Life in the time of CoRONA #3

Let me say from the outset, this post is purely an exercise in thinking and does not represent my specific belief system (which, by the way, even I am not sure of). But travel down this path with me and see what thinking it evokes in you…

When I was a young teenager, more than one person (maybe in the neighborhood of 25) told me that I thought too much. I would ask questions that really didn’t have answers and that I only asked because they were matters of curiosity for me- and I really didn’t expect to get any satisfactory answers. However, the adults around me somehow felt that they needed to give me some response- so usually it was “you think too much.”

One of the things I used to think about was the whole concept of the Messianic Era. How could it possibly unfold? I mean here we are billions of people on earth. Even with all of our modern communication, how would the world get prepared? How would the messiah (however one conceives of such a being) make him/her/it/self known and even be accepted. How would the whole scenario unfold? I simply could not conceive of any mechanism that would work.

And now what is happening? People who were traveling have returned/are returning home- business people, tourists, and yes, even the young Israelis who go traveling after the Army. Students in overseas programs are returning to their homes. Not only that, but people are working from home. Parents are dealing with their children day after day with little respite aside from electronic media. Restaurants, pubs, movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms, swimming pools- all are closed.

People leave their homes only to buy food and pharmacy items and for short walks. We have cars, but nowhere to go.

Those who looked forward to traveling and/or going to hotels for Passover, will be at home with the nuclear family.

We have no need to dress up to impress others or put on makeup. Appointments and activities that filled our days are gone. Our calendars are blank.

We are hoping to stop the spread of this virus. But, are we in preparation for something bigger, more important? Is this the world’s “wake-up call?” Could it be that we are on the verge of a fundamental change in the world and how we humans act in it? Now that we know that we all are vulnerable, now that we know that we need to protect each other, now that it’s quiet enough to hear that still, small voice- is something extraordinary in store?

Life in the time of CoRONA #2

Musings:

Human beings have a desire to understand the world. Hence all of those cute little people who as soon as they can talk begin asking “why.” OK, sometimes it’s why can my big brother or sister have some treat/experience that I can’t. But some of us have noticed that “why” is a generalized attempt to make sense of the world.

Well, folks, here we are in the time of Corona. Even were my father alive, I doubt if he would be able to remember the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. He was born in December of 1917. So pretty much none of us have vivid memories of that time. It was also an age before mass communication so even through millions of people were affected, there was little awareness of the massive scope of the epidemic.

So I have been mulling the “why.” Here’s what I have some up with so far- and I invite you to add or comment:

  1. Maybe we are being taught that all humankind is in one boat. No matter where we live, what color our skin is, what language we speak, whether we are rich or poor, young or old, no matter what our skills or disabilities, no matter whether we are educated or illiterate, beautiful or ugly- all of us are at risk. We also are learning that all of us can be helpers and that all of us are responsible for the health and well-being of others because we know that we can, just by our presence be exposing a friend, a relative, or a stranger to an illness that may cause them suffering and even death.
  2. Maybe the earth needed a bit of rest. We have been driving our cars, flying around in aircraft- maybe slowing down, taking a rest, is allowing the earth too to renew itself.
  3. Maybe we are being taught humility. Somewhere in the late 60s or the 70s of the last century, there blossomed a self-esteem movement. That was when teachers were told to praise children’s work so that they would feel good about themselves and supposedly achieve more. No more was there a winner and a runner-up only. Now there were all sorts of participation certificates and trophies. Children were encouraged to feel proud of whatever they did whether they really worked at it or not. That education accomplished its goal. More and more of the population believes that they are stellar in their knowledge and performance. People who don’t are embarrassed that they can’t be a Van Gogh when they are painting or a Yo Yo Ma when they are playing an instrument. People speak as if they are experts despite having little knowledge and training in the field that they are declaiming about. Oh yes, many lay people these days are sure about the Corona virus (Covid-19) when they have read the opinions and estimates of experts who themselves are not sure. Or how many people are certain that this is a plot by the government/the media/ who knows? for some nefarious purpose? How about an honest “I don’t know, and I don’t like the uncertainty.” How about a little humility?
  4. Maybe we are learning that who really counts is our family. Forced family time can at first seem daunting, but as we actually spend time with these people when we have the time for them, we may discover that we like them a whole lot more for the clever, funny, sweet people they are. (OK, granted some family members may not fill those descriptions, but hopefully once you’re stuck with them, you will find a way to co-exist that is acceptable to all parties).
  5. Maybe all humankind needed a global slap in the face to get its act together- to stop hurting each other, to stop finding meaning in murder, terror, deception, and violence. Maybe we should be learning that we need to have kindness and compassion and work cooperatively for everyone’s good.
  6. Maybe we are being taught to live in the moment- because at this point it is impossible to plan for the future. We don’t know when the pandemic will be over and we don’t know what the condition of the world will be when it is. Will we ever return to the world we were used to?
  7. Maybe it’s just a virus.

