — or, rather, our — shell.

So, AROB’s nephew needs to be ok with not visiting with ULOB in the few months before he died following AROB’s death. CLSFOB needs to be ok with not visiting her childhood neighbor in the years before he died. Both had loving families, watching over them.

And I have to be ok with so many, many, things I didn’t do in my life when it mattered most.

There is a life lesson that sticks with me from 2007.  My beloved cousin, Ricky (z”l), knew he had little time left.  But he believed that he had enough time to reach out to, and settle issues with, those whom I would view as on the outer spokes of his life.  Time is not something we can control.  He ran out of it — time — and had to skip over people who were meaningful to him and whom felt his impending loss acutely, when saying his final goodbyes.

My cousin was unique in so many loving (ok, and controlling) ways, that he was true to the person he was, in reaching out to those “outer spoke people”.  Over the course of time, “his way” gave comfort to those, like me, who didn’t enough time to say, “I love you and, if we are lucky, we will all be on the same rung of hell together.”

SIDEBAR:  Because who, really WHO, makes it to Heaven? And, for what, a tuna on rye because G-d and you are the only ones who made it?  SOB says she doesn’t want to go to Heaven because she will miss me.  So, HOSOB and she have made that eternal sacrifice to go to Hell.  SOB will follow me, and well, HOSOB will follow her.  HOSOB is such a wonderful human that he may, in due course, get promoted to Heaven and have to live off of tuna sandwiches.   Poor, poor, man.  And then SOB will be really pissed at me for keeping her in Hell.  I will let her go, but she lied to get into Hell, which is a problem for Heaven, so you see the eternal issues that could go on if there is an afterlife.  I am really hoping that Mom (z”l) has serious yechas (Yiddish for influence) in the hereafter.  Otherwise . .  . . well, I will be in the worst shit because I actually will be in Hell and there ain’t no getting lower.

But that is where my cousin and I are different.  I need to start from the core and travel outward because life can be cut short — as his was.  He remains a force in my life — a measuring stick for my accomplishments and failings — but I have come to some different conclusions.

Because I am getting older, too.

I am starting to understand that, if you have young children and an aging elder generation and a stagnant economy, life is about running from responsibility to tragedy to work and back again.  If, you are lucky, you have the time to spend with people outside of your core group and grow from the experience.

So, if you don’t have time — or simply don’t have the physical or psychic energy — to visit with those on the outer rung of the shell, forgive yourself.  If it were your responsibility, these people would be in the inner part of your shell.  The hard and important truth is that these kind people who helped along the way in life were not in your inner shell when they were sick and dying.  Maybe ten years earlier.  But not now.

Mourn these people, because you loved them and they touched your lives in meaningful ways — even if only for a short time, a long time ago.  But not because you should have been more attentive.  They may never have expected that from you.  Or have been comfortable with your seeing them in diminished capacity.

Forgive yourself.  And focus on the core people and move outward from there.

SIDEBAR:  And, if your core group is 50 or more (counting Wingate), you will get in shape just by running.  But you will have a smile on your face.

Life and Loss

I often think I am special (ok ok ok, “NO SHIT,” says the Greek chorus).

But this weekend was a reality check for the things that humans share — love and loss (and, a little gossip, but for another blog).

On Friday night, in synagogue, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  My mom is dead and her name would be read among the so many dead.  Nothing special.  But Mom is special. 

And then SOB pointed out that Anne, who lost her mother one year ago, was there.  That wound is so fresh.  And her mom was special (indeed, she was an incredible person).

I discommoded some random individual as I made my way to Anne’s pew.  I reintroduced myself and we embraced.  I beckoned SOB, who didn’t want to start a commotion (tish, tosh) and pulled up the velvet rope to let her in through the main aisle of the sanctuary.  The usher glared at me.  I motioned “as if I care!”

SIDEBAR:  I later apologized to the usher and explained that we had all lost our mothers and this was their Yahrzeits.  She asked the names of our mothers and when I told her, she said, “I would break any rule for them.”  I decided I loved this usher like family.

It was perfect timing.  It was time to sing Sholom Aleichem, which involves joining hands and swaying in the Kumbaya sort of way.  I am glad that Anne and SOB were together in that moment.

