Thursday, October 31, 2013

CATTY THOUGHTS

     Sylvie has a soft spot. To make sure, she is soft all over, but in my "demon kitty's" heart there is one preference: myself. She often looks at me longingly, like she is saying: "I 'd really like to go to you, if I was sure that you want me to do it!" 



     Most of the time I welcome her expressions of love, be they a thorough rubbing of my shins or guiding me to bathroom and ecstatically greeting me there by rolling on her back on a mat in front of the toilet bawl, or jumping on an arm of the couch where I seat and passionately licking every exposed piece of skin. She just did that, and I responded by scratching all her favorite places. While doing it, I glanced at Chickie, who was sitting on the floor in front of us. 

He gave me and Sylvie a really dirty look ("I tried to lick you earlier today, and you rejected my advances! I just spent an hour sleeping by your side and now you are petting this... female!") Yes, I could see it all on his face! He then proceeded to lick his butt, which further confirmed that what I saw on his face were his real thoughts. 

FRIENDS AND FAMILY 5 - repost



CHAPTER 5


     A cold January evening found us disembarking in New York City. The family got smaller by half its members when Lera and Grisha dropped a bomb and announced in Italy, they were going to Denmark, where Grisha's uncle lived. The relatives in New York met and took us in, helping for the first few months in America. I still felt terribly out of place. I studied English and tried to see my way if not to happiness, then to some kind of contentment! I went out with guys, but nothing good came out of it. I asked God to help me find something other than tawdry relationships. The months flew by, I watched TV, prayed and bickered with my mother. One time I saw a table with church brochures on the street in front of the New Yorker Hotel. A man started to talk with me, but because I could hardly understand him, I just smiled ruefully and walked away. 

     A few months later I felt more confident. What's more, I had some work done on my teeth and now, even though I was not aware of that, I began to smile freely, letting my spirit shine through. A young man came to my door, selling funny clip-on toys. When he heard my accent, he asked where I was from. I invited him in. He started to tell me about his church and ask questions about my spiritual life. He was the first person ever to do so. All I could think of was: "This is what I was waiting for!"

     I went to the Unification Church's Sunday Service, then to the Witnessing Video Center. The band played there most nights and I felt like this was a familiar environment. That was soon after the Madison Square Garden Blessing of Marriage Ceremony, and I saw a lot of radiant hope in my hosts, who were willing to share this hope and their friendship with me. When I worked at the theater, I always felt self-conscious and inadequate among the actors. Now I was welcomed and encouraged. Even my broken English was declared to be "very good!".
     I couldn't even think of telling parents about my new pursuits. I secretly went to a two-day workshop, stayed for seven days and never left after that. My poor mother and father went through hell, hearing all the rumors about the Unification Church. They thought, they lost me forever! I tried to introduce them to various church members, who spoke Russian, but all was in vain. All that talk about God didn't make any sense to them. The fact that I was happy and fulfilled, for the first time in my life, didn't seem to matter: the poison they were taught their whole life prevented them from accepting my faith. 

     The conventional wisdom would've predicted a sound failure of my current absorption. My mother repeated it often enough over the coming years: "You'll have nothing, you'll die in the ditch! They are just using all of you, you idiots!" And its true, most of the Unification Church members remain poor, although my future husband was able to make good living. But what I learned early in life was still true for me then: "One does not live by bread alone". When I and my husband started family, the parents came to live with us. Dad and mom helped raise their grandchildren and supported our family for many years. Those were the happiest years in their lives. It took a long time, but I came to realize: the causes and the leaders didn't make one happy. Unlike Heavenly Father, they are bound to disappoint. Each person needs to learn to emit a sort of a gravitational pull, like planets and stars do, like God does, to keep and take responsibility for those in their sphere of influence. The happiness arises from an assurance, you are there for each other no matter what! The greatest joy, though, comes when we realize, the trials and destinies of each little person and a family somehow matter and are close to the loving Heart of God.





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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AL ANON

     As Mr. P suggested (strongly), I went to a meeting of a group called Al Anon Family Group. You see, what I heard when Mr. P said that name a few times, was Alanon. It sounded interesting, even romantic that way and - not at all connected to it's true purpose. And the purpose of the Al Anon's Family Group is to be a forum or a support for the families of...(drum beat!) alcoholics! Al - Anon (Alcoholics Anonymous): get it? 
     To tell the truth, I was shocked. What does alcoholism have to do with me? I could spin it and say that an addiction to food is, well, also an addiction. But that group is for the families of the addicts! 
     As the meeting started with the necessary, according to the rules, readings and formalities, I almost fell asleep from boredom, but Mr. P was sitting where he could keep an eye on me, so I couldn't really doze off. 
     Who's life is not messed up? Whose relationships are not, at least, a little bit messy? May be the advice heard in that group could be beneficial to all who seek therapy and a resolution of some problem in their life. Doing my best to think positive like that, I forced myself to stay alert and see what I can glean from that meeting. 
     No matter what spin I put on me being there, as soon as the family members of real alcoholics and addicts spoke up, my own puny problems just simply faded to the background of my mind. Here were people who had to deal with kids getting sick or incarcerated or murdered because of their alcoholism. What was I going to share? How my husband used to break dishes when he was angry but now he is behaving so much better? I still think that I have nothing to do there. I wonder, what will Mr. P say to that at out next meeting?

MUM!

 http://www.wimp.com/yourfavorite/

ANGST

     The Unification Church magazine (UCmag) is going to print a compilation of my stories. I don't know if that's what it will be, since they took some of every piece that I wrote about my family, cut it to a minute size and combined it to vaguely look like one story. I am not very happy with the form it took, but, I think, I'll settle for it. It's better to be published than not, isn't it? Isn't it? 
     To tell the truth, I lack the confidence that I will ever write anything of value. It's stupid, I know, since I did not write to be judged for my writing abilities or to be published. I wrote only to get my memories of what my parents told me about our family and my own experiences - out of my head and into the open, where I and anybody who cares to do so, can look at them and take what they want and leave the rest.
     What then should I do? I will do what I already decided: let the UCmag publish my stories as they wish, and hope that someone else will become interested in them and treat them with more respect. In the meantime, I will look for inspiration and other things to put to paper. How about that? 
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Photo by David Oran Miller

