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.

Update: April 2 2014

Family, Traveling, and Pollard

The Family
Family
It’s been a long time since the whole family was together at a time when we could take a picture. This one was from last year’s Shabbat HaGadol weekend at Yad Binyamin. Interestingly, this year’s pictures will have a lot to do with Binyamin as well. Tomorrow we will be gathering for my son, Benjamin (also known as “Ben” and “Benjy”) and his bride Shlomit as they get married! We are very excited and happy for both of them.
Traveling
I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about lots of things. We have done a lot of traveling in the last year- China in May, Tibet and Nepal in August, China again in October, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore in January and February- and we are looking forward to a lot of traveling in the coming year as well. We still have space on our tour to China, leaving on May 7 and guaranteed to go. We also are looking for adventurous people to join us in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru in June/July. All of these tours are in English and kosher, of course.
Random Thoughts
Pollard: Jonathan Pollard has been in jail for 28 years. Those in the know, even those who wanted him to have a harsh sentence, have said enough is enough. It infuriates me to see the US wanting to demand a price for his freedom.He has served a longer sentence than anyone else in a similar position. Anything he knew when he was jailed is old news. Much of the damage that he was purported to have caused was in fact found out to have been done by Aldrich Ames. So instead of doing the right thing and freeing him already, the US is offering us the opportunity to have his freedom considered if we release terrorists? Does this make sense in any universe? Have we all gone so amazingly liberal that we think that sworn murderers will suddenly play nicely if freed? The evidence is solidly against that. We have seen terror perpetrated by former prisoners and we have caught others as they were preparing to kill innocents. Why do we even need to pay a price for the Palestinians to talk to us? What price have they paid for the privilege of talking to us? Would you negotiate with someone who is unwilling to say that at the end of negotiations there will still not be a cessation of hostilities? What is the point? and how does Pollard even become related to all of that? Oh, I know… Israel/Jews/what do they care about?/other Jews/who is a Jew that we can offer them to exact a price? I get it. Sounds to me like the thinking of a criminal.

Moving trauma, vicarious, 2014

Almost 15 years ago, my husband joined me in Israel- he and a shipping container full of stuff. I had already been living in our home in Modi’in with pretty much everything I needed. We rented a nearby storage room and little by little, emptied the contents of the storage room into our home- pretty much filling it up.

That was my last move. Since we married, I had moved 18 times. Every time, it was traumatic.

But it has been almost 15 years. This time it is my daughter who is moving and all I had to do was to see if the packers had finished their job and to lock up the house.

As I looked around the house that profound sense of loss that I had with every move returned with the same strength it had had in the past. It was just so sad. It hurt to see their life packed up in a bunch of boxes and all of the attendant mess that moving engenders.

I began to think about what it was that was so sad for me. I remembered our moves. I remembered leaving the home we lived in when our first baby was conceived and born. I looked back at the living room and saw the people gathered to celebrate his brit. I remembered the apartment where he said his first words and took his first steps. I remember the home where on a sunny spring day bushes full of white blossoms greeted me as I brought home my new daughter. I remember the house with the two yellow bean bag chairs that sat just a little too close to the baseboard heaters and the enormous effort I had to make to get out of them heavily pregnant. I remember piling into the station wagon with four little children and saying goodbye to the home we had painted and papered and carpeted. I remember our oldest son leaving his vegetable garden and my daughter leaving her plant and all of them leaving the “Mother Nature Tree” and the swamp where they played. I remember leaving the apartment where we voted on the fifth child and then the new one where she was born after a cold winter with only the fuschia-colored potted cyclamens brightening the snowy view. I remember the birthday party with my parents visiting and three of the children down with chickenpox, and I remember how the children loved to go to the orchard to see the “geezer” and to pick fruit. I remember the tiny home in New Jersey when we returned to the States and the beautiful big house we had after that. I remember the parties we had there for our family and for the soldiers and my parents’ visits and the joy at the big children’s return home for shabbatot. I remember the house in Boston where everyone had bedrooms, but most nights people were sleeping in the living room- and how if you ran the dishwasher and microwave at the same time the fuse two floors down in the basement would blow. How many times we forgot! But there was also sailing on the Charles for two of the boys and living close to good friends. I remember saying goodbye to our oldest as he left for Israel, the airline security man remarking that he was afraid he would drown in our tears. I remember the small house in Oklahoma with the swimming pool and the big house in Oklahoma where we had to explain that “yes, only one family lives here.” I remember leaving our next home and memories of grad school and sons visiting from high school and college. I remember leaving the next home and memories of a bat mitzvah and the births of two grandchildren.

