Friday, September 16, 2005

Circling Ben Gurion, so to speak—trying to avoid the obvious

“My trips home have been brief hit-and-run missions. I see my folks, then head back.”

So said Mark in a recent post.

Maybe the real reason why I posted on my observations of daily life in Israel, rather than posting portions of my travel diary, was that I haven’t quite been able to deal with the trip on an emotional level. The mission may have been “hit and run.” But I’m the one who took a hit.

This is as close as I’ve gotten, thus far:

Shalom, lo l'hitraot?--Goodby, not until we see one another again?

On Monday, I walked out of my parents' apartment blinking away tears. "Your presence must have jogged Dad's memory--I haven't seen him in such good shape in months," said my brother. "Don't bother coming back next year--he won't know you by then." My father can no longer remember much for long. One has to repeat things to him six times in the space of an hour. At one point, he mistook me for N., and, at another, he thought I was one of my brother's daughters. And my mother is as thin as a rail: Every few years, she has a major illness, loses weight, and never regains it. Mom is so frail that she can't manage physically without Dad, and Dad needs Mom to do the thinking. No matter who goes first, the other will be hard-pressed to live alone without help. I'm typing this through tears--I don't know whether I'll ever see either of them again.

posted by Shira Salamone at 11:14 AM


PsychoToddler said...

I know that feeling.

Tue Sep 06, 09:56:32 AM 2005

Shira Salamone said...

Sorry it took me so long to respond--I'm still playing catch-up.Yeah, it's no picnic, seeing what kind of shape your parents are in and wondering "when?," especially if you're not exactly living in the neighborhood and can't really be there for them. We seem to be in somewhat similar situations, in that regard.

Sat Sep 10, 09:17:58 PM 2005

Let me try again.

Thursday, August 18

The ride from the airport turned into a bit of an adventure. It seems that the driver had never been to my parents’ neighborhood before and had no idea how to get there. He asked me for travel directions, as far as I can determine, given my limited Hebrew. Well, I figured he was the one getting paid, and let him have it. “Atah Yisraeli. Ech anachnu yod’im?” I hope that meant, more or less, “You’re the Israeli. How would we know?” Finally, we arrived, safe and sound and, after quite a few stops on the driver’s part to ask other drivers and pedestrians, in the right place, too. :) Mom and Dad were waiting for us with keys, sheets, pillowcases, and towels. It was great to see them again. We dumped our bags and walked back to their place.

After the food Mom ordered was delivered by the local m’kolet [grocery store]—with a Shabbat Shalom by the delivery guy—we hopped on the bus for what turned out to be quite a long ride to the Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall. This was where my parents’ age started to show. They can walk and climb stairs pretty well, though Dad’s permanently bent forward at the hips and complains of a bad back. But they both use canes now, and Dad walks much more slowly than Mom does, even though he’s only two years older. But, since neither of them is capable of eating and walking at the same time anymore, their schwarma sandwiches became a half-hour sit-down affair. Finally, we got a power converter for the Punster’s laptop, an electric teakettle as a gift for our host, and hats for both of my guys, and headed back.

Mom’s hair is still brown, amazingly enough. (Apparently, I take after Mom—I’m 56, but if I have more than half a dozen gray hairs, I’d be surprised.) Dad’s short-term memory is shot—Mom has to tell him the same thing six times. Dad takes his problems with good humor, and doesn’t object—at least not visibly—to Mom telling him what to do. It’s sad, though. But at least he still has the same personality. He still walks around the “house” singing, and tells silly jokes. And he considers doing the dishes his personal responsibility, so he’s still trying to carry some of the weight.

I’m so glad that the Young Scientist is with us. My parents made aliyah when he was less than three years old. And before that, they didn’t live within easy commuting distance. This will be the longest time that he’s ever spent with them in his life—or is ever likely to. I hope he comes to appreciate them as human beings, not just voices on the telephone.


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