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.