FRIENDS AND FAMILY 4

CHAPTER 4      
Mother

     We huddled in a small frightened group in the enclosure at the Vienna airport. We expected many things on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but not this. The representative of the Jewish organization, which was supposed to help us with the immigration, met us at the airport, accompanied by half a dozen of soldiers with rifles: "for protection". Because most of the people were going to the U.S., they didn't want to surrender their visas in fear that they'd be compelled to go to Israel instead. That's why my mom, who was approached first with the request to
submit her visa, brought her palm forward in a gesture of emphatic denial and announced with as much aplomb (and English) as she could master: "I have 'Nos-sing' (nothing)!" She and the other immigrants, who sensed a leader in her, then proceeded to trot away around the enclosure, followed by the official, looking exactly like a flock of sheep with a sheepdog nipping at their heels.
     After a few minutes of fruitless pursuit, he got fed up. "Halt", - he roared - "get to the wall, put your luggage down!" He then gestured to the soldiers. They surrounded the group and pointed their rifles at them. Now, these were the Jewish people, standing in a totally unfamiliar environment, surrounded from all sides by rifles and the German speech, with an official rep yelling "Halt!" The situation reached such a degree of unbelievable that, I could hardly suppress the desire to giggle and stick my finger into the barrel of the rifle that was in front of my face!
     Docile now, the immigrants were loaded into the bus and driven to the compound where we were to stay. We took in the high walls with barbed wire on them, and the guards on the towers and started to sweat in earnest. What now: "Abandon hope, ye who enter here"?
     Everything was alright inside though. Each family got a clean dorm room and settled down for the night.
     The next couple of mom's presumed special standing among the others, our family was called first for an interview. After the scene at the airport, we wanted even less to do with going to Israel than ever before. Annoyed by our stubbornness, the officials retaliated. They took our family to the Vienna train station and left us there with all the luggage, - minus the visas, the translation or any idea what to do next!


     Fortunately, prompted by these dire circumstances, the rusty memory wheels in dad's brain turned and he remembered that he spoke some German! With his aid we found the American Embassy. There he was obliged to disclose the names of all the relatives in the U.S. He had a translator, but, once into German, he couldn't switch back to Russian! 


     Everything went smoothly from then on. We spent a few days in a motel in Vienna, then - an unforgettable month and a half in Italy, waiting for our entrance visas to the U.S. At first, I was sicker than a dog, - with cold as well as with longing for my friends and the theater.

     Lera, her husband, Grisha, and I went walking around Rome and to the Christmas Mass in Vatican. 


 

I sat separately: that gave me the freedom to pray. The Pope was giving the Mass. My heart was overflowing with sincere repentance. I felt an incredible feeling of peace come and envelope me, warmer then any loving embrace. The priest, who was walking down the aisle, noticed how special my emotional state was; he came and blessed me. Ever since that day, I kept up the prayer. Because I didn't know about the great division in Christianity, I didn't understand, why the churches that I visited looked so different from one another. God's Grace found me in every one of them. 

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

DUMMIES

     It is cold and gloomy outside. From where I sit I can see a patch of grass in the garden, the concrete of a patio right outside the glass door to the backyard, a ladder and a part of our fence. The old black man stands by the wall of the house, wearing only a red t-shirt and a decrepit straw hat. Every time I catch a glimpse if him out of the corner of my eye, I get a shock. Wouldn't you? Fortunately, it is just a boxing dummy! 
     Taka talked me into buying it about ten years ago. It came with boxing gloves. We had to purchase a big sack of sand to anchor it in place. Before we bought a house, it stood in the corner of our apartment's living room and I got startled by it then too. 
     The dummy was not such a dummy then! When one hit it in a right place with sufficient force, one or another of the lights on it's black frame lit up. Taka's reason for buying it was to get rid of the pent up bad feelings. He played with it exactly five times since then. The boxing gloves disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle that was our apartment. Eventually, kids dressed the dummy in their cast off clothes and put an old Mexican hat on it.
     The first time anyone came to our home, they had a shock of their life suddenly noticing a tall silent black figure in the corner of the room. I lost one or two cleaning ladies that way. Maybe then the dummy was still satisfied that it had some impact on the world around it! Now it just stands on the  patio, it's hat quietly falling apart and now covering dummy's whole head. I saw a stray cat catch a sight of it and jump in the air once, but otherwise - it's just a vestige of an old idea that never panned out. 

FRIENDS AND FAMILY 3

CHAPTER 3 

     Emigration from the Soviet Union was akin to giving birth, with someone pushing a baby back into you! Every step of the way one had to contend with the government's resistance and people's prejudice. Our family's case was "lost" two times. Rimka had to leave her job, claiming that she suddenly found out, that she was three years older and eligible for retirement. Lera and I, both, tried to call it off, sick and tired of putting our lives on hold.

     My friend, a band musician, found me a job as a director's assistant in a small theater. Moscow and Russia were full of the theater-folk, but the authorities didn't like the innovation coming from the unsanctioned sources. The theater where I started working was performing - unheard of - the Rock Opera! The director was Armenian (another minus in the eyes of the powers-to-be). From the moment that I saw the actors not even acting, but just opening the curtain on both sides of the stage - so in sync, so gracefully - I was mesmerized. This was something I could really appreciate and give my full commitment!

     I found myself, an unlovely and unlovable, or so I believed, dilettante, amid a talented, attractive, graceful crowd of people. I didn't have any real skills, couldn't even type fast. I dived in anyway. My life changed one hundred percent. The troop didn't get paid until the authorities approved its work. When they had something to show, usually a middle-aged critic, in a wrinkled cheap suit would show up, watch the performance while chewing on a toothpick and, most of the time, declare it inconsistent with the ideals of the Marxist-Leninist society. The director would be told to prepare something else, and his people would live without pay for the next few months. Every day we ate just some bread with butter, the cheapest food at that time, drank a lot of tea and that was it. Now losing all interest in leaving Russia, I took my visa application back. My parents stopped supporting me. I would steal some food from our house and share it with friends.

At first, I thought that she found her idyll. It was a privilege and a pleasure to participate in a creative process, even as an administrator. I loved to watch the rehearsals and discuss theater and related things, sometimes, all night long. I came home when there was no other place to go, exhausted, but filled with inspiration. Every time I encountered my mother, we had a fight. Once, mm hit meon the face with a boot; once, I locked my mother in the bathroom and left the apartment. We were both off our rocker.

     Lera was introduced to a suitable young man, who was interested not only to marry her but also to emigrate. To make sure, he was a little peculiar. On one of the first dates they went to a restaurant. The "nobodies" like them had to wait in a long line to get in, and then they had to share the table with other people. Such was life in the U.S.S.R.! Lera felt very uncomfortable, so after the meal was finished, she wanted to leave. Grisha, her intended, put a hand on her arm and said, primly: "There's still bread left!" He didn't move from the table until the last of their bread disappeared. He had a lot of phobias and strange habits, but was a decent fellow, and Lera was already twenty eight. Rimka convinced her elder daughter that a peculiar husband was better than no husband. And so they got married.

