Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 2009

Okay, so it is now the end of October and I still haven’t gotten back into my regular routine of writing a post every few days. I guess because my life has changed so drastically since Mom passed away, I am still adjusting. Because Saul is also adjusting to a new school year roster, we are both a little crazy trying to keep up with everything.

I recently spent a whole evening electronically scanning very old photographs that were in a small box in my father’s night table drawer. My mother had not disturbed the contents of that drawer since we moved into our new home over 16 years ago right after my father’s death. As I adjusted them in Photoshop, backgrounds became clear and I found myself poring over them looking at every detail. Some were almost black from age when I began. Adele and I (but mostly Adele) have been going through carton upon carton of Mom’s old papers that had been moved up to the attic. They are a jumble of old newspaper clippings, photos, greeting cards, letters, little scraps of paper, booklets, programs, etc., mixed in with life insurance policy information, stock information, and who knows what else? We are finally coming to the last two cartons. Last week, Saul had to call our trash removal company to send someone back because they had not removed all the bags of our paper recycling.

I mentioned to my friend, Roxy, that there are photos of my very young father with a girlfriend named Jeannette. She said that her mother would have gotten rid of those immediately. In keeping with my mother’s remarkable nature, which did not include jealousy in any shape or form, I told Roxy that, as a child, I remember trekking to the home of Jeannette and her husband, Herman, during summer vacations in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I could never understand why I had to spend hours sitting quietly in their living room when we could have been at the beach. They lived in nearby Ventnor, and my parents maintained a friendship with them until Jeannette died in middle age. As a teenager, I remember that my father was very broken up by her death.

Some of the photos have interesting notes on the back about time and place. There is a photo of my father’s mother and father standing under a tree in Fairmount Park, which was near their home in West Philadelphia. There are precious few photos that exist of my grandfather because he died of a diabetic coma at the age of 47.

Also among the stuff in the attic was a group of wartime photos that belonged to my mother’s brother, Jack, who was stationed in the Philippines. In addition, there was a folio filled with letters that my parents wrote back and forth to each other during the war. Neither Adele, nor I, dare to remove and look at a single one until we finish the tedious job of sorting through every scrap of paper, or we might not finish the job. The distractions are great, and reminiscing is a favorite pastime of ours. When I get to the letters, I plan to scan them so that we have a permanent record of them. My father was an excellent and prolific writer, so I can’t wait to read them.

During this month I have returned to attending my friend, Faith’s, weekly Bible-study class which Mom and I attended together for many years. I had not attended in two years because of my break with the synagogue a few years back, and then Mom’s failing health. I was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm from the regulars, who have been attending for many years. The class has grown much larger, now, and there is a scramble for chairs among the latecomers, quite a difference from twenty-five years ago when occasionally I was the only one attending. Faith has now branched into an introduction to the Talmud.

Two Sundays ago, we were invited to brunch at our friends’ home, (Ruth and Giora) whom we scarcely see anymore, and who live in New Jersey near Lion’s Gate. They made a wonderful spread and we reminisced with Faith and Ruth and Harold about all the years we had taught religious school together and about all the families and children we knew and how they had matured. Afterward, we paid a brief visit to Saul’s mom. This time, she was with the group watching television together and was not as swollen as on the last visit. I know that seeing her gradual loss of memory is especially disturbing to Saul who fears he will follow in her footsteps because of the stroke he experienced two years ago. We all fear this for ourselves, but she seems contented with her life, and the facility is a beautiful environment.

Last Shabbat evening, we celebrated Larry’s birthday with a meal that he had selected. We had homemade challah, butternut squash soup; deviled eggs; homemade baba ganoush; romaine salad with craisins, cashews, and sesame dressing; chicken paprikash; kasha and bow ties; gezer chai; and chocolate sheet cake made with cocoa from Trader Joe’s. Last year, I had made Larry’s favorite cake with Special Dark cocoa from Hershey’s, but he didn’t like it as much. It was very good made with Trader Joe’s cocoa.

Ken and Randi were supposed to come to dinner, but Ken was not feeling well and went home to bed early from work. At the last minute, I called our friends, Mort and Elsa, and they were able to join us, making it a very convivial evening.

As it turned out, Ken has the flu, along with many people in his office. The tests have not come back to indicate whether it is the H1N1 strain. He has been in bed for several days now, running a fever, but yesterday when I spoke with him, he was happy to hear that tests showed that his lungs were clear and the fever was beginning to disappear for most of the day. We all are quite stressed right now about H1N1 because of its virulent effect on young people. Only people below the age of 24 were given the vaccine (because of the scarcity of the vaccine) at Saul’s college, where it has made an early appearance. A new protocol has arisen for sneezing into one’s elbow, and each class begins with wiping down doorknobs, computer keyboards, and desks, with sanitizing wipes that have appeared in stations all over the college. We are praying that the virus does not mutate and turn into something that might cause a pandemic in a future wave.

Last Sunday, Saul and I spent the whole afternoon in the garage, organizing his considerably large collection of tools and hardware and clearing away trash that has accumulated, to make way for bringing in the plants and trees on the deck to protect them from frost for the winter. By the time we finished, we were achy and congested from all the dust and dirt, but felt a great sense of accomplishment for having gotten a long-neglected project out of the way.

Today, we are preparing for the trek down to Baltimore and DC for the weekend. I spent the past week baking my seasonal pumpkin-face cookies and I need to get them to my children and grandchildren. Other people calm and center themselves with yoga and meditation. I bake cookies. At this point, I think I should be doing yoga, meditation, and prayer as well.

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