No secrets!

This post will not make you cry. It will not make you laugh. It could, however, save a life.

Ask anyone about me and they will mention any number of things- positive and maybe negative- but they will not mention anything about my state of health. Aside from heightened cholesterol like a large percentage of people my age, I have no other medical conditions.

Or so I thought- until one day in July when my husband and I were walking in the mall and I suddenly got dizzy. I continued walking and didn’t think much of it, but then a week or two later, it happened again and seemed a bit more severe.

I made an appointment with my doctor (previously known as Dr. Nonchalant) and he suggested that I have an echo-under-stress test. Taking him seriously and because I had just a week before I was leaving for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, I was able to schedule a test for later that day and had the results in hand by about 4 that afternoon. The doctor called me and said that what they had found was completely unexpected- my valves were fine, but now I needed an echo cardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. I scheduled that for 3 days later.

It confirmed the diagnosis. I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder.
In most cases, an affected person has one parent with the condition.

Fortunately, this is a treatable condition. It is, however, often the cause of sudden death in young people after exertion. Think of the runners, football players, basketball players, etc. who suddenly keel over and die. These articles suggest screening young athletes for the condition. (Please don;t stop reading here- there’s more important information…)

Screening athletes for heart disease
Screening for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Young Athletes
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy screening program in the athlete

The doctor suggested that all of my children be tested and if any were affected, their children be tested. We are going through that process in an attempt to identify if any of them are at risk. My children who are not affected do not have to test their children because it being a dominant gene, if the parent doesn’t have it, the children won’t.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether there were any deaths of young people in my family and remembered that I had two cousins, brothers, who died of heart attacks- one at 31 and one at 39 (I may be off by a couple of years, but I think it’s accurate). These are the sons of my father’s sister. That would mean that my father and his sister both carried this gene. There are other family members who could be affected- at least five young people- and I hope their parent/grandparent who is a possible carrier will choose to be tested.

So why am I writing this? People sometimes like to hide unpleasant things from their family members- but secrets, particularly those that could affect someone else’s health, are rarely a wise thing. What my children or grandchildren may have gotten from me genetically is not something I had any control over, but I can do whatever I can to make sure they are protected, don’t over-exert themselves, and make sure to have regular medical follow up. I hope that my cousins will take the same responsibility with their children and grandchildren.

May we all have a healthy, happy new year.

1976/2018

1976- we are in the Army. Well, actually, Aaron is in the Army, but the rest of the family is right there with him. We were getting close to 4 years in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Our children enjoyed playing in the swamp near our house, enjoyed the “Mother Nature Tree,” loved the freedom of running around the neighborhood with no fears. The Army base was a safe place. It had everything- an indoor swimming pool within easy walking distance, even a small convenience store a 5 minute walk away.

