Wow. This has been a weekend of just one thing after another. First off, I should say, thank G-d, we are all fine in our little world, but the bigger world is a mess. Here we are in the actual month of Adar II when we celebrate Purim and are supposed to be happy, it's Adar! This past week has shown mass destruction, horrific terrorism, and the news that my 102 year old grandfather is dying.
Personal investment in three major events is a lot for anyone and I am just your average mom trying to hold it together some days. One of my girlfriends from high school is living in Tokyo with her family and they are living through some difficult times in their adopted nation. Thankfully they have been able to keep us all updated on their situation via Facebook, but that doesn't make it any more daunting for them to go on daily. While I am not intimately involved with the family killed in Itamar, I am an Orthodox Jew. How could I not be enraged/terrified/saddened deeply/shaken by the horrific murder of 5 civilians in their sleep, killed only because they are Jewish. What did a 3 month old baby do, even if the politics of her parents are one way or another?
Thankfully my maternal grandfather, while sad, is not the same kind of sadness for me. He has lived 102 years, a rich full life, but the last couple of years have not been kind. In his 90s he was widowed and actually attempted to live on his own before it was decided for his own safety (he burned a few too many things in the kitchen and set off his apartment's fire alarm a few too many times) that he should live in assisted living. He was a man of few words (possibly b/c his wife spoke often loudly first) but he had two daughters, one of whom I proudly call Mom. He had five grandchildren, two of whom I call brother and eight great-grandchildren, two of whom I proudly call Smush and Squiggly.
He gave advice (marry someone Jewish was the most important in his words to me,) he grew tomatoes for as long as he and my grandmother lived in their house in Lynbrook, NY. He knew about the sports records for all my alma maters and even the institutions I taught at. When others were wondering where Robert Morris University was, he proudly told me that they had been to the NIT. He read the papers and knew what was going on in the world, and I wasn't allowed to bring up Social Security with him after awhile because while I would never say he shouldn't continue to receive his check, I was never able to convey that financially he had already received way more than he ever put into the system and that he, and others like him, were the reason I didn't think it would exist by the time I retired.
The last few years have not been kind. For awhile he remembered my name and even Smush's, but by the time Squiggly was born, even my name escaped him. My mom's name also locked in that space taken over by old age. The last few years, though, have afforded us the opportunity to hear more of the stories of his youth and that he lived as a widowed, senior citizen about two blocks from where he grew up and attended elementary school is amazing to me. His time in the war, as a bachelor, courting my grandmother. Stories that never were told as a child to me, but shared later have a way of rounding out the person that I call Granddaddy. I haven't been to visit him in awhile. More than a year. Some may say that is sad as he lived so close by, but to be quite honest, it hasn't been my grandfather sitting in that recliner for some time. You can call me a bad granddaughter if you must, but in my own way I have been protecting my memories.
I remember seeing my paternal grandmother one last time in the hospital dying when I was 12 and it was not how I would ever want to remember her. Luckily I have been able to re-order those memories and I know that is not what I think of when she first comes to mind. My paternal grandfather died suddenly and so I didn't see him in the hospital in that way, in a way I was spared that image as I was flying home for my winter break, planning on seeing him in the hospital, but I didn't make it in time. My maternal grandmother had been functionally ill for sometime so while it was not a surprise to hear of her passing, there was no hospital stay to visit through. One of our last visits with her I recall her being so kind to my new husband in a way that she typically hadn't been to me. It made me smile and certainly helps me remember her more fondly. These images are what I am left with and I prefer the kinder, gentler images to remember.
I don't know if it's because my career has been based in images, the persistence of vision a staple of my adult life, or if it's just the way I am wired. Images can stick with me for a long time and shape how I feel or think. I am troubled for long times by the violent images I am exposed to by the media and I worry that my children shouldn't be exposed to too much either, for fear it will affect them long term. As it is, Smush remembers everything she is told and even stories she has heard just once become repeated if they strike her fancy. She has such a recall that we have to be quite careful what we say around her and she is only three and a half. (She still tells me that I should put Squiggly back in my stomach even though he is already 20months and she was only 2 when he was born - everyone told us that she would never remember life before him... I am doubting that!)
So, this week, this weekend have been a roller coaster for certain. Right now I am just holding it all together and hugging Smush and Squiggly a little tighter, a little longer, a little more often. Life continues, it is still Adar, we should still be happy. It's just a little harder to find the things to be happy about. For me, they are all upstairs in their beds, and that's where I am headed, too.