     Wherever I went, on the street corners, on the dark stairwells, I saw men, who, interestingly enough, were almost alike looking. They read newspapers or searched the shop windows, but the realization finally donned: I was being watched. One morning, there was a knock on the door: "KGB!". The agent took me walking to the police station nearby. Dad, on a verge of a heart attack, followed us. The police and the KGB questioned me for close to two hours. They wanted to know, if there were any anti-Soviet activities going on in the theater, who there did what, and why I would work there without pay and why I wouldn't, already, leave the country! From shear fright I instinctively appeared to be a naive fool, just practicing the virtues extolled by the Soviet books: the love of the country and a selfless commitment to a cause. Time to time, an interrogator would say: "You know, we could put you in jail!" They couldn't get anywhere with me and let me go. My dad cried when he saw me come out of the police station. 


     The only way for me to convince my parents to leave me in Russia and go to the U.S. was to get married. I went to my theater's director and offered a deal: I'll fictitiously marry one of the actors who didn't have a permission to stay in Moscow, provide him with that opportunity, and he'll help me deceive mom and dad that I was in a stable marriage relationship.

     When I brought a skinny, bearded Armenian(!) actor home to introduce to the parents, I thought they would faint. Nevertheless, they set a table to welcome the guest. Like by magic, Lera appeared there too, and her squinty-eyed gaping added to the macabre nature of the evening. No-one believed that the proposed marriage was real.

     There is something to say for the conventional wisdom. They don't base novels or plays on it, but, unfortunately, most of the time, it rules the world. As predicted by the naysayers, despite all the inspiration that I received from her work and association with actors and the theater, things began to fall apart. After days and nights spent in exciting, culturally charged atmosphere, I felt even lonelier coming home alone. Some of my friends left the troop because they found the director to be a cult-like leader. Then he began to try and talk me into leaving Russia. She understood that my parents managed to bribe him. The idea of the fictitious marriage petered out and was abandoned.
     It all seemed like a terrible tragedy to me. This time I gave all my heart and felt even more betrayed then ever before. I was constantly tortured by thoughts of loneliness and despair. Standing on the train platforms, I played with an idea of stepping in front of the train and ending all that misery.

     I was probably a stupid unrealistic fool, making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but that was all I knew how to be. Things looked very dark for me, with no hope in sight.

     The same musician-friend who helped me find the job, came to my aide again. Some weeks before I realized that I was being played, he told me at a loud party, among the drinking and carousing: "If it will get too difficult for you, just talk to God!" I took it for one of his eccentricities, nodded and forgot all about it.       On a night that threatened to become my last on this Earth, I remembered the friend's words and, for the first time ever, poured my heart out in prayer to an unknown God. I knew that it was my last chance to survive the despair and confusion. I fell asleep, finally, and dreamed that I was running across the meadow. A sinister someone trapped me, and I called out to God for help. The voice said: "Draw the pictures of saints on the sand", and I became free. When I woke up, even before thinking about what happened the previous night, I felt completely different. The weight lifted off my shoulders; I felt elated, new and clean, and sure that I should go with her family to the U.S! On that morning Lera came to try and convince me to re-apply for the exit visa, but I shocked her and our parents by readily agreeing to do so.

     Nothing prepared me for this experience. Like all the generations of the Soviet people, I was raised as an atheist. We were taught that religion was used to control people and the clerics were all corrupt hypocrites. I didn't know anything about and was distrustful of the Jewish religion. The only ideas about God and Christianity came from some classic Russian literature, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. All that didn't matter, because God would not be stopped by lies and misrepresentation. He rushed into my heart with tremendous love, forgiveness and acceptance. I still felt depressed a lot, but the prayer helped me to withstand difficulties. No-one knew about that newly found faith.

     The family started to get everything in order to leave the country. All of them left their jobs (I still helped at the theater, though). According to the rules for the intending emigrants, dad had to re-paint the apartment, so he did, destroying the beautiful artistic work that he's done on it earlier. Now the walls of the flat were covered by the papers with the English phrases. Lera and I could catch on to that language quite easily. Father didn't even try. Mom attempted to learn and found herself so overcome by the unfamiliar sounds and rules of this tongue, that she would start yawning right in the teacher's face, after just a few minutes into a lesson!

     About two weeks before we had to leave, the police revoked our exit visas. They announced that the family was under suspicion for the illegal activities, and until it could be proven otherwise, they had to postpone the emigration.
     The panic ensued. If we didn't leave on the arranged date, we wouldn't have money to buy new airplane tickets. There was nothing left for us in Russia,- no jobs or lives, because the stigma of the traitors would prevent us from establishing those things anew. Every day, dad and both his daughters had to go to the police station to have a talk with a commissar - a representative of the Communist Party, or actually, the KGB. The meetings went smoothly. Once he told them: "I want to go to America too!" Our startled expressions alerted him to his mistake: "As a tourist, of course!"

     Lera and I found a Jewish police detective at that station and asked him to sign the paper, stating that there was no reason for detaining us in Russia. The man listened to us quietly, then signed the document
 on his knee, right in the hallway. We never knew his name or met him again, but he took a real chance to do this for our family. 

     We flew out of Moscow on a dreary, late December night. The immigrant lore suggested that we do certain things to be able to bring our property with us and have money once we get to the West. One of those things was to put all the expensive jewelry and clothes on to pass the Customs, another claimed that certain Russian products, like guitars, were in vogue in the West, and the immigrants could sell them there. As the result, I had five golden chains on my neck, and dad ran around the airport, snug and toasty in three coats, with a guitar in his hand! The family didn't pack wisely. The Customs officers took Meyer aside and checked him bodily for valuables. After a while, a senior officer came out, sized up the situation and said, venomously: "Why aren't you through the Customs yet? The plane is about to leave. Now you'll have to stay!" Mother attempted to take the golden chains off my neck, as ordered by the authorities, but they were impossibly tangled. For a moment she looked like she would gladly strangle her wayward daughter with those things. Instead, she turned to her family and barked: "Leave everything that they didn't check yet!" And so, the family's treasured china and silver, our photo albums and other heirlooms were left behind with the relatives.

     The queerest and most memorable moment of that evening for my parents and relatives came when the theater's producer, who was charged by the troop with seeing me off, suddenly stepped up to me and gave me a passionate kiss on the lips! Now my folks were convinced that all the rumors they heard of the bohemian goings on at my job were true! Actually, I was the one most surprised by the kiss: he never said a private word to me before in my life! 


     We were free! Funny, but we didn't feel happy. Most of the people on the bus carrying them to the plane were crying. Some - for their country and the families, and all the familiar and dear things they left behind. Some - because of the final humiliation that they suffered at the airport. 


     Good Bye, Mother Russia.


