Wednesday, April 11, 2007

But what else is there?







Sitting with my mother and my grandmother in all of this exhaustion, it’s hard to emote at all because that would probably mean crying. My grandmother Rose is asking me if I believe in God, she’s having some cheesy moment about how could we have all of this perfection if there was no God, she points to the flowers in a pot on the table we’re gathered around. Oh, I see -- what she really wants to know is whether my father believed in God, she’s grasping for something, hoping that he found something like peace before cancer wore him down. No, I say and then my mother agrees -- no.

Rose tells us a story about how when my father was nine, he would have this argument over and over again with his friend David in the car, David would say Bill, God is an idea! Bill’s grandmother died around then, she’d been living with the family and Rose sat him down and explains that some people believed in God and some people didn’t, and he could choose. He asked: but what else is there? Rose says: that stuck with me.

But now my mother is saying that she has a strong Jewish identity, something I’ve never heard her say before -- she said when we visited Europe, we liked to go to the Jewish areas-- we didn’t used to do that, but more recently… in one place -- maybe Germany -- we kept asking and asking about the synagogue we were trying to find and no one knew what we’re talking about and when we finally found it, we realized why, there were no markers at all, it didn’t look anything like a temple in that time we didn’t get to go inside because there was a wedding. In another place -- I can’t remember where -- a Jewish cemetery had been desecrated and we went there and outside the temple a rabbi said to us come in, I want to perform a blessing. Bill said but we are not practicing. The rabbi said: but you are Jewish? We both nodded. Then I’d like to perform a blessing. We went inside.

Rose: But it didn’t work.

Rose still wants to know what we believe in, if we don’t believe in God. Do we believe in people? This is a question we are all asking, I guess. I believe in accountability, that’s what I’m thinking -- my father’s accountability, my grandmother’s accountability, my mother’s accountability, and my own accountability. But actually that’s what I’m thinking now -- not around that table with the flowers in the middle, around that table it’s hard for me to think about anything except the sadness and it’s maybe even harder to think that I’m not supposed to feel this way, like through this sadness there is something for me to discover that I won’t be able to access any other way except that the sadness is so overwhelming that it’s hard to access anything else.

Maybe I should stay longer, that’s what I’m thinking even though my grandmother was overwhelmed by this short visit -- she’s in a lot of pain, so much that it’s hard to interact with other people.

On the train towards New York, already the sadness is lifting, or maybe just shifting, but at least it isn’t surrounding me. I call people up and joke about the White House Easter Egg Roll, how the gays are going to be there showing this great nation that we have families too, wait let me get an actual quote from Family Pride:

“At Family Pride, we believe that by participating fully and openly in time honored traditions like the Egg Roll we can help the American public come to know our families.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

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