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Ultimately, Relief Is the Grand Marshal
z"l). In reliving the trip here, I'm not sure how orderly I can make the emotion parade, or how much I should try to do so. Here, I'm posting photos and writing about a place of which I have been conscious for more than 40 years, first through Sabta (my grandmother) and Aunt Tovah -- the generations of our family that moved there in 1948 and '47 respectively.
haLevi, and had chosen to name his eldest son (my dad of blessed memory) after his deceased dad (z"l). One grave sits in a moshav in Israel and the other on the outskirts of Stamford, Connecticut. If my dad had stayed in Israel after serving in WWII in the U.S. Navy, rather than leaving and moving to the Village in New York City, I wouldn't be here to blog about standing in awe at the continuity.
So much envy to trudge through: I envy Sari and Yanai for getting to have both of their parents for much longer than I did, and perhaps Edna and Meishe envy Sari and Yanai, too, as well as how my dad lasted a few more years than theirs, till 56, and how my mom, so far, has lasted 20 years longer than theirs. Or maybe I'm the only one who thinks this way. And how does it serve me? In this case, I think, envy is just another type of mourning. This family in Israel is a thick link to my father, who I miss practically continuously, no matter that this November, he'll already have been gone corporeally for 30 years. The ache doesn't lessen. The couple of random memories that Edna and I share about him in the car from Tel Aviv to Beit Herut are incalculably dear to me, including how he used to read her stories in Hebrew and then when he was done, asked her what they were about. "The difference was that your father could read, but couldn't speak, and Uncle Vevy could speak, but couldn't read as well." We leave the cemetery, which had been Meishe's and Edna's profound idea to visit. The white slabs of my lost relatives serve as a peaceful, sad contrast to all of the hopeful colors to come during the rest of my visit.
Probably, I could pause here to wonder what else Pat was thinking of all of this -- a dimension of my history to which she hasn't had direct access prior -- but the reality is that I am fully self-absorbed and unconsciously taking for granted that Pat can be self-sufficient during the visit, beyond my making initial introductions, where I consciously refer to her as my wife; I follow our dear friends David & Gerard's advice to use the term "wife" as often as possible to make up for all of the years that we couldn't. My cousins prove to be completely, naturally, genuinely welcoming to us. Their warmth makes me feel proudly beloved.
My dad of blessed memory always talked about the *Pirkei Avot*/*Ethics of the Fathers* statement, "K'neh l'chah chaver," which was the concept that friendship is so precious, we should be willing to pay for it. With that in mind -- not knowing how warmly we'd be received -- I bring gifts for family of all ages. Though I am not satisfied that they are amazing enough -- bunches of IBM logo'ed items...a cup, toddler T-shirts, mini golf umbrellas and rebus notebooks, plus a couple of Mickey Mouse paint-sets from my mother, a child's puzzle from the Jewish Museum in New York, and a Beijing Olympics key-ring for Dvori, since I remember that she is a champion swimmer and instructor -- I hand them out quickly upon our arrival, which helps me channel my nervous excitement at being met by known and new faces.
Of course, I need to bring gifts because they always give us gifts, even when we are visiting them in their home-country. Maybe they are similarly familiar with the *Pirkei Avot* saying, or maybe they're just generous. They give Pat & me each some special Dead Sea revitalizing products as well as a fantastic 2012-2013 Israeli art calendar. The thing is, in choosing gifts for them, I can't think of anything American that they don't already have access to, and the IBM-logo'ed products, at least, are not generally, publicly available, and they really are a reflection of how I've spent nearly the past two decades in the States and and India. In fact, my IBM service counts for 22 years this month. We also wish we could have brought them bottles of the New Jersey State Fair-winning Iris honey from the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, where Pat serves as Treasurer of the Board, here in Montclair, but we figure that it could be a Security challenge, or else disastrous if the bottles break in our luggage.
When Nitza and her mom Gila, along with Nitza's darling young son, enter Meishe and Bina's living room, I spring up and hug them. I also introduce Pat, but want to sit closer to them to be able to talk and leave Pat on the couch. By now, everyone is talking with her and she is enjoying the conversation and a sort of melon that she says later tasted like a more delicious version of cantaloupe, but which isn't the same color.