Like all Army families in our position, we were awaiting “orders” because 4 years in a place was a long time and the Army likes to move people around and we were expecting that soon we would be told where we were moving to.

This was the only home the children really knew. Our children were 8.5, 7, 5.5, and 4 years old. Moving was venturing into the unknown.

Word finally came. We were moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. We had only about 3 months to prepare. We would be leaving behind most of our furniture (furniture was supplied to Army families since it was cheaper than transporting it across the ocean twice- we would see it again when we returned), all of our friends, and yes, our family- our parents and my sister.

There were so many unknowns, so many fears- we had no idea what our neighborhood would be like, what our city would look like, how German people would treat us as Americans, as Jews, how much German would we need to use on a daily basis- in short, we were bewildered. And as much as we tried to reassure our children that everything would be fine, we ourselves were not all that certain about what life would be like for us and for them.

Our parents lived far from us- in New York and Philadelphia. We didn’t see them more than once or twice a year, but we could call them on the telephone and we knew that we could always get in a car and visit. Now we would be across an ocean and the price of telephone calls was outrageous and letters took days to arrive. I know they must have been upset, but they didn’t try to influence us to stay since it was not our choice.

Our time in Germany was pleasant. In some ways, almost idyllic. Anti-Semitism at the time was completely forbidden and when people asked us what language we were speaking to our children and we answered “Hebrew,” we never got anything but positive reactions. We were cushioned by the huge American military community which comprised at that time about 10% of the inhabitants of Wiesbaden. Our children went to US operated schools and had German enrichment classes. They learned rudimentary German and felt comfortable buying candies and sweets in local shops. Their schools took them on day trips to places in Germany. The country was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring it and participating in the recreational “Volksmarches” that were held in different locations where people would walk a circular 10-12 kilometer path that could wind through woods, vineyards, fields, and villages and end in a square with an “oompah” band! The German people were friendly and the landscapes enchanting.

Our parents, Aaron’s dad and my parents, (his mother had passed away in December of 1975) were still relatively young and healthy and they were able to come and visit us.

But now I am the parent and I am feeling sad because my daughter and her family are leaving for their adventure. They tell me that they will return from Austria in 3 years.

In some ways, their transition may be easier because they have seen where they will be living and they have rented a home they chose. Communication with family members here in Israel will be much easier. We are as close as the nearest wifi. The flight is shorter than a trek across the Atlantic and less expensive. In other ways, it will be more difficult. They will not have the cushion of a ready-made community with all of the support and structure it offers.

As I look at the next 3 years, I feel as if I can’t wait for them to pass, but I am conflicted because at this time of life, each day is so precious that each one must be treasured.

I wish for my daughter and her husband and the 3 children who are leaving with them (3 are already adults and will not be accompanying them) a wonderful adventure. We hope to visit you, Rachel, and we look forward to your visits with us. I will be very happy to reminisce with you about your adventure when you finally return home.

Mint Juleps with Mom

As a new bride, I joined my husband in Kentucky. He was serving as a US Army chaplain at Fort Knox. His thought, when we got married, was that he would serve his 20 years in the US Army and then retire in Israel. I, of course, had other plans. It wasn’t that I thought the Army was so foreign to my experience- it was, but my concern was that I didn’t want to have an unstable life, moving from place to place. Fortunately, I found an ally, my mother-in-law, who was not keen on her only child perhaps being sent to Vietnam where the war was in full swing.

Married in July, by the following May I was 7 months pregnant and my husband had agreed to look for a civilian pulpit. He was asked to fly out to Spokane, Washington, to interview there.

When I told my mother, she insisted that she come to stay with me while he was gone- from Thursday through Sunday because  she was afraid for me to be alone.

So that Thursday I literally walked to the gate on the left side of the corridor and watched my husband get on the plane and then turned to the right side at the gate directly across from it, and within minutes, my mother arrived.