SOB’s tears were more than I could handle during the service.  I think SOB was crying for many things, especially that Mom was not there to comfort her in the scariest moments of her life. I did not cry during the service; I cried before.  My eyes were on Dad and SOB.  Dad was happy for the company and the service.

SOB has a gentle spirit.  She wishes Mom were here; I am unforgiving.  I am mad at Mom for not being here, when her children are facing problems that no one can kiss away.

But, as the evening went on, I was humbled so many times.

First, the Yahrzeit list was filled with friends of Mom and Dad.  Sam Brodsky was also on the list.

Second, Mickie and Carolyn were there because Mickie lost his sister.

SIDEBAR: Mom, I refer to Mickie and Carolyn by their first names ONLY for anonymity, so Mom, please don’t send a lightning bolt down because I did not call them Mr. and Mrs. B—–.  I swear I was polite when talking to them. Just like you taught us.

Third, when we got home, Mimi called because it was Mom’s Yahrzeit and her husband Danny’s first Yahrzeit.  I had to prep Dad for the phone call so he would say the right things.

People remembered Mom; SOB and I were happy to hear them talk about her. But there are so many others to remember, so many people whom we loved and so many we never knew. 

And my pain and loss continue to feel acute and extraordinary, but — forgive the oxymoron — it is not different from the pain and loss that others feel.

Yes, I have learned that.  Finally, after all of these years.

Life with Father

On Friday night, at 11:35pm, the phone rang for the third time in 30 minutes. Everyone else in the house was asleep (or trying to sleep anyway).

The first two times were wrong numbers.  On the second call, I said to the guy, “I am sorry to tell you, but you wrote it down wrong or the woman just gave you the wrong number.”  I felt bad for him and angry at Denise — the woman he was calling.

The third time, I was steamed at the spurned would-be lover.  And I answered the phone with a serious attitude.

Hello!!”  I answered gruffly and angrily.

[Blogger], it’s Dad.”

Uh oh.  This was late for Dad and there was a worried sound in his voice.

I don’t know where Mom is.  She isn’t home yet and I have been waiting for her.  And I don’t know how to reach her.

My heart leapt into my throat.  I knew I could not tell him the truth in stark terms — that Mom is dead almost 11 years, so I opted for:  “Um, Dad, Mom isn’t around anymore.

SIDEBAR:  If I were a member of my grandparents’ generation, I would clear my throat (“achem”) and say in a thick East European accent:  “Vhat-vhat? [Mom] is dead.  Years ago.  Go to sleep alrrrready.  Staying up won’t bring her back.”  So much for the warm and fuzzies.

I don’t understand!” Dad continued.  “No one told me!  What kype [“type” and “kind” mashed together — a Dad signature mashable] of an operation are we running around here?

Ok, so no gentle reminder of Mom’s death was going to snap him back into today’s reality.  I swallowed hard and close my eyes.  The last thing Dad needed at 11:40pm was to relive Mom’s death.

Dad, I meant that Mom isn’t around at home tonight.  Mom and [SOB] are having a mother-daughter sleep-over.  They spent the day together and now Mom is staying over.  But don’t call because [SOB] has to get up early for work and they are already asleep, ok?

Why didn’t anyone tell me?  I have been worried for hours!

Dad, I am sure that you were told.  It is that sometimes, people forget.  And maybe you did, too, at least this time.

I heard the sound of Dad’s displeasure.  A little muttering that he does when he is unhappy or feels he has to worry needlessly.

This is good news to me.

Phew.  That meant he was willing to accept this explanation.  Because this explanation preserved Mom’s existence.

Everyone will call you in the morning, Dad.  I promise everything is ok.  Will you go to sleep now?

I wish someone would let me know what is going on around here.

Daddy, I know.  Please go to sleep and you will see everyone tomorrow.  Good night.  I love you.

I love you, too, darling.  But we have to change things around here so I am included in the plans.

You are so right, Dad.  Good night.

Good night, darling.

Next call is to SOB who was asleep.  I dialed, she answered, and I cut to the important stuff:  “Dad called me looking for Mom.  I told him that she was sleeping over at your house but you had all gone to bed already.  Just in case he calls.  Go back to sleep.

SIDEBAR:  I am closer to my grandparents’ generation than I thought.

