Friday, June 27, 2014

Sixteen Days Later

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

Poor Me

Pat & I were going to go to shul, so I could say The Mourner's Kaddish publicly, but the service tonight honors LGBT Pride, so as I posted in a Facebook status update earlier, I opted out, thinking it would feel more festive than I felt. Instead, we finished binge-watching Derek, a superbly poignant series about an autistic man who works in a home for the aged.

Here are the last books my mom ever read or considered reading with her book group:

Here are the books I've taken out of the library since her death:

The two best book recommendations my mom ever made to me were The Crock of Gold and Cutting for Stone. The first novel was about magic and love and the second, about yearning and grief, and living through both.

That's where I am now -- grateful for the magical parts of my life and for all of the love I experience and express, but living through yearning for, and grief around, my mother (z"l).

I wish I could check out of real-life till I finish reading all seven of the books I listed above, if not also the ones from my mother's book group list (though I don't want to re-read *The Canterbury Tales*).

Suddenly, I was jealous of my age when my dad died -- 17 -- as I thought about how many fewer responsibilities I had then, but that's not really true. I had to continue showing up to high school and had to do well enough to get to go to college. I also forgot to consider how love-lorn I was as well; I had a secret girlfriend then, who was already a freshman at a too-far-away college, and I knew my attachment wasn't requited, not really.

So compared to when my dad died in November of '82, I didn't have love or meaningful work then, but I also didn't have to settle my parent's estate, like my sisters and I do now, now that we're the only adults left in the upper-part of the chain. My other responsibilities, to Pat and our kitties Phoebe and Toonces, and to my management and the team I manage at work, and are more welcome than not at this time. I can always renew the library books....

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Eulogy for My Mom (z"l)

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

My Two Sisters and Three of Their Children Delivered Eulogies, Too, and This Is Mine:

When my mom of blessed memory stopped driving several years ago, she started hitchhiking. With her walker. She’d take a bus, cab or senior shuttle to a destination and then when she was ready to go home, if she didn’t spot someone she recognized from her 50+ years in Stamford, she would look for kind people and she’d simply ask if they were going her way. Practically every time, they said they were, and then they put her walker in their trunk and off they went.

Just last week, something unprecedented happened, my mom reported -– something even lovelier than a ride home; a man at Trader Joe’s on High Ridge Road insisted on paying my mother’s $14 grocery bill because he said, she reminded him of his grandmother. The man made my mom’s day!

In Twitter, as my wife Pat drove us back from the funeral home, I tweeted that my mom (z”l), gave me a sense of adventure and my Yiddishkeit. I’m not yet quite as adventurous as my mom – I don’t routinely hitchhike, for example, but I’m confident that I’m as experimental at work as I am because of my mom’s adventuresome example. When I was a kid, my mom invited me to try all sorts of museums and music lessons, swimming, tennis, golf, and ski lessons, and all sorts of art and nature classes.

Sometimes, she pushed me a bit too far with her adventure-sense, like when we were in the most ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem when I was eight and she had me wearing pants because it was February and relatively cold, and suddenly an older man grabbed my arm and urged, “Minchah, Minchah, Minyan!” I was tall and short-haired, just like now, and he mistook me for a boy that had already had his bar mitzvah and who could help complete the needed quorum of men for afternoon services.

I was terrified, but at my mother’s urging, I followed the man and donned one of the yarmulkes they provided in a box at the doorway of the sanctuary and then imitated the way the boys in my Modern Orthodox Jewish day school prayed. We never talked about that experience until I was an adult and when I asked why she had urged me on, she said, “I wanted you to have the experience and besides, why should you be excluded?” To my mom, it was an adventure not to be missed.

My mom, as I mentioned in my tweet, also gave me my sense of Yiddishkeit. When my sisters and I sat in the all-night Bull’s Head Diner with our spouses a couple nights ago, writing a draft of our mom’s obituary, it contained the word, Jew, Jewish or Judaica no fewer than nine times... in less than a page! My mother transmitted the best of what being Jewish could mean. By her example, she taught us always to advocate for social justice.

For example, in 1993, when Pat and I still lived in Illinois, my mom decided that she wanted to join the March on Washington for human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. So she went with the bus that Congregation Beth Simchat Torah chartered. The synagogue is dedicated to LGBT congregants and our supporters. Since moving to Montclair, New Jersey 18 years ago, Pat & I have belonged to the congregation. But in 1993, we didn't yet live in Montclair, didn't yet belong to the shul and my mom went without us. A woman close to my mom’s age began talking with my mom some minutes into the ride to D.C. Thinking the woman was flirting with her, my mother told me she said, “I’m here for my *daughter*.”

And then my mom said that a younger woman popped up from the seat next to the woman and said, “Well, I’m here for my *mother*.” The three of them had a great march. I’m grateful that God gave me my particular mother and I pray that I can remain grateful for the time I had with her and not drown in my sense of loss. She would not want me to drown.