I have this desire to write but I’m aggravated because lately nothing has been coming out how I want. So, I’ve just been journaling and writing bits of pieces of half-assed stories because I figure something is better than nothing.
When I have too many emotions and feelings I can’t effectively write. It’s like all channels are clogged with all these thoughts pushing to get out the door at once and it becomes a traffic jam in my head.
I’m not apologizing or even explaining insomuch as I am trying to make peace with this myself. I hate little more than when I freeze up on writing. I need writing. It is the only thing that keeps me this close to sanity. So, I’m sitting here now trying to begin this post because there is no way which seems especially befitting.
Two Mondays ago my father died. Though his health wasn’t very good, this was completely unexpected. It was also untimely as he passed away while visiting a relative out of state, making arrangements even harder to put together. Since then it seems like many months have passed as I’ve been swamped and swirling with feelings and worries about what the future holds for my mother, myself, my family.
The next day the news came out that my conversion Rabbi–Barry Fruendel–was charged with six counts of voyeurism by way of placing hidden cameras in the shower rooms at the mikvehs. Day by day this story gets worse, and there is more to mentally juggle. How does this affect me? My fellow converts and gerim? My community? The Jewish community at large? It’s also been intensely emotional to consider all the depths of our souls (and apparently, bodies for some) that we exposed to our rabbi. Our trust was broken, we were betrayed. And, furthermore, we are now lost as RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) figures out where we belong and what are status will be going forward.
I realize not all of you are Jewish and many won’t understand the intricacies of what he did on a personal level. But, I think we can all see it was a pretty fucking awful thing for anyone, let alone a trusted and revered rabbi, to do. Especially to people who were underneath not only his leadership but his care.
A few people have asked me how I am handling everything so well. I always stumble over my replies to that, but this is basically how it is–we all handle death and bad news in different ways. I am not actually handling any of this well at all. Losing my father is just awful. I worry constantly about my mother whose sadness I know of no way to fix. I worry about my kids not having their Poppy around anymore. My littlest keeps asking for him and allI can say is that he is “bye bye”. I worry about how my brother is handling it. And I miss my dad. I really, really do.
As far as the RBF scandal? I am just pummeled by it all. I’m a mess of anger, fury, and wrath. I’m extremely bitter. Extremely upset for myself, my family and my friends who have been affected deeply by his actions. More personally still, it has felt like yet another hit to my heart. Everytime I convince myself to give people a chance, and I give the some of my trust, I feel that it’s totally blown. I think that nearly half of the anger I feel is towards myself for ever leaving my brain behind to trust him just because I wanted to badly to belong.
I’m angry at God. I really am. That’s the truth. But, I’ve been angry at him so long I think he’s gotten used to it. Maybe he even looks forward to me giving him the silent treatment now and then because he’s so tired of hearing my complaints.
I’m not handling this particularly well. I am just handling it my own way. Which, unfortunately experience has shown me, will look something like this:
Crisis–moment of intense sadness and shock–quick recovery–sucking up tears and emotions–throwing myself into doing, doing, doing because I need to make something in my world seem stable–not sleeping because I’m too busy planning shit so I can avoid my feelings–cry one night over some unrelated, trivial matter–feel better and think I must actually be past the worst part–randomly have a freak out at the most inappropriate time because I’m tired and wound up from it all–plummeting into a depression that makes me not want to get out of bed for months.
I’m delaying the last part because that’s when I lose steam and am useless to everyone. So, I try to do as much as I possibly can before that point comes. You know, get all my ducks in a row. Or whatever. I’m not saying It’s a perfect science or the right way to handle it–only that I know myself well enough to realize what is before me.
I might be used to the feeling of facing death in this way, but that doesn’t mean I am okay. It means that the smile on my face is plastered there because it’s what I gotta do. Not because I’m cold a callous. Sometimes, that’s just part of being a grown up. Putting up with shit life throws at us. And the fact that this isn’t my first experience with losing someone very close to me actually means I find it harder to deal with. My mind has become stubborn and refuses to believe this has really happening again.
I want to write you all about my father. I want to tell this story I have in my head about him, but every time I sit down I just sigh. Nothing comes out right. But, I’m going to try again:
When I was about 11 my father got a job at our local college as a maintenance man. Dad loved to fix everything. He wouldn’t expect anything for putting extra work in either. He was just good at fixing shit, so he did it. It was almost effortless sometimes. He was licensed and trained in several things, but honestly I just had never seen him not be able to fix something. He worked with this guy Mike, who later lived with us and let me drive his Camero for some stupid reason, and this older man Johhny? John? I can see his face but I can’t recall his name. Odd, since he ended up living with us too. Or rather he rented the older farm house from us. Something like that.
Anyhow, he had been without work for a while so our family felt like we hit the jackpot when he got this job. It was a 8-4 kind of job, the pay wasn’t great but it was steady, and we were allowed to use the pool on off-days.
Okay, actually I’m sure we weren’t allowed to. But, we did anyhow. And it was awesome. Dad got this blue jacket that said “Gene” on it a wore matching blue pants. I realize how silly this sounds, but I was so impressed by the glory of him having a work uniform. I felt that he must clearly have been one of the most important people at the college. I mean yeah there were teachers and stuff–but none of them knew what to do if a pipe burst or if a fuse blew. So, obviously dad was the smarter.
We went to visit him pretty often at work. For a time we only had one vehicle so during the summer we all piled in to take him to work in the morning–on the way stopping for bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits from McDonalds.
One time he took me to work on a Saturday to keep him company. Mostly, I vacuumed and quizzed him about random vehicles. I was obsessed with some green jeep-like vehicle I had seen in the school parking lot. The Amigo, I think. It was actually the boy who owned which I was truly obsessed with, but the jeep was a better place for my young mind to focus its attention. He indulged my mindless 12 year old banter all morning without any impatience, and took me to get subs for lunch.
