Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 4th

It never ceases to amaze me how a date on the calendar can take on so much significance for an individual. I was married on November 4th, 1969, in a suburb of Tel Aviv Israel. My parents had flown over for the event - I was four days after my 21st birthday and still a baby in so many respects. My mother, who would be a story in and of herself, was distraught. She didn't like my intended one bit, and she made it known any way she could. One moment in particular stands out: we were walking to a restaurant in the old city of Jaffa, all cobblestone streets and Yemenite restaurants - and she flung herself to the ground and said she'd tripped. My dad, my intended, and I had all seen it - she hadn't tripped, she truly flung herself - tossed her purse, then collapsed. It was almost funny.

But November 4th came, and we married, and I was so afraid. I went literally from my parents' house to my husband's house, and that was no longer on Kibbutz. We lived in a neighborhood outside of Tel Aviv that was made up of Iranian Jews, a slum, where kids routinely shoved live rats into milk bottles. They didn't like me, they called me "Blondini from Romania" - and would toss mud at my wash hung out on the balcony to dry. They knew I was afraid. And I had no voice. I grew up without a voice, swallowed by family events.

So we moved back to the States. Back to Illinois, to a suburb of Chicago, and I became involved in Political Organizing, for Abner J. Mikva. Mr. Mikva was both a great lawyer, and a great politician - a rarity I've not seen since until Barack Obama. I began to speak. I began to believe I had a point of view, and began to find my voice.

Fast forward a few years: November 4, 1980. It was my 11th Wedding Anniversary. We were at dinner, perfectly miserable, as we already new the results of the election - Ronald Reagan had just demolished President Carter in the Presidential election by almost 10 percentage points. It was a disaster of epic proportions as the Reagan Revolution moved forward.

November 4, 2008 - I voted first thing, for Barack Obama, and at 11 AM, got the call that my Aunt Jo had died, 93 years of age. Turns out that my cousin had not been able to turn in Joey's absentee ballot (Joey was voting for McCain, and no on Prop 8- how weird is that) - but there you have it.

Since Joey died, though, I've not felt like doing anything. It was exposure to family, all the good and all the bad. I'm struggling financially right now - business is down for several reasons (not the least of which is that it is "slow season" until after mid-January - Fran knows this, she's in my industry) - but also because of the economy. I had been working for three months with a client on three cabins on a luxury cruise when he decided not to travel. Huge booking lost, and I'm worried. I'm 1 1/2 months behind on mortgage; late on car and health insurance; behind on credit cards; behind on everything; new medical bills because deductible was so high. After I return from Chicago I will be looking for part time work so I can get benefits (Walgreens, Starbucks, Borders, and I think Home Depot all pay benefits if you work 20 hours) and extra income while I make my business work.

But it's the other part of this: the emotional part. My dad was one of 7, and they are all dead now. My mother was one of 10, and there is only one still living but she's not been with us mentally for years. Both my mother's and father's families had challenging and colorful histories - my paternal grandmother used to tell us stories of how her mother would hide her and her siblings during pogroms by burying them in shallow "graves" with straw for air. My mother, while pregnant with me, was babysitting my cousins when one died from pneumonia. My mother was blamed for the death, and she became incapable of loving me. She was hard on everyone, but as her behavior in Israel shows, she was mentally unstable and incapable of real rational thought or action.

There's more - so much more. My Aunt Jo was married to one of the most destructive, evil people I've ever encountered. He was a monster. And when he appeared at the funeral, he was kept hidden from the family by a curtained-off area. He came to the gravesite briefly, but was shoved away. Still, even that brief encounter, and I lose my voice. I swallow it. My cousin, while eulogizing his mother, spoke directly to each cousin who was there - and when he got to me, he referenced how hard my mother had been on Joey. She was hard on Joey, she wanted her to leave the monster. But, but. I found myself shrinking.

Joey died four days after my 60th birthday. She never missed a birthday, and when I visited her in the hospital on Sunday to say goodbye, she made sure I'd gotten her card. She asked about my cat, Mr. Bean. She was all love, tolerance, forgiveness. She felt mentally young and physically exhausted. And I get it. I feel mentally and emotionally like a child, and physically exhausted.

Yesterday I called my ex-husband to wish him a happy birthday. We chatted about Obama's victory and what it might mean for all of us. This is the guy who said he finally got the chance to vote for Bobby Kennedy. Maybe, in time, I will feel the joy I know I should. Today, not so much.


an average patriot said...