This episode is not uncommon for older people at night or in the early morning, after they wake up.  On Saturday morning, he was confused but in a different way.  By Saturday lunch, he was generally ok.  Lunch today (Sunday), SOB reported that, with gentle prodding, he was able to remember that Mom died.  But he repeated something he always says: Mom surrounds him in the apartment and he is happy there [a true love story].  And he is comforted and reassured by talking to his kids.

So, he needs to remain shrouded in his happy memories, in that apartment, until he is reunited with Mom.  And his children must keep him grounded in the present.  Or lie to him, if necessary, until we can be face-to-face until we can gently guide him back.

Next week:  Mom goes on a week-long synagogue retreat for the Sisterhood organization.  And she is rooming with Judy Zimmerman, our former rabbi’s wife.  [Just like she used to.]  Are you listening, SOB and BOB?

Silver Alert (for Dad and Us)

SOB and I had lunch with Dad and his aide on Saturday (and then on Sunday, with SOS).

As is our Saturday custom, we went through the mounds of scam solicitations targeting older people and settled upon two legitimate charities to which Dad could give.  We love that about Dad:  He always wants to share his good fortune with others.

And he feels so fortunate. Dad was still a little foggy from a nasty fall he took earlier in the week getting out of bed. But to him, he makes sense.  So he is happy.  The rest?  It is our problem.

SIDEBAR:  A few days ago, he had gone to bed for the night but needed to use the bathroom and he got dizzy and fell and hit his head against his night table.  An ER visit and seven stitches (right between the eyes) later, we prevailed upon Dad FINALLY to let us move that damned night table, which had been in the same position for 50 years, so that something like this won’t happen again.  Thank G-d for the night attendant.  He was impaled on the the nightstand and helpless.  She helped him, cleaned his wound and called us.  Yes, yes, yes, yes.  I still have nightmares.  And I don’t doubt our decision to spend the money for 24 hour care.

We ambled over to lunch.  Shredding scams gives me an enormous appetite.

SIDEBAR:  Some serious intrigue was unfolding in the COSUD (COffee Shop of the UnDead).  We went over to Sam to say hello and asked after Norma.  Sam was with a couple whom Dad knows from the synagogue, but Dad cannot remember their names and neither can SOB or I.  Sam seemed so consumed with worry that it was heart-breaking.  We offered our help and gave our numbers as we have done any number of times before.

The woman of the couple whose name we can’t remember came over to us and started talking to me.  “I may be out of line here. . . .”  Oh no.  What is she going to say?  “But Sam is carrying an unbelievable burden and I think he can’t handle it.”  Apparently, Norma wants Sam and only Sam to care for her.  And he is older than Dad.

“Thank you for telling me.  If you think of something we can do, please let us know.”  What do I say?  Sam won’t tell us that.  Maybe he doesn’t see it.  We want to help.  Our families have known each other for 50 years.

Sometimes, there are no answer for these intractable issues.  And then you give thanks for having parents who understood when they needed help and accepted help and guidance from each other and their children.

We sat down and Vassily came to take our orders.  “I am saving you for last,” he said to me, “because you are so difficult!”  At least he said it with a smile. COSUD is really growing on me.

Today, we wanted to have an activity more than just lunch.  Dad is less inclined to schlep to museums these days.  Dad needed to keep moving and not give into the weariness and fogginess that resulted from his fall.  So, SOB decided on TJ Maxx which is two blocks away. We were going shopping and Dad loves a good bargain.  SOB wanted Dad to have warmer pajamas for the winter.

Dad was a little confused about why he was there.  Luckily, he was kibbitzing (light-heartedly arguing) with his aide.  Like the Odd Couple.

Dad said, “I need boxers.  I only have one pair.”

“You have a month’s worth in your drawers!” said his aide.

“But I only wear one pair at a time, so I need more.”

Well, all right then.  He has a logic all his own.  They were choosing among the clingy, perfect-gay-man body elastic boxers.  And arguing whether they would be a good fit.  OBVIOUSLY, I couldn’t listen to it, but they were having a good ol’ time. So I went to find SOB.

I found SOB.  And then I looked back at where Dad and his aide were standing.  All of a sudden, Dad and his aide VANISHED.

SOB and I were getting frantic.  “Is it a white alert?  A gray alert? An aged amber alert?” I asked SOB, barely containing my concern.  “Silver Alert,” SOB said in a calm voice that belied her feelings.