It was the first time she had seen me showing- and by 7 months, I was pretty large. She noticed. We drove to my home and I cannot recall any details about our discussion nor about anything we discussed for those 3 days. I do know there were lots of smiles and laughter.

What I can recall is feeling very special, carrying her first grandchild. I can recall our going out once for ice cream sundaes at the local Howard Johnson’s and laughing when we heard a  group of women order large ice cream sundaes and diet drinks. I remember that Saturday night, we decided to check  out the place on Dixie Highway that was advertising mint juleps- the Kentucky Derby was that weekend and mint juleps were all the rage. I remember we went into the place that had them and we sat down and ordered them. She sat with her back to the door and I sat across from her.

I don’t remember what they tasted like. I don’t remember what we said. I just remember that the time we spent together that weekend was probably the best time we ever had together.

On Sunday afternoon, my mother left and a few minutes later, my husband returned.  A bit over 2 months later our oldest son was born.

mom

Twenty-six years later, I visited my own daughter in Israel when she was pregnant with my first grandchild. I hope she also experienced precious moments.

I miss it

Today I was folding laundry and I came to a shirt that I have that is similar to one that a woman might wear when she is pregnant. I had noticed that there were stains on it before I washed it and I held it up to see if the stains were gone. And suddenly I was remembering looking at my maternity blouses, also stained by my clumsiness when I was pregnant. I remembered looking down on my rounded belly and seeing the remnants of breakfast, lunch, midday snacks and dinner. I remember taking a dress to the dry cleaner and explaining what all of the stains were and the clerk saying “sounds like a good meal.” I thought about the feeling of a little one moving around inside. I remembered that my mother referred to the first awareness of the baby’s movements as “feeling life.” I recalled how amazing it was to feel a new life inside of me, to think and wonder about who that little person would become. I remembered feeling such love for someone who I had never seen, never met. I remembered the excitement of anticipation and the weeks and then days of waiting. And then there was the reward of spectacular births! I loved being pregnant.


*Note: This picture almost survived a fire

After the birth of our youngest child, we never thought of having another. Our family was exactly what we wanted. Now, all of the children are grown and have children of their own. I have no regrets, but every once in a while, I miss it.

Ooof!

One of the things that people learn when they move to a new country with a new language is that exclamations differ from those they were raised with. In English, pain evokes an “ouch!” In Hebrew, it’s “Ay-ah!” Frustration in Hebrew evokes an “Ooof!” I’ll admit it; I forgot the English.

So why am I frustrated? It actually has to do with the fact that there is so much right with my life these days. I am feeling healthy, have kept off the weight I lost, and have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. We recently witnessed the graduation from high school of our oldest granddaughter and the awarding of a PhD to our son-in-law. My husband and I had a great honeymoon getaway for our 45th anniversary, and our children invited us to a wonderful dinner celebration in its honor, bringing along a nice sampling of well-behaved gorgeous grandchildren. We are in a state of high preparation for the tour we are leading to Vietnam and Cambodia and are looking forward to a week of fun in Thailand on our way back. In the fall, after the holidays, we’ll be taking a trip to the US and when we get back, I’ll be teaching marriage and family therapy once again. And then, best of all, we prepare for my sister’s aliya!

The blessing of a beautiful garden in Israel, filled with gorgeous plants and fruit trees brings with it the worry of the health of our gorgeous plum tree that has been attacked by some type of a worm. The blessing of a great apartment that we are renting out brings with it the work of cleaning it thoroughly between occupants. The blessing of being close to our children brings day to day discussions and concerns about the types of issues that remote grandparents never hear of.

So why am I frustrated?

I guess it’s because I wish I could split myself in two or three or four in order to give adequate time and attention to all of the wonderful people and things in my life.

I worry about letting people down.

Ooof!

Click on pictures for full images!

…but do they know?

Yesterday I was talking to someone who is visiting Israel on one of those programs that exist for young people. When I asked if she would be coming back to stay, she said to me, “My parents miss me.”

