December 30, 2005

A Retrospective on the Old Year

Well, another year is almost in the books and, like many, I greet the thought of slamming that book shut with a mingled sense of relief and nostalgia. Seems like a good opportunity to take stock of what transpired, think about roads not taken, and just sort of aimlessly reminisce.

First, this felt like the year of the disaster to me. From the tsunami to Katrina to earthquakes in Pakistan to the new wild fires (or maybe not so wild) in Texas and Oklahoma. Basta, I say. Enough. I think we’re all officially good on natural disasters, ok?

Second, this has been a year of no small change for me and mine. I’m not even sure where to begin. Maybe sort of chronologically.

*The Viking Bride quits and takes new job.

*The beloved nanny serves out her contract and leaves. We get new nanny for about three months and she goes home at request of her parents. We get next new nanny who only lasts a month.

*We sell our house in Westchester and buy a new place in Connecticut. We move. In the process, we live with my parents for a month.

*My grandfather breaks his hip and begins his slow physical and mental decline culminating in his death earlier this month. Many weekends spent visiting with him, mostly with the kids in tow. We bury him.

*My wife and I find out that we are going to be adding a third college tuition obligation come May of ‘06.

*I rediscover physical exertion and begin to exercise. Perspiration is good.

*As a result of above, I get to start buying nice clothes again and my wife doesn’t even seem to mind!

*The Boy Child begins to do his thing on the toilet and, last night, receives his first pairs of big boy underwear! YAY!

The year has been filled with lovely things. Long walks with my family; spying on deer and wild turkeys; hunting for seashells; swimming in the ocean; trips to the playground.

In fact, I notice, I do not have a single thing down about any professional success or failure. Well, I think that may be because this was the year that I tinkered with my career and because I value my family and take more pleasure in them than from anything else.

I applied for, interviewed for (second round) and probably would have taken jobs in any of Ft. Worth, Miami, Chicago and Washington D.C. All of these would have been government jobs, by the way, mostly regulatory and prosecutorial in nature.

I applied for and interviewed for a change of field job which I did not get and I am kind of not totally crushed about. More of that to come in the new year.

I am in the midst of career angst, unhappiness mixed with not a lot of sense of what I want to do next, no burning attraction to anything. So, unfocused angst.

The new year ought to be interesting. I have a lead on a change of career job. Might even pan out, you never know. I’ll know more in the new year. In the meantime, I will continue to push forward on all fronts. Even and including continuing to build my law practice, since, hey, you never know.

I had some nice recognition on the not for profit front, being put on another board. Got to meet some interesting, intelligent, and pretty famous people through that. Also got to wear my tuxedo a lot, which was a nice bonus.

I made a lot of friends this year, both through this blog (you know who you are and I feel it would be undignified to be specific) and in the flesh. Sometimes, both, as I got to have dinner and drinks with Helen and with Simon. Still waiting for Jim to get up to NY or me to Atlanta.

All in all, to sum up the summing up, the best parts of 2005 were spent with those I love and those who I like and learned to like even more. I suppose if there is a lesson here, and I am cursed to always seek a lesson from past experience, it is that the people matter. Find good people (add good wine if you can, just saying) and the rest will fall into place.

I plan to spend next year trying to be more patient with those who need patience and to cherish the ones I hold dear as much as I can.

I also plan to win a lottery or something and become filthy rich. And when I win, I want them to show up with beer. A real beer. Like Keystone. (Am I the only one who remembers that campaign?)

So, let me wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year, filled with joy and peace and with obstacles that, once overcome, leave you feeling like the greatest thing ever.

If you can’t have that, I wish you instead onion rings covered with chili and cheese. Works for me in a pinch, what can I say?

Pax tibi.

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La Migra

I spent some time today, on behalf of my wife, dealing with the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration. What used to be known as INS or, depending on the sweat shop you were in, La Migra.

Ready to be shocked?

You sure?

