Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gregory House, MD on Judaism

Watching the backlog of DVR'd HOUSE episodes while working on some other stuff. In one, Cuddy invites House to her child's baby-naming ceremony, which House calls "a time-honored tradition dating all the way back to the 1960s."

"...Nothing like welcoming a baby into the world with a completely naked display of hypocrisy."


Cuddy: And there's nothing hypocritical about recognizing your heritage.

House: So you keeping kosher now, wearing four-cornered garments, slaughtering heifers to the god Ra?


Wait, is that one your people?


Do it all, do nothing, or option "c"-- you're a liar and a hypocrite.

Huh. This is pretty much how I feel.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Gramma Connie

Connie had, as she herself put it, a shitty childhood spent mostly in the homes of foster parents who took foster children as a supplementary source of income.

I remember her as someone who spent her entire adult life trying to learn to stop holding grudges. She mostly succeeded, I think.

Her husband died in a botched procedure at the VA hospital when her oldest son (my father) was 17. She also had a 15-year-old and a 9-year-old.

In her later years, she would only speak of her deceased husband in glowing terms, as though he was some sort of Jewish saint. My father, however, recalls that his folks yelled at each other a lot.

I saw 'The Color Purple' with Connie in the theatre. "You know what I like about Whoopi Goldberg? I like when she says the word 'shit.' From most people, it would be vulgar. From her, it sounds like poetry."

Connie stopped speaking to me for years after my Bar Mitzvah. My maternal great uncle Phil's racist use of the word "schvartze" (in this context, the word is Yiddish for "nigger") had upset me and I had shouted at him that it was bad enough for any American to be a racist- but that for a Jewish man who lived through World War II to be a racist was despicable and he should be ashamed of himself. Connie wasn't related to Phil and didn't especially like him, but she thought I showed an unacceptable lack of respect for my elders...and pretty much didn't speak to me for years.

We started talking again on the phone years later when I was in my 20s. I'd changed, she said. "You used to be a little shit, but you know what? I think you grew out of it."

Our long phone conversations mostly consisted of my asking her broad questions and listening to her long answers. She was happy to share her memories and was an entertaining storyteller. I learned a lot about my grandfather who'd died before my parents ever met and his WWII service in the Marines. I learned what her foster care experiences in New York City were like and heard about what it was like to be pregnant at 17 years of age in her generation. I asked her about her in-laws and her siblings and the neighborhoods she grew up in and she told me stories about my father that I'd never have heard otherwise.

Sometimes these stories would overlap or repeat, but that was fine with me. There were always new details and I knew that memory is a long, slow casualty of aging. Eventually, the stories repeated more often.

Connie was diagnosed as having some sort of dementia. It could be Alzheimer's or a vascular problem, but the diagnosis didn't matter a lot because the treatment and prognosis were the same.

My father and mother stepped up and moved Connie to an excellent group home that was a five-minute drive from their home. They flew to her house in Scottsdale, cleaned up her finances (which had become a mess in recent months- Connie had hidden her cognitive problems from her family very well), sold her house, and packed up her belongings- taking care to try to send to my father's brothers any items that might be meaningful to them. My father's brothers didn't even say "thank you" or offer to help with this enormous task. I'm not overly fond of them.

For the last 5 years, Connie has lived near my parents, been cared for by excellent physicians, and my folks have taken very good care of her as her dementia progressed. The last time I saw her, she definitely recognized me and greeted me warmly with hugs and kisses, but she never attempted to use my name.

Now I'm told that she has hours or days left.

Last night, I had a dream.

My wife and son and I had driven to Detroit for the B'nai Mitzvah of my youngest cousins (this is actually going to happen in May. Connie's youngest grandchildren, twins, are turning 13).

Connie was there, but it wasn't the thin, frail Connie she's been for the last 5 years or so. This was the larger, louder, fleshier Connie who wore too much eye shadow and, even though she promised my mother that she wouldn't smoke in front of her grandkids, always smelled a little like cigarettes. In the dream, I got to hug her and smell her and tell her I loved her with the confidence that she knew who I was, knew what I was saying, and felt the sincerity of my words.

I rarely remember my dreams, so I'm grateful for this one.

I've never understood Connie. I've never understood how my father could be her son when they have so little in common, but I have missed her since her mind stopped working. I mourned her then and I find myself mourning her again now that her body is finally following her mind.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I love my brother, but frequently dislike him

Chat transcript from today:

Brother: "Obama holds town hall meeting in France" -- What, is he president of the world, now?

1. The US president is frequently called "the leader of the free world" since'. Yeah. We lead NATO (the most powerful military alliance in history) and our economy impacts everybody like no other economy does.

2. Bush couldn't speak except with prepared remarks and/or a pre-screened crowd (and even then, Bush couldn't talk intelligently). At least give Obama credit for taking whatever questions anybody has and attempting to answering them.

3. Bush fucked up our relationships with everybody else. Obama is trying to help fix that. Showing that he's listening and NOT being like Bush is important to repair the relationships that Bush broke.

Brother: Obama comes across as a stumbling wreck without a teleprompter

Me: You're so full of shit. On his worst day, we comes across better than Bush WITH a teleprompter.

I am not full of shit. O has more "uh"s per minute than any politician I've ever heard speak

He is a lousy extemporaneous speaker

Me: Again: you're full of shit. Want a highlight reel of Bush speaking?

Brother: You mean a reel taking the worst of the worst? Those exist for anyone

Me: Except you know as well as I do that the man is an idiot and always came off like an idiot.

Bush came off even dumber than he was

Me: You don't apply the same standards to Obama that you applied to Bush or McCain.

I don't like Bush.

Me: You're being intellectually dishonest. If Bush or McCain took extemporaneous questions, you wouldn't criticize them for it. Because Obama did it, you'll snark.

But that doesn't change the fact that Obama is an empty suit

Me: You don't like him. I get that. He's not my ideal president either, but stop calling him stupid or empty when you can't back it up. When you can specifically name actions or words of his that you can demonstrate are false or stupid, I'll listen. Until then, you're just blustering the unsupported distaste for him that you cultivate in the insular world of your gunny friends.

I'm done talking with you today.

You have blocked Brother. You can no longer see each other online or chat together until you unblock them.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Heteronormative comment from an unexpected source

My mother-in-law used to say to my son: "You're going to make some lucky girl very happy someday!" I used to quickly add "...or some lucky guy!"

Consequently, my mother-in-law has ceased saying this...which is fine by me.


Recently, I got email from our friend J that contained this comment about our son:

"Looking at some of his pics on your site, wow, he is really growing! And boy, is he going to have to juggle the too many women that are going to fall at his feet!"

I get that this is a compliment. She's saying that our son is beautiful. I happen to agree.

The problem is that I find myself endlessly bothered that J assumes he'll be straight. To make this assumption is to reinforce the idea that being straight is normal and that to NOT be straight is abnormal, aberrant or...well...crooked. Slightly off. Slightly wrong.

Here's the kicker: J is a lesbian.

J is older than I am by about 15-20 maybe it is a generational thing? Am I expecting too much?


Follow-up: Thanks. Yep. Over-reacting. Letting it go. :)