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Monday, October 28, 2013

NOTHING BUT CATS

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HANAH

     Hanah does not call. She does not e-mail or Skype or tweet "or nothin'". I send her my own heartfelt e-mails, gift cards to Safeway and pictures and videos of cats being cute and funny, but she does not respond. Somewhere, she, probably, laughs over those pictures and videos, but it's like there is a wall between us.
     In the movie Fireproof that I recently told you about, the main character, encouraged by his father, starts working on a relationship with his wife. Every time he talks to his mother, though, he gets irrationally cross with her, feeling that she nags him unnecessarily. I didn't hear any nagging! She would ask him how things were going and, maybe, a few details, and he would start getting edgy and abrasive toward her. In my heart I wailed: "Why do they do this to us?" - I meant children to parents - "We just want to have something in common with them, some connection!" This thing with Hanah stays in the back of my mind, because, what can I do about it that I'm already not doing? But - it's a live sore in my heart. 
     At the end of Fireproof, the main character realized that, it was his mother who instigated the process by which he was able to win his wife back and find God. He went to her then, hugged her and asked for forgiveness. I was crying at that moment, even though that's not really what the movie was about. Or, perhaps, it was the main point: the most essential changes in our lives come when we find a connection with our parents, and, most of all: our Heavenly Parent!

FRIENDS AND FAMILY 2

CHAPTER 2 

     Mom worked in a laboratory of a big orthopedic clinic. She quickly advanced to the top position, which she then occupied with relish. She was in charge of a few women, lab technicians. Some doctors were working closely with her to do their theses. The more power she felt from her position, the more she felt free to verbally abuse us. S
he ranted and raved for the smallest reason. Dad took to spending a lot of time playing chess at his brother's home. When questioned late in life, why he didn't leave his family at that time, he said, there was no-where to go! One had to have a permission to stay in Moscow, and apartments were worth killing over. It would also go against the very fiber of his being, to abandon the people for whom he was responsible. He made good money restoring historical buildings and painting murals in the public offices and institutions. Sometimes, there was no work, though, and his crew had to get by on any jobs they could find, like painting safety posters or doing apartments for the high and mighty. Meyer always was sure to give Rimka just a set amount of money every month and keep the rest, in case if there was no work later, and he had to endure her scolding.

     The family seemed to be well to do and keeping it together. I, sometimes, wondered, if anyone knew or cared about what went on in our apartment. Perhaps, mom was just a typical housewife and a mother, struggling with the finances and her teenagers? But once there was a day, for instance, when I came to my friend's apartment to go to school together in the morning, after enduring my mother's scorn and accusations. The friend's family was running around, getting ready for the day: the girls were braiding each other's hair, parents were joking with children. I didn't have to think about it much: the contrast with my own family was too stark and painful. I just started to cry, standing in the middle of their living room!
     So, the situation in our home wasn't usual or acceptable: Rimka's children and husband were being emotionally flayed in an unending, hopeless pattern of our lives. 

     As the result of this abuse, we stopped trusting our parents. One of them was the cause of pain and another was helpless to stop it. I didn't know, what helped my sister to survive. We were six years apart, and Lera became an adult and a stranger when I was just starting to form my real character and opinions. Ironically, it was my mother, who gave me the beginnings of the idealism and a certain stubbornness, by providing the books with the role models in them, whom I wanted to emulate.

     Something was missing, though. The books spoke of and assigned enormous value to love and romance. But those things were terribly hard to come by! And, even more importantly, where was the purpose, worthy of committing my whole life to it? I found friends who were like myself in trying to focus on their inner life and culture (maybe, because there was nothing happening in their lives otherwise?). We scoured Moscow for cultural events. We met a lot of odd people and heard many ideas about saving the world and oneself, that ranged from meditation to veganism, to walking on the snow barefoot.
     Nothing appealed to me. I felt like I was drifting in the fog, without a direction or aim, avoiding studies in preparation for college exams. One after one I failed them.
     
     Now what? I worked in the newspaper, sharing the duties of a delivery girl, proofreader and a on-the-spot journalist. My social life was erratic; I no longer listened to the parents' ideas about an appropriate behavior. Each relationship ended as soon as it begun, and brought me immeasurable heartbreak. Then came the last blow.
     I attempted to get into the Moscow University. As a Jewish person, I should've known better. Upon meeting the Dean of the Journalism Department to find out, why I didn't get in, he bluntly declared: "We have enough of your kind of people!". For this reason or that, nobody wanted me! Dad and mom came to me then with the proposition to emigrate to the U.S. I didn't refuse. 

     By then, Lera, who did everything with less drama and more elbow grease, finished college and found a stable job. Mother was desperately trying to marry her off, because at twenty five she was approaching the spinsterhood, wasn't she?! The inevitable matchmakers showed up, sized her up and tried to ply her on every Jewish mother's son in Moscow! By extension, no self-respecting matchmaker would miss a chance to find a husband for a younger sister! And so, here they came: the strange and the stranger men and blind dates, but after meeting me, no one was interested to do it again. That only confirmed my conviction that nobody wanted me. Later on in life, when I looked at my pictures at that age, I saw a fresh-faced girl, attractive in a spiritual kind of way. I was neither fat nor frumpy at all, as I believed myself to be. I guessed, those men were baffled, even intimidated to find somebody like myself, - not a usual type of the girls desperate to get married. That wisdom couldn't help the younger Dina, though.




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Sunday, October 27, 2013

NOTHING BUT CATS


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KARMA AND MR. P

Another talk with Mr. P. I had to drive to Alameda, about 30 minutes away from here, to meet him. What's more important, it was in the evening and I am very uncomfortable driving in the dark. We arranged for me to see him at a cafe today. 
     Karma struck, and a small packet of jelly that I stole (borrowed, like Roberta says) from a restaurant burst in my purse. As a result, I had to just pick up my car keys, check book, wallet and cell phone separately, find pockets where to put them all and go see Mr. P. I was OK, even early, found some parking, walked a couple of blocks to the cafe. As I was paying for my double cappuccino (I had to stay awake, didn't I), I suddenly realized that my checkbook was not in the pocket where I put it. Just like that, my easy, relaxed evening turned into a nightmare. I asked a barista to mind my cappuccino and did  trotted  in a panic back to the car, all the while imagining some bum hurrying away, gleefully, with my checkbook. Fortunately, I guess, in heaven they don't consider stealing (or borrowing) jelly from restaurants as heavy offence (like that's the worst I have done!). Checkbook waited for me innocently on the floor of my car. Another panicked trot back to the cafe, now-  because I was late for the appointment, - and everything returned back to normal.
     Mr. P is very intuitive. Almost from the beginning of a session he, usually, zeros in on a thing that's central to my well-being at a moment. 
     What were the main points today? Relationship with Christ and relationship with Taka. I told Mr. P the story of how God was there for me as soon as I opened my heart to Him/Her. Then our conversation somehow slid toward Taka. I was telling Mr. P that, I think, we are doing much better than before, but as he asked me questions about the past problems, all I could feel toward those hurts was... nothing. That alerted me to a fact that instead of being happy about the new developments between Taka and I, I was numbing myself to the past hurts, as if preparing to experience them again. Does it make sense to you? 
     Today I took with me from the session with Mr. P the following: 
1. Expectation gives birth to bitterness.
2. As one thinks, so she is.
3. Can't change others.
4. Being Dina-Llama is still the best course of action and stealing (or even borrowing) jelly is not consistent with that.


