Lil Stalker

Today I have been in a horrible mood because of yesterday and having to cook all day in the heat (unappreciated) and something else perpy.  I was going nuts when I decided to Google my sister AGAIN.  I am sorry to admit I sort of “stalk” her online to find out what’s going on with her since she does not talk to me.  For once, I hit ‘pay dirt”.  I found a short blog from her about some HEART SURGERY she had 2 years ago.  I wrote the post To my Estranged Sister right around that time while she was miserable and recovering from surgery! There is something psychic or spiritual about that–I mean, thinking of her right after she had surgery!

Turns out, she has had heart disease for years!  It’s related to her brush with Cancer back in the 1980’s!  I never knew.  Her aortic valve had been closing and she needed a transplanted aortic valve from a cow!  That was major major surgery, even more than the abdominal surgery I had in 2010!  She was in ICU and they sent me to the ward after the operation!

She spent a week? in the hospital, maybe more, but when she came out started to exercise right away even though she barely could!  Her list of symptoms put me to shame!  My stomach shit gave me gas attacks and bad heartburn, etc and lower lung function, but, she had been going downhill for years!

Her last post is 2 weeks? post op and she had BURNING in her chest!  My incision after the first week or so mainly itched!  Same operation stuff, though.  Can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t lie down.  I remember those long nights listening to Dr. Laura and to Coast to Coast until I finally fell asleep sitting up against the bed board. 

I am assuming that she is recovered now but wonder how long her lifespan is with a broken heart.  I do wish she would call or write.  I’m afraid one day I’ll discover she died an early death!  She will be 50 next year which is excellent since I did not think she would even live until 21 after she had Cancer at 19!!

My eldest nephew will graduate High School next year as well.  When she called me the morning of our Father’s funeral she acted crabby and you know…I had no idea she might have been feeling bad. I always thought she came away from her Cancer in good health.  I have not set eyes on her in 12 1/2 years, but, got a pic of her (in a hospital bed!)  She looked like I did a few years ago!  We could pass as twins!  I’m fatter and have more wrinkles now, however than she did in that pic, but, I saw myself and our mother looking back at me on that page!

She looked the way I looked at 42 or so!  OK 35, ya’ll. And she was 46!  Better skin care products and probably not as much junk food.  I managed to see a sort of blurry pic of her at a picnic with her husband and one nephew.  She was wearing glasses.

I sort of feel bad about playing the “stalker” online but she is my only sister.  I have no one else.  Our parents are dead and my Aunts and Uncles are dead and I have no contact with cousins.  Please, please, please N. would you call me?

E.

 

 

 

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Eight

Just recently, I went on a website where former patients of a children’s hospital got together.  I lived there way back in 1974.  Back then, there was little they could do for our disease but they did the best they could to show us how to handle day to day life.  I didn’t post on the site because I only remembered maybe 4 kids from my experience and I wasn’t that popular.  My parents dragged me out of there after five months for seemingly no reason except I was gaining weight due to Prednisone, and had been spanked for something or another.

There were good memories and bad there.  We went on many activities for fun and the counselors tried to make it feel like home since it wasn’t a correctional place or a loony bin– like I got put into later.  I remember being old enough to house with older girls but wanting to stay with the little kids because the older girls seemed bitchy.  I was right on the line age wise.  I found two other girls in my unit who were also older that wanted to stay on the little kids unit.  One was nine and another ten, then she turned eleven.   I was eight, almost nine, and the older girls were up to twelve and I didn’t want to stay there.

We three girls had a room in “our” cottage together with maybe 20 other kids.  The other two girls would pick on me sometimes so I would hide up in the top of my closet to get away.  I’d also check myself into the infirmary a lot to get away.  Sometimes the two other girls would get along with me then suddenly turn.  I remember hanging out with other kids but the faces have faded away.  We’d sneak off campus and get essentially citric acid or “sour salt” at a local grocery or buy lemons and suck on them.  I guess they were cheaper than candy.

We were not allowed to see our parents for the most part.  We could only write.  A stamp was a dime.  I celebrated my ninth birthday there and do not remember a party.  One time my Aunt came from her house a few blocks away and I saw her waiting for me in the main building sitting stiffly in her green skirt with her dyed black hair in it’s French twist. Her umbrella, which she used as a cane, was in front of her.  I was happy to see her.  She was my favorite Aunt then.  I would write my parents weekly and they came to see me once. I guess it must have been my birthday or before since it was still warm and we went to my favorite restaurant at the time: A & W, which was more like a Sonic then–you drove up and your food was delivered.