When I’ve mentioned this in the past he has said he doesn’t remember. But you know, we parents forget shit. Which is why I forgive my mom for recently saying to me, “I had no idea you liked cars!” when I pointed out some car I really liked. As a kid that would have hurt. But now I get it. I can’t even keep my own kid’s names straight some days. But I try. She tried. All parents try.
For my brother’s 11th birthday my dad took him and I and a few of our friends to the indoor pool. We all piled into his Ranger; Dad and Mom up front, three kids in the middle, and two of us squished up between tool boxes in the back. It was the 90’s. Nobody cared about seatbelts then. It was snowing pretty hard and mom was doing her typical “Gene, be careful. Gene, slow down.” mom thing while my dad did his whole, “stop nagging me, Lou. I know how to drive.” dad thing. My mom isn’t named Lou–so I don’t know why he used to call her that. Probably some inside joke, but I never even thought to question it. Anyhow, the rest of us were all laughing and giggling away. My brother and I always shared our friends so it was just a group of kids who we normally played with, one of which was the boy who I was madly in (puppy) love with since I was little.
Now I wonder if it will ever come up that he reads this post, and if he does will he know I am talking about him? I have no idea. He’s married now and has a super hot wife (thank you, Facebook) so it’s not like it matters. I mean his wife is blond and thin and gorgeous, I really don’t think she’s going to be jealous some frumpy mom of four on the internet loved her husband when he was 11.
It was sixth grade and Starter Jackets were THE thing to have. I had, along with every other kid in my class, asked for one relentlessly for the past three months. On Christmas I found an Apex jacket under the tree instead. Mom said sorry, but it was just out of our budget. And I knew that, I had just been enjoying this fantasy in my head that kids often enjoy–one where their parents finally realize that their kid’s fashion needs are indeed worth going into debt for.
But Daniel? Oh he got the Raiders Starter jacket. And there he was, next to me in the back trunk space, sitting on the wheel well, looking awesome in it while I wore my sorry little Apex jacket. I told him I liked his jacket and he said he liked mine–which brightened my mood considerably. Then he said, no really, I like it a lot. Want to switch for a little while? To which I was like “sure, I guess”, even though I was thinking “omg omg omg!” the whole time. I handed him over mine and he hands me back this filthy (because, boy) jacket drenched in cologne. Like enough for ten grown men. I spent the next like three weeks living in that thing. I can still smell that horrid cologne if I close my eyes now.
So, we finally arrive, alive but half frozen, at the college. We got out, ran to the lockerooms to change, and rushed towards the pool. My brother dove in and was immediately met with a faceful of floor. It turns out the floor could raise up and down and someone had left it in a shallow position.
My poor brother broke his nose, but did not cry once. He must have been the bravest 10 year old on the planet or something because I know it hurt like a bitch. He just sat there on the way home with ice on it while we tried to be cheery and fun. It’s admittedly hard to make someone who has broken there nose on their birthday smile. Despite that part, it’s still always one of my favourite Dad memories.
I was helping mom clean out her closet this week we came across Dad’s blue work jacket with his name embroidered on it. I immediately put it on, thinking it will would still smell like him but was met with the smell of closet because he hasn’t worn it in many years. Wearing someone’s jacket and breathing in their smell is such a sentimental experience. Mom looked at me and sighed. I almost lost it, but I knew if I started crying I would have a hard time stopping, so I did that thing where you try to suck back your tears by blinking hard. Later she told me I should keep the jacket if I wanted it. I really did want it, so I brought it home along with two other shirts of his. A blue polo he often wore during the summer and a gray t-shirt he wore in the garage.
I don’t really know why that story is in my mind so much. It’s just for some reason that time in my life I was very close with Dad. Or maybe I just wanted to be. I’m not sure. You know how fathers and daughters can be. The truth is I was always close to him but he was rarely close to me–except in the last couple of years. I mean we were always tight, but he had a lot of things going on when I was young. But the last while his health has been so poor and he lost his regular job so I’ve gotten to see him a lot more. I feel bad saying it, because I hated seeing him in such pain and that much pain was the only thing which slowed him down–but having his attention meant a lot to me. Even if it was sometimes overwhelming to see my dad needing so much help.
I don’t have a great way to end this story. I also have a lot of bad memories with my dad. His struggle with addiction became our family struggle with his relapse. He was in and out of my life a lot for a while. It sucked, frankly. And there were many nights I sat up wondering if he would ever come home again. He caused me a lot of worry in my years.
However there is one thing I will always be glad for–no matter how much my father fucked various things up, he never once let me feel unloved. His I love yous were frequent and heartfelt. He was compassionate and loving and always gave the very best dad hugs. And I sit here right now realizing that for the rest of my life I will only get to feel them in my memory.
After he got clean he worked at a rehab helping others do the same. He went from student to regional director over the course of a few years and I was privileged to work alongside him in whatever capacity he needed at any given moment. Since his health began to decline I’ve been there alongside him at every hospital stay. More recently after he was unable to continue working I made a point to go see him a minimum of one every two weeks. I am so very busy these days with having four kids and managing life in general, but I also felt like I really needed that time with my parents in some way.
Three weeks ago I stopped by his house just to say hello and see what he was up to. He took me on a tour of the apartment he was fixing up for a renter and then showed me a few of the things he’d done around the house. A new railing he put on the balcony, the siding he had power washed, the deck he just had painted with paint he got on clearance from Home Depot. He was so proud of it all and I was proud of him.
I wish he hadn’t died and my feelings about my dad are highly complicated, to say the least. But I know he died knowing I love him. And that is something I am really grateful for.