FOILED AGAIN!

 






  As I sat down and pulled the laptop closer to me to check on my online happenings, Chicken Bone climbed into my arms with a short "Mya!" He is asking for something special for a few days now. Would it be an extra helping of cream in his dish, a snack or a hug, we don't know. He'll take anything he can get! Just now he made himself comfortable sitting on my chest, turned his head this way and that listening to Moonlight Sonata playing on YouTube, tried to meow to it but failed. He licked my hand, small fangs in his mouth reminding me that he is, in fact, an animal, a being with instincts and wants, most of which I can not understand. He then kneaded me for a few seconds. He leaned into my palm, asking for a good scratch. It took a long time of me rubbing and scratching the sides of his face, his little ears and head. Finally, he was satisfied and lay down quietly, me holding him to my chest like a baby. 
     Sylvie, of course, is sulking by the bathroom. It is her chosen mission in life to bring me there. When I don't get her hint that that's where I'm suppose to go, she sits by the bathroom door until I change my mind. Then she nonchalantly would stroll inside in front of me, her back end waddling, like she is saying: "I told you that you should've come here!" 



      Chickie heard Park arrive and knock on Roberta's outside door. He abandoned me without a backward glance and ran into their room to see if he can sneak outside while Park is trying to get in the door. Yesterday, Park suddenly shouted to me: "What's Chicken Bone doing outside?" And really, there he was, strolling around the parking lot, sniffing out all the interesting smells. I was making dinner and my hands were covered in ground chicken (another soft meal for Taka). I saw Park run out of the house like a crazy emu, after Chickie, but couldn't do so myself before washing hands. Then I grabbed a piece of lunch meat and also went outside. Chickie already led gasping Park in hot pursuit once around the house. I smacked my lips a few times and waived lunch meat in the air. Chickie immediately forgot his attempt to run for freedom. He gave a few short meows: "Meh, meh, meeow!!!" - and followed me home, all the while scenting the air to see what kind of treat I was offering to him. 
     Today his plan to run away through Roberta's door was foiled. He was expelled from her room and sat looking at her closed door in hopes that Park will come out and give him a little something to nosh. He was not disappointed!
     

FRIENDS AND FAMILY 1



Here's what happened after Rimka and Meyer got married.


                       FRIENDS AND FAMILY 

CHAPTER 1 


      Communal kitchen
They were lucky: there were only four families and, all together, 11 people in their apartment. Some flats were even more overcrowded. Each family had one room. There was one bathroom and a shower for all of them and a cavernous, damp, and dimly lit kitchen with four stoves in it. At least, the toilet was inside! Their previous flat had no such luxury: the tenants had to use the outhouse. Sometimes, when they became desperate and the outhouse was occupied, they had to run to the cafeteria a couple of blocks away, to "take care of business". Rimka [my mother] liked the outhouse, though, at first, because it was the only place where she could be by herself. Later, she even made a friend there! It was a rat, - a gray, scrawny thing with a long bumpy pink tail. The rat would show up every time Rimka went to the bathroom. The animal would sit quietly in the corner, twitching her nose or grooming herself. After her initial reservations abated, Rimka began to talk to her companion about her day and what was on her mind. The rat then moved into Rimka's and Meyer's [my dad's] room, occupying a small vanity cabinet. The humans, true to their unfriendly nature, tried to scare the rat away by borrowing a fat tom cat from the neighbors. The cat and the rat didn't like the look of each other one bit: they ran in opposite directions as if they saw the devil himself. Rimka was somewhat sad to lose her friend. The rat never returned, and soon the young couple moved away. 

My parents






                                                                                                                                                              
Now they lived in the tenement known as the "Barracks". The 11 people in four rooms with one bathroom and one kitchen for four women were slowly driving each other crazy. Soon, Rimka had a little girl, adding to the atmosphere a smell of diapers and the baby's cries. Meyer's distant relative came to Moscow and they let him have a cot by the window. All day long, he, a cobbler by profession, sat and clip-clip-clopped the tiny nails into the soles of the shoes. Rimka's baby daughter, Lera, laid in her crib and craned her neck and screwed up her beautiful Jewish eyes, trying to see, who made all that interesting noise. Her parents came to believe that this was the reason why she turned a bit cross eyed and had to wear glasses since very early in her life. She was perfect in every other way: plump, and cute, and mild tempered. 


The Barracks sprawled in the poor part of Moscow, surrounded by rising new apartment buildings, amid the eternal puddles and mud pits.

 
Rimka once noticed a small boy falling into such a mud pit. The mud began to suck him under. Forgetting her big pregnant belly (a child number two), Rimka grabbed a wooden pole left by the construction workers and stuck it into the pit in front of the boy. She then was able to pull him out. That earned her a lot of respect from the other tenants; for a while, at least, until the next kitchen war erupted and her heroic fit was forgotten. 

When Meyer came to the Maternity Hospital and found out that he became the father of another baby girl, he forgot to be polite and left, to wander the streets in disappointment. The child was so sickly from the beginning that she couldn't come home for a long time. Lera was always left with the neighbors, or alone in the crib, to wait for her mother. She grew so frustrated by the sudden loss of parental attention, that the first time she was able to see her sister, she smacked her on the head and ran away crying. She learned to be more patient later on: the first thing in life that her younger sibling [I]could remember was the face of the older sister, watching over her in the darkened room by the light of the lamp.

Families often celebrated together


Although the life in the communal flat was by no means easy, it held some undeniable benefits. There was no room to misbehave, at least not too much. Everyone knew, what was going on in the neighbors' lives. The kids were surrounded by the built-in baby-sitters. They learned to respect the adults and mind their manners because, if their own parents were lax in that kind of education, there were plenty of people to show them the way. They played unending games in the dark corridors smelling of moth balls, garlic and borscht, among the countless coats, parkas and bicycles. 
So, how did the adults managed to keep their humanity and their families intact in such circumstances? They had to have a mighty strong motivation, a hope. Sometimes, it was a hope in the better future, brought about by following the communist dogma. Sometimes, after the terrible losses of the war, they were in love with life itself, determined to beat the stubborn grimness of their reality. They re-built the world, birthed children and refused to give in. They worked and came home to their families, loved and, some, nourished their inner lives to a point when it gave them strength to overcome the external difficulties. 