On the weekends, us kids were expected to worship–somewhere.  Since I was Jewish I was sent miles away to the opposite side of town from my parents to stay with a family all weekend.  All I remember was that they had a ranch house like my family and two sons but no girls to play with.  There was synagogue on Saturday but I was expected to return to “Sunday School” on Sunday since the family was Reform.  We had our Sabbath School on Saturday at my synagogue.  This was taking up all my weekend and I did not like being at the home of a strange couple when I could at least be back at the hospital hanging with the other kids and maybe sneaking out to the store or going to the Arcade or amusement park, as an activity on Saturday.  I complained.  They then sent me to a weird little Greek Orthodox church near the hospital with a bunch of other kids where there was incense and priests in brightly colored robes and “church bread”.  I never saw the couple and the two sons again.  I thought it was weird, anyway, since I could have gone home on the weekend to attend our synagogue and Sabbath School.  Was it really home, though?  Was it just an illusion of home?

Some time before the hospital, I remember my Mother coming in my room and sitting on my bed and talking about taking me to live at the hospital.  My symptoms had been worse, and I needed a shot virtually every day when I came home from school near the end of 3rd grade.  She didn’t talk about my symptoms, though.  She talked about HERSELF.  She started saying that it was hard on HER to have me at home and that SHE needed a break.  She said my behavior made it hard for HER to stand me and that the hospital was the break SHE needed.  Shit, I was EIGHT, not eighteen.  I then felt like a burden, defective.  I was trash and needed to be thrown away.

I was there five months and Summer turned to Fall and Fall to Winter.  I had attended school at another school for a semester.  I had grown a bit and gained weight.  My stomach stuck out like I was pregnant and my face was big.  My counselors on the unit announced I was going to leave–they did not think my disease was under enough control yet but my parents wanted me out.  My hair was shaggy because my “roommate” had cut it.

The last night I was there, 3 counselors sat at my bed in the dark and said they were sorry to see me go and that they did not like I was going back to my parents.  They said my parents did a bad job and that I had “improved” emotionally at the hospital, but there was nothing they could do.  I thought that was strange.  My parents were causing me to be abnormal and to be lonely? I sobbed in dread of “home”.   I didn’t want to leave the hospital either, which came back to that couple on the other side of town…were they looking to adopt?  Were the staff at the hospital talking to Human Services to get me out of my parents’ home?  Did they feel their hands were tied since my Father was a lawyer?  Did my parents know they were looking to declare them unfit and give me away to another family?  Did they really  want me back or were they worried what “the neighbors would say”?

The years went by at home and things got so bad by puberty I had withdrawn into a fantasy world.  Soon the hospital would be a memory.  It would close when I was in jr. high and I forgot about it when I went into that locked ward.  THAT hospital I really remember.

The reason this all came up was that I saw a movie called “Custody” where a very poor Mexican woman has to fight for months to get her kids back after a nosy neighbor tells on her when she disciplines her child.  This woman worked for nearly minimum wage and was a single mother.  Her husband was in prison.  She struggled to survive but loved her kids.  Her oldest was about EIGHT.  After a long fight and missing hours of work she could not afford her kids come home in time for Christmas.

My mother was the complete opposite.  She was educated, lived on the right side of town, and did not have to work.  I had problems but my family could afford to take me to doctors.  My mother was moody and flew into rages when I was young.  She vastly preferred my sister.  She was cold, yet overstrict and overprotective.  She never said she loved me until she was dying and it was too late.

The year I was eight was weird anyway.  First, my family did not celebrate my birthday that year for some reason.  My mother was in one of her angry states and we ended up having eggs that year for dinner.  I don’t even remember a gift.  That year my parents fought a lot and I ended up meeting and staying with my Aunt for the first time.  I was dropped off there for a few nights when they were fighting and I could not stay at Grandma’s in those days due to allergies.

That spring, I stole a knick knack and got my sister to do it, too.  We were sent back to the store to return them.  I was always sick.  Something was off.

I still wonder what if???  What if I had been adopted out to a loving family that accepted me?  Would I still have become a target?  My Mother always preferred my sister over me, but, there were a few acts of pure kindness she showed me after I grew up.  It was only after my Mother died that the family started to really push me away.  She also insisted I be a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding.  Maybe she changed and started to accept me more.  I’ll never know.  She has been gone 22 years.

My remaining “family” stopped speaking to me over a decade ago.  I bet I would still be celebrating holidays at my new home if I had gotten adopted, and I would not have been locked up in the state hospital like a dog.

In 1974, after a brief stay at another hospital for MORE tests, I was home for Christmas.

Shabbos–Day Ten

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

“Aw c’mon dcms, there must be SOMETHING comforting from your childhood!”

“Well, I already told you about Passover and what a comforting tradition that was so I guess there’s only Shabbos, or Friday night dinner left.”

“Okay, tell me about it.”

“It was one of the most enduring traditions of my childhood.  It happened every week!  Ya couldn’t escape it!  Friday was Shabbos!  When I was very young up to about age 13 it meant going to Grandma’s across town to eat what she made.  It was just us four, Grandma and Grandpa, and the dog.  It was always good.  We always had Candle Lighting, except in Summer when it was so late, then the family would gather and we would do the prayers over the Challah and Wine.  My Grandpa and Dad would take a piece of Challah and say the Motzi and then put some salt on it and eat it.  Then we started eating.

There was always a first course.  Usually it was chopped liver or cold turnip salad with Challah.  I didn’t like either much, but the liver was better for me because the turnip salad was bitter.  Of course I loved the homemade Challah with white raisins.

Then we’d get to business and the main course.  It usually was some kind of chicken but Grandma also baked beef sometimes and occasionally did a “milk” Shabbos with tuna casserole as the main dish.  We’d also get cold salad and a hot vegetable and kugel.  I liked every kind of kugel except potato.  Sometimes it would be rice kugel or noodle kugel which were both sweetened with fruit and cinnamon.  Potato was plain and there were no condiments to put on it.  Sometimes we’d get pickled green tomatoes my Grandma put up from her tomatoes.

After that there was dessert, the best part.  Most times she would bake some kind of cake:  either banana or marble cake or even a pie.  With a milk meal it would be coffee cake.  Sometimes there would also be fruit salad or even in summer, Grandma’s version of ice cream made with Coffee Rich, usually strawberry flavored.  For a beverage, it was usually Swee Touch Nee tea and sometimes coffee.

The best part however, was being together at the end of the work/school week and talking.  If it was Summer, we’d retire to the patio to talk till it got dark.  If it was Winter, I’d go with the ‘rents and my sister would stay over and go to shul with Grandma.  I had allergies at her house and could not stay the night even though I tried a few times.

After the dog passed I would stay at her apartment she later got for the whole weekend for a few years.  Then it would just be Grandma and I eating the Shabbos after my folks got into it with her one Friday.  My sister came to these dinners also if she wasn’t out of town at college or at her job.  At the end it was just Grandma and I.  The food would not be finished so we would eat the rest for lunch the next day.

All those days are gone now.  Everything is gone now.  Only my sister and her family are left alive and she does not talk to me.

“Wow, dcms, Shabbos was a real stable part of your young life.”

“It sure was.  I probably turned out better than I would have if not for those family traditions to keep me somewhat grounded.”

 

“Describe the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten, in glorious detail.

Although I’ve eaten in my share of restaurants and things, the most satisfying meals I had were at home with family especially before this ugly nightmare started.

My most memorable meal was always the 2 Passover seders our family had each year.  Every year it was my Mother and Father, my sister and I, my Grandparents and later Grandmother, and my great Aunts and Uncles.  I don’t remember there ever being an extra guest but I think maybe in there was here and there.  Passover was such an ordeal the first Passover meal was like the climax of all the cleaning and switching out dishes.

You always knew what was going to happen and what to expect as the meal progressed but everyone acted like it was new and fun.  At the beginning, the men went off to ritually wash their hands.  Then, the prayers started in Hebrew and English.  My family was old school and the men “davened” very quickly in Hebrew but stopped at sections in the Haggadah to let the family read sections in English.  The book would be passed down the table for family members to read certain sections at the prompt of the seder leader, usually the great uncle that presided over the seder at his house, and, later, my father.

My most memorable English part is the Four Sons.  My sister almost always got the Wise Son and I got the Wicked Son, and, later for some reason I got switched out to the Simple Son. Simple son, eh?  Wonder if it was because I was oblivious to what was happening.  No one ever told me why I never got to be the Wise Son.  The most memorable Hebrew part was of course, the Four Questions, to only be said in Hebrew.  We both were required to ask the Four Questions I think and, later, I think I asked them alone even though I was older than my sister.

Later, we would have the Bitter Herbs where everyone, especially the women would pass judgement on how strong the horseradish was this year.  We’d take a stick of raw horseradish and eat it after dipping it in salt water and later in charoseth which is apples nuts cinnamon and wine (with tons of variations) and eat it some with stoic bravery others with coughing and tears running down their face.  Then, we’d do the blessings on the vegetables (or were they first?) and the matzoh (which we’d eat for 8 days afterward) and make blessings over “matzoh sandwiches” made with matzoh and charoset and horseradish.  After that, we’d get hard boiled eggs with the shells on them and play the “egg game”.  We’d smash them against each other and the last person with an uncracked egg won.  Then we’d dip them in salt water (signifying tears) and eat.

After that was the meal, and, depending on which great uncle’s house it was at, how good it was.  One great aunt could hardly cook and the other one was THE cook in the family.  The main course was usually a turkey or a brisket with overcooked veggies and a kugel and various other sides.  I forgot the chicken soup which came first.  The bad cook’s soup came with “sinkers” or heavy matzoh balls that sank and were barely edible and the good cook’s soup came with “floaters” or light matzoh balls that were delicious.  BTW I make floaters.

Dessert was fruit salad and a “passover cake” made with lots of eggs and baking soda and sometimes passover candy and macaroons.  Later, I went to a seder that featured chocolate covered matzoh but that was way later.

After the meal the Hagaddahs were brought out and the wine cups refilled (even us kids got wine) and the later part started.  We kids would be expected to find the afikomen for a “reward” which usually was only a buck at one uncle’s house and 5 bucks at the other.  I think when my father ran it the reward went up to 10 bucks.  We kids, usually the two of us would ransack the house to find the matzoh wrapped in a ceremonial cloth.  Once it was found we were asked what “reward” we’d like for it but the prize was usually the same all the time.  Then, the piece of matzoh was broken up and eaten with a blessing and we could have no other food until morning which was just as well since we were pretty darn full by then.  Also, Elijah’s cup would be filled and the relatives would swear he drank some of it.  I dreamed every year he would ACTUALLY come but of course he never did.  I’m a little weird.

At one point our father had to bless us.  I used to think it was a weird part of the seder and now I know it was very important because if no one prays for you you sink into a life of curses.  I often wonder if my father meant the blessings he imparted to me even though he meant them towards my sister.  Now, that I’m separated from family and have no church to go to no one prays for me and it shows. You can feel the spiritual oppression the lack of lightness, when no one prays for you.

At the end songs were sung which the old men mostly knew.  I remember the one “dayenu” or it would have been sufficient–that God would have performed this or that miracle without all the other miracles and the one about the little goat that got eaten by something and that something got eaten by something else.  After that it was usually about 10:00 or 11:00 and we kids would be sleepy and later as we were teens, half drunk on the four cups of wine.  We would drive home, usually through the SNOW, because back then it almost always SNOWED on Passover no matter what time of year it fell. I was like the snow on Halloween…death taxes and snow were the certainties of my childhood.  Nowadays it could be cold but it could also be hot.  The warmest Passover I remember was at my Aunt’s house way back in the 1980s.  It was a late Passover and it went over 80 degrees.  The lilacs were blooming outside.  I wore a summer dress not the usual woolen skirt and sweater.

The last family seder I remember going to was the year my mother died.   All the old aunts and uncles and all the grandparents were dead.  I was out of college and my sister was in graduate school.  My mother was getting over an injury but still was strong enough to put on the seder.  We invited various members of my father’s family then including an uncle and a cousin.  I remember it being a large seder for our family there being at least 12 guests.  My cousin, who turned into a perp, drove me home.

I sure miss the family seders.  It was one of the few times reality did not seem so bad in my world.  The seders and other Jewish feasts and fasts were the glue that kept the family together.  I miss them terribly even if I didn’t relish sitting in “shul” 4 hours every Saturday.  I used to go to the seder at another family’s home but their seder was far less detailed and shorter than ours.  My father remembers seders in his youth that went to 2 or 3 in the MORNING.  The other family’s seder was focused on the food and they used another Haggadah, most of it in English.  I put on a “Christian” seder about 10 years ago where I cooked and overlooked everything but it bombed.  Later, I was invited to another Christian seder that bombed and did not even go off.  I left there in tears wondering if the perps had engineered it.  Most of life today is bitter tears and disappointment now.

I will not be going to a seder this year.  Another thing lost, another thing mourned.  I used to like Easter as a new Christian but I nothing planned for Easter either this year.  The best Easter I had was before I converted when I went to sunrise services with a bunch of people (pre targetting of course).  The last family seder I was invited to was in the late 1990s??? but I had to say no because they had a multiplicity of pets and I have allergies.

My family will be having a seder this year a 1000 miles away as usual and as usual I will not be invited.

p.s.–I forgot the Gefilte Fish which was sometimes prepared by HAND in a grinder along with the homemade horseradish sauce .