Ok. Other than having to spend 5-10 minutes on hold, it was an exceptionally easy and pleasant experience. I had to speak to two different people to have my questions answered about a routine form, but both people were absolutely polite, energetic, and helpful. They had all the answers to my questions and were very patient. Both, by the way, were audibly taken aback when I convey happy new year wishes. Both, also, spoke English like you rarely hear anymore – carefully enunciated and crisp, so that if you were a non-native speaker, you stood a much better shot at understanding them.

However, even though they spoke so well and were so very helpful, I despair of most immigrants’ chances of figuring out the forms all by themselves. It took two lawyers in my office (me and someone much older and smarter) the better part of 40 minutes before I phoned. And even then, the older and smarter lawyer was wrong in his advice, as it turns out and as he was gracious enough to admit. All told, figure it took over an hour of billable time by two highly experienced professionals to fill out a simple form and to get some of it wrong anyway. I feel so sorry for those unfortunate non-native English speakers who have to do this kind of thing all alone.

That said, can you believe anyone is writing about how great an experience it was to deal with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration?

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December 28, 2005


*When you say the title, by the way, say it in a creepy half British half Frankenstein kind of voice, ok?*

We are the house of plague. Except for me, everyone in the house is sick. Saturday morning, at 1:30 (thank you very much), I was awakened by the sound of the Girl Child sobbing in the bathroom. Ear infection, said the doctor some 9 hours later, both ears, full blown. Antibiotics. The Boy Child has a factory in his nose devoted to the production of snot. Requires nose blowing assistance at all hours of the night. The Viking Bride down with a nasty cold, too, with a cough that keeps her and me up all night. There is little sleep to be had and that sleep that we do get is not quality or good. I am feeling a bit punchy.

However, still up for the early morning train and the gym, although I am now doing the psychiatrist's hour work out (that's 50 minutes, by the way) instead of the full 60.

Hanukkah was still fun, the first night, even though they were both sick and icky. They loved the presents -- a Playmobile Viking Longboat for the Girl Child and a wooden train set for the Boy Child. I got a nice tie from my wife. A really nice tie. A Borrelli hand cut and hand sewn tie. Makes most of my other ties a little ashamed to be hanging next to it. We celebrated at my parents' house with homemade brisket and homemade latkes, both really outstanding.

We also had my cousins up for the weekend from D.C. I was so glad to have them there. My cousin J is about 10 months younger than I am and the second oldest grandchild. We were pretty close growing up. It was nice to be together, now that my grandfather is gone. He would have loved that we were together. So, it was extra nice even if it was bitter sweet.

This week is flying by and I am feeling great pressure to produce some things at work. However, it is hard to feel motivated when you kind of hate your job and when you are none to happy in the field in general. I look forward to completion of these projects.

Hope you all are well and had a lovely holiday, whichever it was that you were celebrating.

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December 24, 2005

Early Christmas Present

So, we're sitting here with the Giants/Redskins game on mute and I start to cheer when the Giants pick off a pass: "HE. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY!"

My wife looks up from her book and says: "This is a big one, right? If the Giants win here they win the NFC East, don't they?"

Shocked silence as a smile spreads over my face and I thank my lucky stars all over again.

I hope you all get exactly what you want and, if you get something else, you have the wit to recognize, as I just did, that maybe it was exactly what you wanted anyway.

Merry Christmas!

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December 22, 2005

Where you at?

I'm not quite sure how to go about this particular entry. See, often, I have either an idea of where I want to end up at the end of an entry, and no idea how I'm going to get there, or no conception of the destination but the journey is clear. This one? Well, neither. I'm trying to figure something out about myself with this one and, truth be told, I neither know how to do it nor remain entirely convinced that the trip is worth the trouble. Enough travel references?

It has to do with my relationship to space and time. There. That sounds nice and broad and perhaps a touch pompous.

Ever take the train? At night? All you can see is the very occasional glimpse of light as you rocket along. And from that glimpse, you can sometimes discern more or less where you are on your journey. Some silhouettes are enough to tell you, some half seen shape, some peculiar configuration. Well, to me, for some unknown reason, this is important. I like to know where I am in terms of time and space.

