Archive for the ‘This and That’ Category
Healing a Broken Leg
Two days (actually, one and a half) after the fall, Sunday morning, August 8, 2010, my father awoke early and went to Yad Sarah where, for a modest deposit, he borrowed a pair of crutches and brought them to my house. My friend Esty met him downstairs and took the crutches and brought them up. G-d bless my father, he brought me crutches that you almost don’t see anymore, made of solid wood with adjustable height. At least the rubber handle and axillary support were new and the crutches recently varnished. The rubber tips were also new. I adjusted the height, with Esty’s help and began to walk with them. Nobody taught me how to walk with them and it was very strange at first, although they did make walking possible, whereas without them it was almost impossible.
Crutches – Man’s Design
I tried to hop on one leg and swing between the crutches, like we have all seen actors do. I must say that this is far more enjoyable on screen than in real life. I lost my balance and almost fell with the crutches. Remember that although my leg was actually broken, the rest of me was quite battered, swollen and bruised. A bit of experimentation and I was able to somewhat navigate with these two new appendages, however temporary. With my generous proportions, aching back, arms, hands, etc., transferring body weight to my arms, wrists and hands would take a bit of learning but, given no choice, I breathed deeply, gritted my teeth, bore the pain and worked on it.
I concluded that a man designed and built them because, at 2 cm below the armpit, the axillary support hit me right in the side of my breast, every time. Needless to say, this was a whole new ambulatory experience.
Getting the Air Cast™
Equipped with the crutches, I phoned my HMO, told them I had a broken leg and asked for an appointment with the orthopedist for that day. They gave me an appointment and the doctor told me to get an Air Cast™ and left me with the bandage! I was shocked. When I worked for Orthopedic Surgery, patients were cast in the cast room and nobody left without a proper cast to go and buy an Air Cast™! He also ordered x-rays and said that we have two weeks to see how it heals and whether I would require surgery or not. In any case, I was afraid, confused and in shock. Leaving his clinic, I phoned my friend from Orthopedic Surgery, a podiatrist and asked him what an Air Cast™ even was. He referred me to a place where I could get one for less money, since it was a completely private purhcase, paid out of pocket. My best friend Esty, who took me to the doctor, drove me and we went to the place and they did not have the SP Walker™, which was what I needed and so we drove to the main branch on the other side of town, where the man did have it and I bought the boot.
Shopping, Dog Walking, Coffee and Other Logistics
I remember feeling more alone than ever before in my life. My father, may G-d bless him and keep him well until 120 years in restored health, went to buy me groceries. Unable to walk up the steps to my home, he would phone me so that I could ask Esty, G-d bless her, to meet him in the parking lot. She graciously obliged and would load the bags into her wagon and then bring them up the stairs to my humble abode, on the second floor. I want to make mention of my other wonderful friend and neighbor, Nadine, who, with Esty, took turns and walked my dog, Pnina, on alternate days. Nadine would also sit and talk to me and she even changed my bed linens.
I don’t know how other people regard broken limbs. I imagine it also depends at what age one sustains such an injury. I found it a life changing and very introspective experience. I literally sat like a lumpy sack of potatoes on the steps when I fell. After that, I spent most of my days on the sofa with my leg elevated. The pain was sharp and kept me awake.
Only after two weeks, I told the doctor I wanted Percocet. This sparked a full fledged argument. He said it would make me high, to which I asked where exactly he thought I was going in my condition. He kept resisting so finally I told him “Listen, if you don’t give me this prescription, which I’ll only take one of, at night, so I can get some sleep, I will come stay in YOUR house and wake all of you up at 2 AM when I cry out in pain.” I imagine that after getting to know me a bit, he knew I was not joking and the thought of me coming to his home was not too appealing. He wrote me a prescription for ten pills, 5 mg each.
The first night the pill took effect and within five minutes I began to feel relief. The second night it took effect a bit later. The third pill on the third night had a mild effect. The fourth pill’s effect was almost indiscernible and the fifth was completely feckless. I stopped taking the Percocet and relied only on Acamol and the herb Valerian for pain relief.
