Monday, July 27, 2009

The T-Bird

My father has a white late-model T-bird with tan leather seats and he's pretty proud of it. He made FD drive him to the hospital in it a few weeks ago. You sit pretty low in this car. He just loves it.

Last week he was admitted to the hospital so the professionals could encourage his kidneys to pump out some of the water he he's gained. Twenty-eight pounds later, they released him. But while he was there, the subject of his pace-maker popped up. It's due for a new battery in a few months, and one of the wires doesn't work.

The young cardiologist says to him, as he sits helplessly connected to various IV's, kindly (he thinks) but with a voice full of authority, "If they told you that you had a body wracked full of cancer, would you bother with a new pace-maker?"

A mean thing to say to an old guy, I thought, when I heard it. Wish I had been there, would he ever have heard it from me in the hallway.

Let's put it another way, give the guy a fighting chance.

"If you had an old car, a really, really old car, one that needed a lot of work, would you bother putting a new engine in it?"

My father would say, in a heartbeat, "If I liked the car."

Flying a Little Angry. Still.


Yesterday FD and I met with my brother and sister-in-law, had dinner at Bagel Country. We rode our bikes up to Skokie and I didn't even care how I looked. It's Bagel Country.

But we stopped off at my parents first.

"What's on your skirt?" first thing my mother says to me. I'm wearing blue culottes and there is some weird white chalky-looking something on my backside, something from the wash. I tell her it's very 9 days.

She's in the basement sweeping the floor and doing laundry, and my father is out buying plants for his award winning, were there an award in Skokie, garden. He has his landscaper put them in. His attention to this, when the doctors wrote him off just last week, is equivalent to mine with the fish tanks, but better.

Mother complains to me that my father has taken the car and gone to get some lunch, but it's been over an hour and she's worried. He didn't take his phone, either. He hasn't told her the truth, that he's buying plants.

We walk upstairs (I've fallen down this narrow stairway and cringe every time I see her do this, G-d should protect her) and I once again offer to install a washer-dryer in the bathroom upstairs. She won't do it, even if we pay. And she WON'T use the cane. This is for old people.

My father walks in the door he looks like he's about to say Shmah, seriously.

"Where've you been shmaying?" I ask. Now I understand the origin of this Yiddish for wandering.

"I can't talk," he says and sits down on the couch in the den. "Tired." He revives with a little with water, like his plants. My mother walks in and screams at him. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? He whispers something about flats of plants in the T-bird. I tell him how nice his garden is looking, and it is.

FD asks why the cell phones are on the floor. My father gives over the obvious answer. They're charging. "But you might trip on the cords. Why don't you. . ."

My father waves it away, whatever he's going to say.

Flying North

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The iPhone and the Nine Days

It really isn't right, not fair, just my luck, that I chose to upgrade to the new iPhone during the Three Weeks, those sad weeks before Tisha B'Av when we don't buy new clothes or listen to music, at least not so everyone knows about it.

But my phone is shot and it won't let me answer sometimes, and why have a phone if you can't answer it? So it was a choice between the iPhone and the Blackberry, because I need a smart phone, and they cost almost the same, so after much eeny meenie minee moe,

I chose i.

But to get it, to pick it up, set it up, sync everything and not listen to music is truly torture. Can you imagine? And all my daughter's songs, her iTunes that we put on my laptop hoping they would play but they wouldn't play because my computer simply didn't have the clout, THEY WORK!

(I know this, but didn't play them, honest).

The good news is that ATT gave me a lousy headset so if I wanted to listen to music I couldn't.

It's back to the store I go.

Flying Almost Musical

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

While You're Up There

I'm at the airport and the stupid Bluetooth is going off in my ear, a Star Wars theme maybe, I don't know, and the Airtran sales rep is barking at me, offering me a free trip if I sign up for a credit card, which is something we all need, another credit card.

I answer the phone and think it's FD, but it's my son. "I have bad news."

It's noisy so I walk into a restroom where there is less noise and he says, "Miriam passed away. Mo's mother."

I walked out of the restroom to cry, emote, feel the shock and outrage, to be among people. NO!

Mo is my son's best friend. Mine continues, "I'm going to come in on Sunday to pay a shiva call. I hope that will be enough. I just can't get there for the funeral."

They're calling me to board. I'm in a trance all the way home. A tzedikat has been taken from us. I can't believe it. The best person in the world, no longer with us. What will we do?

Which is the question on everyone's mind at the levayah, the funeral this morning. Whatever will we do without her? She was the reason the world kept spinning, one of the reasons. As her spouse the rabbi said, she represented the best of all daughters, the best of all mothers, the best of all sisters, the best of all friends. And she loved her own family so much that she treated everyone else as extended family, there was so much love, excess love.

The first speaker, Rabbi Gedalia Schwartz didn't ask why so much as, Why do we pray (for he had just noticed, this past week, during tachanun), why do we pray not to be struck by makas ha maves? The blow of death. Isn't death an inevitable part of life? Why would we pray that He mercifully spare us?

The Rav tells us that when someone passes on before his or her time, someone wonderful, someone that the community needs, that it is a slap to the entire community, a much different slap, much harder, than when an older person passes on. We feel the pain much more, it is community pain. And there was not a dry eye, I am not exaggerating, in the synagogue, everyone at the levayah crying. Everyone her best friend. She was everyone's teacher.