I can't really do the time part, actually. Ask my wife. She'll tell you that I am curiously unable to calculate and internalize and apply to myself travel time or the amount of time needed to get ready or get others ready or, well, the list could go on. Like putting the kids to bed. She claims I have no idea how long it takes. She may be right. I think kids expand time to suit whatever latitude indulgent parents give them. I can say, dear, that when I have the kids to myself and you are away, I can get them to bed happily and efficiently, no muss, no fuss. I just don't, upon reflection, know how long that takes me to do. Ok, enough digression. Although, since I don't know where this post is going or how its getting there, this may not have been a digression. I reserve judgment on the digression thing until I reach the end. And even then I may not know.

So, I like to know where I am. Even on the train ride. The train ride never varies. The rails were laid out many years ago and they don't move or change their route on a daily basis. So, chances are good that yesterday's ride was the same as today's ride, etc, ad infinitum. That just hints that my needing to know where I am is not rational. Well, that does me no good. I never claimed to be completely sane.

No, maybe I need to know where I am because I have an internal clock, totally divorced from the watch I wear on my wrist. I know, kind of, by some strange calculation, that if the train hits the Greenwich station going in, that I have scads of time left to read. That if I'm at a certain point in the Bronx, starting a new chapter is an exercise in optimism, a second marriage ("triumph of hope over experience"). That, on the way out, a nap from 125th Street to Stamford is a darn fine thing, one to be bragged about at home. I calculate time by knowing distance. I could, I suppose, look at my watch. But I don't. Pretty much ever.

Ok. I can accept this much -- I need to know where I am because I use it to tell time. Kind of atavistic, but still, not entirely without reason.

And by the way, I am really good at this. Even in the total darkness, I can, within moments of looking up from my book, figure out exactly where I am anywhere from Grand Central to Greenwich. Beyond Greenwich, well, no. I can't do it. And it makes me uncomfortable.

Hence this post. As I try to figure out why I need to do this and why it makes me uncomfortable. I think, by this point, I have managed to convince myself it is not an outward manifestation of some deep seeded OCD, but a totally rational albeit strange way to tell how time has passed, by relating my changing position vis a vis landmarks.

I suspect that I will feel more at home in Connecticut when I can extend my little geography from Greenwich to home.

Well, this feels like it could be the end of this post. I'm not sure. But, might as well be. How do I know? I think I've run out of things to say.

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Starved for input

You know that you are starved for input, that you have been kept too long from the glittering lights, when you take amusement, great amusement, in trading emails with your wife in which every other word is in a different language as you alternate between French, English, Norwegian, German and Spanish, all in one sentence. It began with a simple: "Tout va bien, i dag?" And rapidly spun out of control.

What the heck. Beats working, right?

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December 20, 2005

Hit the streets

The New York City Transit system has been shut down by a strike. Probably illegal, but you never know. Makes the city a little odder than usual. Firstly, Grand Central Station had an odd vibe at 6:30 this morning as I was passing through. Sort of an expectant silence, like it was waiting for something to happen. Then, there were a whole mess of buses and private vans parked outside all around the station to take commuters to points downtown. Then, the sidewalks were packed on my walk to work after the gym. Just packed. Lots of people walking who don't usually walk at all. Very interesting. And the streets had many fewer cars than usual. The police are enforcing a 4 to a car rule or else you can't get below 96th street. Thus traffic is way down.

I expect that the ripple effect of this will be very bad for the city, the merchants, and the employees.

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New ways to find pain in the gym

It is called Pilates. One fellow fitness center regular who has become a friend has brought a Pilates instructress into the FC in the morning to lead him in Pilates floor exercises. He kindly allowed me to join in and try it. I did that morning and learned a new way to say pain. We lay on the squash courts on mats and were tortured for about an hour by this gorgeous young woman. My abs may need a day or so to recover.

Anyone out there done this before? Should I continue with it? Are there any benefits to it that you found?

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One odd interchange

This was after my grandfather's funeral and back at my parent's house. I don't want to forget this one, so I might as well share it with you here. Now remember, at this point, there were all sorts of people I didn't know at my parents' house:

Aunt M to me: How come I never got an invitation to your house in Westchester?

Me: Because we sold it and moved!

Stranger: You sold your house? How much did you get for it?