That business of life... Were they happy or not? Did it matter? Rimka was too preoccupied with keeping her younger daughter alive to ponder such things. I seemed to attract every childhood disease that was there. Some well-wishers began to tell Rimka to let the baby go, but Rimka wouldn't hear of it. She fought for me the I started to show the signs of improvement. I began to put on some baby fat and to smile more: I was out of danger. Then came the day when Rimka returned home from work, went to look in on the baby and found me staring solemnly: eyes huge in my drawn pale face, just like I was, when a sickness claimed me. Rimka grabbed the baby, I let out a yelp of pain. When Rimka frantically questioned Meyer, who was supposed to be baby-sitting, he told her that he was playing, throwing me up and down. Even though he was trying to be careful, on one throw he almost didn't catch me. I was plummeting to the floor, when he managed to grab my arm and jerked me up. He saved me from a worse injury, but my shoulder was dislocated. Meyer was (to his relief) banned from baby-sitting, and the job went to Babka (Gramps) Natasha, one of the elderly neighbors from the same flat. 
Babka Natasha looked ancient. The wrinkles holding her toothless face together made her seem wise and amiable. They hid the fact that, she was the worst hater and gossiper in the whole apartment! Once, benignly looking at Lera and myself, playing on the floor of her room, she casually remarked to Rimka: "It's too bad, Hitler didn't finish what he started with you, Jews! Now look - you're multiplying like rabbits!" Unfortunately, there was no one else to take care of the kids, when the parents were at work, so Babka Natasha still did that until our family moved out. 

Dad's parents (here is his
            natural father. His mother remarried
after the war)
By pushing here and pulling there, greasing some palms on the way, Rimka managed to get an apartment. It had a large bedroom and a den, so Meyer's mother and a step-father came to live with them. The step-father was a stern but fair man. He liked us, grand-kids, and spent his days shuffling about in the apartment, but as soon as he heard Rimka's key in the door, he would hurry to his room, muttering: "Gendarme, gendarme!" (a old word for a policeman). He disliked her intensely for constant nagging and arbitrary rules that she imposed on her in-laws. One time he made a mistake and in his haste walked right into a flat pan of paint that Meyer used to paint the apartment. He didn't even slow down, just kept on shuffling as fast as he could, leaving green streaks on the shining blond parquet floor!
The family had a food cabinet that was shared by all. Dad, wanting to please his parents, built a divider, to make two separate compartments. When Rimka saw it, she became so enraged by this breach of her authority that she grabbed an ax and chopped the cabinet to pieces! Since then, the grandmother rarely left her room; she watched children there, put us for a nap on her tall, soft bed or holding us to her soft, pillowy frame. When she dared to come out, she always seemed to hold my little hand in her own, whether to keep an eye on the child or to gain a degree of confidence from that small contact. 

The children were growing. No more toddlers, we donned the smart little school uniforms and "the Children of October" pins (the star shaped pins with the picture of Lenin as a child in the middle). Every day mom put giant white bows, bigger then our heads, in our hair. Although Lera was six years older, she and I went to the same school building from the first grade to the High School. 

It was our time to discover the world and ourselves. I came home invariably covered from head to toe in ink. A kindly cafeteria lady would dunk me in the tub in the kitchen and use industrial strength (and smell) soap to take off the worst of the stains! 
I was skinny, almost see-through, and Rimka's life's purpose became to make me eat. The cafeteria lady and every other caretaker joined her in that purpose. 



After a few years of being made to sit at the table until I finished my meal, or standing in the corner for stubbornly refusing to do so, I gave in.





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Saturday, October 26, 2013

SUBSTITUTE MEASURES

     Mary and I went to the pool again. Next week she will start the Weight Management Program. Mary is a very unconventional soul. When she went to doctor to discuss her blood test before starting  the Program, she found out that she has Diabetes. The doctor tried to impress upon her the importance of taking medicine and checking her blood sugar level a few times a day. 
     Mary said: "N-O!" She has her own views on health issues. For example, and we talked about all of that while meandering back and forward in the pool, - she says (after researching the matter) that elevated blood sugar is the result of the body's inability to process carbohydrates. So - there are some elements that can help us process the carbs, like Betadine.
     I only heard that word used to describe an antiseptic solution. Perhaps, she meant something else, after all, she purchased it in a pill form and will start taking it immediately. Another way to decrease blood sugar is to exercise. That works, I did it numerous times myself (not enough, mind you!). Mary said that doing repetitive weight pushing  makes your muscle start to absorb carbs instead of them being stashed in your bloodstream.   
     I am not sure, what I feel. I am a little depressed that I am not going to start the Weight Management Program with Mary, after all, it's so much easier to do those things with a friend's support. I am also a little relieved that I don't have to live on those ghastly shakes and nutrition bars and powder soups just yet. I will do so in the new year, won't I? 
     For now, I will just stick with pool, Betadine pills Mary bought me a bottle too) and, maybe, get me some hand weights. 
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RIMKA

T


T




RIMKA
     Did she like him? She, certainly, had better offers. Like that doctor, for example. But she would have never married the doctor, because she would have always felt inferior to him. And she could not abide that. 
     Meyer was a simple fellow, his family was crude and uninteresting in her eyes. She couldn't see beyond the dirty fingernails and bad table manners, that her unassuming boyfriend was a true craftsman. He joined the crew of, mostly, his relatives, who did various jobs in Moscow. Sure, when there was nothing else, they painted apartments or made safety posters to keep their families fed, but their main work was that of restoration. They put gold leaf on the great cupolas of the Russian churches (Jewish men, risking their lives on the flimsy scaffolding, to uplift and uphold the Russian spirit), painted and restored the train and, later, the metro stations, the historical buildings and the public offices. They were supposed to use stencils to create the appearance that the patterns were sculpted on the walls and the ceilings. Eventually, my father began to just paint them freehand. The Moscow Synagogue, after they were done with it, became a jewel, in hundreds of intricate blue and gold patterns. In fifty years that they spent together, Rimka will rarely think of that or appreciate his talent. She felt that she could be an unchallenged leader of him and their family and that's why she agreed to marry him. 
     She never mellowed out. Of course, she loved us from the bottom of her heart, but her father-in-law called her a gendarme, for the arbitrary rules that she imposed and the attacks of temper against the in-laws and her own family. Meyer tried to reason with her, but soon gave up and resolved, as much as possible, to stay out of her way. 
WE TOGETHER 

