A Little White Lie

Mom was falling asleep right in front of me, across the little table-for-two, with its little white  table cloth, in the dining room at the assisted living facility, the kind of dining room in the advertisements that scream “nothing here ever goes wrong.” Everything was very nice. The servers were my favorites, kind, pleasant, respectful, and easy to interact with. They worked long and hard hours to build good lives and to raise their young families, to give them futures to look forward to. I had not been back to see Mom in a few months, because I lived so far away, and these servers were good to see again. It was personal. They also made my mom smile.

Despite that, right now my mom was not smiling. She was falling asleep. Every time you come back to see your elderly parent who has a diagnosis of dementia, it’s a new person you have to interact with. Each time you must get to know that person again. And sometimes the changes from one visit to the next are huge.

For months she had looked forward to seeing me. Now that I was here, was there anything I could say anything to get her to keep her head up and eyes open? You’re entirely alone, trying to find a way to do this.

I was really hoping the food would arrive to give mom some energy and the drinks would arrive to give her some hydration. But I had to be patient. I had traveled too far to just sit there in silence.

Food servers moved all around us. In silence I sat.

Soon they brought her her fresh cut fruit, egg salad with one slice of whole wheat toast, plus diet root beer. She ate.

“How’s the fruit, Mom?” as she gently plucked a grape or a piece of pineapple and nodded in approval.

“How’s Dad?”

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I did not expect this question. Nope, I certainly did not expect this question. There’s no time to think. No time to make it sound nice.

”Dad died, Mom.”

Her eyes opened larger. So this is what it took to get her eyes to open.

She had another grape.

”When?”

”About a year ago, Mom.”

“Of what?” I was stuck in the images of my dying father, with me standing next to his bed. We don’t see the cancer but we know what it does. I knew it had eaten away his internal organs.

”Some sort of intestinal cancer or something. They tried to operate… I heard they got the cancer out, but the surgery left him bleeding, which they couldn’t stop.”

The pineapple seemed to please her too. But I knew to just wait. She would let me know where this conversation was going. And there was more she wanted to know. She got extremely intent.

”Did I talk to him before he died?” That one hit me, because despite the fact that she could’t stay awake it indicated that she was quite aware that her memory was failing big time, and that she might well have spoken to him – the man she was married to most of her life, even if the last 50 years of which they spent estranged – one last time. My job here was to supply her memory.

”Yes, Mom, you did. I held the phone up to his ear, and you said something to him which I couldn’t hear but you said what you wanted to say.”

”Did he hear it?”

”Yes, Mom, he did.”

”Did he say anything?”

Now the details and sequences of my dad’s death, so many months earlier, were coming back. “Well, the day before he had spoken some, but on this particular day he was not talking. However, I did put the phone to his ear and he heard you.” All of that was true.

”And did he say anything?”

”Well in this day he was not talking anymore.” All of that was true.

“But I know he heard you and was pleased because he smiled.”

Even in those moments, people want to – need to – know that they mattered and have mattered to others, and have mattered to the people who mattered the most to them, that they made and have made a difference in someone’s life.

One should rest in peace, and one should live in peace.

Death: The Words We Use to Tell the Stories of Our Lives

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A few years back on a Friday morning I received a phone call from my brother one Friday morning. “Dad’s dying. I thought you should know.” Brother was to the point, no word wasted. I got the picture, exactly.

The three of us, my brother, my nephew Neil, and I, worked hard to choose words for his headstone; we had to work quickly because the Veterans Administration gave us 30 days maximum. The words we voted for in December 2017 for our father’s and grandfather’s headstone had no words about death or even love.

More recently, in May, I got a phone call from the nurse in the nursing home where my mom resided. “Your mother is nonresponsive.”

Non-responsive, I asked? What’s that supposed to mean?” She followed up with a checklist of what, in the physical world of medicine, non-responsive means. It was up to me to draw my own conclusions. “So, is she dying?” That the nurse could not – would not – answer.

Four months later, which was two months ago, there was a call from my brother again, most surprisingly because it was a Sunday morning and he never phones me on a Sunday morning. “Neil’s dead.” Forget about an option called “denial.” There was shock, but there was nowhere to run to. I knew immediately I had heard him correctly. That word has weight.

Around the clock and around the world somebody is communicating to somebody that death has overtaken somebody who is and has been loved, and alive.

