Sunday, November 04, 2018

In passing

I'm in the Philadelphia airport on my way back to Boston. I'm glad I came down to see my friend this weekend. We spent Friday and Saturday afternoons together, and I got to give her a hug and tell her I loved her. She died Saturday night. She was lying on the bathroom floor when I got to her house on Sunday afternoon. I was there when the hospice nurse came to pronounce her dead. I stayed until the men from the funeral home took away the body.

She didn't want a service, which is too bad because those of us who loved her would have liked being together in her memory. I called and emailed some of our old friends. George, whose first girlfriend she was, said she was a luscious kisser for a boy who had never kissed a girl before. She would have liked that.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween again

Tonight I will happily assume Trick or Treat door duty at my daughter's house, so she and her husband can wander the streets with their children. Their neighbourhood is much like the one she grew up in, with sidewalks and houses set near the street. You can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, as compared to suburban streets where you have to slog up long front paths and cross lawns. Ours was the neighbourhood that richer parents drove their kids to for the most candy per square mile.

I don't generally have great memories of my mother, but one year she did cut down her wedding dress, which she had made, so that I could be a bride for Halloween. Any time I mention this to friends, they tell me how sweet that was. For about two years I'd been nagging that I wanted to have a First Holy Communion like the daughter of my babysitter. Since we were nominally Jewish, this was not in the cards. My mother realized that all I really wanted was the dress and a chance to wear it out of the house. I guess she figured she was not going to need it again.

She died six years ago, and I barely think of her other than when I have a question about an old movie that I know she would be able to answer. But the other night I did dream of her - not a bad or good dream - she just happened to be there. With the imminent death of my friend on my mind, I'm aware that my mother was the last person in my life to die.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

It's been a hell of a week.

On Friday morning, the FBI arrested the mail bomber.

That afternoon, I checked in by email with my closest friend, who lives in Philadelphia. Her reply: "Shawn, I have metastatic bone cancer. I’ve declined further treatment and enter home hospice tomorrow. If the Dems don’t retake the House I will die gladly." She's known for two weeks.

The next day, an anti-semitic Trump partisan killed eleven people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, including a 97-year-old holocaust survivor. My Philadelphia friend had been saying for months that they would come for the Jews next.

Of the many responses to Saturday's shooting, Howard Fineman, writing in the NY Times, said what I think most American Jews over the age of forty are feeling, that we thought we were living in the one country in the world where our security was assured. Growing up in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, attending Sunday school and services at the temple where the shooting occurred, he was taught that "founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity."

Tomorrow my partner will hold a Quaker-style meeting at the school where she's the director of spiritual and ethical education. I will make arrangements to go to Philadelphia to be with my friend. Tonight she texted, "Things are not going well. I need a quicker path than this." I replied, "I'll be there in a few days. Don't leave without me."