Although I did take Western medical measures, I faithfully followed a holistic regimen alongside that, with herbal wraps of equisetum and calendula and daily application of a cream with calendula and symphytum. Calendula is commonly called Uña de Gato or African Marigold and equisetum is called horsetail. I orally took a homeopathic preparation of arnica and drank valerian for relaxation, aid in sleeping and pain relief.
A close friend excitedly told me that the sharp pain should not have lasted by that point. Well, I have to tell you that shouting at one who feels such pain does NOT HELP! The fact of the matter was that I felt very strong and sharp pains, regardless of the calendar. Things like yelling at a friend that it shouldn’t hurt by whatever time is just plain stupid – pain is subjective and one cannot dictate to another about the level of pain. It’s about as effective as telling a woman in labor that it doesn’t really hurt that much. If my friend had been physically present, I am not sure what I would have done!
During my convalescence, I felt the absence of my mother, who would have invited me to come stay with her and would have taken care of me, no matter how ill she was. I sharply felt how deficient my other family relations were and felt very sorry for myself and wished to die. One of the scariest things about being alone in middle age is the fear of becoming invalid, handicapped or incapacitated in any other way and not having anyone at your side to care for you or help with anything.
There were days that due to pain I didn’t leave the couch and when Esty would come, I would ask her if she wanted coffee and if she said yes, I would ask her to make some for both of us because I was not able to do anything that day. With my handicap, hobbling to the kitchen, kettle, refrigerator and sink was a field trip. My apartment suddenly seemed HUGE and the simplest task was a perplexing challenge.
Washing up was a chore. For the first few days, I was not able to bathe properly and at one point cried to Esty “Pretty soon, things will begin to grow on me!” On a shopping errand Esty found me a plastic stool which she assured me would fit inside the tub. Remember my office type chair on wheels? I would sit on that in the middle of my very small bathroom, undress, remove my Air Cast™ boot and then, putting weight on my unbroken leg, would sidle over and place myself on the stool and carefully ease my legs over the side of the tub.
With continued support and assistance from my father and good friends who, when they learned of my predicament wrote, phoned and visited, I got over that very difficult period. I do not wish this on any good people but if it does happen, keep your spirits up and the sun will rise again.
This was my first experience with a broken limb and I pray it be my last. Thank you to my friends and my father for their love, support and encouragement! I could not have managed without you!
Approximately two and a half years ago on August 6, I took my dog, Pnina Rosenblum, down for a walk. It was Friday night at about 23:00. The Sabbath had come in hours before and the hallway of my apartment building was already pitch dark. I stepped out of the building entrance and instead of continuing straight ahead I decided to turn left to the few steps that lead into the parking lot. As I got to the stairs, I suddenly had no footing, slipped with my thongs and landed, hard, on the stone steps. With no railing to hold onto, I tried to grab onto the stone facade of the wall to no avail and, still holding onto my dog’s leash and the stick I take on our walks, heard a snap and saw my leg lie on the step while my foot remained, sole down, on the stair. I immediately felt like a two ton sack of potatoes, lumpy and unable to separate from the ground. For the first time in my life, I broke a bone. In my shock and pain I knew it was broken and took the leg and straightened it as best I could under the circumstances, sitting on the steps, to minimize internal tearing of soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels.
Strangely, the parking lot, which was ordinarily very busy at that hour, was empty of all human life and I cried loudly and remember calling out Imma, Imma. I wanted my mother, of Blessed Memory and I wanted to die. I felt forlorn and abandoned, more alone in the world than ever before. I was frightened, angry and shocked. I was also even embarrassed that I could not get up and nobody could help me.
Suddenly, I heard a young woman’s voice: “Ma’am, ma’am, are you alright?” I responded: “I’m not alright, I think my leg is broken. Two young women came over to me and asked if they could help. I asked if they could walk with my dog so that she could do what she had to.
Behind me, my neighbor Etti stuck her head out the window which is something she has done constantly over the past years. I heard her call out to me and told her that I fell, can’t get up and broke my leg. If nothing else, she brought me down some cold soft drink. In the very hot night, the cold and sugar were soothing. A young man was there who called the urgent care clinic, not that it helped but he did it anyway.