     They had two children, my sister and myself. To tell the truth, Meyer and Rimka needed each other. Meyer was easy going and he needed Rimka to push and nudge her family in the direction that, she believed, they should go. She also learned to appreciate Meyer, because she was uncomfortable, even afraid to be alone, and he was the one constant in her life. She loved humor, worked day and night to make her home and children look good. We were some of the best dressed kids at school. Her life's ambition, it seems, was to make me an erudite and a cultured person. She encouraged me to read and learn about arts. The reading of, literally, hundreds of books (my mother got us a "World of Literature" subscription and they sent us a weighty tome every month) backfired, though. From them I learned to be idealistic and to challenge the authority. She was the first authority I challenged. Now that I'm a parent, I understand, how unfair life can be to the parents of the teenagers. Even for the most tolerant folks, its hard to master the amount of patience and understanding that they require. There was no such tolerance in my mother. She could be warm and laughing one minute and take a quick offense the next. She was also never too shy with sharp reprimands or sharp slaps on the face. When we complained to our dad, who came from the war quite deaf in both ears, he would always reply: "She would not say that!" 
     How does this story end? My parents had more then a half a century to build up and tear each other down. Our family was able to move to the United States. The years when she helped raise her grandchildren were the happiest I've ever seen my mother. In 2002 she became sick with cancer. It was as if the lifetime of hurt and resentment, finally, manifested itself in the physical form, destroying her body and undermining her spirit. The last year before she passed away, she separated herself from everybody, like she was pushing us away before she was forced to lose everyone forever. Perhaps, that was the reason why she felt compelled one day, after brewing in her own thoughts for a while, to tell her husband: "I should've left you when I was younger!". My father was deeply hurt; he both, blamed and grieved for her, for the rest of his life. I think, though, that he never let go of the memory of that skinny, vulnerable, green-eyed girl that he met so long ago. 
     How does this story end? Well, it doesn't. Rimka left her stamp on us for all eternity. There isn't a day when the memory of her love, hard work, deeds and misdeeds doesn't influence my own actions and decisions. Her fierce desire for validation and control are alive in me too, even though I try to keep tighter rule on my emotions. Fortunately, I also inherited some of my father's tolerance and forgiveness, and so my own children will tell different kinds of tales about me. Or will they? 






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FIREPROOF starring Kirk Cameron




I was invited to see a movie tonight. I did not expect to be so moved by it. It is called Fireproof. It is about couples overcoming difficulties in their relationships with the power of God's love and self-sacrifice. I heard that the movie was made by volunteers, on a very small budget. It is really worth watching, if deep questions, like the nature of the relationships and our own relationship with the eternal and imperishable things, concern you. Then you'll love it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

SCANDALOUS!

     It's so strange and scandalous! I hope, my husband doesn't find out what I am now letting the whole world know: I get smiles and alerts that some single men in my area viewed my profile! Well, actually, they viewed my friend, Evelyn's, profile, with her name and a description in it, but since she is utterly computer illiterate, I helped her set up her profile on two matching websites and placed my e-mail address there
     It's  going to blow up in my face, I just know it. But what can I do? I promised to help her find a husband, and that's what we are doing. 



     Evelyn is beautiful and healthy and fit. She managed to raise a kid alone, who now is in one of the best colleges in the country. Why is it so hard to find a man who would be worthy of such a person? I already turned the world over (really, I talked to people from all over the States and Europe), but, so far, - no luck! Perhaps, with the help of the internet-the-all-knowing, we can unearth that elusive someone that God in Her wisdom prepared for Evelyn! And I hope, it'll happen before my husband starts asking questions about why single men find it necessary to send me their profiles!

RIMKA


RIMKA

     Grandma Velya really was sick. It was up to Rimka now to provide the necessities of life: food and the wood for fuel, to supplement their meager rations, as well as keep house and her own sanity. She spent the years of war doing just that. Her father and his family came to live in Moscow after the siege was lifted. He didn't have much to do with Rimka, but other relatives shamed him into helping her and his mother. 

     In fact, her relatives took more and more interest in the young woman that she became. They urged her to finish the nursing school, then to specialize as a lab technician She and the Grandma were still poor like the, let's say, synagogue mice. Rimka went out with a few young men, but nothing serious ever came out of this. She was getting older, but in the country where every third man died in the war, it was hard to find a suitable husband.

MEYER

     Meyer felt the warmth of the sun on his shoulders through a thin civilian shirt. After seven years of soldiering, the civilian shoes still felt strangely light on his feet. The clanging of the trams and the women's voices on the street thrilled him. He was safe. He survived the war, the bombings, the cold and the hunger, the German attacks and the anti-Semitic bastards in the Russian army. After Germany surrendered, he was sent to the Far East. 

images (188×123)
ff3383488d455754808514b304320900.jpg (531×818)     The Russian Army marched for hundreds of miles through Mongolia to the Japanese front, but the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war was over. The army sent him to Siberia then, to build some fortifications. He survived that too, although carrying giant logs and living in constant cold and wetness undermined his health in ways that he didn't even start to understand. But he went to war as a bookish, sickly young boy and he came back as a strong, reliable young man. After a couple of years at home, his mother began to nag him to find a good Jewish girl and get married. In fact, right now he was going to meet a young lady recommended by a matchmaker.
     As my future father neared his destination, he noticed that the houses were getting shabbier and shabbier. The place where he was going was, really, just a little hut sitting next to an apartment building. He knocked on the door - the lock was broken - and came inside. The pile of blankets on a bed in the darkened room moved, and a girl 's face showed up. He took in the huge, hungry green eyes, the hollow cheeks and a full lower lip. She was lovely. He introduced himself to her and the Grandmother who slept on a large bed behind the stove. He made himself useful by chopping wood, then, for a little while, made small talk. 
Rimka's (mom's) Grandmother, Velya (in front),
father (directly over her), step-mother (to the left of her)
and aunt and uncles.
     The next day, he came back and repaired the lock and some other things in the house. After that he kept showing up, hoping to understand whether they belonged together. Most of the time, she was shy and even a little bit cold. When he met her relatives, he felt out of place. They had a cultured air about them, and he was from a simple family of craftsmen. Rimka didn't encourage him too much, but she was always there when he called. He couldn't figure her out. Most of the time she was nice and proper, but, sometimes, she could be out of control, like when her Grandma took his side in an argument once and Rimka smacked her across the face. Perhaps, he thought, she will mellow out in marriage.
     One day, in the winter, they went to the store together. The new snow just fell, the streets were quiet and the air was crisp and almost ringing with anticipation. They started to throw snow balls at each other, then, breathless with laughter and exertion, they stopped and kissed in the gateway.



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ACCOMPLISHMENTS?


 Well, so far, I can't brag about my accomplishments. I didn't go on Weight management Program because it's better to do it next year, when we will get a tax break from spending all that money on medicine. I cancelled the pool outing with Mary yesterday and a session with Mr. P today because... There weren't any really compelling reasons to do it. I just had to juggle a few other things that I needed to do. It was possible to arrange everything, but my inner sleeper turned to the wall and announced: "I'm not going to think about it today. I'll think about it tomorrow!" That is a quote form Miss Scarlett O'Hara that I so often find myself mentally using to subvert my own efforts for good living. 
     Is it enough to be a Dina-Llama if my health and my life are falling apart? I myself wouldn't trust a person who encourages others and can't master will power to take care of oneself. On the other hand, what's that that Mr. P teaches me to remember? "Condemning my imperfections can never enhance my appreciation of life or help me love myself more." 
     I will do it! I will do it!