Me: (After turning to look at him and think about it for several long seconds) (Hold out my hand to shake) Hello, I'm Random Penseur. How nice to meet you.

Stranger: Hi, I'm Wendell Something. So, how much did you get for it?

Me: You know what, Wendell, I'm not at all sure that I'm comfortable having this conversation with you. And by the way, what are you doing to my father's bookshelves?

Stranger: I'm re-arranging the books so that they look nicer, putting them in size order. Doesn't that look better?

Me: I couldn't say (walking away shaking head).

I went and asked my dad if he knew some odd guy was re-arranging his books and he, already pretty emotional, went in and told the guy, after asking me if I was kidding, that if he didn't put every book back where it was, my dad was going to throw him out of the house. My dad later said he felt violated by having the guy rummaging through his shelves. I understand completely.

Like I said, an odd interchange all the way around.

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December 19, 2005

Cleaning up loose ends

I spent most of Saturday morning helping my uncle pack and ship the remainder of my grandfather's belongings out to both my uncles in California. For which, UPS wanted a shocking sum of money, by the way. I'd like to say it was cathartic, or some other such psychobabble like thing that emphasizes healing and being in touch with your feelings and being good to the earth. It wasn't. It was just a loose end. We all come to loose ends, I suppose. We leave behind wonderful memories and a huge pile of junk that has to be disposed of, stuff that was meaningful to you and that you kept for some reason that is not at all apparent to those who come cleaning up after you. Some of it was clearly important, and that was shipped.

I took a box for myself with maybe 30 or 40 CD's, mostly classical music. My grandfather liked them and that was good enough for me. In the box was a very nice selection of Gilbert & Sullivan songs. I popped it in the CD player in the car for the ride home, to share it with my kids. My kids had spent the morning with my parents and I picked them up after finishing up with my uncle and dropping him back off at the train. I have no idea why I am noting these logistical details but I can't seem to make myself stop. So be it.

As we were driving through Connecticut, I heard the beginnings of one of my favorite songs, "I am the very model of a modern major general" and I warned the kids that this next song was going to be a doozy. Of course, since they have excellent taste, they loved it. They started dancing in the back seat to the song and demanded it be turned up, which I did. And then I started to cry at the same time I was laughing. Laughing at their antics and crying because I knew that my grandfather would have loved that his CD had brought the kids so much pleasure. And I was sorry he wasn't there to see it.

Its the little things that get you. Like just noticing that I have his name written on my telephone speed dial.

Another loose end. I guess it isn't necessary to try to get them all.

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A word to be weary of

Truly. I am weary of truly. I think it is a word that implies dishonesty. When you see it used these days, it seems to be used in a way to emphasize the sincerity of the speaker's emotion or reassurance at that particular moment. "I am truly grateful". "Truly sorry". "Truly happy". Sort of says to me that all the other times you said you were grateful or sorry you really weren't, since you now feel the need to emphasize this time that you are really, in truth, grateful. I say a pox on truly. Either you mean what you say or you don't. Either way, leave poor truly out of it.

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Shh! They might hear you!

Am I the only one who, upon hearing that the US Government has been engaging in surreptitious listening in on our conversations, immediately started singing: "They're tapping phone lines, you know that that ain't allowed"?

The Talking Heads, ahead of their time.

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December 15, 2005

Conversations with the Boy Child

At the risk of revealing too much in the way of domestic arrangements information, I will share with you the few small words passing between the Boy Child and me last night, long after he should have been asleep:

Boy Child (from bed): Mamma!

Me (arriving on scene): Yes, honey.

BC: Pappa? Mamma come check on me?

Me: No, honey, Mamma is in bed and asleep.

BC: Oh. (looks closer at me) Pappa, nagunk? (Nagunk is his combination of naked and naken -- Norwegian for naked).

Me: Yes, honey, I'm nagunk.

BC: Pappa go up in Mamma's bed nagunk???

Me: Yes, honey.

BC: Hmmn.

And he went happily back to sleep after we cleared that up. I have no idea what it means but I was vastly amused.