“Wait! I will call [the aide’s] cell!” I dialed.

Voice mail.  Turned out we were calling each other at the same time.  They were sitting below sight line.

Phew.  I bought pajamas and 20-something boxer shorts for the perfect body for my 93 year-old father.  Doesn’t matter.  It costs what it costs.  Sand on a beach, as they say.  He is happy and maybe will think he is Adonis.  Ewwww Ewwwwww.  Stop.

SOB and I crawled into a cab after seeing Dad and his aide safely across streets to his block.  Because SOB and I have creepy twin speak, I don’t remember who said what:

“Remember when Mom used to hand the phone to us and say, ‘give your grandparents a thrill’ and we were so resentful of the two minutes out of day it took to call them?”

“I know.  Kids don’t know what it means, our generation finally understands, and the grandparents live for it.  Knowledge and appreciation come with age.  This is the way it is with the young, the middle-aged and the aged.  It will never change.”

The insightful comments must be my sister’s.

Why is the voice of a grandchild better than any medicine?  Because when, as it happened today (Sunday) at lunch, the young and old enjoy each other’s company, it transcends time.

And brings joy to every generation at the table.

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.

Operating Instructions

People gave us books when SOS was in utero and after he was born.  For every cry, there were three interpretations and four potential psychiatric problems that could arise from handling that cry incorrectly.  I thought I would go insane.  Do I read more and get totally neurotic or do I do what feels rights and put money away for SOS’s therapy fund?  I opted to do the latter.

When it comes to the cycle of life, when the elderly become children again, there are no books. I guess because babies are blank slates, but grown children and their aging parents have lifetimes of issues and patterns of behavior that make meaningless those grossly generalized “operating instructions”.

After much heartache, I finally realized that there is no right way to navigate this time in our lives.  I cannot “cure” Dad of his loneliness and his confusion.  SOB, the NYC family and I can see him three times a week, and at least two of his three children call him every day.  And poor BOB flies in for less than two days every few months.

But there are hours — those damned, never-ending hours in a day — that no one other than Mom (who is gone almost 11 years) can animate.  We cannot replace this with our calls, and the kibbitzing he enjoys with his home aides.  He is lost even more now than in the years that followed Mom’s death.

And I cannot beat myself up about that.

And when he wants to take over his finances again, because as he says, “I am embarrassed that I haven’t been following up,” I have to be firm and relieve him of responsibility: “Daddy, you cannot manage this anymore.  That is why I am here.” He always seems relieved and yet deflated.   He knows that he cannot handle these things.

I am honest and, I hope, gentle.  He was concerned about his taxes today.  “Daddy, I have it covered.  No worries.”

Still there is a part of him that doesn’t want to accept that he has given up control.  I love that because that is my Dad trying to break through the confusion.  The never-let-go and never-give-up fighter who is my Dad.   So, I go over everything with him and explain all the expenses.  He deserves this and I, quite frankly, am accountable.  It is a sacred trust.

But, every week, I have to shred mail he sends back to scam outfits.  That is also my sacred trust.

He won’t believe that they are scams and we have to substitute our judgment for his.  We  no longer tell him because it unnecesarily sets up a challenge of his pride against reality.  No one needs that.  And we, his kids, need to navigate that gray area between what is the right decision for him and the preservation of the specter of his independence and pride.  The bubble of his life — safe, even though mostly lonely and a little confused — is too important.

I know how long precisely how long his savings will last at his current “burn rate” (24 hour care is expensive).  And it is a good long while, but it won’t last until he is 120 — Moses’s age.  The problem is I made him promise he would live at least until then. So, his kids will pick up the slack if we are lucky enough for him to be with us for another 27 years.

Because I can’t lose Dad, even if he hasn’t existed as such for a long time.  I lost my “dad” when Mom died.  I lost my “father” on September 19, 2012, when he tripped and had a brain bleed.

But the lovely old man who inhabits my daddy’s/father’s body is a lovely, cheerful, optimistic man who loves us and makes no sense when he tries to be in the conversation.  But we know what he wants to say and we respond to that.  And we love him.

And I owe it to my father to shroud him in the same abundance of love and safety in which Mom and he raised us.  Until 120 or whenever.

