…but do they know we love them?

Sometimes when I write, it’s only when I see people’s reactions that I realize what I’ve said. The responses to my last post were all different and reflected what they meant to the people who read the piece.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder how it is that we convey what we feel to those we love. Of course kind words, gentle touch, and thoughtful deeds, help, support, and caring all are important, but why is it that sometimes it doesn’t seem as if the message gets through.

“If he really loved me, he’d say he loves me,” the young wife said to me in my office one day.
“Do you love her?” I asked him.
“Of course I do,” he answered.
“Can you tell her?” I asked.
“I love you,” he said.
“He only said that because you told him to,” she said.

Is there anything he can do to get the message across? If she says that his washing the dishes would show he loves her and he washes the dishes, will she say, “but he’s only doing that because you told him to.”

So I leave the question open. How do we let those we love know that we love them in a way that they will understand? How can we do what they want us to do to prove it without their devaluing the effort?

Is knowing that you are loved something that only happens when you have been loved and cherished as an infant? Is that necessary? Is it sufficient? For others does it take lots of years and shared experiences?

Examining our tortoise pictures in the Galapagos

What are your thoughts?

…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.

Waiting…

I have a firm belief that you never know how something will be until you experience it. I can give you quite a few examples– from decisions that abstractly seemed simple and when in the situation, the decision was also clear, but in the other direction– or my preconception of what a new place would be like when we were given an assignment by the Army to an area across the ocean or across the country.

Now usually, I try to keep my family out of my posts. I prize their privacy and therefore they do not appear prominently in my postings, but this time, I am making an exception.

I moved to Israel in 1995. My only close family member aside from my husband and my children and their families is my sister. She lives in the US. Wherever we were on our far-flung adventures in living in 18 different homes since we got married, she managed to visit us. Although we are different in many ways, we always stayed close. Since I have been living in Israel, my sister has managed to visit us about once a year. We handled the distance well. I enjoyed her visits and tolerated the time in between. It’s been a long time that we’ve lived far away from each other, and it seemed OK.

Several months ago she told me that she has decided to make aliya, to come to live in Israel. Surprisingly enough, although I had been tolerating her absence well, from that moment, it has been hard for me to wait until her expected date of arrival. Recently she visited. Discussing the nuts and bolts of her aliya was amazing. It became more and more real to me that she really is coming. I must have said to her about a hundred times, “when you are living here, we can…”

When I said goodbye to her this time, it felt good to know that this was the last time that we would be living separated by an ocean.

And I think back to that first glimpse of her when I was 4.5 years old, those big beautiful eyes looking out at me from a bundle of blankets, my long awaited sister, coming home at last. And now I look forward once again to greeting my long awaited sister, coming home at last.
Whn

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.

Time for a rant

First of all, I believe that people have a right to make choices, so anyone who doesn’t agree with me has every right to his/her opinion and I am not trying to reshape the world in my image.

So here’s what is driving me up the wall…

It’s the increasing separation between the genders that is going on in Judaism. I happen to feel very comfortable with that separation in a synagogue, assuming that the mechitza allows women to feel that they are part of the service, but I really don’t like the growing trend. It started, at least in my mind, with women getting together to study on shabbat at mincha time when the men were at the synagogue. Although there were always women’s organizations, now there are lessons, psalm groups, dramatic presentations, musical plays, etc. for women only to attend.

Here’s my problem: In the olden days when the men used to go out and play poker with their friends or bowling or to lodge activities (like Masons and Lions Club), women resented being such a minor part of their husbands’ lives. Now, women are invited to be out of the house in the evenings and spend their leisure time with other women and, most importantly, without their husbands.

I’m sorry. I married my husband so that we could share life. I don’t enjoy running out and doing every possible thing I can to stay away from him. He is the one I want to spend my life with. But now that has become an impediment to my being part of the community where the norm is to take part in women’s activities.
Climbing Pre Rup in Cambodia with my husband

I do think that women can and should enjoy each other’s company. We share struggles and challenges with each other and help each other in practical ways as well. However, I think it is a mistake to have women’s primary leisure activities being in the company of other women and excluding their husbands. I think it has negative implications for marriage and family life.

Let’s face it, family life is not always a bed of roses. Couples disagree about childrearing, household chores, finances, and a myriad of other things. One ingredient of the glue that keeps them together and happy is that precious leisure time when they can just “be”– when they can enjoy talking with each other or together taking a walk or reading or watching a video or listening to music. Shared experiences build positive feelings. For healthy family life, there need to be a sufficient number on an ongoing basis. Siphoning off a significant amount of time to same gender activities just doesn’t seem healthy.

But that’s just me. Feel free to disagree.

What if?

What if the way you acted toward other human beings really mattered. I mean, what if it mattered in that how they thought of you had a direct influence on your health and longevity?

What if when you went to the supermarket and waited in line, you were patient with person ahead of you who was fumbling with his groceries and when he left, you smiled and said goodbye and you greeted the cashier with a smile and pleasant small talk? What if their kind thoughts about you made you healthier? What if they made you feel better?

What if when you were shopping in the mall someone was standing in front of you in the way, you gently asked to pass and when you saw a little child in a stroller you smiled? What if when your old acquaintance spoke to you in excruciating detail about her medical condition you listened? What if the way they felt about you changed your life?

What if you were undercharged at a store and you pointed it out and gave the money back to the cashier, and she was incredulous? What if how she felt about what you did increased your feeling of well-being?

What if the things you do just because you are being the person you want to be– embodying the values you hold ended up making you a healthier and happier person?

Here’s a secret: I think they do.

Of Mess and Men

So picture this: I wake up in the morning knowing that today I must help my daughter get her daughter to gan and then come home and take my husband to the hospital to be checked by his surgeon. I get ready, go outside, and when I get to the car I first notice that the driver’s door is unlocked. Of course I always lock the car when I leave it, but even if I had not, then all of the buttons would be up because all of them unlock at the same time. Something wasn’t right. Next, I noticed glass in the back seat, the front seat, the seats reclining all the way… already I was starting to feel sick. Then I looked at the steering column, the absence of the panels around it, wires coming out, many wires, and electrical parts on the floor in front of my seat, on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat on the floor in the back.

The car was trashed.

My brain immediately flat-lined. My heart started beating fast, I began to shake, and I was incapable of thought. So I sent back into the house and did the only thing I could think of: called my son-in-law for help. If he had not already been fast-tracked to a place in Gan Eden after 120 years or more, today, I am certain he’s on the list. He was able to think and to act.

He arranged for someone to come and take the car to the Toyota dealer and called the dealer and reminded them to keep the car inside since it was raining. I had taken pictures of the damage to the car, informed neighbors, and later made a police report. One of my sons was very helpful and reassuring and he gave me some of the insurance info I needed and alerted the insurance adjuster via email that on Sunday morning, I would need an appraiser to look at the car so that it could be fixed. Only a couple of hours later, once I had gotten my husband to the hospital driving my son-in-law’s car, was I able to shed the tension and begin to relax.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it is a blip. Best guess: our “cousins” just wanted to steal it and they were foiled by our immobilizer. To the best of my knowledge, nothing is missing from the car and all I’ve lost is a little of my faith in some parts of the human race. Of course, it strengthened my trust in others…

My husband continues to recover. We hope for better news each day.

Shabbat shalom

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

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…

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.