Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thursday Meltdown… and the Refreeze

If you read my friend, and fellow congregant Elaine’s comment on the last blog post, you may notice that some of my worst fears were realized at the very well-attended congregational meeting on Thursday evening.

We arose early on Thursday morning. We had arranged for Stacey to stay with Mom from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. so that we could accomplish all of our errands together and attend the evening meeting that would decide whether the congregation would continue in its traditional home or move on to more handicapped-accessible quarters. When Stacey arrived, we went to get a haircut for Saul, pick up some items from Costco, and rush home in time to change clothes and rush out again to Naomi Taplar’s funeral, which was being held at Temple Sinai, our old congregation. We had not been back to Temple Sinai for almost three years and it was a very emotional experience being warmly welcomed by some of our old friends and ignored by others. Naomi Taplar, who was 78, died a few weeks after suffering a stroke. She had been a fellow religious school teacher at Temple Sinai for twenty-five years. Before that, she had also taught religious school classes at two other area synagogues. In the past year, she had been in an assisted living community near her daughter in New Jersey. She was a kind, friendly and learned teacher with an incredible intellect and love of education. She enjoyed being among people and learning from them, and she was a great friend and colleague. Many people attended her funeral and Rabbi Wohlberg did an excellent job in delivering a eulogy that conveyed not only the details of her life, but the essence of her spirit. When we arrived, we learned that she was being interred at the same cemetery where Saul’s father is buried, Mt. Sharon in Springfield. We decided, since Stacey was covering Mom anyway, to attend the burial service as well, driving our friend Faith the considerable distance. It had been pouring all day, and I really hate burials in rainstorms and snowstorms, but the sun came out about 10 minutes before we arrived at the cemetery, and stayed until we had visited Saul’s father’s grave. As it turned out, Naomi is buried only about 30 yards away from his grave and we were able, in just a few steps, to make sure that her grave had been filled in properly before we left. Rabbi Wohlberg and Cantor Friedman did a considerable amount of shoveling to make sure at least the coffin was covered before they left. Saul felt badly that he was not able to shovel because of his shoulder problems.

We drove back to Temple Sinai where the first shiva was being held, had a bite to eat, and offered condolences to the family. By the time we arrived back at home to change our clothes, it was 5:00 p.m. Our friends, Jerry and Betty, were joining us at 6:30 for the drive down to Melrose B’nai Israel-Emanu El. Rabbi Addison and Cantor Gordon tried to get the meeting started on a relaxed and peaceful note by asking the congregation to join them in singing “Le ma’an achai v’reay,” “For the Sake of My Brothers and Friends.” It was a valiant try, but after a presentation of both sides of the argument, the congregation slowly dissolved into an obnoxious, rude group as individual members came up to speak about their views. Saul spoke of his background with congregations as a child in Israel, and as a new immigrant to the United States. He stressed that the people are what make a congregation special, not their surroundings, but I began to get teary as he spoke, realizing that his eloquent comments were falling on deaf ears for the most part. As people became ruder and shouting became louder, the vote was called at 10:00 p.m., the time I had arranged with Stacey to be home. As I waited in line with Saul to receive my ballot, the teary eyes became a full-scale meltdown and I ran from the building in embarrassment, unable to control my emotions. I waited in the car for another half hour while Saul filled in my ballot as well as his and waited with Betty and Jerry to hear the outcome of the voting. In a relatively close vote, the congregation had voted to stay in the building.

We called Stacey as we were leaving in a thunderstorm downpour so heavy we could barely see out the window to apologize and let her know how late we would be coming home. Luckily, she has been wonderful and flexible about her hours.

I kept myself extremely busy on Friday, cooking, cleaning, and gardening, to keep from thinking about the previous evening’s discord, and, for the most part, it worked. Ari drove up from DC on Friday evening, stopping to have Shabbat dinner with Jess and Alex and holding our new baby Yona. Saul and I were so tired that we were unable to stay awake until he arrived a little after 11:00 p.m. Groggily, I woke Saul after thinking I had been asleep for only a few minutes. He looked at the clock and told me it was 11:15, so I told him to call Ari to find out his ETA. Unfortunately, Saul sees double without his glasses. It was actually 1:15 a.m. and we awoke Ari in another bedroom only to find out he had arrived two hours earlier. He forgave us in the morning. I could not face going to services on Saturday morning and we spent the time with Ari enjoying his company.