Ah, how tender! Her parents miss her. I am sure they do. She is a delightful person. But more important than the fact that they miss her is the fact that she knows it.

I was immediately struck by the realization that I never could have made that statement. Did my parents miss me when I was gone? Sometimes I think the happiest moments of their lives were when they were dropping me off at camp or at some weekend experience. When I returned, there was never the feeling that I had been missed. In fact, it seemed like my re-entry constituted a sort of intrusion.

Did my parents love me? I’m betting they did. My mother in her own hung-up way probably did love me. My father in his very quiet, very gentle way, I am sure loved me. But did I know it? Did I feel it?

I think about my own children. I wonder if they felt that kind of love. I wonder if they knew that I missed them when they were gone. I wonder if my oldest son knows that I cried half the night when we left him in Atlanta to attend school there. I wonder if he knew the joy I felt when he came home for weekends. I wonder if my daughter realized that the day I went to pick her up in Oklahoma City 100 miles away, when I brought her back for a surprise visit to the States, I sobbed most of the way to the airport and practically jumped out of my skin when the plane was late. I wonder about my other children too, whether they know how many times I have spent days and nights worrying about their safety as they traveled to strange places, as they served in the Army and reserves, as they traveled on dark roads past Arab villages. I wonder if they know how much I love them.

Parents’ love is strong and fierce, but sometimes our gentle, laid-back manner belies the passion we feel for the safety, well-being, and happiness of our children. How can we let them know?

It seems that some parents know how to do it. I’d like the recipe, please.

Herding cats

Imagine for a moment that you had a very small family and all you ever wanted was a big one. So, you got married and had maybe 5 children. It was fun. They were great. Yes, there were arguments and pushing and vying for attention, but in general, it was fun.

And now suppose that you had forgotten that when they grew up they would want to have families of their own. It actually never entered your mind.

And now imagine that in the blink of an eye there are something like 28 grandchildren.. maybe even a couple more… and all of a sudden, it’s not that easy to do almost anything with all of them. Oh, and along the way, the children have acquired spouses…

And now, let’s say you wanted to get a picture of all of them.

Um, you get the picture. Only I didn’t. Watch the following to see people disappear and reappear. Guess how many are missing the day of the picture taking and how many are hiding or are blocked in each picture.*

Yep. Herding cats.

Oh, there are more, but you get the point…

*The winner gets to be the photographer the next time.

Don’t do it!

Today I was waiting for my husband and I was sitting across the room from two young people. I am guessing that they were about 15 years old. They were a boy and a girl. I watched as the girl kept leaning forward, placing her face under his face. She would move closer and then closer yet. She kissed him and moved back and then moved forward again, placing her face under his once again. At one point he stood up and moved to a position farther from where she was sitting. He sat down and in no time, there she was, moving in on him- once again touching him and placing herself very close to his face.

And all I could think was, “Don’t do it!” I wanted to tell her that she is a lovely looking girl. She has so much that she can accomplish in her life. But the message that she was giving to this boy and the world in general is that she is so hungry for affirmation from a boy that she has no problem with practically assaulting him in public.

I felt so very sad for her. I thought about what her future might be like. At this rate, she could be pregnant by 16 and opportunities for her own development as a person will be limited. Poverty may follow. And what does she have to give to the next generation?

And coincidentally it is international women’s day. What message do we really need to give to young women?

We need to teach our daughters and granddaughters that it’s a big world full of wonderful opportunities. The time for romance and marriage and children comes later, but first they need to devote themselves to developing as people. They need to discover their interests and expand their capabilities. They need to learn what their particular talents are and then to nourish them and enjoy them. They need to learn about how to have healthy relationships, based on shared values and not just perceptions of “coolness” or appreciation of someone’s looks. Friendships between boys and girls, in my book, are just fine. But things need to be kept light and friendly. They don’t need to rush. They are going to be adults hopefully for a long, long time.