RIMKA

RIMKA

     After the fiasco at the farm, Rimka had to go home, of course, but, secretly, she was thrilled by her adventure. In Moscow, she continued to volunteer whenever she could. When the Germans started to throw the fire bugs, the devices that ignited on contact, from their planes, she ran with a group of her friends on the roofs of the Russian Capital, pushing the missiles off to the streets bellow. She was drafted to work at the munitions' factory. She worked so hard that the other women began to complain that because of her the quotas were getting higher. That discouraged Rimka so much that she became depressed again. Women had to live in the dormitories, they worked for many hours, without much rest. One day, Rimka hid to get some sleep during her shift. She was found, humiliated and almost court-martialed for abandoning her post during the war. Her age saved her and the fact that she was her sick Grandmother Velya's only caregiver.


MEYER
T



     Meyer and Wolfzon helped each other to pick up their loads and set off walking again, Meyer praying to God in whom he didn't believe and Wolfzon getting quietly high. In addition to smoking pot, he also dug out a bottle of hooch, and Meyer heard the musical sounds of the alcohol pouring into Wolfzon's mouth. No one could find drugs or booze better then Wolfzon. No matter, where the telephone unit was, how far in the countryside or in the most ransacked city, Wolfzon would lay his hands on anything that he could sniff, snort, take, drink or cook that would bring him the desired oblivion. It was a testament to the desperation of the Soviet government that a known drug addict and a flat-footed 18 year old boy, chronically suffering from severe sinus infections, were drafted at all.
     Twenty minutes later, and Wolfzon crushed to the ground again. He sat in the middle of the road, laughing and smearing the mud on his face and uniform. Meyer sighed and dropped the spool. He yelled to Serov to catch up with them quickly. Serov approached, swearing. He calmed down though and his eyes took on a sly expression, when Meyer explained his idea. He would walk by himself, laying the wire on the ground and come back for them after he reached their destination and left the empty spool there. They would then be able to manage Wolfzon and the things he carried and set the poles for the wire that Meyer had laid earlier, so that it would be out of the way of the traffic. The lieutenant, obviously, thought that Meyer might get blown up anyway, and, if otherwise, they'll be able to complete their task.
     As Meyer walked off, he heard the sound of lieutenant's fists smacking into Wolfzon. Wolfzon just grunted and giggled in response to the blows.
     The night became darker. Walking backwards with a heavy spool and unreeling the wire was hard work. Even so, from time to time Meyer looked up at the stars and mouthed prayers that his grandfather taught him.


MEYER

     His mind went from praying to thinking of his family. His parents emigrated to Russia from Poland sometime after the World War I. His mother was an orphan, but she made a life for herself by taking on the cleaning and sewing jobs. She had more money then her groom and even bought him a suit for the wedding! He was a happy man once, a loving husband and father. He often played violin for his family and guests. Anyone in need, even if they were complete strangers, were always welcome in his home for a meal or the shelter. Life beat the happiness out of him, but could not take away his charitable heart or the unique creativity with which he approached every task. Meyer moaned, thinking of how he wasn't allowed to go home to say good bye to his dying father. A few months after that, he received a notice that his brother, Samuel, was missing in action. Meyer shuddered to think what his starry-eyed poet and a bookworm brother went through in the war, before he disappeared somewhere in the bogs near Leningrad. At least Lev, his other brother, was out of danger. He had a cushy posting in the supply corps. Meyer's mother lived in Moscow with her only daughter and the grandchildren. Meyer's mind flinched away from thinking about them. It was too painful: he couldn't do anything to help or protect them.

     As he worked, the fear gradually dissipated. The spool was getting lighter. Meyer saw a crumbling wall of an abandoned village. He took a short rest in the club building, left everything there that he wouldn't need on the way back and set out to help Wolfzon and Serov. They had to drug Wolfzon between them, while Serov kept on a steady stream of dire threats and racial slurs. He insisted on putting unconscious Wolfzon in a separate hut for the few hours before the dawn.
     When they went to fetch him in the morning, he wasn't there. Usually, after drinking and doing drugs Wolfzon would be miserable and limp as a noodle, in withdrawal. They went out of the hut and looked around. The morning was quiet and ordinary. They saw Wolfzon, moseying toward them through a small apple orchard, chewing on an apple. He was weak but unharmed. Wolfzon finished the apple, spat the seeds and threw the uneaten core back into the trees. The blast of the explosion flung all of them to the ground, earth clods and pieces of the tree pelting them as they writhed in mortal fear. Afterwards, they sat there, digging the dirt from their eyes and trying to hear through the ringing in their ears. Wolfzon was pointing at what used to be an orchard and stuttering: "I w-w-walked through there j-just n-now!" Serov's pants were wet and sagging in the back and he smelled like shit.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

BLEND IT!

     Taka can only eat soft stuff. About two and a half  months ago he began having a toothache. He manfully waited for two weeks until he asked me to make a dentist appointment. The dentist found nothing, and Taka immediately started to think that he has jaw cancer. He started to come and talk to me in the evenings (he never did it before), all the while grabbing himself by the jaw and shaking it (perhaps, to check if it was still attached). I took a view that he should try to show his tooth to a dentist again before making the funeral arrangements. 
     This time the doctor found a crack in one of his bottom teeth. By that time Taka was already insisting on having soft rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do you know, how long it takes rice to cook until it becomes the consistency that Taka likes, namely, like runny glue?!
     At least he stopped talking about the jaw cancer. The dentist talked him into putting a crown on an offending molar. First he had a temporary crown put on. You should've seen him that evening! "That soup is too hot!" "This salmon pancake (believe it!) has jalapeno in it and a piece got stuck under my crown!" Every day I racked my brain about what to cook that will not require any chewing. Any kind of meat went into a blender, together with copious amounts of onion and breadcrumbs. I bought out the entire stock of tofu from a local supermarket and boiled it in a different sauce every day. 
     Gradually, I noticed that Taka became more brave about his food choices. He consumed cartons of ice cream and tins of pies. I saw him take on some shockingly pink Mexican cookies that were not at all soft. I still did my best to provide him with soft meals, but felt that the reprieve from perpetual blending, stirring, mashing the potatoes and "tofu-ing" was in sight. Not so!
     Yesterday he went and got a permanent crown. For some reason, he could not talk normally when he got home. Sonny and I both caught something about him "not breathing" and became really concerned. I went after him and began probing for a reason why he couldn't breathe. He looked at me disgustedly and enunciated it better through locked teeth: "Bl-r-l-r-eeding!" "Bl-r-l-r-eeding!" (Japanese have hard time pronouncing their Rs). It turned out, he also got his other tooth pulled and his gum was bleeding
     Today, feeling guilty, I cooked all day. As a result, he pronounced that my soup was too crunchy (!), my chicken (the best in years) - too hard. He weaseled  some pancakes out of me, which he ate with most of our ice cream. He also finished a dish of jello, three yogurts and all of the crunchy (!) soup. I don't know, where it all goes, he has no fat on him! But tomorrow I am starting on another round of tofu boiling!