The next speaker, the principal of the school where she had taught for a few dozen years or more, bereft, a mourner himself, spoke of losing a colleague who was better than himself, who had a work ethic that never flagged, no lunch for Miryam, no break. No time to chit chat. Too many children to help. And she saved hundreds, no, thousands, educationally, many of whom may not even remember what she did for them.

Then Miryam's spouse, the rabbi, a beloved friend of all in the community, sobbed as he shared with us his life with her, his stories, gifts. He reminded us how she suffered so many illnesses with a smile, how she never complained, never burdened anyone, as seriously ill as she was, you never knew. He didn't know how she felt half the time; she didn't complain, not even to him.

Just to confirm, reality check, we were not best friends Miryam and I, and I wasn't even a half-way decent friend, although I owed her, because she helped us with our children, as she helped everyone. But we liked each other (she loved everyone, really), and when we talked on social occasions she would vaguely refer to her various physical problems, only when asked, as if they were no big deal.

We were together yapping at a kiddish in shul, seems like yesterday but it has to have been several months ago, maybe even a year, and she asked me, "What do you think? Should I get a PhD?" Me, so out of it, "Why not?!" She smiled as if to say, "So impossible, silly, as if I don't have enough to do already."

She taught us everything, how to be truly serious about life and yet to laugh at it. Once she sat next to me in shul, many, many years ago, looked over my shoulder and laughed at me.

"What's so funny?"

She says, "You're reading the divrei Torah in the Leckutai Peshatim!"

(Leckutai Peshatim is supposed to be a leaflet of thoughts and stories about Torah, learning, but most read it for the community announcements on the back page.

She continues, "You're the only one I've ever seen who reads it from front to back." Then! Now, every time I start from back to front I feel guilty about it.

The rabbi, her husband, tells us that she was more religious than anyone he knew, much more religious than himself. Her dream was to open a hotel with a barn in Yerushalayim.

Why a barn? "The third Bais haMikdosh will be built and there will be a need for korbanot so why not have a barn?"

Then why a hotel? "Everyone will be there. They'll need someplace to stay." She totally believed this.

Her son, Mo, spoke next to last. Mo is a very funny man and as wrecked as he is, he still says a few subdued, but slightly humorous things. It hurts to laugh, and very few in the full house do, and he surely doesn't mean what he says to be funny so much as to represent his mother's sense of humor, always on. She had the face of an angel, by the way, a sweetness and sincerity that you rarely see, and yet a dead-on gift to capture the joke, the uber-meaning in things.

Oh, how does this happen?

Then her brother compared our grieving, our outrage, to Israel's when Miryam died and the well dried up. The well had to dry up for there could be no one to take Miryam's place, no one compared, there is no comparison, is there? No replacement, no one from whom to draw more water. Now shovel, her aggrieved brother, our friend's brother literally cries to us, Take your shovels. And dig for water.

On my way to work, for the living, you know, go on living, I think to myself, "We'll forget, and her family will not, they'll grieve all the time, whereas we'll grieve just here and there, on occasion, when we think of her."

But I don't believe it. We'll think of her often. She'll really be missed.

On my bike I do a little self-chastisement for asking her for a favor during the levayah. You ask forgiveness, sure, at a levayah, but a personal favor for your kid? Even now? Intercession in Shamayim? But why not do both, ask forgiveness and ask for a favor, assuming she isn't too busy up there.

The correctness of this, whether or not it's really out of line to ask a favor of the deceased, I'm telling you, is something I would ask Miryam if she were around. She would know these things.

Flying Sad Like Everyone Else

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mary Poppins

I took the pic on Sunday, FYI.

We're outside by the pool, not swimming, it's Shabbas.
I say to my granddaughter,
What do you want to play?
She quips right back.
"I know. You're Mary Poppins and I'm Jane."


"Now hold your umbrella." (She pantomimes daintily holding up an umbrella.

Okay. (I hold my imaginary umbrella as daintily as possible)

"When the wind blows in, you fly in. And when the wind blows out, you fly out."
The kid's a prophetess, seriously.


You're Outta' Here

I get here before Shabbas and my granddaughter finds out that I'm sleeping in her room.
She looks at me steely-eyed.
ONE peep. Just ONE little noise. And you're OUT. You're out of my room.
I'm pretty quiet, honey.
ONE tiny noise and you're OUT! OUT OF THE HOUSE!
Well, okay.

It's so funny and the story is repeated over and over and I can tell she's embarrassed and I feel bad for telling it again and again, but it is really funny.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Flying Again: Love is. . .

Milk and honey, what else?

A quick Hannah story. We're outside by the pool, alone, it's hot. We have a couple of squirt guns.

We're shooting at random things, bears, tigers, badguys (her idea, not mine).

She sees a heart. "I see a heart! Get it!"

We shoot. "We got it!"

She sees love.

"I see love!" she cries. "Shoot it!"

"Shoot love?"

"Yes, quick! Shoot love!"

"Love?!?!? Kill love?"


"Fine." We shoot love.

"Love is dead," she says.

She's three.

Flying Happy