Only Beth joined us for Shabbat dinner this week as Larry is still in Egypt and Jordan. I took most of dinner from the freezer, including homemade challah, chicken soup, matzoh balls and dumplings, charcoal-grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and Moroccan sausage, and Jumbo Oatmeal Peanut Butter and Raisin Cookies. I filled in with homemade guacamole with pretzel chips, and sliced tomatoes and onion. Mom joined us for a little bit of chicken soup, but did not stay at the table for more than a few minutes.

Saturday evening, Beth and Paul hosted us for dinner on Beth’s deck. Ari helped bring heavy boxes down from the attic for a garage sale we intend to have in a few weeks. We have an enormous amount of vintage clothing in the attic and we sorted through and washed some of it to take to try to sell at a store downtown about which Ari heard from his friends, Matt and Deb, called Buffalo Exchange. We used the errand as an excuse to enjoy a dim sum brunch in Chinatown. I was pleased that the store took about half the two dozen items I had brought, and most of the rejections were because the items were unseasonal. I really brought an assortment, not knowing what types of outfits or decades would be appealing. As it turned out, the $25 cash I was paid was just enough to cover the dim sum, so it would be necessary to find some other outlet for the vintage clothing. When we returned home, Saul found that outlet on the Internet—a site called Sazz Vintage Clothing that was willing to come and pay us to pick up all our clothing, and they did. Whatever they take that is not saleable will be donated to charities in the area and that makes us very happy. Beth and Paul joined us for dim sum. Paul was a dim sum virgin until now, not even knowing what it is. I think he liked it.

Ari headed back to DC early Sunday evening with a large pile of his freshly laundered and folded clothing that we had finished over the weekend in my larger washer and dryer. After a fews days of work, he will be leaving for his Memorial Day visit to Moscow.

Monday evening, we met Ken and Randi for appetizers and salads at Bonefish Grill in Willow Grove and caravaned back to our house for their visit with Mom. Tuesday, we met with a landscaper and a painter. Since Saul is in physical therapy for the pain in his shoulders and cannot help with the landscaping, and since I am beginning to feel my grandmotherly age and am afraid of doing damage to myself, we decided to break down and pay to have someone else dig, edge, plant, and move wheelbarrows full of mulch. We did our own masterful job of potting and arranging plants on our deck and gazebo, though. We are waiting to place the last planter of flowers into the arbor outside Mom’s room because a robin red-breast is nesting there. The egg just hatched, and we are waiting until the fledgling leaves the nest.

Mom has become noticeably more confused this week, perhaps because of the Lorazepam we have been giving her daily to quell her evening bouts of anxiety. Adele has been in and out visiting for most of the week and finds this dementia very disturbing as she feels she is practically a clone of Mom and fears that she might wind up in the same state. I just keep trying to reassure her that, while Mom would surely have preferred not to be a burden, there are many other more unpleasant ways to die. Most of the time, Mom is pleasant and looks extremely peaceful when she is asleep. Everyone has commented how relaxed and unlined her face has become. Losing your memory and developing Alzheimer’s is not usually a sudden, lightening-strike type of debilitation. Who is to say at what point along this continuum, on which day, the mind has become so bad that life is no longer worth living? Of course, none of us want to contemplate our end or the loss of our vitality in old age, but these problems arise from living through to the blessing of a full life. How much more unlucky many of us are to be cut down at an early age!

Like ice cream that has melted and refrozen, I feel the loss of some of the flavor and texture of my life this week. The ice cream can still be eaten and enjoyed after it melts down and has been refrozen. I can continue to enjoy partaking, but I fear it will never taste quite the same.


Unknown said...

I'm glad that I am able to help out where I can.

I really enjoy your mother's company, as well as the rest of your family. I'd have to say that there isn't family out there quite like yours. This past month and a half has been an amazing learning experience (about your family from your mom, and also cooking experience with all of your yummy recipes) and a pleasant experience for myself.

My mother and grandmother were both nurses, so a caring nature is in my blood and I'm just so happy that I am able to help your family out where I can in my time unemployed. It also lets me forget what a depressing time being unemployed can be.

I can't wait to read your next blog post, as I believe I am caught up on all postings! :)

Unknown said...

It is good to see your words, we miss you at Beachcomber! "The Tree" just isn't the same without you, Saul and the grandkids! Come and visit us soonly !!

Marilyn said...

Thanks, Larry! We had planned to be there on Memorial Day, but my daughter decided to leave early to beat the traffic home. We can’t wait to see all of you under ”The Tree” this summer!