But once that one-way portal is crossed, the living have to tell the story, sometimes over and over again. Sometimes my telling of the story wants to convey my sense of hope that somehow my mom, or my nephew, or my dad, will live on – or have lived on – in some spiritual world, even if I don’t absolutely believe there is one. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t believe in that spiritual world; after all, what proof do I – or can I – have? “He passed away,” I say, to reserve some hope. These days, I wish it were so even more. Pass on is becoming more and more popular with me.

Most obituaries commonly begin with “So and so passed away…” It’s soft. And it’s non-committal. Buddhist obituaries begin “so and so has died.” Buddhists don’t believe in a soul.

A Jewish friend of mine was describing her parents’ death recently. She wrote the Hebrew word “p’tira” over and over and admittedly I had to look up the translation for this word. “After Mom’s p’tira….” Its meaning so clearly expressed to me that my friend had an absolutely believe that each of her parents had left this world and was on to the next. P’tira means “to pass…” as in from one place to another, or one time to another. Her parents didn’t pass away; they passed on.

Neil’s next would-be birthday, his 37th, would have been a few weeks ago. His FB friends expressed their certainty that he had found peace. One FB friend evoked the hope that he was now with this FB friend’s brother, who had apparently himself made an early exit from this life – and to where we know not, but presumably and hopefully into an eternal realm. I like to think and imagine that my mom, who would have preceded my nephew (her grandson) up there, was surprised to ‘see’ him, but welcomed him with metaphorical open arms. I have yet to receive any ‘messages.’

The words I chose to talk about these deaths have reflected a message to my nephew’s unnaturally short life has not been for naught and perhaps there is a world where he is not encumbered by the weights of this world. When my belief is stronger, I’ll say “he passed on….” because that infers passed on to somewhere: another place or world or existence where he’s perhaps happier.

In December 2017, the three of us – my brother, my nephew and I – had worked hard to collaborate and come to consensus, something each of us would be satisfied with. As tersely as President Lincoln wrote the 719-word Emancipation Proclamation that had the enormous effect of abolishing slavery in the United States, Walt Whitman wrote his ode, the 206 lines of When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. These lines were written in 1865, after the Civil War had ended, after the Emancipation Proclamation heralded hope to the weary nation and a newly emancipated population, and after President Lincoln was assassinated. Alternating verses between using images of nature, flowers, birds, and the celestial sky, he acknowledges life, and sings to O death, with its far-reaching breath. The three of us had considered using, from the 14th stanza:

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song

But we voted against it. Three times in the 16th and final stanza Whitman uses the word passing.

Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song,

And then…

Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy, 
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven, 
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses, 
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves, 
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.
 

Ten minutes ago I got word that our niece just gave birth to a little girl. It’s very easy to say “Jessica just had a baby! Mother and baby are alive and healthy.”

But when it comes to death, don’t expect me to use the same expression twice in a row. But either way, I’ll be praying.

In the Balance

Nature is the great balancer. Nature is in constant motion, even when it seems still. Nature is also sensitive. It supports our world, and reflects the world around it: If the Earth is unhealthy, you can see it in the size of your squirrels, the fungus on your trees, hear it in the songs of the birds, and even smell it in the breeze.

Nature can be our old reliable, the spring buds, winds from the northwest, the winter frost, the empty robins’ nest; we can set our mental clocks to its rhythms, tell us when to plant, when to prune, when to preserve and can, and when to bless the new moon.

It can also remind us that nothing stays the same and that there are limits to what humans can control.

But a walk in the woods, even these days a walk outside on a city street, the feel of snow under our feet, the crunch of browned leaves, or the sunset’s breeze, can balance our inner restlessness. I’ve been taking a lot of walks lately.

Sometimes look up.

Sometimes look closer, and see what’s right in front of you.

Sometimes you learn to read what’s written right in front of you, the secret code. It can be a sign of destruction and construction at the same time.

Sometimes you wake up early and see the new day come in. (Photos of Rincon, Puerto Rico, taken by and provided here with permission of Julie Shore.)

Sometimes you wake up early and everything just looks colds. It occurs to you to skip that walk.

Sometimes you look down. Some teenagers or adolescents may have left rocks as love letters.

Some very small things are hiding before your very eyes, and are very busy.

The bug on the headstone might be looking for another meal – or might be the incarnation of somebody you’ve loved and recently lost.