I saw my ankle and felt intense internal pressure as it swelled and even in the dark I saw it turn purple. “Dr. Etti” (may G-d save us from such geniuses) told me “I think that nothing is wrong. Try to walk on it.” I told her “It is broken!” This Etti is a diminutive, black haired, dark skinned woman who uses the W.A.S. You might ask what the W.A.S. is so I’ll tell you, it stands for Window Address System. The system, in operation at least as long as I’ve lived there, operates when Etti shouts out her window to her family in the parking lot or from the parking lot up towards her window. For example: “Eli! Come down here!” will result in her husband coming downstairs or shouting back, either from upstairs or downstairs as applies to each situation. This also works when she calls out any of her children’s names.
In this case, she called her husband and told him to drive me to the urgent care clinic. The two young women were kind enough to take Pnina upstairs and bring me down my purse, since the clinic would require ID. Eli drove me and let me off as though I was going to a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, at the curb. From there he drove home and in the dark of the middle of the night, I hobbled with the help of the stick and somehow made it down the stairs and across the courtyard in front of the building and up the elevator and across the floor to the desk. The rocket scientist at the desk told me I could have a seat, after I told her that I broke my leg. I then told her “I can’t get to the seats. I need a wheelchair as my leg is broken!” The hard worker went over and unlocked a wheelchair and brought it over to me. I sat in it and requested one with footrests for my broken leg, which made the pain worse but at least my feet didn’t drag on the floor.
When my name was called, I called back that I was present but didn’t know how to drive a wheelchair. A man who was waiting with his sick children was kind enough to wheel me over to the doctor. This doctor was something else. He was, like the rest of the staff on duty over Shabbos, an Arab. I told him I could not operate the wheelchair to which he sniffed, angled his nose towards the ceiling and said: “What? You expect a doctor to push a wheelchair?!?” I said: “Yes. I do not know how to drive this thing.” He called a worker who wheeled me to x-ray. This worker was an angel. He placed my leg on a chair so that I wouldn’t have to do acrobatics to get up onto the table and angled my lower leg for the x-rays; when I winced in pain, he apologized!
My Left Foot
Herr doctor looked at my x-ray and said: “You’re right, you have a break.” Looking at the x-ray with him, I told him: “…distal fibula.” He said that that was accurate and took me into a room and applied a half cast which is plaster only on the back of the lower leg and sole of the foot and then tied an elastic bandage around that. This was a splint when I needed a cast. The doctor kept yelling at me: “What do you mean, you live alone? WHO lives alone?” What to do? In the Arab Moslem world, a woman does not live alone; she lives with her father or husband or brothers or children but never alone!” Dr. Muhammed then said that I should see a proper orthopedist Sunday and get a proper cast.
I then had to figure out how to get home. The only person I knew who would answer the phone was asleep after just returning from a trip abroad and there was nobody else to phone in the middle of the night. A man appeared with a letter that confirmed that he is an official Shabbos Goy (a gentile who can officially perform services on the Sabbath that are prohibited for Jews). He was the kindest, gentlest soul who said he would take me up to my apartment with the wheelchair and I needn’t worry. I told him I have no elevator and that he should return the chair, that someone else might need it. He took me, put the light on and took my mobile number to phone me when it was not the Sabbath so that I could pay him. He waited until I finally got to a cash machine and withdrew money to be able to pay him.
At home, I had nothing; no crutches, cane, strong painkillers, or anyone to help me. I also couldn’t phone anyone until the Sabbath was over. Fortunately, I had set my hot plate and everything else up before Shabbat, so I had hot water for coffee and was able to have warm food. I used the stick to hobble and made it over to get an office type chair on wheels on which I rolled from my bed to the toilet and into the bathroom to wash my hands. Thank G-d for endorphin, otherwise I don’t know how I would have withstood the pain. I did take Valerian that I had in the house but the pain was sharp and the leg continued to swell. Furthermore, with the splint, my ankle could still rotate and pivot, which was not good.
As soon as Shabbat was over, I phoned my father and asked whether he could borrow crutches from Yad Sarah. The earliest he could do this was the following morning, which was Sunday. As for the continued treatment and recovery, I will write that in another Blog entry.
Out of the Blue
Some weeks ago, an old friend with whom I had not spoken phoned me when I was napping. Not recognizing the phone number, I did not go out of my way to stretch across and get the mobile phone. When I woke, I called that number back, not knowing who would be on the other line. She sounded delighted to hear from me and actually thanked me for still being where I was.
