This afternoon, my Medicare acceptance letter arrived. I will be 65 soon, and turned in my official application about 10 days ago. This means I'm about to be very old.
I was in New York over the weekend. The occasion was bittersweet on a couple of levels.
From the moment I picked up the rental car and made that right onto the Belt to head east, I was home. Navigating the Belt into the Southern State was second nature. I didn't have to think about what lane to be in or whether getting off at Merrick Avenue to go to the butcher in East Meadow was better than getting off at Bellmore Avenue. I knew. I knew I had to drive all the way around the little shopping center to park by the butcher. I knew. I didn't have to think. And I knew how to cut behind what was once the Associated to take Jacqueline Avenue instead of trying to make that funky left onto Columbus Avenue to go to what had, once upon a time, been our house. I didn't think; I just knew.
My cousin and I managed a quick walk on the beach Friday afternoon before Shabbat. Even my feet felt at home. Sand is the best foot massage on the planet. I rolled up my pants and marched into the surf. The water, salty, cold, and frothy, smelled like beach. My beach. It was perfect. I wish I could bottle that scent. All of me relaxed. The wet, the scent, the cold feet...the whole package... that sense of coming home...even if just for a fleeting moment. Everything I'd been carrying on my shoulders went out with the tide.
Coincidentally, Friday night was Ziggy's yahrzeit, marking 8 years since he had the poor form to leave the building. I decided that as long as I was on the island, I would go say kaddish on Shabbat morning at my home shul. I let my old next-door neighbors know I was coming, and they assured me they would be there since it was the Rabbi Rosenbaum Memorial Scholar-in-Residence weekend. And thankfully, they were. Sitting in that pew, facing the bima where 40 years ago, come July 2nd, Ziggy and I stood under the chuppah, with the afore mentioned Rabbi Rosenbaum, to be married. Who could have imagined the roller coaster we were about to get on?
Equally coincidental, the pew in which we sat was almost immediately to the right of my family's memorial plaques. I could see their names from where I sat. All but Grandpa Ben, mom's dad who died in 1936, danced at our wedding. For better or worse, some of the most important things in my life happened at Beth-El, and sitting there, in that spot, was much more emotional than anticipated.
The month of May was rough this year. I was grieving the loss of my husband, and my parents, all rolled into one. All that hard work I was too busy to do while I was caring for everyone else still had to be done, and I was finally doing it.
The whole reason I was in New York was to unveil my folks' headstone. My bro and I decided to do one unveiling for both, since they died only months apart. The usual suspects gathered minus a few who could not make it to NY, but gather we did. Tradition dictates what we place a stone atop a headstone when we visit a grave, so I asked everyone to bring a stone from home...and to decorate. Stones had been sent from Milwaukee, Minnesota, and California. Some were painted, some had messages written on them with Sharpies, but all were from the heart. We said the traditional prayers, we sang Psalm 23, we talked, we cried, we mourned....and then we went to lunch.
We had gone to Ben's Best on Queen's Boulevard after both Mom's and Dad's funerals. And we went this time, too. As I looked at everyone at the table, I was relieved to have everyone there. My two remaining aunts, both of whom live in Florida, were at the table. One is 93, the other 88. How many more times will I see them? How many more times will I get to sit with my cousins and laugh about stupid stuff? Truth is, I love being with them and I have missed so much being so far away.
And I will miss more because my life, for better or worse, is here on the tundra, not on the beach I love so much.
The other, more difficult truth to accept is that with the unveiling of that headstone, a significant chapter of my life has closed. My old life is really over. I am not responsible to or for anyone, not even a dog. My obligations are done. Going forward, I get to be Savta when I'm needed, but I'm not in charge and that's fine with me. I get to make choices for me.
Which brings me to this blog.
A recent correspondent wrote,
I think there can be too much religion in some of your blogs. You might be causing some readers to tune out. Consider toning it down.Really? My best email comes from the "religious" blogs. Go figure.
But that said, I am tired of writing about politics. So for the next few weeks, I will be trying to figure out what I'm going to do with this, where I'm going to go. If you have a thought, toss it over the fence...either as a comment or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, I am working on the last round of edits for LINGUA GALACTICA...the new novel due out soon.
The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
There is no manual for grieving, and no one can tell you how to do it.
Allowing yourself time and space when your heart is broken
is the kindest thing you can do for you.