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December 12, 2005

To sum up, albeit briefly

My grandfather is dead and, five days, buried. I am still devastated by his death and by my loss. I am sure that the passage of time will make my grief less sharp, will smooth over the jagged edges of my emotions, will help me hurt a little bit less. At least, I hope it will. You see, his passing has left me feeling a bit empty and somehow like someone has sucked all the color out of the world. Since I like to think I don't tend to the melodramatic, I leave it to you to figure out just how sad I really am based on that last sentence.

I want to give some passing impressions from the last few days, so as to record them for myself in the future:


*The funeral day was terribly cold. It was held at his old synagogue in New Rochelle. I sat in his old seat, the seat he had occupied all the years I had attended high holiday services with him. I thought, somehow, that it would make me feel closer to him. It didn't. It just felt weird and may have driven home his absence more fully.

*The casket was so very small for such a powerful and vibrant man. I had problems looking at it. I declined, as if stung by a live wire, the invitation to view the body. The family, you see, has to identify the body. I let my uncles and father and mother do that. My wife went in, too. I told my uncles that I absolutely had no interest, that the last memory of him I wanted to preserve was my cupping his beautiful face in my hands, my telling him that I loved him, and my kissing him goodbye. Not the image of him dead and in his coffin. No thanks. My wife should not have gone in. She is taking his loss very hard and she came out and buried her face in my collar bone and sobbed. She loved him very much and he loved her.

*I have little memory of the eulogies. My uncles and mother each spoke and they all spoke quite well. It was hard not to cry but I held it together. At least, up to the point where the grandsons gathered to wheel the casket from the sanctuary. When we got outside, I sobbed inconsolably. I felt myself gathered up in someone's arms and comforted and didn't even know who. I have no idea how long I cried for. I eventually realized it was my cousin J who held me. He and I are the closest in age.

*The ride to the cemetery took a very long time. We passed the time in the limo, the kids' limo (no adults allowed!), by exchanging stories and memories and teasing each other. That was nice.

*The cemetery was terribly frigid. He was lowered into the earth next to my grandmother. I put a stone on the headstone to mark that I was there for her, as well. I gather I was the only one who did that.

*You may not know this, but Jews bury their own. You put a shovelful of dirt on the coffin yourself. I did this. I took off my gloves so that the cold of the wood and the metal would burn my hands and fingers. I took a big shovelful and I draped it over his coffin as if I were laying a blanket on him. It hurts to remember this, by the way. And then. . . Well, then I fell sobbing into the arms of my Uncle E. He held me as I cried and I have to say made noises like I have never heard before, like I was some wounded animal. After I recovered, and we said the Mourners' Kaddish, I returned the favor, the comfort, to my cousin J as I held him while he cried. Everyone left and I lingered, gazing into the hole, unwilling to leave because I just could not bring myself to say goodbye. My wife had to pull me away with a gentle tug.

*I remember basically nothing of the ride home to my parents. We washed our hands outside on the porch before going into the house. My children were there and the Boy Child was in fine form, not bothered in the slightest by all of the strangers, quite content to sit by himself in the dining room along the wall, filching cookies for himself. He was a source of joy and comfort.

*We stayed that first night until about 8 or 8:30. The Rabbi came over and we had the evening service at 7:30 and all said the Kaddish. He left a set of prayer books for us to use during the shiva period and I promised to return them.


*Shiva started at 1:00 in the afternoon. Before it began, I returned the books to the temple. We were supposed to get a huge snow storm and I was concerned that if we did, I would be unable to return the books and, well, what if some other family needed them?

*I drove back to New Rochelle, after dropping our old nanny off at her friend's house. Did I mention that our first nanny flew in from Utah just to attend the funeral? That gives some indication of my grandfather's magnetic personality.

*I dropped the books off and I spent a little time with the secretary looking at the various places on the walls of the synagogue where my grandfather's name appeared. Then I went back upstairs and sat by myself in his old seat in the sanctuary, all alone. I am not sure why. It did not bring me peace. If anything, it made me more sad as I wondered if this would be the last time I ever visited this place where I had spent so many years. It is a beautiful room. I miss it already, but then, I suppose I am predisposed to mourn the passing of things at this very moment.