Life in No-Fi

We all await the excitement of that moment — that one moment in time — when we are actually in the “4G air space” so we enjoy the rapid connectivity for which we pay extra every month, but never actually receive because we live in a “3G” world.

But I don’t always want to be connected.  I also dream of “unplugged” time during which I can relax and think deep thoughts and ponder the universe or my navel (whichever), over wine, music and a barbeque.

And then I spent a year one week in Wainscot (a sub-township of East Hampton) where Verizon has no “G”s at all.

None. 

Zero. 

Not a “G” within miles.

To get one bar of “G”-ness, I had to go north, cross a highway filled with aggressive sports car drivers and go in the direction of the North Fork.  I am glad that Verizon services the crunchier, family friendly North Fork, but Verizon must take pity on those souls who do not, by choice (rather for familial obligations and homesteading), inhabit the tonier side of the highway.

For work-related calls, I had to drive around for connectivity and then find a safe place to park.  I got so desperate that two bars of connectivity was a G-dsend.  When asked where I was — just to have idle chit chat until all parties to any given call dialed in — I simply could not mention that I was parked in the lot right near the King Kullen supermarket and, as luck would have it, in front of the liquor store.

Yes, yes, the Hamptons can be glamorous.  For some.

Being disconnected was not so bad, except for the essential people whom I needed to call or with whom I needed to be in contact.

But talking on the phone was unbearably like that commercial, “Can you hear me now?” except there was no “good” following the answer.

Only, “You are breaking up.  Text me.”

Which even worked for SOB, one of the most technically un-savvy 50-something year-olds I know.

But not for almost 93 year-old Dad who isn’t so great on the phone anyway.  Even when I had THREE bars in Montauk, it wasn’t enough for Dad.

Hello?

Hey, Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooo?

Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, CAN YOU HEAR ME?  IT’S [BLOGGER]!

Yes, darling, how are you and everyone there?

SIDEBAR:  If he can’t hear, then he can’t remember.  So, he didn’t really remember where I was or why or with whom.  Then everything goes to shit.  I get why the phone is hard on the elderly.

We are great, Dad.

Who is there?  Where are you?

Dad, we are away for a week.  There is bad reception.  Can you hear me?

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, I will text [SOB] and she will call you and let you know what I said.  ok?

Ok, sweetheart, where are you now?  Hellooooo?

CALL DISCONNECTS.  My heart sinks.  I have only confused my Dad, not helped the situation by checking in.

I text SOB.  I must speak to Dad through an interpreter while I am in No-Fi land.

No-Fi land.  A land of legend and dreams.  Of gods and monsters.  Of serenity but also of being with the person you have become.  Good, bad and, sometimes, ugly.

Still, I yearn for this land.

Or so I think.

No-Fi is in the future — when I don’t worry about parents but my loved ones and children (who may be aliens, depending on age and stage) are with me (which may mean building a compound for the multitudes).  But therein lies the rub.  If I am not worried about my Dad (or aunts and uncles, or fake aunts and uncles), then that means they are gone.

So, I guess I would rather live in Wi-Fi for as long as I can.

No-Fi is not uncomplicated.  It is a place you go to heal after life’s journey relieves you of some of your most beloved companions.  And the quiet forces you to think about who you are and what you want to become.

Yes, it is easier to be connected.

Post Script

Yesterday, we sifted through ULOB’s apartment for momentos.  And lasting evidence of his life on earth. 

He has no children; his DNA doesn’t survive.  He once said to Mom, in response to her question, “Don’t you want children?”

“I have yours.”

We, his nieces and nephew, need to preserve the memory of his life.

He was a dancer, a writer, a painter and a playwright.  He said he never worked a day in his life, because he loved what he did and he would have done it for free.

We were kids and he was a giant.  Fun, hip and he adored us.  And we adored him.

And then we grew up and our worlds expanded and his contracted.  And then the old days kept us together.  But not new days.

ULOB came to my office a few months ago.  He wanted me to have his memoirs.  He looked around and was amazed at my office and the law firm.

He was proud of “the kids” as SOB, BOB and I were called so long ago.  He had never said that to me before.  I don’t know if he ever said that to my siblings.

“Baby, you deserve everything in the world,” he said in his showman way.

There we were — a seemingly penniless old dancer and seemingly successful lawyer — being proud of each other even though we made opposite choices in life.