You blow it a kiss.

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Not In My Back Yard!

“I saw six bunnies on my jog this morning,” my husband likes to tell me when he comes home from an early morning jog. I respond: “You actually count these things?”

Our entire neighborhood for years has been complaining about an infestation of rabbits eating our plants and flowers, and we’re not farmers. Every year we swear it’s worse this year than ever. The neighborhood is on my side.

The other day we were getting in our car, which was parked on the driveway, and I saw a fat earth-toned little thing in our driveway in what would be the path of our car. I told my husband – as is typical when it comes to my finding a small critters. Just like I tell him when I find a dead chipmunk, which has happened three times this summer. On closer inspection this particular it fit in a palm, and its eyes were closed tight, clearly having never opened. OH HOW CUTE!!! I said. He said, ‘It’s a baby rabbit.” Cute little ears! Tiny little body.I have to admit this tiny soft thing with its eyes shut closed was adorable.

Now I knew our neighbors’ vizsla was always finding rabbits, and especially in the rock garden between our two homes. Maybe this newborn was a lucky survivor of her instincts to hunt. We knew there was a rabbit “nest” somewhere hidden in the neighbors’ rock garden. But where? Where had this animal come from?

As my husband cradled this baby, I sought the nest, as the sun was setting picking through the large leaves of elephant ears, caladium, and coleus.  I texted my neighbor. “Where’s the rabbit nest?” She didn’t want to tell me – they grow all their own vegetables! – and she shrugged.

Hubby found a foil pan and added milk, then added baby rabbit.Meh, was the baby’s response. We looked around more and could find no nest, it was getting later and later. So we put this baby into the rock garden, hoped for the best, and drove away.

A few days later as I was walking around just like Waldo, the baby bunny nest revealed itself to me. There they were, four tiny bunnies, no mother. Still eyes shut. So cute! I wondered if one of these four is the one we saved last week. few days later I returned. I hoped that he or she had survived.

Now the little monsters had their eyes open.

I saw the future. I saw these hopping through our flowers, chomping on my geraniums, verbanum, impatiens and all the other flowers that are supposed to be “rabbit-unfriendly.”

I saw myself chasing them away.

And then it happened. One day the nest was empty. One day I saw rabbits all over our lawn, hopping away at the sight – or smell – of me. And there was one half of the petal of our newly planted Black Eyed Susan.

“HEY!!!  GET AWAY RABBIT. LEAVE MY FLOWERS ALONE.

Then I felt the unmistakable beat of the completion of my transformation. I heard the unmistakable Tom Petty:
“Whatever you’re looking for
Hey! Don’t come around here no more
Don’t come around here no more!

I’ve given up, stop, you tangle my emotions
I’ve given up, honey please, admit it’s over

Whatever you’re looking for
Hey! Don’t come around here no more
Hey!

I now understood Tom Petty on a much deeper level.

Bird Day Afternoon: Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home

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We human adults aren’t the only ones dealing with our kids, restrictions around schooling, and social distancing.  Robin moms have to deal with their kids, too, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of an aviary parenting session. The issues may be different, but the birds don’t  just fly away from their responsibility to their kids.

No matter what noise I made, that baby did not budge. Chirped, but didn’t budge. Pretty soon we noticed the mommy robin flying from our roof, where the family has its home, to sit by her baby. She would dance around, chirp excitedly, then fly off. Over and over. At some point we decided to give them some privacy, and shut the door, and watch from the other side.

As a kid, I had been challenged by the adage “It’s as easy as putting salt on a bird’s tail” and saw that as a challenge: Out into the woods I went with a salt shaker. Back home I came – empty handed except for the salt shaker. But here it was a freak show of nature to have two robins come to us!

Mother Robin Red Breast would then fly back, with something in her mouth. A worm!I I initially thought she was trying to feed her baby, who showed no interest in eating. But I was wrong. She was offering food to coax her baby back up into the nest.

Still grounded! I think I could have reached out and touched this fluffy, and fearful, ball of yellow down and speckled browns.

Now I’ve seen some frustrated parents, and I’ve seen some great parents, but this one really impressed me. I’m sure she didn’t read about parenting from a book.

Her next move: Atop the sun umbrella, to coax the baby to take to the air.

Still not. Sounding like some kid you know?  We are now talking at least ten minutes, long enough to start maybe wash the car (or the baby).