*Shiva was long. Lots of visitors, lots of food. I didn't get home until after 8 that night. I spent some very important time with my uncles. My uncle S told me that he knew how important my grandfather was to me, how much of a father figure he really was, how much of a void he filled, a role he played. I had no idea he knew and am not even sure I totally knew. There were more tears that day. I still felt so alone. My uncles and mother (and my father) are so hurt by his death.


*The storm hit over night and it was a big one. I drove down to Westchester anyway. I had to get the car serviced that morning but I was the only one there so I was in and out in a half an hour.

*I then drove over to my grandfather's old house. I met my uncle S there. Later my cousin E arrived. I spent over three hours with them selecting photographs from my grandfather's collection of family pictures. Some of them will go into a book we will make, including, for example, the water color caricatures of him and my late grandmother made in 1948 on a trip to Havana, Cuba. This was a lovely, although very dirty time. We laughed, we compared pictures, we reminisced. It was grand. I filled quite a box with pictures, a lot of them of my mother from the 1940's. My grandfather, by the way, appears to have never taken a bad picture. He was quite photogenic.

*We then sat shiva at my parents. No one came. No one. The storm was too much for them. Instead, my wife left work early and joined us and we all gathered, some 12 or 14 strong in the family, around the dining table and ate my father's homemade spaghetti and meatballs and drank wine and laughed and shared memories and stories and gave each other a hard time. Comfort food, my dad called it. And it was, for the soul and the body. It was beautiful and the one person who would have enjoyed it the most couldn't be there. My grandfather enjoyed his family more than anyone I've ever met. It was a constant source of delight and strength to him. He would have loved dinner that night. Just loved it.

*After we left, my uncle E read out loud some of the letters they found that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in the 1930's. They were, I'm told, delightful. My uncle is going to copy them and send them around in a very limited distribution to all the grandchildren.


*Spent this day back at my parents. At least, most of the day. We went back down to help my dad clean up and we ended up sitting and going through all the family pictures I had selected the day before. Lots of laughs.

Today is my first full day back at work.

It is very hard, still. I expect it will be for a long time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:23 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

Well, I guess its true

His obituary appeared today. I can't pretend that it was a mistake anymore. Because I conduct this blog behind a thin gauze curtain of anonymity, I cannot publish his obituary here. I'd like to. They do obits for prominent people in advance, did you know that? So that when there is a death, they can just run it after some quick updating. I read his today and learned some things about him that I never knew:

*Once CEO of a NY Stock Exchange traded corporation.

*Once National Conference of Christians and Jews Man of the Year.

*Once a recognized expert in New York City real estate law and regulations.

All that came as a surprise to me. You would never have known these things if you had spoken to him. He wasn't humble but he had the kind of deep inner self confidence that did not require a recitation of accomplishments in order to assure the listener of his place in the cosmos.

I am bereft.

I attended synagogue yesterday and today at lunch time for the afternoon service to recite the mourner's kaddish. The first day was too weird -- it was among the Lubuvitchers (spelling?) in mid-town. Didn't enjoy it all. Today I went to the Garment District Congregation, over on 7th Ave and 40th. I recited the kaddish and broke down in the middle, forcing myself through the ancient cadence as the words washed over me, as the congregation recited it with me. I knew no one in the room, other than my father. There, surrounded by strangers, I said the formal mourning prayer.

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

You may find this explanation interesting, assuming you read the translation from the Hebrew. Because if you did, you would have noticed that there is no mention of death, just of peace.

Having read the translation of the Kaddish Prayer, one should realize that, although Jewish Law requires that the Kaddish be recited during the first eleven months following the death of a loved one by prescribed mourners, and on each anniversary of the death (the "Yahrtzeit"), and by custom in the State of Israel by all Jews on the Tenth of Tevet ("Yom HaKaddish HaKlali'), there is no reference, no word even, about death in the prayer!

The theme of Kaddish is, rather, the Greatness of G-d, Who conducts the entire universe, and especially his most favored creature, each individual human being, with careful supervision. In this prayer, we also pray for peace - from apparently the only One Who can guarantee it - peace between nations, peace between individuals, and peace of mind.