He spent a lot of time with us after AROB died, but, ultimately, her death and his realization that he was no longer self-sufficient were too over-whelming for him to continue for long.

When we left his apartment, arms filled with his writings and pictures, I imagined him in his youth, exiting the stage to wild applause.

A mash-up of pictures through the years.  http://40andoverblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Uncle-Larry-Mobile.m4v

Life Inside the Bubble

(I will get to SOS’s visiting day SOON)

My mind has been all over the map.  I visited SOS at an idyllic summer camp, where his best friends are all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, athletes, mathletes, geeks and jocks (ok, quasi jocks).  Yet, the preponderance is white and Jewish, let’s not get carried away.

We drove home that night back to New York City because of ULOB’s condition.  The night has a mournful quality, mused POB.

It was particularly mournful.  On the highway, in the darkening day that gave way to night, I thought about Trayvon Martin and my son.

I don’t know much about the facts (if any) that came out in the case (as opposed to the media) and I didn’t listen very closely to the proceedings.

Why?

Because if the police tell a man who says he is afraid of an “interloper” to stay in his car, and he gets out and goes after the ‘interloper” with a gun, and the “interloper” dies, there is no question that the first man is not only criminally responsible for the death of the “interloper” but, in this case, of felony racism.

It never occurred to me that George Zimmerman would go free.

Not because I don’t have “ist” tendencies — we all do.  But because in my world, I have learned so much from my child and his friends.  Children can teach their parents about life and community, if only parents wouldn’t poison them with prejudice.

Children don’t naturally draw lines; they just want to play with whomever wants to play with them.

But they feel societal “norms” in their bones.  So, when my son was 7, he was having a play date with his best friend, and said to us:  “I just want you to know that he is bi-racial.”  OK, SOS is being raised by two moms. We couldn’t care less. Meanwhile, up in Riverdale, his best friend was telling his parents, “Just want to let you know that [SOS] has two moms.”  And they are a biracial couple and they didn’t care about our sexual orientation.  In fact, we parents are friends, simply because we like each other and we have fun together WITHOUT THE KIDS.

Both sets of parents called each other and immediately giggled and then sighed at our boys who are leading the way.  Our children opened up a way to discuss differences in a way that helped their parents.

“Teach your children well, and their fathers’ hell will slowly go by … “

And sometimes I forget that two generations — including mine — have to die out before our children can make the decisions.

And then Trayvon’s death makes us remember. 

And let’s focus on this young man’s tragic death.  A young man, who died not on the battlefields of Afghanistan with the condolences of a grateful nation, but in a silent and unacknowledged skirmish along race lines.

Did he smoke pot? I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I did.  Did he do some bad things? I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I did.  But I got a free pass (or six or seven). Why do you think?

Trayvon was a kid.   Did he hit Zimmerman? Hell, I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I would, if I got the better of someone after me with a gun.  I would have beat the guy with all my might. I would have kiiled him.

Let’s imagine the worst, and Trayvon was doing something bad.  Trayvon was shot dead. If I were shot dead (and doing something misdemeanor-ish), Zimmerman would be in jail or on death row.

BUT THE PITY OF IT ALL IS THAT WE HAVE TO IMAGINE THE WORST OF TRAYVON.  IF TRAYVON WAS A WHITE , DARTMOUTH FRAT BOY NAMED TREY (OR TRIP), THE ENTIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED AND THERE WOULD BE A WHOLE CAMPAIGN TO WIPE OUT NON-LICENSED SECURITY SERVICES.

Close your eyes.  And don’t think about the fact that Trayvon is black.  You know the answer.  The same damn answer that has plagued generations.  But, PLEASE, let’s not poison our children who have a real chance not to repeat this travesty.

If George Zimmerman has the right to be judge, jury and executioner, then we all have that right and Zimmerman should be very afraid.  As should we all because then society is irretrievably broken.

Trayvon was a young man — a kid — why did he have to die?

A young man a little older than my son died violently.  And the killer went free.

A killer went free. 

Four words that indict our society.  And the victim was a young person with a life ahead of him, full of hopes, dreams, disappointments, and we hope happiness and success (as he saw it).  Like any of us.

We enabled this to happen.  Look in the damn mirror. 

We should all turn ourselves into local precincts.

Every child is simply too precious to lose to this kind of travesty.