And then I realized that the sadness is only a function of the fact that every place, every time in my life, was a good time, a happy time- filled with a beautiful family, caring friends, and happy experiences. Closing the door on each chapter was saying goodbye to beautiful times, but every new home brought its own new memories.

…and what more is there to say but to wish my daughter and her family and others going through transitions that the future be filled with beautiful moments they can cherish forever.

Sisters 3

This is my third post about sisters.

There was this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2007/07/23/sisters/

and this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2009/10/07/sisters-2/

because to me, this relationship is very special.

If  you have been reading my blog, you probably know that in December, my sister finally made aliya.  After over 45 years of living very far away, my sister is a 5 minute car ride away.  I can bump into her at the mall, we can see a movie together, and we can sit and talk about things that no one understands the way we do.

When she was far away, we kept in touch.  She was great about making sure to visit no matter where we were living.  She was present at most of the important times in my life.  I appreciated her and loved her.

But now, I know what a wonderful thing it is to have her here, nearby, and to not have to think about when her flight home leaves.  She is home.

If you really loved me…

I have been a family therapist for a very long time. I should have figured it out sooner, but only yesterday I realized that I had been missing something very important when thinking about certain types of cases.

From time to time I would have cases where one family member would say about another “if s/he really loved me s/he would…”

Tests of loyalty, to me, seem so beside the point. In fact, they seem foolish. Why would we expect someone to “prove” they love us by performing a specific task or acting in a manner we prescribe?  The people we love are separate from us. They have their own loves and hates, likes and dislikes, ways of expressing themselves. They show us love in their own way.

However, in this type of a relationship, they may show warmth and consideration, but heaven forbid, if they fail the litmus test the other has created, the whole relationship is at risk.

Sometimes, couples, in order to feel more appreciated and loved,  have to adjust the ways in which they show love. She would like flowers. He shows love by filling up the car. He would like homemade soup. She lights romantic candles. They clearly love each other, but by asking for the show of love to be more in line with their own concept of love, both members could feel more valued and cared for.

,

But that is different than a test of love.

Tests of love usually involve one person expecting the other to know what s/he wants and to do it, despite any obstacles. And then, if it doesn’t happen, well, then “s/he doesn’t really love me.”

But let’s look a little closer…

Who is making the relationship contingent on specific behaviors. It’s not the “uncaring” husband or wife or friend or relative. It’s the person who has decided that the relationship consists of a series of tests all of which must be passed for it to continue to be loving.

Who has the problem?

As a therapist, it seems to me that the person who is making the statement “If you really loved me…” is in fact the person with the problem. S/he has not learned the nature of relationships. Relationships are formed between two individuals, both of whom have wants, needs, and limitations.  Appreciating the other person as a distinct individual is the only way to have a truly satisfying relationship.

When ultimatums exist in relationships, it is not the person who fails to meet them who is the problem.

Thanksgiving 2011

I will spare you the usual blah-blah of how wonderful my family is and how amazingly great it is when we adults all get together and tell you instead about the good things that have happened recently and wonderful things to look forward to that make me really thankful.

We recently returned from a trip to the US. In a few weeks time my sister, the last member of my immediate family not yet living in Israel, will be coming to Israel to live. All of us are very very excited. I will finally have my sister nearby after 45 years of living varying long distances from each other (all my fault… she stayed in the same place while I roamed planet Earth.) I wanted to go and be with her to visit some of the places we shared, to reminisce, and for me to say goodbye to Philadelphia, the city where I was born, where I grew up, and where I got my education. It is unlikely I will visit there again.

When we drove up to the house we used to live in, we were surprised to find the woman who had bought it from my mother out on the lawn. She was friendly and chatty and we enjoyed speaking with her. My sister pointed out that the “new” owners had lived in the house about as long as we had.

We enjoyed walking in the downtown area. I loved seeing my cousins and hearing about their lives.

I even enjoyed the antics of a future Israeli immigrant

There’s more to tell about the trip, but that’s a small taste of some things that made me happy with the promise of more to come!

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 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.

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.