Finally baby robin got up the nerve to turn around!

But that didn’t last too long. Maybe looking off into the distance frightened her again. Maybe she felt more secure close to home – our home! So she managed to turn her frightened self around.

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About 15 minutes had passed, and we were about as close to the life of a bird in nature as we were ever going to get – or ever hoped to get. It was enough.  We left mother and child to iron out their issues.

I keep hear Bob Dylan singing in the background, in his throaty voice. Might Mama have been singing some version of Bob Dylan, like:
‘Won’t you come home with me?
Baby, Won’t you come home with me
Yes, I’ll do anything in this God-almighty world
If you just come home with me.’

Soon the rail was empty, and we lost track of them.

A few hours later, we saw mother and child walking across the street, crossing the street, going into another yard.

I can see it now: What I Did on My Summer Vacation…

“Funny, helpful, relevant guide through English Grammar” – “Nobody Knows How to Write a Grammar Book Better Than Me”

It’s not just a grammar book.

Nobody Knows How to Write a Grammar Book Better Than Me raises the bar for an English grammar textbook as it transports us through the great English language and the topsy-turvy world of Donald Trump’s politics and predilections. With memorable and not so memorable examples of Donald Trump’s use of English, Nobody Knows How to Write a Grammar Book Better Than Me hilariously guides the reader through grammar’s complexities by making them easy to access.

From the developer of the popular Easy Writer: Interactive Software for Learners of English, this book provides an accessible introduction to American English grammar for English users regardless of their skill levels: both native and ESL speakers. Every grammar principle is accompanied by several examples of Donald Trump — how to do it — and how not to do it. In addition, exercises allow the reader to try the grammar principles themselves, which often means correcting Donald Trump’s grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. The renowned cartoonist, J.C. Duffy, whose works can be regularly seen in The New Yorker and whose comic strip The Fusco Brothers is nationally syndicated, contributes additional rewards for the reader through his satirical illustrations of Donald Trump quotes.

This complete grammar book is as educational as it is entertaining.

Nobody Knows How to Write a Grammar Book Better Than Me: With Amazing Examples from Donald Trump is both instructively educational and inherently entertaining. It is in fact and substance a thoroughly ‘learner-friendly textbook with a wealth of humourous examples reflected in the actual statements, both spoken and written, by Donald Trump. While controversial with respect to the subject used for illustrative and educational purposes, the grammar lessons and exercises comprising Nobody Knows How to Write a Grammar Book Better Than Me are sound, germane, pertinent and relevant for anyone with an interest in learning about the use of proper English grammar for the purpose of enhancing and facilitating their spoken and written communications.

 

Editorial Note: Jane Hanser’s roots as a teacher of English and English as a Second Language, and the developer of the popular software application Easy Writer: Interactive Software for Learners of English, and as a story-teller in her award-winning book Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways come together in this funny, helpful and relevant guide through English grammar.

 

Midwest Book Review

“Available in paperback and hardcover. BOTH VERSIONS are FULL COLOR. (Hardcover also available through Barnes and Noble college bookstores.)

DON’T DELAY. Get your copy now.  This is a ONE-OF-A-KIND GRAMMAR BOOK.

CLICK HERE for our WEBSITE and to LEARN MORE. See our TABLE OF CONTENTS.

CLICK HERE to SEARCH INSIDE THE BOOK on Amazon.com.

Illustrator: J.C. Duffy, author of The Fusco Brothers, nationally syndicated comic strip, and frequent contributor to the New Yorker, Narrative Magazine, and more. 

  • Hundreds and Hundreds, Maybe Millions and Millions, of Really Amazing Quotes by Donald Trump
  • Lots and Lots of Really Amazing Exercises
  • Clear and Easy Explanations of Each Grammar Point
  • Lots and Lots of Laughs (Sad!)
  • Amazing Conversation Starters
  • A Complete Detailed Index for All Your Grammar and Punctuation Needs. Visit Our Website for Details.
  • Full Page Color Illustrations by J.C. Duffy (both softback and hard cover editions) of Your Favorite – and Some of Your Least Favorite – Donald Trump Quotes!
  • Great for individual use, classroom use, and libraries.

