Saturday, June 6, 2009

Organic and Conventional Family

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Which is Better for Me?

Fur is flying and inhuman sounds of satisfaction are reverberating from her throat. She wipes her pink nose along my forearm and then my little striped, pointy-eared daughter beds down in my lap for a nap.

Every night, I tuck Phoebe in; she sleeps on our bed in the guest-room while Toonces prefers to join us in our room. I kiss Phoebe's little head and put a piece of my clothing over her body, up to her little neck so that she's even happier with her spot between the two pillows, resting on a sweater I've turned into a cat-comforter.

Pat and Toonces and Phoebe and I are a happy family.

Is Any Family Conventional?

Facebook has raised my consciousness about my genetic, extended family because a bunch of them have profiles. Last night, as a way to wind down from the week, I logged on to Facebook while we were watching a tense movie, "Nothing But the Truth," and saw a note from my first cousin. Her father, she was told by the hospice, did not have long to live, and she had also given birth recently to a boy, who she said resembles her dad.

Growing up, I barely knew my father's brother, my aunt and first cousins. The daughter and I became friends as adults. To me, he was more myth than man -- a hero who had been on the Exodus, who hadn't disembarked when the British made all English-speakers leave; fluent in Yiddish, he feigned no fluency in English and cast his fate with his shipmates'. Probably, it was the most heroic thing he did in his life; how do you top that? Now, I guess, he's dying.

My uncle's decline brings to mind my dad of blessed memory. Really babyish thoughts are swirling, e.g., why did he get 27 more years of life than my dad? And their older sister lived for seven years longer than my dad. I do also feel sad for my cousins. There's nothing like losing a parent. But then, at least he got to see grandchildren, which my dad never did.

Where and when will the funeral be?

My other first cousin, his son -- the older of the two -- came with his father to my father's funeral and shivah. My cousin and I sat on the back-porch, where he told me about his love of *The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy* and about how he had a fascination, for real, with space and the moon, and was part of an associated club; I hadn't seen him since we were young enough to take a bath together....There's a photo of the two of us in a tub when we were really little, and I had no memories of him after that.

This intrusion by my first cousin's news into my work- and school-aholism is distracting. It also reminds me of the family reunion coming up on my mother's side later this summer.

The Other Side

Similarly, I hardly knew any of my relatives on my mom's side growing up, other than my nana, who died when I was eight. While showering this morning, I was thinking, for the reunion, what memories could I share? Random ones occurred:

When my grandmother died, my mom flew to Rochester and my dad drove my two older sisters and me there, which was an eight-hour car ride; we had taken it many times in order to visit my nana while she was alive. Everyone's biggest recollection was how, single-handedly, I ate almost a whole box of Sunsweet prunes, and then how trapped they felt with me for the rest of the ride....

Another memory: We were pulling out of the parking lot of the Jewish Home for the Aged, where my grandmother lived, and at only seven or eight years old, I said, "Look, two dogs f***ing!" I guess they were on the lawn of a neighboring home; I remember my parents' shocked laughter. That was the start, probably, of my always being funniest when I least meant to be.

Another memory: At that old-folks home, a white-haired man always stood in the hallway ranting with an unearthly, mechanical voice; he must have lost his voice-box in World War I or II. My mother taught me what shell-shocked meant when I asked her why he was always there saying things that made no sense.

When I was very young, my nana still lived in her Victorian house on Rosedale Street. Once, when we visited her there, she gave me a gift of substantial piece of clear, crystalline quartz that she said was from Florida; it launched my life-long love of rocks and minerals. That and my mother were my nana's biggest contributions to my life.

What did my uncle give me? Pride in his heroism and two nice kids to know somewhat as adults. I'm praying for his comfort, and for his kids' strength.

What do our cats give me? Parenting skills, bursting feelings of love sometimes when I look at them and sleep-deprivation, as they insist on being fed daily at 6 am, and the marching across our bodies, by Toonces, usually begins at 5:30 am daily; I'm not complaining!

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