When I first came to Israel on a short vacation from my busy, multi-tiered life in the city of Toronto, I was amazed at my immediate sensation of having finally found my home.
The smell of orange blossoms, which so permeated the air that fine April 31 years ago, breathed life into my wintry cold persona. I felt as if I could stretch out and smile in full total body response at just being alive. That feeling kept me here. I was pulsating with a new–found feeling of connecting with a place.
Then came cognitive dissonance: old home v.s. new home.
I received a letter from home about my beloved grandfather’s death. I keeled over on a bed in a friend’s kibbutz room and felt the weight of distance crush my cracking heart. I cried like never before. It was a double swing of fate’s hammer, knowing I’d chosen to be so far away, helplessly realizing that nothing could beam me back for that lost instant when I might have been able to kiss him goodbye. Goodbyes could only be ethereal. Not even a phone back then to grab, to salvage my need to share grief. In those days, there were two phones on that kibbutz – one in the dining room for incoming calls and a public phone near the post office. Distance was so very far.
Years have passed and with them questions about kidney stones, M.A degrees, pregnancy and motherhood, raising my children, all things easily shared as family events among Israelis who have families within reach. With my family so far away, we had to nourish ourselves within our Israeli nuclear family, growing used to being a self-contained unit.
But yesterday, again came the surreal waves of dissonance. Another death in the family. I first read about it in my father’s e-mail, and then just as I sent my response, my mother called. My beloved aunt had passed. Feb 19, their time, the 20th our time, this time again the hour meant so little when distance pushed it all so very far away.
I hadn’t seen my Aunt Amy for four years. We had all gathered at my sister’s home mid-summer. Eighty back then, she was running all over, teaching beading to those in her retirement community in Arizona, showing up that summer with her zip-lock bags of beads and lacing to sit with my kids,nieces and nephews teaching them to bead. She was gorgeous and funny and lithe. This is how I’ll remember her. Distance has graced me with that fine recollection of how it is to be a beautifully vital 80 year old, and I’ll always be inspired to emulate her example.
We get used to being on the other half of the planet.
We make it work. The phone is now happily closer. No longer do I need to search for a phone token or an available public phone, I only have to hope that there’s someone available on the other end. My heart continues to melt. What I wouldn’t give to be close to my mother now. How I long to be with my daughter in the U.S. That phone is only a click away from impotence. How many ‘no one’s homes’ have I counted over the years? To leave a voice message? To write a cryptic text message? And if there’s a ‘connect’, how much content must be conveyed with a voice within a moment. All intuition, love and comfort have to be focused on vocal chords and sound waves. Yes, we’re lucky we’ve got it, yes it stinks that it’s all we’ve got.
Beam me up, Scotty. Where are the beam me up Scotty folk when we need them? If you’re reading, please send me word.