Book Review: Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist is a love story, and a blueprint of the current state of politics in America. It is a story about converting from hatred to love, a story about transformation from one type of leadership to another. It’s a true story about relationships, politics, and the politics of hatred. It’s a true story of acceptance and of harnessing ones soul to integrity, no matter where that path leads to.

I first heard of this book when I met a friend who was sitting outside reading it at the time, and her reason for reading it was to learn about how this young person, who was the elite of the white nationalist/white supremacist/anti-Semitic/holocaust denial movement, changed his ways as a result of being invited to Shabat dinners. It sounded like a fairy tale, but I had to read the book. Could such a thing happen? How could such a thing happen?

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White NationalistRising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Derek Black, son of KKK Grand Wizard Don and Chloe Black, and godson of David Duke, KKK leader, was a new freshman and alone on at New College, Florida. Among the first people who reached out to Derek, unaware of his personal background and history, was a Hispanic, who invited to join in the regular Friday night Shabat dinners run by several orthodox Jews there at the college. Derek quickly became accepted by this diverse group of people who would scorn white supremacist ideology, and none of whom knew he was the creator of Stormfront.org. They also had no idea that each day Derek would run off campus to broadcast his white supremacist radio show. Over time, Derek, named by his parents Don and Chloe after Theodoric the Great, Germanic Visogoth conquerer of Italy and the Frankish night Roland, even began to date a Jewish woman whom he had met at these Shabat dinners.

Through a series of events, began to question many of his long held beliefs – and things heat up when one of the students discovers that this Derek Black is the same Derek Black from Stormfront. There’s an amazing story to be told how the students handle this news, some continuing to reach out to him, some advocating for shunning him. It’s the group of students who decide to continue to reach out to him who ultimately help him to see through many of the inhumanity of many of the “facts” that Derek was raised with.

How these students interact with Derek, and keep the connections, how Derek continues to value their friendships and question his own beliefs and the beliefs of his entire family structure is fascinating and something we all can learn from. How Derek faces and confronts the fallout from his white supremacist family and the risk of losing deep family connection due to his new identity should give anybody strength who has to challenge long-held beliefs and risk the loss of such relationships.

That said, this book is amazing.Eli Saslow literally accompanied Derek on family trips and was shown the emails sent between his friends and him as they engaged him on his ideas and his identity.

Rising Out of Hatred reveals the dark underbelly of white supremacist ideology, and how Derek himself admits and exposes how the Trump administration energized it and a plethora of conspiracy theories, and gave the white supremacist and alt-right movements  new oxygen, how it got “smart” and modified the rhetoric of its hateful ideology to seem more palatable and mainstream to the easily duped American public: Derek and his parents were at the fore of these strategies: deciding it would be good PR to replace the  white KKK robes for business suits, and substitute the term “white nationalism” for what it truly believed in, white supremacy, and more. They masterminded a strategy to appear less hateful toward others than they truly are, and to engage the support and sympathy of larger masses of Americans.

This book, so beautifully written, which dives deep into the heart and soul of these relationships that first structured Derek’s thinking and behaviors, and that later the self-reflection that opened Derek’s world and mind, can open ours as well.

Would that the rest of our country behave similarly and we have true engagement of ideas and strength of character.

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Craigslist – Yes, a5964dba8747391a5ee3epop7647c9f, it’s still available.

“Is your fireplace screen still available?”

Some of us are primarily sellers. Some of us are primarily purchasers.  And – despite the risks – who hasn’t sold or purchased something on Craig’s List?

People our age are primarily sellers. We have a lot from bringing two families together into one marriage. Add items big and small from receiving our elderly parents’ “overstock” or downsizing, and even more from their passing.  We have a lot from years of being unable to resist this book, or that new gizmo or bicycle part. Or from selling off old home parts as we modernized. Who would have thought that every single shutter – which totaled close to 40 – from our old home would be wanted and find a new home? Or every single S-hooks from those shutters? The people we meet – are primarily buyers or seekers and they’re younger than us.

They’re also an eclectic group.

Some use their first name in the initial contact and some remain anonymous. Sometimes after a few backs and forths, I have to ask,”What’s your first name? In this anonymous online world, where transactions are quick and your “name” might be a5964dba8747391a5ee3epop7647c9f, it’s still important to me to know somebody’s name. For the person to be real.

