Neighborhoods, Deaths and Fear

10.28.11

This week our neighbor died. We used to live exactly across the street from him but now we live around the corner. He was one of the first people to know our children and I had the privilege of watching his children turn into adults.

He daughter was our babysitter, and his son was the produce manager at my local market, his wife teaches at the kids’ school and it brings me joy to see her each day. During the last eleven years I looked forward to bumping into my neighbor, we would have nice chats about our families. I always left him feeling a little lighter, happier.

He died unexpectedly, there was no illness or injury that I know of. His widow has asked for privacy and I want to respect that.

I bought an African Violet and a condolence card. I left both of these things on her front doorstep, but only after keeping them in my house for almost two days.

For two days the African Violet sat by my front door and the card was next to it. The card was empty, now that I  think about it I may have forgotten to remove the price tag from the plant. I thought about what to write. “With love from,” didn’t seem like enough but too much seemed like too much in an totally inexplicable way.

I decided to write a note to the three of them and tell them how their father and husband had touched my life. Handwriting is extraordinarily difficult for me as arthritis has taken much of the function from the first two fingers on my right hand.

Part of me hopes that the Violet lives as long as her grief, another part of me hopes she smashes it into the bottom of a trash can.

So now I’m crying and trying to write and trying to not make a mistake because I only have one condolence card and condolence cards are among the most horrible of all cards. They say too much and they say the wrong thing.

I was sad that my neighbor died, no doubt. I love the family he left behind, but we weren’t very close, he and I. What was scary, what terrified me (and perhaps others) was that he died at the wrong time. He was supposed to be there for his daughter’s wedding and his son’s graduations. He was supposed to grow old with his wife and tend to their grandchildren. He was supposed to be in the driveway when I walked the dog and we were supposed to chat too long making us both very late. He was supposed to always be there as that nice but quiet man with the really great family.

There’s this hole in the neighborhood and I don’t have very good words to describe it.

The Case For Marrying Well

08.4.09

If we’ve spoken in person and asked me about my husband, you’ve heard my standard rap. I married the kindest man I’ve ever met. It’s simple and it’s true. I love that he’s handsome and smart, those are really great qualities, and especially useful when making babies, but the kindness is what makes our lives together so wonderful.

Last night at dinner my daughter,  Jane,  pulled out a table topic. It said, “Would you rather have 10 siblings or be an only child?”

Jane immediately opted for ten siblings. “More kids to play with”, she explained.

Alexander (who just turned eight) would remain an only child. We asked him why he didn’t want someone to play with, “I have a Dad, right?” he asked. “Yes,” we replied.

“Then that’s all I need.” He stood firm, no argument could dissuade him.

While he’s wrong, very wrong, he’s also absolutely correct.

Because sometimes a really great Dad is all a little boy needs.

Adolf Redux

12.20.08

As I lay in bed this morning I felt little feet and soft skin pressed against my calves, and some not so quiet whispering.

“But Dad, won’t you ground me?” Alexander asked.

“No, I’ll buy you a present.” There was a long pause while my boys both let the news sink in. “If you ever have another boy say anything bad about your sister to her your face I want you to punch him as hard as you can, right in his face. Got it? Then you come home and tell me and I’ll buy you a present.” My husband asserted to our little one.

“Okay, so you’ll buy me a present after I’m grounded?” Alexander sounded confused.

“No son. I won’t ground you, there are two times you get to hit first. If someone says anything bad about Jews and if a boy says something bad about your sister to you. Then you punch them and you get a present.”

I couldn’t agree, and I couldn’t disagree so I laid in bed listening to what fathers tell their sons when mothers aren’t listening.

Our boy is named Alexander after my Grandfather Adolf who flirted with death by telling the guards at Sachsenhausen that he had worked and should now be free. He was the meanest, toughest, scrappiest man I’ve ever met and I’m thinking he’s delighted by my son and my husband today.