My friend Rae who is an academic, pays monthly into a fund called “Knowledge Fund [Keren Yeda].” This fund then goes to subsidize a short vacation at a top quality hotel in a number of vacation spots in Israel. The academic member of the organization pays around $100 but anyone accompanying him/her pays a much higher rate. My friend invited me to join her as her traveling companion. We talked about possible destinations and agreed that we would both prefer the north of the country. She told me that she was awaiting approval or rejection of her application to go. In short, she was as clear as mud and uncertain so I put it entirely out of my mind.
A week and one day before the seminar, Rae phoned me on Saturday night, to tell me that her application was approved and that we would be going December 2. I told her I had to ask for vacation at work, which I did the following day and I got permission. I was not overly thrilled, as this seminar would take place at the Dead Sea and the thought of being with a friend I had not seen in years raised some concerns. Furthermore, she was not very clear in her communication and I thought to myself that it’s not like traveling abroad; I am still in the country and can always go home at any time if it is too much for me.
Buses – the bane of my existence!
Rae said we should meet at 11 AM at the Central Bus Station on Sunday, Dec. 2 and I agreed. I thought that although riding buses is the bane of my existence, it might not be too bad with a friend. We both set out at 10 AM from our respective homes. I got there at 10:45 and tried to phone her mobile, only to get a recording that the device is unavailable. The Central Bus Station in Jerusalem is a shopping mall I thought that perhaps she was en route and forgot to turn it on, so I sat down somewhere and tried every few minutes. I began to worry and think that maybe I was confused and it was for another day! I went upstairs to the level with the ticket booths and the buses and figured she would have to arrive there at some point. Indeed, Rae appeared and I wove to her, more than a little relieved. I put my frustration aside and after we greeted one another, we went out to the bus platform.
We stepped out to where the buses are actually boarded. People were squeezing onto a bus to ride standing up, which is against the rules for inter city transport. Rae assured me the next bus would arrive in just a few minutes. Well, a bus arrived, alright but not ours or any from Egged. Some chartered bus pulled into our platform, the driver got off and some minutes later he pulled out of the platform. He then began a back and forth dance, pulling in and out, while other divers honked at him for blocking their paths. Finally, he called to a group of soldiers who hopped on. These young men threw their packs onto the hold at the bottom of the bus and this less than stellar driver began to pull out again only this time one of the packs fell out of the hold, onto the pavement. I yelled out that one of the bags had fallen. A soldier ran out and put it back in; while he was crouching, the driver began to shut the door to the hold. Seeing this, I told the driver that he was closing the door on the soldier. This driver from some circus act then winked at me! I told him “Wink at your mother.” You will not believe this but he again pulled INTO the platform, almost hitting a young woman, got off the bus, stuck his face in mine and said “I wish for you that your mother will be where mine is,” and he pointed to the ground.
The bus we needed consequently pulled into the next platform over and the driver did not even notify us that his bus was the one we were waiting for. We boarded, Rae paid for both of us and we found two seats together. I insisted on taking my packed bag aboard, so as not to risk a passenger accidentally taking it, which would mean that, among other things, I would not have my medications with me.
The ride was bearable and we talked most of the way, which was nice, considering the long period we were out of touch.
Smell of Sulfur
As the bus descended towards the hotel area of the Dead Sea, it first reached Ein Gedi. As soon as we entered that zone, the strong smell of sulfur was unmistakable.
We finally arrived at our destination and to get to our hotel we had to backtrack a few steps and then climb up a hill to the Le Meridien hotel. Halfway uphill a cart came by and I flagged it down. We hopped on board and rode the rest of the way to the entrance.
Check in and Registration
The Seminar organizers set up two tables. Rae went over and gave them her name, after which they gave her a tag with electronic room keys.
Rae and I were hungry, thirsty and very tired! Behind the tables for registration, there were some light refreshments set up. The only beverages were sugary soft drinks, already in small glasses and several serving platters with assorted cookies. We drank and drank and scarfed down a bunch of cookies I would otherwise not go near.