We had fun selling bike parts and learned pretty from the young biker types that we were undercharging for the rare pedals that we had many of. So the initial buyer got a bargain, and the others, well, they had to pay a good price. But come and pay they did, because the pedals had been discontinued and were still considered the best ever made. One guy purchased a Tulle roof rack and installed it on his car right there by the curb. He wasn’t wasting time and we were relieved to know that it was working as we had advertised.

Selling on CraigsList was not so much fun one night when we were in the basement waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the buyer, and I eventually phoned the guy. He had been there and rung the bell but turns out our bell wasn’t working. So he had just left and gone home. I phoned. “Are you still planning on coming by?” He said he had been there and rung the bell. Apparently it wasn’t working. That could have been at the time when our next door neighbors and we had the same bell and people would buzz their bell but it would ring in our home, and vice versa.  “You could have used the knocker, or emailed me. We were home,” I said, and received a curt nasty reply that sounded like **** in return. It kind of shakes you up. But the next customer was much better. We still have that item out in our garage.

For a while we were selling off parts of our chain-link fence that we had installed to keep our dog Joey from running off and had now taken down. This brought a very eclectic group of people. Some had chickens, some had dogs, some had horses! They were mostly pretty chatty people, and loved to talk about their chickens, dogs, and horses. And I can’t blame them!

Our old shutters was to be used in the decor by one person in her restaurant up in Maine. Others were using them for arts and crafts projects. Creative people will find a use for everything. Works for me. I kept her card for a while, hoping to go visit that restaurant, but in a world with too much stuff, one business card isn’t going to survive long.

You get pretty good at knowing who the scammers are. You’ll get an email back within a few hours of posting your item: “Is this still available?” without mentioning the item. FLAG THEM!!

Another bad experience was some guy and he wanted to purchase some old wood flooring, or we wanted to purchase old wood flooring from him. We never actually met… I think I had to phone him and cancel. And any rate all I remember is him yelling at me that his child was learning disabled and somehow it was my fault.

Once recently we were purchasers. Here’s where Craig’s List was really a savior. We had wanted one Crate and Barrel bookcase to go along with one that we had from years back, but that had been discontinued. Furniture online is expensive after shipping (despite Wayfair saying ‘one price’) and frankly isn’t made that well any more. It’s broken down into parts, then shipped, so it’s not long solid pieces anymore. We tried. We found a similar bookcase online then found the online photo to NOT be like the bookcase was actually made, which couldn’t actually withstand the weight of – BOOKS! So we boxed it up and shipped it back. Then we decided to HOLD OUT for Craig’s List. Eventually, we figured, somebody would be selling that ole’ item. BINGO. A few months later, there it was on Craig’s List!!  So on a nice Sunday afternoon everything went in reverse. We went there and met a really nice family and as things worked out gave them the name of a really good contractor that we had used.

Today I got an email:

Hello, 
Is this still available? Can you tell me the dimensions? I am looking to cover a fireplace that is 40″X29.5″
Thank you so much, 
Grace

 

Now I know everybody is in the holiday spirit but this is very high level. I got the dimensions right away, which I should have done before but figured what the hell.

Grace,
The width is 38″
Height 31″
Depth 7″
Jane

 

Back was this:

Oh no I think that may be too small…

To which I fired back:

Sounds a little too narrow. Now that I have the dimensions, I’ll get then into the ad. 
We also have a 3-piece set of fireplace tools, if you need them; I just never got them into the Craigslist.
Jane

And then the pièce de résistance:

Hey Jane, 
I am all set but thanks so much for responding!
Happy Holidays!
-Grace

 

Thank you, Grace. And I will continue to take my chances with Craig’s List!!

Happy Holidays, y’all! I hope y’all get what you need!

Yizkor: Which Side Are You On?

The rabbi announces “Yizkor” and there is a shuffling of positions. Some remain silently in their seats. Others, myself always included, exit the room.  If it’s a nice day, many of those go outside.

Chances are it would happen, sooner or later, the day when I would not walk out of the room and out of the building and find a place in the sun where I could sit and basque, tilt my face toward the warmth and light, and breathe a sigh. I might wonder what was happening in the room and I might not. What I knew was that some people were in and others were out, that I was usually out; earlier, some whom I hadn’t seen all year were running to be there on time, and others running to be elsewhere.

It is a mystery and a dance. The basics of the dance remain the same each time, but not the characters in it.