You have some past there! The more I learn the more I realize I am not the only one with a dysfunctional family!
You just relax you will be all right. Think of Beanie smile and call her mother at least to talk to. Chin up and just relax things will work out!

thailandchani said...

I wish you peace. It is fascinating reading about your background and the things you've experienced.


Randal Graves said...

That's a hell of a series of emotional weights to have carried, and still be carrying.

Your last link is a second to the 1980 election, in case you wished to fix it.

DivaJood said...

Thanks Randal - fixed. However, wasn't the election of Ronnie Raygun something of a pogrom?

Dean Wormer said...

Sorry for your loss. I hate watching family fade away.

You can wait to January to celebrate the other thing.

robin andrea said...

I'm so sorry this is such a rough time. Families are complicated things. They can break our hearts and make them soar.

It's worrying to think of you without health care and financial support. I hope you can find some part-time work that gives you benefits. Hell, I really hope Obama will fix our health care mess right away, so you don't have so much to worry about.

Thinking of you and wishing you a belated happy birthday.

Fran said...

There is history & there is here & now. Right now you are assessing what needs to be done in the here & now.
I'm sure all of this is overwhelming, and I am sorry there are so many struggles built up, but I am hearing you grabbing for the bootstraps to pull yourself up.

Yes, these are hard times, and yes the travel industry is in a slump right now-- for both the traditional slow time, and the recession. It is for sure a double whammy.

So I am cheering you on to go for the other job, take whatever you can within reason & make it happen.

It ain't easy & it ain't fair & you can even shout out that it sucks. All true.

Then grab for those bootstraps, and pull through.

You will. You can, you just have to press on through.

Although you are doing a retrospective on this historic date, don't look back or 2nd guess if you made the right choice to move out of your job.

That ship has sailed & just focus on the here & now.

I'll hold you in the light,

MRMacrum said...

I sit here trying to understand the life lived by another and I just cannot do it. Your story is so personal, so unique. And you have told it so well.

Loss is never easy. Hopefully by writing this post, you came away feeling better. My condolences.

Mathman6293 said...

I have a friend, in Chicago of course, who always; "Mathman you can never tell wth family." That sure is the truth. My mother, not as dramatic, did not get along very well with my sisters. She got very ill when one was baby and seemed to blame, too.

I hope you feel better soon.

Border Explorer said...

Beautifully told. You have an inner strength that has been fired in the oven of pain. It will hold you in good stead in this difficult time of challenge and loss.

And let us hold you in our tender love. Sending a hug.

Ms. Lea 李女士 said...

I am so sorry you are going through so many difficulties. It's even harder when they happen so close together. It looks as though you are surrounded by many people that really care which does make a difference. With my family, I always felt that if people had background music that followed them around, ours would be the circus music or the Adams Family song!! Remember in all this, to take care of yourself!

Utah Savage said...

I've never known of a happy functional family--but I may be a bit jaundiced when it comes to family love and such. Mostly in families I have known there seems to be a fierce need to control and manipulate. Still one grieves what was never given as much as what was lost.

I'm so sorry for the tough times. This is going to hit everyone we know. So there may be comfort in numbers, the knowledge that we are all in this together.

Liberality said...

boy you have been going through some tough stuff there! I hope that financially you are able to recover and that your emotional wounds, being reopened by rubbing up against family, begin to heal for you. positive energy coming your way honey, chin up.

D.K. Raed said...

This was a very touching post, esp what your ancestors went through hiding in graves. That just gives me the chills, but it shows what tough stock you come from.

You will feel joy again Diva, you know that. But for now, you have more immediate goals. In my experience, family can be very good or very bad, sometimes both at the same time, and rarely in between.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with you. RIP, Aunt Joey. Diva, I am so sorry for your losses. Financial woes combined with grieving for Aunt Joey must be a terrible burden on your soul.

Lulu Maude said...

Sending you a long cyber-hug

DivaJood said...

Thank you, everybody, for your kindness. I love my cousins - all bat-shit crazy, but who wouldn't be? And dysfunctional families are so colorful.

Aunt Jo was a kind lady, and I will miss her. As for the rest of it, well, it is what it is.

Dusty said...

I can barely type through the tears..I wish you well my dear friend and hope the healing begins for you soon.