Transitions

May. 5th, 2005 11:57 pm
taylweaver: (Default)
I realized tonight that two weeks have gone by since I have seen anyone on the Upper West Side - with the obvious exceptions of M, who was my Yom Tov guest, and A, who came for a visit that was just long enough to remind me how much I missed everyone (That having been said, I very much appreciated the visit) There are also a number of people whom I have not seen for about three weeks, people I normally see on a weekly basis. It's been a while. Three weeks is a long time not to see people.

I also realized that, over those past three weeks, I have been in so many different settings - first, there was the end of student teaching and my masters project and Pesach cleaning - lots of work and exhaustion. Then there was Pesach - the sedders, with 30 people in our house in Teaneck. Then three days by myself in my apartment - during which I saw no one but my classmates. Then back home for the end of Pesach and a very subdued sort of Yom Tov. Then a lot of cleaning, a funeral, and three days being at home while my father sat shiva - all of these people in and out of the house all day long. And now, back in my apartment and maybe a bit lonely, because only one of my apartment mates is currently home.

And this shifting from setting to setting, context to context isn't over yet. Next week, I get some down time - maybe. Finishing up schoolwork and such. And then, the week after that, I graduate. And then I start my summer job. Well, my first summer job. I still need to find something for the second half of the summer...

Our house was so busy today - not in the full of people sense, but in the my father didn't really get a chance to eat lunch because there was always someone to talk to sense. For most of the day, people were there in small numbers, and my father was at the center of an intimate circle. All day, he was telling stories. I heard so many stories today that I feel like I can't remember a single one now - just this general sense that my father is so good at telling stories, and that my family has so many stories to tell.

This evening, my father was speaking with a close friend over the phone, after everyone had left. He was telling her how it's hard, having people from different parts of his life visiting at the same time, because he's not really supposed to introduce people to each other. Instead, he decided to use stories to help people get to know each other, by finding some event or experience that would connect different people to each other - maybe another mutual friend, or maybe the fact that they both went to Ramah. So he used these stories and reminiscences to connect people to each other. It just served to make me once again aware of how wonderful an educator my father is, but it also brought to a conscious level in my mind the power of stories, and the fact that my father knows how to use that power. He loves stories - he collects haggadot partly for that reason, I think - and he tells stories, and he has taught me to appreciate stories. It is amazing how much can be accomplished if only you can find the right story.

I also came to see my grandfather in a different way, through other people's eyes - he was described tonight by my brother as the patriarch of the family, and it's true. My brother pointed out that even if my father was leading the sedder, my grandfather was in the seat of honor, and that even though he was the fourth child of six, he was the one who quietly assumed that role as the leader. I never thought about it that way until I listened to my brother this evening. It's amazing what comes out when you share memories and tell stories. It was such a rich experience, sitting in that circle today, at different points throughout the day, and listening to the different stories my father recounted to different sets of people. He was very much in his element, and I learned so mcuh about who my grandfather was. In some ways, I have come to know him better over the past few days than I did when he was alive. (A comment that someone else also made when they came to visit).
taylweaver: (Default)
I think that this is the correct word for blogging about blogging... Today, I realized just how good it is that I have a blog. Over the past three days, I listened to my mother tell the same story of my grandfather's decline and death what felt like a zillion times. I, on the other hand, have told the story only two or three times - because the rest of you either read it on my blog or told each other. This evening, one of my friends who does not read my blog called to offer condolances and ask me all the details. I didn't want to tell him. It was hard, not in the emotional sense but in the I've-heard-this-story-a-zillion-times-and-I-don't-want-to-hear-it-for-the-zillionth-and-first-time-because-I-am-telling-it-myself sense. So it made me really appreciate the convenience of blogging.

A few minutes ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to a mildly entertaining website: the llama song: www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/llama

She also told me that one of the first sight-words she teaches her first graders is come, because she doesn't want them to spell it phonetically. Think about it for a moment.

And speaking of first graders, my cousin of yesterday's blog entry fame came over this afternoon and I got to help her with her homework. She was a bit overtired - she slept well last night, but yesterday included the funeral and a little league game (she hit the ball twice, or so they tell me) - so she got rather silly. But we eventually got through it. Good thing her math book is the same as the one I was exposed to in my student teaching in the fall... have any of you ever heard of a function machine? It goes a little something like this: you put the number 6 into the machine and the number 7 comes out. What is the rule inside the machine? What does the machine do? +1. (It gives more than one example.) I guess it's the newer version of 1+__=2. (that would be in: 1, out: 2. What's the rule?) And any of the three parts can be blank: the in, the out or the rule. My cousin calls them in-out machines (a perfectly reasonable name for them). She walks in and tells me how in-out machines are hard, and I actually understood what she was talking about! Anyway, so I helped her with that. I taught her how to figure out if it is addition or subtraction (which numbers are bigger, the ones in the "in" column or the ones in the "out" column.) Well, I don't know if she internalized that... and I helped her with her Hebrew homework (apparently, math is "English" homework - gotta love dayschool.) She uses the book with the lions (the same one A's students use - no, not that A, the other A. (Engineers have no use for first grade Hebrew books with lions in them.)) (And I have a feeling I'm not supposed to use parentheses inside parentheses. Oh well.) Anyway, she got to read to me. They are learning how to write in script.

Other than that, today was quiet. One or two visitors at a time, if that. A very calm day. And I got to hear all sorts of stories - not that I really remember most of them... It just gets a little crazy after ma'ariv. That's the most overwhelming time of the day. That's when A (yes, this time it is that A, the one I wasn't talking about before) and M left, right when I was most overwhelmed. Of course, that's when A called me today (still the same A - gotta find a better way to differentiate between the names. Perhaps I should call you two AF and AB), so that was really nice. And once all the people were gone, it got better again.

