On my Dad’s birthday

I miss my father now probably more than ever. He was a really wonderful man– not just to me and my family, but he was a man who everyone liked. His relatives, his friends, and even his customers all loved him. He had a ready smile, an optimistic outlook, and time to listen to everyone’s story.

In the worst times, he was strong and never lacked his optimism and resolve to live a good life. When my mother’s overspending finally bankrupted them, my father went on the road as a traveling salesman. He sold objects of art and was so successful that his suppliers couldn’t keep up with his sales. At the time, my husband and I and our baby son lived in Columbia, South Carolina. My father’s route was the eastern seaboard and so he showed up at our place a couple of times that year. He was always full of stories of the people he had met. He did a lot of smiling and it was a treat to have him to ourselves for a couple of days.

When he finally went back into his own business with my uncle Bill’s help, he put up a sign on the storefront that said, “Harry’s back!’ People would come into the store and greet him. People who hadn’t known him from before would say, “Harry’s back?” and he would turn around and show them his back!

Sometimes I picture him interacting with one or another of my grandchildren. It’s so very easy. I can see him smiling, talking with them, teaching them how to build things or draw things or how to appreciate the objects of nature. He’s always full of enthusiasm and fully invested in talking to and listening to the person he is with. I can see the sparkle in his eyes, and in my fantasy, he is here with me.

rachel&zayda

Overheard

The other day I was at Holmes Place, the health club that is located not far from my house where my husband and I go to swim three times a week. As I made my way from the pool to the dressing room, I saw a recent English-speaking immigrant looking at this poster on the wall.

Health club poster

She was staring at it and I stopped. She said out loud, “Look at this! What a wonderful country we live in! This lady in the picture was thin, underfed, and with some felafel and some latkes, look at her afterward- she is beautiful. She looks healthy and well nourished. None of that skinny, unhealthy look that Americans crave so much. In Israel they know that people have to eat and look at her! She’s lovely. She’s healthy and content. She doesn’t have that blank look that so many people who watch their diets do. What a country!

Someone looked over at her and said, “You realize of course that the sign is written in Hebrew. The picture on the right is the ‘before’ picture and the one on the left is the ‘after’.”

“Oh!” she said, blinking and looking a bit shaken. Then she continued, “Never mind.”*

*A fictional story, with homage to Emily Litella and Gilda Radner who created her and was taken from us much too soon.

He will disappoint you

Last night I went to a wedding. It was, of course, beautiful. The groom was handsome, joyful, the happiness radiating from him. The bride was lovely– beautiful, gracious, exuding joy. They were full of energy- dancing and twirling and smiling and laughing. It was beautiful.

I didn’t know them very well, and so I didn’t say much aside from “mazal tov!” but I thought about what I might want to tell them in order to help them have a happy life together.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that what I might say is “S/He will disappoint you.”

Why such a negative message?

We enter marriage sure that it is the solution to all of our problems. Someone will be there to love us, to support us, to help us. This person will help us in just the way we want to be helped. S/he will hold us when we are sad and laugh with us when we are happy. This person will support us in things that are important to us and to them we will always be the smartest, cleverest, most beautiful/handsome person in the world.

But, of course, that is impossible.

Two people have two different points of view. They have different priorities. They may attack a project differently. One wants to research and plan and the other one wants to “just do it already.” One buys something for the house and the other thinks that the deal wasn’t good enough or the features weren’t sufficient or maybe that not all of them were needed.

In short, s/he will disappoint you. S/he will not always support everything you say or do. S/he will not do things the way you know they should be done. S/he will be critical sometimes.

It is inevitable. But it is not a tragedy or even a crisis.

People who want to live a happy life together gradually come to the realization that they are different from their partners. Disagreement is not disloyalty. People have moods. They have ups and downs. Sometimes s/he will seem to be irrational. Sometimes we are the irrational ones.

The important thing is the abiding love and respect and commitment that permeates the relationship. With all of the disappointment should come the underlying sense of love and commitment, of happiness in building a life together, of shared goals and a shared vision of what a warm and loving relationship can be. Relationships evolve. With attention, they can improve steadily over time and going through life with a person you love is a wonderful thing. Even if sometimes, s/he disappoints you…

Miracle

For years it’s been building, the idea of Israel being a pariah state. We’ve been accused of pretty much everything, almost all of it without any basis. The foreign media allege that it’s Israel that’s been endangering the Middle East, in fact, the whole world. The wikileaks documents seem to show something different, and although their collection and publication constitute crimes, what they reveal seems to shed light on the true content of international diplomacy.

It is seldom that I read the news and weep. But today is one of those days. You see, yesterday a horrible inferno was unleashed in the Haifa area. At least 40 people have been killed by the fire and a huge area of Israel is in flames. The fire is not yet under control.

And what did I read? The assistance from foreign sources is streaming in– from Greece, Cyprus, UK, US, Bulgaria, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, Russia, and even from Turkey! Also, as of Sunday morning, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and Norway. We are not alone. When we needed help, the rest of the world was there to help us– even those who criticize us and boycott us and condemn us. They came running to help us. The first planes landed very early this morning from Greece. The Bulgarian firefighters were on the ground at around the same time, fighting side by side with the Israelis. Underneath, there is human decency. I am grateful. We are grateful.

This may be more miraculous than the long-lasting oil.

What I should have said

Here is what I should have said to some recent acquaintances (who I likely will not see again):

It’s not all about you. Just because you think that the world belongs to you doesn’t make it so.

The animals of the Galapagos have plans of their own and they do not include showing off for you.

It is not possible to convince all the other people at the theater not to take pictures because they may momentarily block your view.

The airline did not ask me which seat I reserved for you. Nasty people- they just decided arbitrarily.

The Chinese guides were not spying on us; I promise you- they did not mistake you for anyone of consequence.

Just because you have an outdated, inaccurate guidebook in your hands, it does not make you an expert on a place you have never visited.

Taking food with your fingers and coughing and sneezing on the serving dish might account for your having spread your cold to the others who were not aware that the serving dish had turned into a petri dish.

Berating family members in public does not enhance your reputation.

Gratuitous criticism does not make you seem erudite; just crotchety and unpleasant.

Common courtesy is apparently not so common. Ditto common sense.

If there were a contest between “rich” and “kind”- kind would always win. I don’t admire you. I pity you.

And remember this: Beauty, money, and material things are fleeting, but good character lives on. There is still time to develop it. Try. It is a gift for yourself and for all those around you.