The room we were assigned was roomy and comfortable. The first thing I noticed was that there was one large mattress and that I had absolutely NO intention of sleeping on it with Rae or any other woman. I phoned the front desk and they told us to go down and ask for another room. We were assigned another room on another floor. There were two beds that could be separated but the room was a bit smaller than the previous one. We settled in and talked a bit and when the time came, went down for the coffee break and orientation that was on the schedule.
We then went for dinner in the restaurant. This place was beautiful and spacious. There were many different stations. To begin with, there was an unrivaled salad bar! There were individual fresh cut vegetables, ready made salads, cooked salads and a variety of dressings. There were various stations for different cooked food, a bread station and a dessert bar. We were sooooo hungry, we ate with our eyes and gorged ourselves until we couldn’t eat anymore. After all, we hadn’t eaten anything but cookies, cakes, soft drinks and coffee up until that point.
Breakfast was another feast. The waiters constantly made the rounds among the tables, pouring and refilling filtered coffee, there were instant coffee packets and a machine that dispensed different coffees from powders mixed with boiling water.
Honestly, I have to wonder what goes through people’s minds at hotels. Why eat more than you can handle? I quickly took only what I wanted to eat and for the most part, didn’t take dessert, as I would at home. In any case, I was true to myself and ate what I wanted and no more. Rae kept telling me to take more food and dessert but really, eating myself silly is not my idea of having a good time.
I asked the hotel if and when they had hours for separate swimming for women. The only time was for one hour each morning, at 07:00. Honestly, I didn’t have THAT strong an urge to go swimming for me to awaken that early and get it together.
At one point I insisted that Rae go to the sulfur pool and other pools at the spa. I offered to accompany her and sit on the lounge if she insisted but preferred to stay in the room and have a nice, unhurried shower and rest. She took my advice and felt better for it. The hip she had broken just months earlier caused her significant pain and discomfort and the sulfur and Jacuzzi gave her some relief.
The lectured were re-digested rhetoric with lots of slogans and cliches that have been circulated to death. Fortunately I did not have to attend, as I was Rae’s guest but she did have to go to most of them.
One lecturer was this small, thin, woman with a ton of makeup, hair dyed black and blown out to make her skinny face look a bit fuller. Her nose was the work of some plastic surgeon, her voice annoying AND she blasted us with a microphone. This woman entertained herself by talking at us for over 2 1/2 hours! At some point Rae and I left the room and went to dinner.
There is not much to do at the Dead Sea and so the hotels have entertainment. Each night at 21:00, after the restaurant closed, there was a live show. The first night we found 2 chairs and watched an African circus. The men were very black, ripped and extremely acrobatic.
That was the only night we could get in. Rae was very slow in getting ready and never wanted to try to get there early so the second night there wasn’t even standing room and standing outside the hall did not appeal to me. By the third night, I didn’t even want to try to get in.
There was live entertainment near the bar every night and though I did not dance, I enjoyed the music. Watching some people dance, I have to wonder if they see what I see because if they do, they should either get lessons, see a doctor or sit down or all three. I’m sorry but some are so ungainly, uncoordinated and clumsy. My former husband, who had won prizes in dance contests, used to say they had the heebie geebies and trust me, some really look like their having seizures on the dance floor. Some had rhythm and were less painful to watch. I know I’m critical but I am a dancer and before I broke my leg would dance for hours if the music, atmosphere and company were conducive to it.
The Last Day
On the last day we had breakfast and went to pack our bags and check out. Rae kept insisting there were vans and mini buses back to Jerusalem and that we were not going to take a regular bus. We asked the concierge and he said there were none. Rae stubbornly insisted that she knows there are. When a Gemini is in a state of insistence others would be wise to remain silent, so I didn’t argue.
We took the cart down to the road and began walking. I was short on temper and insisted we just go straight to the bus stop. A couple of vans came by but the prices they wanted to charge were not to Rae’s liking, who insisted they not charge more than the bus. Eventually a bus came that had set out from Eilat. This bus was full with just a couple of empty seats. We sat on two seats at the very end of the bus where the seats are in a row, like a bench. I was completely miserable the entire time.
I won’t write more about the bus trip because nothing about it was good.
We arrived at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station from which I took a taxi home. I had endured enough. My dog, Pnina, was brought to me later that evening and we were both happy to be together again in our home.
Would I go again? Yes but not with just anybody.