And now, we still have visitors, but they are my brother's in-laws, which means it feels less like a shiva visit, and more like hanging out. Plus, I get to have my computer in the main room! Yay wireless! Dial-up is soooo slow.

Anyway, that's today's update. As of now, I am coming back Thursday night, but this may change. Either way, count me in for Shabbat. But it's been good to be home and with my family.

AG to O: "Hey, O, you know those little things things that tell you how you're feeling when you write an e-mail?" - this, misquiting her father. (He had said that tell other people how you're feeling. The response: "You mean emoticons?" "No, this is different." But the misquote is funnier.) (This quote has been inspired by the LJ mood options)

An update

May. 3rd, 2005 08:39 pm
taylweaver: (Default)
So my bedroom is right above the dining room, and the weak wireless signal from next door is only in the dining room - but if I try really hard, and move my computer just so, I can pick it up in my bedroom as well - which is what I am going to try to do right now in order to post this.

What to say?

So my grandfather's funeral was today. My father, my brother and my cousin's husband delivered eulogies. Each touched on a different part of my grandfather's life. My brother spoke on behalf all four of us siblings. We got together last night and brainstormed memories.

I realized today and yesterday that there are two kinds of memories. There are the kind that are snapshots, little moments, all separate in your mind, and sometimes choppy - like all of the moments I remember from this past Shabbat - when I went downstairs and my mother held my face in her hands. When my sister and I cried on each other's shoulders. The look on my dad's face after he tried a piece of that awful Pesach birthday cake. All of those are moments. But then there's another sort of memory, one I can't find a good label for - the kind that is a more general sense of something. A picture that spans all those moments, a composite - maybe that's the word. A composite of a bunch of moments. The kind of image or idea that stays in your mind even after all of the moments have been forgotten. A synthesis of moments.

When we brainstormed last night, those were the kind of memories that came most easily. I don't remember my grandfather in moments as much as I remember him as a presence, in the background of my life. I remember who he was - quiet, grateful, stubborn. My brother would add to that proud and humble - that was his synthesis of our brainstorming session last night. I would second that. He had that sort of way about him. He had that balance. My father spoke of that which was most important to my grandfather - his Judaism and his family. He recounted how, when my grandfather moved into my parents' home, they got an intercom so that he could call for them if he needed them. It was because of this intercom that my parents learned that my grandfather said shema every night, and followed it with his own personal prayers for members of his family. More than one person noted how, despite the difficult times my grandfather experienced - he fought in WWII in a unit that suffered many casualties; his daughter (my aunt) and his wife died within four months of each other - he did not lose his faith. My father also said more than once that though my grandfather's life was sometimes difficult, he lived a full life. My cousins' husband talked about how my grandfather became everyone's Pop-Pop and related some of his own experiences as a newer member of our family.

At the end of his eulogy, my cousin-in-law also recounted a comment made by his daughter, my cousin, who is almost seven. She wanted to come to the funeral, and her parents let her. She also wanted to come to the cemetary - so her parents let her. But first, they sat down with her to explain step by step what would happen. They also answered all of her questions. When they were discussing how we would bury my grandfather, she asked, "You mean like we bury a treasure?" Such a beautiful thought.

The room at the funeral home where we held the service was filled not only with people who know my father and my family, but also with people who knew my grandfather, many from having grown up with my father or from interacting with my family. One of our family friends, who has known my grandfather for many years, told us she didn't know his first name until yesterday, because he was always just Pop-Pop. All of the grandchildren and spouses of grandchildren escorted the casket out of the room. It was draped with an American flag because of my grandfather's service in the military - of which he was very proud, even though he told us very little about his experiences. At the cemetary, members of the family stayed - the rest of us went back, because my grandfather's two remaining siblings couldn't stay for too long as it was chilly out - to completely fill in the grave.

Then back to our house with all the family - including some people I haven't seen in years - for food and reminiscing. We swapped stories, looked at old photos, and also caught up on our own lives. Then the family left, and things were quiet for a bit. My cousin who lives up the block came down with her three kids and they played for a bit - in the main room, because the only person paying a shiva call was their aunt (not related to us). Later, after dinner, things got busy. I learned today that there is a certain shiva ettiquette in Teaneck, that people do not pay shiva calls between 6 and 7 PM.

That having been said, that hour was the perfect time for my friends to pay me a visit, first A then M. (And thank you so much for making such an effort to come out here!) We escaped from the more public areas of the house, and I didn't realize just how much I appreciated their company until they got a ride back right after Ma'ariv, and I didn't want to let them go. I miss you guys! All of you! I feel a bit out of place at home, but I also don't feel quite right leaving when I can just stay here. I do plan on coming back for Shabbat. I need some quality friend time. I am feeling a bit needy right now. Maybe some of the stuff i wasn't feeling before is starting to catch up with me, or maybe it's just the general mood in the house right now. I am almost, but not quite, in the mood to cry on someone's shoulder right now. I can't quite articulate why. I just feel a little teary. Maybe I should have brought home the Godiva after all.

On a lighter note, A finally got to see my house. Now she knows how "cozy" my room is. And I want to apologize for not receiving guests so well today. I am not so familiar with shiva ettiquette - which food I can offer, which food I can't offer, etc. And I was caught a bit off-guard, because normally, I'd bring a guest home and walk in the door with them, not wait for them to show up while I am in the middle of hearing a story from someone else. Anyway, I really did appreciate your visit - I just wish your ride back were leaving a little later. I definitely miss everyone.

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