Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ignorant indeed

*The following is a true story. Very little, if at all, was altered in this depiction.

Riding public transportation gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. The desolate areas where the abandoned properties outnumber the occupied ones. The bustling shopping districts infused with all the hustle and bustle one needs to feel connected to their fellow citizens. And of course, it brings the plight of the common man to the forefront of your mind. On one particular train you may find a construction worker with hard hat and lunch-pail in hand, a white-haired grandmother of twelve clad in a McDonald’s uniform resenting the fact that Social Security alone doesn’t make ends meet, or if you were on my train one afternoon last week, you may have witnessed an incident that, while I can’t say it surprises me, fill me with an indescribable feeling few things could equal.

Picture this. A mother steers her two-seater stroller onto an already packed rush-hour train. She finds an empty seat to unload her bags and self. The stroller, carrying toddlers old enough to walk, blocks the aisle while Mom decides to start eating a cheesesteak one can only imagine came from a street vendor. The train chugs along to one stop, and then the next. A woman in a long sari-like dress and Cleopatra-like wig boards. Her lacquered day-glo acrylic nails catch many an eye. Mom calls Cleo by name. The two women embrace, even with the stroller between them. Cleo walks a one third of the way down the car while catching up with her old friend. Mom needs to get her hair done, can Cleo fit her in next week? How’s the twin’s daddy, Cleo questions. He’s good, about to be out for good behavior.

Now imagine me, like most riders in that car, completely taken aback. Do these women have no decorum? No tact? No damn sense? Why would one shout the details of one’s life across a busy public place? Mom catches my eye, or I hers. And I hold it for a second. Not deliberately mind you, merely a curiosity I could not shake. And then I regret it most instantly.

Mom is angered. Apparently she takes my eye contact as war. Stupid fat bitch. Ignorant ass cunt. I am assaulted with these mumbled accusations. And I can’t help but laugh out loud. Obviously this woman doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Ignorant, man what a concept. Hello Pot, Hello Kettle. Ignorant indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Guilt and the Funeral

When someone dies emotions that you never thought you had rise to the surface. Compassion for others you may not like seem to come as second nature. Old habits and familiar traditions, though tossed to the wayside and forgotten in times of steady, suddenly freshen in your mind. And if you're like me, a bit of that old Jewish guilt creeps in when you least expect it.

My Grandfather died. And when, at the funeral, the Rabbi asked us if anyone would like to say anything about him, neither my two older brothers, nor I had anything to say. No anecdotes, no funny stories, or fond memories. And even though my uncle made a beautiful speech, I can't help but feel like I did the man a disservice.

My grandparents, my Bubbie & Pop-Pop as I called them, were never very prominent figures in my life. Ditto for my brothers. As their only grandchildren, we always felt a bit neglected and unappreciated. That's not to say we didn't love them or that they didn't love us. But it is what it is and it was what it was.

The past few days I've been trying to be strong for my mother and grandmother. They needed me and I was there. Holding their hands. Saying goodbye at my Pop-Pop's bedside when they were turning off the machines. And it's been hard. Partly because it was such a shock. He was fine and healthy two months ago. And partly because I grieve not getting a chance to know the man better.

I know he loved me. He was happy I was there in the hospital to say goodbye. Bubbie and my uncle live maybe two miles away, and though while typing this I doubt we'll become and closer to one another, I probably should try.

When the child is never made to feel like they matter by a loved one, are they exempt from feeling sorrow when they die? Don't get me wrong, I'm sad he died, and I'm sad for my mom to lose the father that she loved so much. But shouldn't I feel worse? Talk about Jewish Guilt.

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