Although I live across the pond, Hurricane Sandy has occupied my thoughts and constant concern for family and friends gave me little rest before, during and after the storm. I closely followed reports and watched Al Roker and others bend in the strong winds and get soaked from rain and waves on live stream coverage on the Internet.
There is something about an internationally publicized disaster that gets everyone involved. The funnier side is when people talk about something they know NOTHING about. Israelis are expert at exuding false confidence and evaluating things based on their limited scope. A local shopkeeper actually told me that Israelis need to understand the American culture to understand why the storm was called Sandy; that Americans live by movies and that the name Sandy comes from Grease’s leading lady! The absurd is that this man speaks a very nice English and knows many American songs but has never even visited the US. He cannot begin to know how diverse American culture is.
Israel is far from perfect and is working hard to correct many wrongs and organize many things that were overlooked in the haste of establishing a new, infant country that constantly fought ward for survival. Be that as it may, Israel has had no shortage of emergencies and when bombs and shells were falling, families in safer parts of the country opened their homes to those under fire and/or more in danger.
I spoke to a friend who recently returned from a visit to the US. She traveled to the wedding of her niece and she told me that in spite of the storm, she enjoyed the fact that much of the family was under one roof and they were okay and spent time together. I told her that I didn’t hear accounts of American families opening their homes to others. I mean, some friends did but not strangers. She told me something that I just can’t shake.
Her daughter is a juvenile diabetic and cannot live without insulin. She and her husband had no power in their home. Her husband had a friend who kept telling them that he had electrical power. Her husband told the friend that his wife needs to refrigerate her insulin and the friend didn’t offer them to store it in their refrigerator!* Some people are heartless and without conscience.
I will say that certain organizations have sent relief aid. There have been buses of volunteers who traveled to the New York and New Jersey areas to help clear out flood damaged items. May G-d reward those people with all good things.
*An emergency room doctor in NYC did tell me that insulin and other medications that required refrigeration could also be placed on a windowsill which, at 55°F is cold enough to prevent the medication from going bad.
Pnina Rosenblum is the name of my beloved dog, which I named after a woman in Israel whom I admire greatly for her success and strength. Pnina is a very sensitive creature and supports me and goes along with all that I do. This year, the preparations for the Passover holiday did not escape her. The day before the Seder, she stopped eating her regular food and would not have anything until I served her hametz free dog food.
Once this was done she found strategic places to position herself while I cleaned, cleared and sprayed copious amounts of bleach. When her favorite place under the kitchen table was usurped by boxes of things I put away for the week of Passover, I thought she would fuss and protest. Instead, she seemed to take some joy in the energies and new experience!
I threw out her old bedding in her crate – two blankets and a cushion in her bed in the living room. She seemed a bit curious as to what was going on but then I vacuumed her bed in the living room and carefully placed a very clean cushion and took the tray from her crate to soak and wash in the bathtub after which I lovingly placed a clean, fresh towel for her. Her appreciation knew no bounds and she gratefully licked my feet, hands and anything else she could, to thank me.
I left for the Seder and when I returned, spent time with Pnina and took her out for a walk. Mind you, I walk her on leash with a muzzle. Considering the mild weather and relatively early hour, I took her to a nearby bench and sat with her next to me, as cars drove by and people strolled on their way from the Seder.
Suddenly, a man with four large dogs walked up in our direction. None of these various shepherd like dogs was on leash and this burly young man walked with them with a small switch in his hand. This pack of dogs was not timid and they came right up to the bench, which caused me to stand up in fear of being “marked” by one of the males. Two of the dogs got too close and I hit their snouts with the edge of Pnina’s leather leash. The burly guy yelled at me and asked me why I hit them to which I said “You have to leash the dogs!” He then said he would hit Pnina and did with the stick. Without a second thought, the edge of the leather leash flew up and across his cheek. He made a motion to strike me. I ducked and put out my arms in defense but he did not hit me. I added some choice words and he went on his way and I took Pnina home.
I asked Hashem to forgive me at the end of such an incredible night and holiday and I reasoned that that man must have come to Israel during the Jewish Exodus from Egypt as part of the Erev Rav – the mixed multitude of non-Jews who joined up with the Hebrews. His behavior was abominable and in spite of the teeny yarmulke on his shaved head, reflected no Jewish values or decent conduct. While I asked forgiveness, I also reasoned that I could not see anybody hurt my dog.
