Sunday, November 20, 2016

Standing Up

I don’t think my choice in the recent election would be a surprise to most people. To my friends who voted for Trump, I want to be clear. I still like most of you. A few of you, I never really thought much of to begin with, so if our relationship doesn’t survive, I think we’ll both be ok. And if you are wondering if you’re one of the ones I don’t like, you’re probably not one, because you should already know it, and you should pretty much know why.

Anyway, my point is, we have to move forward. I am going to try very hard not to be offensive in my comments and actions over the next few years, and I hope you can do the same. But here’s the thing. I have to stand up for what is right.

I’m not really happy about having to do this. Finally…..FINALLY…..I sold my Mahomet house, and we just closed on our parents’ Peoria house, and I’m somewhat settled in the only house I have left (Lindsay refers to it as my shedding of houses), and I’m finally…..FINALLY……at a point where perhaps I can slow down a little bit, crochet a blanket, attack my bucket list, or read a good book, and BAM, instead, I’m forced to stand up.

I have to believe those of you I still like do not support mistreatment of people for any reason, but especially based on the color of their skin, or their religion, or their sexual preference, or their gender or abilities. I have to believe you are not racists or bullies and wouldn’t stand for someone else being a racist or bully.

And maybe a lot of you can look the other way or close your eyes. Believe me, for about a week or so, I totally planned on doing that. I’ve learned I don’t have to take on every problem in the world, that I don’t have to read in great detail about every horrible news event, that it’s ok to walk away on some things, and I absolutely planned to do that.

But dammit all to hell, I grew up in a Jewish home and a Jewish community, and if I take one thing away from my upbringing, it is to stand up for what is right. It is to NEVER let mistreatment of people happen again. That’s what I remember hearing: “NEVER AGAIN.” If you didn’t grow up in my world, you might not understand how important this is. But it’s huge. It’s a commitment I owe my parents and their parents and the millions of innocent people, some of whom were my family, who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.

I would not even exist if it weren’t for the foresight of my grandparents who left Eastern Europe because they knew they would be safe in America. They knew they would have the freedom to worship the way they chose, that they could live safely and raise their families, and they would not have to worry about horrible things happening to them, because they would be living in America. My mom often would say how very grateful she was to have been born in this country.

When you have that in your background, how can you remain silent? The last time a lot of people remained silent and turned their heads, it didn’t end well. And I cannot be one of those people.

I’m not at all happy about this. When I was back in the working world, right outside my office was a huge tower that had about 100 steps in it. One day there were some kids up in the top bouncing golf balls to the ground below. You can imagine the horrible outcome if they happened to hit someone. So, I had to climb the stairs to stop them and explain to their grownups why it wasn’t safe (seriously). I was not amused. When I got to the top, I told them they were in trouble for two reasons. One was for the golf ball throwing, and more importantly, they had made me climb up to the top.

In a much more serious way, I feel again, like I have to climb up to the top. I am not at all happy about this, for the record, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our Parents’ House: A Happy Ending & Happy Beginning

Four dumpsters, a truckload plus five trips to drop off electronics for recycling, at least 20 trips to drop off other recycling, at least 10 bags delivered for shredding, maybe 15 trips to the used book collection box, two truckloads of furniture to the Habitat ReStore, four trips to the EPA household waste drop-off in Naperville, at least ten carloads to Goodwill, other assorted items picked up from the curb, and just like that, we finished emptying our parents’ house. Piece of cake! 

I’m still somewhat amazed we actually finished. I really kind of felt we would just be working on it forever. But it did finally end, a year and a half later, and as my sister and I were looking at our options to put the house on the market, the most wonderful thing happened. The next-door neighbors told us they would like to buy it. 

The neighbors had moved into their house a few years ago, and they were very nice. They would say hello to Mom when she was sitting out back, and they said she would always smile and wave to them. Their son would take the mail to Mom when the weather was bad. We learned the mother’s parents were coming to live with them, and we quickly found that they were also a lovely, kind couple. They called Mom “Lola Rose” which means Grandma Rose in the Filipino language. We saw their Lola at the mailboxes one day last summer, and she very hopefully asked if Lola Rose was coming home soon? We told her Mom had passed away, and she very sadly said, “Noooo!” as she clasped both my arms. I sort of fell in love with her right then. She told us she had planned to come spend time with Lola Rose when she came home because she felt that was something she could do for her. I knew it was completely sincere, even though I didn’t know her well, but some things you just know, and I knew she was truly saddened for our loss.

A year went by, and we saw them from time to time as we worked on the house. Then, as I said, when we were trying to decide what needed to be done to sell the house, the daughter told us her parents were interested in buying it. We learned their Lola had fallen in love with the house and had even named the huge front yard tree “Orlando” after the street it was on, and she had photos of it in every season. Well, I can guarantee you our Lola Rose would have loved that! She loved the tree they had planted when they built the house, and hearing this really warmed our hearts.

We spent more time with this beautiful family over the next few months as we worked to make this happen. The house needs a lot of attention, and they are excited to get started on it. Their Lola promised us she would take good care of Lola Rose’s house. That touched me immensely. I have no doubt she will care for it with love. And they will be living next to their children and grandson. Mom would have been thrilled about that also.

One of the times Lindsay was there, we all got to spend some time talking. They said when they met Lindsay and me, they knew right away we were good people. The funny thing was we had just said the very same thing about them. Sometimes you just know.

After my last visit to the house, when I went through and made sure all the personal things were removed, I sort of did a “Thanks for giving Mom so much happiness” as I closed the door with a smile, and I went to the cemetery to take one of Mom’s garden pinwheels to her. That seemed to be a fitting thing to do. While I was there, I was telling them about what we were doing with the house, and I smiled because the whole thing – selling the house to neighbors who were kind and would love it and begin their own happy memories – had seemed meant to be from the beginning. Call it what you will, it was more than a little coincidental. I started to chuckle and said, “Why am I telling you all this when I have a funny feeling you probably know more about it than I do?” 

I could picture my mama smiling as I walked to my car.