Paradoxically, this is, in fact, the only true comfort in the case of the loss of a loved one. That is, to be able to view the passing of the beloved individual from the perspective that that person's soul was gathered in, so to speak, by the One Who had provided it in the first place.

As Beruriah, the great wife of Rabbi Meir, consoled her husband, upon the death of their two sons, with words to this effect, "A soul is comparable to an object which was given to us - to each individual, to his or her parents and loved ones, to guard and watch over for a limited time. When the time comes for the object to be returned to its rightful owner, should we not be willing to return it? With regard to our sons, let us therefore consider the matter as 'The L-rd gave, and the L-rd took back, may the Name of the L-rd be Blessed!' "


I hope, now that his soul has been taken from me, that there is someone else who is caring for it. That concept is somewhat comforting.

Thank you all for the comments you've left. They've helped more than I would have thought possible, actually. And for those of you who have sent me emails, I am very touched. I had not intended to leave comments on for the last post. I haven't had any comments on for any of the posts about my grandfather but I am glad I was too distracted to remember to shut them off. So, I'll leave them on now, too.

Tomorrow is the funeral. We start to sit shiva after the funeral. I may not be posting for the next couple of days. Or I may post compusively as I try to write through my grief. I'm scared about tomorrow. I'm afraid I will melt away. I am barely keeping it together now. On the other hand, maybe it will come as a relief.

Either way, tomorrow will be a very cold day for a burial. Seems fitting.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:34 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

October 6, 1914 - December 3, 2005

I awoke this morning to a blanket of snow on the yard, to more snow falling, and to the grim news heralded by the blinking light on the answering machine that my grandfather died last night. My mother didn't leave the news on the machine, but I knew why she was calling at 11:47 p.m. Why else?

I am curiously empty.

I told the kids this morning over breakfast. The Girl Child looked up from her oatmeal (with pomegranate seeds, pretty yummy). She wanted to know: "why did he go so early, before the new baby came?" I explained it was just his time, that he was very old and very sick.

We visited him yesterday, the Girl Child and Boy Child and me. They played in his room and gave him kisses. I cupped his head in my hands, peered into his beautiful eyes and told him that I loved him when I left. His eyes were odd. Multi-hued and strangely translucent and terribly fragile looking. He began to tremble during our visit and I went and found another blanket to tuck around his shoulders. I am happy that I was able to provide something for him. My mother thinks that he was waiting for me to visit so he could go. She bases this on the fact that he told me, when I asked how he was, that he was going to be going soon. I don't know. Perhaps. I am sceptical.

I wrote about his birthday last year (2004), if you are curious.

I suspect it hasn't hit me yet. I am, not curiously empty, but painfully empty. The grief, when it deigns to arrive, will be convulsive. It will not, I suspect, be grief for him as much as it will be grief for me. When someone dies, someone who was so intimately involved and such an integral part of your life, he takes you with him. Your life, a part of it, has died with him. The reminiscences are gone with him, the shared memories are gone. The shared memories have gone from a dialogue to a monologue. Monologues are lonely. His memories, his views of our experiences together, have returned to the earth.

I'm also going to be feeling bereft. His guidance, his advice, his protective and sheltering embrace and presence is gone. I feel less protected just by his no longer being.

My wife is reading about shiva, sitting next to me, in the Jewish Book of Why. She just said, "this is so confusing". Welcome to the practice of Judaism.

I may write more later. It is all too fresh.

I need to go take the wine off the stove. I am reducing a bottle of wine to a cup in order to make a wine reduction to braise some short ribs in. That's what we seem to do in my family. People die, the survivors cook.

I have not spellchecked this.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:37 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

December 02, 2005

Thought for the day

Lift hard or go home.

I anticipate the pain to begin sometime tomorrow. More ambitious parts of the body will start hurting sooner.

Just a thought, when using a personal trainer for weight lifting, as I have been doing, and not just for some bullshit weeny motivation for cardio, you could do better than to mimic my example of motivating my trainer to push me harder by: asking him when he was going to actually start making me work; inquiring whether I was paying him so we could sit around; asking whether that was really all the weight he wanted me to lift; and basically implying that he wasn't pushing hard enough. I suspect this is going to end in tears. Mine. And by tears I mean both the saline from the eyes and the thing that happens when a muscle rips. Same spelling, two meanings and I think I mean both.