Last year I had quickly glanced at the folded booklet – as if I had found my father’s condoms or my mother’s birth control, things I didn’t want to believe or deal with. In the glance I noticed there was a paragraph for a grandparent, or for somebody who gave their life for our faith. All four of my grandparents had long passed. Why, then, could not I not participate in this service? Why was it off limits? Still, it was forbidden. I dare not read more.

This year, as I sat in my seat, the Rabbi as usual requested “All who have not lost a parent please leave the room.” This year I did not join that group. I was tempted to look around. Who were we, those who remained? I sat on the first row, by myself, within arm’s length of the window. It was closed on this cold day in April. Kids were outside playing basketball on the patio. I looked down and found the paragraph for those who have lost a father. We in the room were in the temporary world, our loved ones in the eternal one. My father was in the eternal world, and I was here.

I pledged charity on his behalf.  “A fund-raising gimmick,” I found my brain briefly thinking, and then caught that thought. At a time of loss and confusion – to pledge to give to those in need – works. To others in real need. It restores the balance.

I followed the written lines on the card and prayed for my father to be in Gan Eden. The Garden of Eden. My father in the Garden of Eden?

It was hard for me to imagine him, my father, at least my father’s soul, happy, in Gan Eden. He’d been so wretched in this life but met his end of days bravely and with love for us. Could he be happy for all eternity? Such a thought!

A friend and I talked afterward; I was thinking of my dad but was he thinking of me? How could I know? How could I ever know.

Soon I began chanting to myself Jackson Browne: “Which side, which side, which side are you on?” with its heavy beat and repetition. We were on this side. I was on this side. The ones we prayed for were on the other. Just as my father’s soul cannot come back, neither can I go back to being one who wonders and walks out of the room.

Before the holiday began, as dusk moved in and replaced the daylight, between my husband and me, we had lit four 24-hour memorial candles, my husband three and me one. My first. A full 48 hours after the 24-hour memorial candles were lit, and counting, my father’s alone continued to burn strong.

Yes, I thought, his soul is shining and he’s letting me know what I cannot know.

*shul = synagogue

Permission to Celebrate

Tonight is the 3rd night of Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah my husband and I each lit our own respective menorahs. The second night too.  But tonight my husband is on the road; at 4pm, which is sundown nowadays, it’s just me at home. My husband will be home later tonight, and when he comes home he’ll light his menorah. Meanwhile, mine remains candle-less and light-less. I can’t do it without him?

Of course I can.

The issue, I realize, as I indulge myself on the sofa by the menorah, is that this is the birthday of my father, and it was only two weeks ago when he, my father, may he rest in peace, died.  In a dignified service at a national cemetery, we buried him and honored him, and his life, 9 days ago. So today is the first time we’ve had my father’s birthday without him,  and it’s also Hanukkah, a day of celebration.

The menorah remains unlit in front of the window as it’s darker and darker on the outside of the glass. I can hear the cars drive by, but I remain in my world.

I had a pretty good day. Got up, went to a doctor’s appointment, which had a good result, and went to another doctor’s appointment, which also had a good result. I had reason to feel good about my future.

I haven’t realized it yet but as I lay on the sofa with my feet on the side arm rest, I don’t feel I have permission to celebrate on this particular day, this particular night, which our holiday requires us to do. And this is why I’m dawdling. And feeling sad. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the minutes pass by, I really really need to light these nerot. We cannot live in darkness. The holiday tells us to bring light to our lives and to the world. So I fill the shamash-holder (the servant candle) and three candle holders with candles. I light the shamash, and say my blessings, and light the three nerot, the three candles.

And as I’m doing this, this is what I realize :

My mother and father have given me this beautiful 2,154 year-old legacy of lighting the Hanukkah menorah to have as my own. They’ve given it to my siblings too, to have as their own. Lighting my candles and honoring our holiday honors them too, and honors their ancestors, the unbroken line, all the way back to Abraham.

The legacy also says that there is a time for mourning and a time for celebrating. I have kept my obligatory 7 days of shiva and now taken off my wrinkled mourning shirt, which sits in a heap on my bench. Although I had thought I’d get rid of it when the mourning ended, now I’m unable to throw it away. And now we are into the 8 days of Hanukkah. On this 3rd day and night, it’s time to celebrate our legacy, and it’s time to celebrate, and remember, the lives of those we love and who have given us so much and who have carried on this great tradition and allowed us to do the same.

We can do both.

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