Archives for March 2010

Old Friends, Opportunities and The Sands of Time

Back in the time in which my friends and I were known as college students we used to gather upon special occasions. Mind you that in those days we were spread out far and wide and very few of us understood that we were living through a special occasion.

The gang as we collectively referred to ourselves then and now was a mixed group of boys and girls who had known each other for a while. Many of us had met in elementary school or junior high. By the time our university lives began we had the benefit of years of friendship together. We had seen the first loves come and go, witnessed more than a few life cycle events and used those things to build the foundation of the friendships that we still share. 

Since we found ourselves scattered across the country we looked towards the holidays as a time when we could reconnect in person. As I sit here typing on my computer I find myself smiling at the memories, if for no other reason than the recollection that we had few of the modern conveniences to use.

 It is funny, none of us feels old but in some ways we are. We didn’t have blogs, Facebook or Twitter to use as a way to stay in touch. As undergrads email was limited to those of us who were scientists. Long distance telephone charges were a serious concern that we monitored closely and cellphones were a dream that we referred to as a “car phone.” And those car phones were expensive and the province of some of our parents.

Holidays became valued not only for the chance to come home and see our parents but for the opportunity to reconnect with the gang. I suppose that I was naive but I always thought that eventually everyone would move back home and that holidays would be just one of many occasions upon which we’d see each other.

But life happened. Some of us died, others got married to the men/women they met in school and ended up in places other than home. And then life, oh sweet life happened in more ways and children came. And the coming of children created new bonds, broke old ones and forced more changes than most of us would have anticipated.

And now those of us who live in the same city still fight to find time to see each other. Busy lives mean that holidays still serve as moments when we set aside our concerns and spent time together.


In a few hours a group of us are going to reconvene and turn back the hands of time for a bit. Some of the gang have come back home for the holiday and so we’ll gather those who can make it and do what we can to catch up.

It is an impromptu gathering so my own family is busy which is good and bad. I won’t get to show off my kids in person but the upside is that I’ll be able to focus on the conversations I do have. I’ll get to sit back and watch my friends play mom and dad. I’ll hold a new baby or two and admire how big the others have gotten.

Some of us will talk about Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s that are approaching with light speed. We’ll compare notes about dealing with the challenges of parenting and ask ourselves how we got sucked into the private school morass.

At some point there will be a moment when I’ll look up and realize that we have split up into groups of men and women. I’ll look around and listen as the guys talk about our stuff and eavesdrop for a moment on the girls.

I’ll smile as I enjoy the time with them now because I always do. But I’d be lying if I said that I won’t think back to moments long ago when we chased each other on the beach. Days gone by when we’d hope that the girls would bring along new friends that we’d hope would be “hot” and endless summer nights.

And as I sit there taking it all in I’ll remember how far away this time seemed to me. I’ll remember how we used to talk about how old 25 sounded, let alone 40. Opportunities were all that I used to see, endless opportunities that were uncomplicated by responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong, life is very good now, but every now and then I wonder about that one time….

Passover 2010- Grandma is Gone

“Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
Lean On Me– Bill Withers

It is Passover 2010. I sit down at the table and wait for my father to start the seder. My son is on my left, grandfather just to my right. It is the first holiday since grandma died and I am surprised by how hard it is.

Grandma wasn’t particularly religious. She was proud of her Judaism but didn’t go to shul unless it was for a family function. Didn’t keep a Kosher home and really didn’t do much to Kasher the house for Pesach. But she was an integral part of our lives and it is impossible not to notice that she isn’t there.

It is not the first seder that she has missed. Due to health issues she didn’t make it last year, but that was different. She was missed, but it was understood that had things been slightly different she would have been and that is a significant difference.

This is a first of different sorts. It is the first seder at my parent’s house in several years. The last few have been at mine. Instead of running it I am back to second chair status. It is ok with me, my mother is more comfortable being at home now so I am happy to help.

My father starts telling stories about Pesach past and I am irritated. Spent the last few days doing nothing but story telling about days gone by. I don’t want to hear the tales of my youth for the 23rd time, not the least of which is because none of them seem to resemble the versions that I know.

I pour myself a big glass of wine and start drinking. My daughter smiles at me as whispers, “don’t be mad and don’t be sad abba.” I smile and am more irritated that my face doesn’t hide my feelings. A few hours earlier she took me aside to tell me the story. She thinks it is important for me to know that Moshe took the people into the desert a long, long time ago, 59 years by her measure. The memory makes me smile, who knew that the Exodus happened a mere 18 years before I was born.

The family is talking about my great-grandmother, reminiscing about how in her Yiddish accented voice she’d say that she was “shikkered” (drunk) on grape juice. She died when I was 17. I remember her well and I think for a moment about how closely my grandmother resembled her mother. Both are gone now, so is my great grandfather.

Though he is gone my father tells us all again about how he refused to speak Yiddish to his children, he was an American and wanted his children to be Americans. Still he told the stories of his time in Vilna and how he hid in the fields from the Cossacks.

I smile again and remember how he used to play with me. I was seven or so when he died. He was a tall man who used a cane and had white hair, at least when I knew him. But I heard the stories of a man who had been a tailor. I heard the stories about how my zaide (great grandfather) would walk into shops and shut them down, shouting for the other tailors to leave because they wouldn’t work unless they were part of a union.

Stories of the times he would have fist fights with the police, of card games at the house and how he could quiet his children down with just a look. My father and his cousins all tell stories of a loving man who was as tough as they come, tales that echo those told by my great grandfather’s children.

My son asks me if I know who grandpa is talking about and I say yes.  I  realize that I have to take a moment to explain all the connections to him. My dad interchanges grandfather with ‘pa’ because they called him both. I called him zaide, but sometimes refer to him as my great grandfather. And of course my son thinks of great grandfather in the context of my own grandfathers.

It is loud inside house. The stories are interspersed with singing and the tales switch from one side of the family to the other. My own head is pounding from exhaustion and frustration. I remind myself that it is ok to be upset but feel torn by it all.

What is my responsibility here. What is my obligation. I have my grief, my grandfathers, mother, aunts, siblings and children, nieces, nephews and then some.

As I write this it is intentionally garbled, jumbled and filled with more emotion than I can convey. I do it because I am trying to show just how nutty it was.

The dogs are locked up for the time being, puppies are whining, big dogs are yelping. They want to be inside with the rest of us. The singing is loud and off key and all I want is to start eating. Let’s eat and maybe in the quiet I’ll gather my thoughts.

It is hard. Grandma is gone. All of my grandmothers, the matriarchs have gone on to wherever it is we go. I am down to one grandparent. Now it is just my grandfather. He quiets everyone so that he can say a few words. He sings softly, the words barely intelligible. A tear rolls down his cheek and I hear my daughter react.

Passover 2010, the moment when I realize that my childhood is almost nothing but memories has arrived. I am not ready for this but can’t say that I ever will be so does it make a difference.

Passover 2010 is my own exodus from one place into another, into moments unknown and unseen.

The seder is over. We’re home and the kids are in bed. It is almost 2 AM and I am back at the computer. I had intended to write about the night, but just couldn’t make it happen. I didn’t want to write a post that was overly sentimental junk. So I decide to wait until the morning.

Morning turns into afternoon and afternoon turns into early evening. So here I am with a post that is overly sentimental junk. Sigh.

Related Posts:

Sounds Of My Youth
Transitions- Passover Seder  
Struggling With Pesach
Passing The Baton- Grandma is 94
Passover- The High Cholesterol Holiday
What is Your Favorite Pesach Memory?
Some Passover Musings

Like Two Prizefighters

 (The story continues) 

I stood there and looked blankly at the man, my arms dangled at my side like two sides of beef. It was overwhelming me. I stood there knowing that this man had been tortured, knowing that Georgie expected me to torture him some more. And the worst part of it was that part of me was curious about what it would be like to do it. What would it feel like, would I get some kind of rush of adrenaline or would it be the beginning of a nightmare that would haunt me.

It would have been nice to say that I was a nice guy who had never done anything wrong, but that wasn’t true. It would have been nice to blame it all on Georgie and to say that he was responsible for the violence that I had been a part of, but that wasn’t true. He may have gotten me involved, but I always had the chance to walk away, to say no and I never did.

The reality was that I blamed myself for the way my life had turned out and even though I knew that Georgie played a large role in it, I still beat myself up about it. Even though I knew that had I tried to walk away there would have been an ugly confrontation I still thought that I should have, could have done better.

Georgie came up behind me and guided the hand holding the knife to the battered remains of the victim’s face. As he suggested that I cut out an eyeball I realized that this time would be different. I had had enough that much was clear by how I thought of this guy. In the past I never would have used the term victim to describe the people we had hurt. But that was a different time.

I pulled my arm out of Georgie’s grasp and flung the knife into the woods. He grabbed me by the collar of my jacket and asked me “to tell him what the fuck I was doing.”

I knocked his hands off of me and told him that I couldn’t do this. Enough was enough. He spat at the ground in front of me and said that pussies like me deserved whatever happened to us. For a moment his face softened and he asked me to reconsider, told me that the guy was going to die anyway and that we might as well enjoy ourselves.

And that was when I knew that I had to kill Georgie. There was no way that he was going to let me live. Oh, he might let me get off of the mountain, he might not do anything for a while, but sooner or later he would come for me and I knew it.

For a moment we stood there starting at each other, like two prizefighters sizing each other up we shared a moment of silence. Georgie was an animal who could hurt you badly without thinking about it. I was someone who had participated in acts of violence, but I couldn’t escape the sick feelings that accompanied it.

And I couldn’t escape the feeling of dread that was wracking my body. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. I knew that I didn’t have long. Georgie wouldn’t let this impasse last for long and for all I knew the Tree Man (as I had taken to calling him) might have friends come looking for him.

I knew that in the glove compartment of Georgie’s car there was a .38 snub nosed revolver and I knew that it was always loaded. Of course I had the simple problem of what to do about the Tree Man and Georgie. There was no way that Georgie would just let me walk away and I hadn’t a clue about the Tree Man. He might not survive his wounds and given that Georgie said that he was going to kill him anyway he could potentially be factored out of the equation.

But that left me as an accomplice to murder and I wasn’t real keen on that. Neither was I happy not knowing Tree Man’s history. Maybe I had read too many books or seen too many movies, but I was concerned with whether his death might create trouble for me outside of the many legal problems it presented.

And then it happened. Georgie hit me in the head, knocking me backwards over the stump. I grunted as I hit the stump and fell face first in the dirt. A boot slammed into my ribs. Again I wished that this was a movie or at least a dream. Nightmares ended with you waking up panting and short of breath, but at least you had escaped the monster. I was not so lucky.

This wasn’t a dream, I wasn’t going to wake up and no one was going to help me. It was nightfall and the moon had not yet risen so it was dark. I scrambled to my feet and tried to run only to be tripped.

I fell down again and again I was rewarded with another boot in my rib cage. I stood up and Georgie hit me hard, but this time I fell into him. I’d like to say that I planned it, but it would be a lie. Together we fell in the darkness. I landed on top of him and began punching him, screaming and shouting I pummeled him. I don’t know how long I hit him for, but I know that it took a while for me to realize that it had all been unnecessary. When we fell down the back of his head had landed on a rock. All I had done was make him more dead.

When I stood up I was shivering. Georgie was dead, Georgie was dead, Georgie was dead, Georgie was dead.

Now what.

The thing was that Georgie had been like family to me. In some sick, twisted and perverse sense of the word he had been like my older brother, the guy hadn’t always been bad, he hadn’t always been this way, had he. I couldn’t tell, I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t even really sure that he was dead, maybe he wasn’t, maybe he was just hurt, maybe he was just unconscious, knocked out like one of those cartoons we used to watch.

Maybe it was like when Bugs Bunny stuck his finger in Elmer Fudd’s gun and he would sit up, his face covered in black dirt.

Bad things Come in Threes

SickThat’s the old saw isn’t it, bad things come in three’s. At least I hope that is the case. If this were a twelve round fight I’d have to say that the other guy is winning.

I have been beaten up, down and around the ring. My legs are wobbly, I have two black eyes and one hell of a concussion. The only reason that I am still on my feet is that I am too stubborn or perhaps too dumb to go down.

So I keep fighting because I don’t know what else to do. I stagger around the ring, trying not to collapse. I search the crowd for my Adrian, knowing that if I can see my girl’s face I’ll find the strength to continue.

But she’s not there.

Alone in the dark I hear things, the echoes of the past and whispers of the future. She is gone. Can’t say if it is for good or for what. Silly 70’s songs like Just When I needed You Most play in the background, but I can’t focus.

I try to buck up, be a man who can shrug it all off and maintain that edge, but I fail. The minutes stretch into days and the hours feel like a lifetime. My dear sweet Adrian, I am not too proud too beg, but I wonder will it help.

Every day there is more bad news. Every day I wake up by trying to go back to sleep. But it doesn’t work. So I get out of bed and trudge over to the shower. I turn it on full blast and step into it. The water is so hot that it burns me, but I don’t turn the knob.

Rather punish myself and continue to sow seeds of self destruction. I should go down. The fight should be over, but I still can’t let go or give up.

(originally posted here)

What Not To Do After A one night Stand

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