But all that said, how else are you going to convince the guy that a leg press at 230 is for wimps? By making him let you do it at 290 and going for 15 reps easily, that's how.

He says I'm the only client who tells him that he doesn't make me work hard enough.

I can believe it.

Lift hard or go home. That's what he's taken to saying. Me? I tell him that I want to leave it all on the floor, that I want to leave the room with nothing left in me.

Maybe he'll start believing me.

We only lift together once a week, but I try real hard to get in there at least every business day morning to do at least 45 minutes of cardio.

How often do you all work out?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The bigger the word, the bigger the brain? Hardly

I may be repeating myself here and I am prepared to take that risk (even if I am too lazy to search my own archieves to check). Let's start with one simple proposition that I hope we can all agree on: English is a beautiful and expressive language. It is also a large language and, at times, a very elastic language, growing all the time. Its also a lot of fun.

Sometimes, it is used poorly. Sometimes it is used pretentiously, to make the speaker appear either smarter or better educated than the speaker really is. It is this to which I address my objections today.

Let's begin with a common and annoying mistake.

Method and methodology are not synonyms.

Method is, according to Answer. com (not better or worse than any other place to go for a definition): "A means or manner of procedure, especially a regular and systematic way of accomplishing something".

Methodology is: "A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline or engage in an inquiry; a set of working methods".

See the difference? See why saying methodology, because it sounds more important since its longer and since it has that nifty "logy" ending, does not make you sound smarter? Method is a perfectly nice word, a good word, even. even has a helpful usage note on this point:

USAGE NOTE Methodology can properly refer to the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge. In this sense, one may speak of objections to the methodology of a geographic survey (that is, objections dealing with the appropriateness of the methods used) or of the methodology of modern cognitive psychology (that is, the principles and practices that underlie research in the field). In recent years, however, methodology has been increasingly used as a pretentious substitute for method in scientific and technical contexts, as in The oil company has not yet decided on a methodology for restoring the beaches. People may have taken to this practice by influence of the adjective methodological to mean “pertaining to methods.” Methodological may have acquired this meaning because people had already been using the more ordinary adjective methodical to mean “orderly, systematic.” But the misuse of methodology obscures an important conceptual distinction between the tools of scientific investigation (properly methods) and the principles that determine how such tools are deployed and interpreted.

Let us turn our attention to another confusing substitution we often see: difference and differential. They do not mean the same thing.

Difference: "The quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar."

Differential: "Of, relating to, or showing a difference"

Again, see the difference? One is the whole shooting match and the other is, basically, the measurement of the difference. People can't tell the difference between red and blue when they are color blind. Good. People can't tell the differential between red and blue, etc. Bad.

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’”

Rant concluded. Please go about your normal activities. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along. My medication ought to be kicking it any second now, and when it does, I am certain it will be impactful*.

*Another time, soon, we will talk about these horrid creations. Impactful. *shudder*

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:21 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

I have lacked, what, lately

Something. I'm not entirely sure what, though. Inspiration? Energy to post? Material? What?

Has this exercise run its natural course? Should I bow out now rather than let the poor thing expire from lack of care and attention?

Beats me. I don't think I'm ready to do that, although I may be teetering a bit. It may just be that I am feeling a tad beaten down at the moment with the confluence of recent events -- my grandfather (terribly sick but still lingering); a bout of stomach flu; the whole stress of the nanny situation; the pregnancy; unhappiness with my current employment; etc. I think I stop here with the list. It grows unseemly and smacks of whining. To balance it out, though, and to note that there are still bright spots and that not all is doom and gloom, I was just told by a retired three star Marine General that my leadership on a recent committee I chaired was "superb". That was rather nice, considering the source.

So, stay tuned. I'm not ready to hang it up. I'm just, perhaps, in a bit of a dry spell coupled with a severe case of the lassitudes.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:52 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack