Yesterday morning I sat on the couch next to my mother and typed "Family Guy Scarejew Jon Stewart" into the YouTube search box and showed my mom a clip. She couldn't hear so I got my headphones and then she laughed.
I entered "Family Guy DMV" and Mom smiled through the morphine haze that can overtake her in the late morning.
Later, we sat outside in the garden observing how few monarchs visit her butterfly bushes. 3 times she told me that hurricanes had wiped out the butterfly population, but she couldn't recall the name of the hurricane that did it. "Katrina," I reminded.
Mom I have new project for Dad. Want to hear?
When it comes to raising the kids with a Jewish historical and spiritual context, I've failed. My father steadily reminds me and his quiet, persistent, and constructive criticism is warranted.
I'd prefer to blame Nina (who looks, but is not Jewish) for this parental deficiency, but, while she has encouraged, suggested and even prodded me to take action my ambivalence has been paralyzing. On only our second date (Tomoe Sushi), I told Nina that the kids would have to be Jewish.
She said ok.
We got married 3 years later.
For reasons I can't explain or feelings I've skillfully repressed, joining an organized Jewish community eludes me. My overt connection to faith, ethnicity, and ancestry start with my name (I'm making a film about it) and continue with my career (AnyClip is an Israeli company). But I struggle at home. I'm more successful choosing Christmas trees than synagogues.
Mom let's face it. I'm not good at the "making my kids Jewish thing" so here's my idea. Do you think Dad could be their formal Jewish educator? We'd be borrowing from the evangelical movement. Call it Hebrew Home School.
All of mom's anxiety about death focuses on my father and her bookstore. 10 months into cancer, those remain her primary worries. Now Dad could have a new project that would distract him from the disease. She grew excited, pitched and sold him in 5 minutes. Perfect clarity for the moment. Naturally, Dad had to say yes.
You can learn a lot about marriage observing the twilight of my parents 52 years together. In the past 10 months, His only night away was for his granddaughter's 7th birthday. Dad dutifully fills the pillbox and hands her syringes of morphine. He's even learned to make milk shakes full of the calories she loathes, but must consume.
Meanwhile, she nudges him to think about life after her. She worries about Dad and the house and dad alone. He's not ready to talk about any of these practicalities. My father's support network is extensive, but when we go home he is often left alone in their enormous old house coping with my mother's exhaustion, fear and confusion. This decline depletes vast reserves of my father's once famous and still considerable energy.
Sometimes my mother's condition can overwhelm. Yesterday, she had a long overdue appointment with the audiologist. Her hearing has deteriorated so much in the past month that Dad worried the disease had metastasized to her ears. Doctors, have since reassured us that her hearing loss is not affected by her tumor.
As Mom got ready to go to her appointment, she couldn't find her pocketbook. Long before cancer infected our family, purses, keys, and eyeglasses would wander off and hide somewhere in my parents house. Mom insisted she brought her bag home from the bookstore the day before. Dad agreed and was convinced that a thief penetrated our living room and stole this pocketbook while we watched the US Open Final.
We looked high and low until we spotted the small red purse on the back seat of the car. Dad's frustration transformed into enormous relief as he realized he wouldn't have to deal with new insurance and credit cards. Either way, she wasn't going back to the DMV to replace that license.
As I stepped off the train at Penn Station, Dad called to report that Mom had an amazing day. With her hearing aids adjusted her alertness dramatically increased. Tomorrow morning she will attend the quarterly Politics and Prose staff meeting.