I think the bully was in shock that a woman a head shorter and a lot older was not afraid to strike him.
Pnina and I have since been chilling at home and enjoying the opportunity to spend entire days together. As I write my posts, she is resting calmly in her bed next to the sofa in the living room.
Where were you for the Seder?
Holidays are very hard. As I get older and gain more experience, it becomes more apparent that they are hard on everybody, no matter what. If you are a guest then you are packing [no small feat and sometimes a kind of Exodus in and of itself] and hoping not to forget anything important that can really put a wrench in your time away from the comforts of your own home. You will be displaced and often far from privacy and have to abide by other rules. You will worry about giving the right gift and whether the host really liked it.
If you’re religious then being away for some holidays will require that you sleep over and that adds yet another element. You cannot make demands as a guest, yet if you end up not sleeping because you shared the children’s room or feeling out of place because you like to spend the time wearing a nice housecoat/robe/ house dress and your hosts and their children get fully dressed as though they are going places, even if they never leave their house, then after a while you feel that you would rather be at home. If the food is too sugary, too oily or not so fresh, you might pay the price for that. If you’re going to family there are always those family dynamics that begin with kisses, hugs and smiles and end up with an overdose of stress. Have I left anything out? Probably but these are the points that come to mind right now.
I missed my mother so much that one evening when I shut my eyes to nap, her image came to mind. I remember her eclectic menu that had everything from apio – celery root with carrot slices to many other things that made Passover special and joyous for us.
So…where were you for this year’s Seder?
My new experience
I had no firm plans this year. Great friends did invite me to distant cities and although I love them, riding buses for hours on end was prohibitive. I get off the bus with pain and numbness in my coccyx or what seems to be and it takes me a very long time to recover. I had someone who wanted to invite me in Jerusalem, my city but she couldn’t firm up her own plans until the last minute and to be honest, I just wanted to sleep in my own bed and care for my dog, without having to tell those who invite me “But I have a dog and she is not one to stay outside. If she stays outside, nobody in the neighborhood will get any sleep from her barking and crying.” I reasoned that I could read the Haggadah on my own; whip up the traditional symbols of roasted meat, a hard boiled egg, charoset, bitter herb, other vegetable such as celery, boiled potato, etc. for karpas and, since I’m not teaching any children the story, it’s no tragedy if I just do it by myself.
A very good man at work came up to me and said that he heard that I’m alone on the holiday, to which I replied in the affirmative. He told me that he would invite me, except that they themselves will not be at home for the holiday. He gave me a paper with a number, to phone Chabad of Gilo and register for a place in their seder. I promised that I would do this and phoned until Rabbi Farber answered. He told me that in order to register, I would have to go to the Center and pay a nominal fee. I dropped everything and rode with my friend Esty, who had other business in the same area.
When I arrived, the lights were on but the door was locked so I figured the good rabbi took a short break. There was a man who had waited for some minutes before me and eventually the rabbi came up the stairs and I registered. He also gave me a piece of paper with a description of where the Seder would be held, with the name of the street and the time. There was no precise address which seemed curious at the time.
Going to the Seder
Finishing touches and final tasks
This year I took two days off prior to the Seder so that I could finish cleaning my kitchen and changing over to bring the Pesach dishes down from where they are stored all year round. No matter how much I simplify and oversimplify this process in my mind, the reality always seems to growl at me. My refrigerator and freezer alone is quite a project. My stove and oven are surprisingly easier than my refrigerator, which I take apart and put all the shelves into the sink with water and bleach. At my age, this work is much more exhausting than in the past and I tire more easily.
The past few years, I have worked through the night and didn’t get to sleep until 6:00 AM and unfortunately, this year was no exception. Note – this tradition is for the birds and I am determined to make some changes to prevent this in future. As I worked, at this point beyond exhaustion, instead of grumbling which I did in many past years, I kept thanking Hashem for giving me the strength and asked for more strength to do this amazing mitzvah and get to this phenomenal holiday.
Realizing I was going to the Seder but still had to have a meal the following mid-morning, I quickly and efficiently threw a soup together and once it boiled for a sufficient amount of time, shut the flame and transferred the pot onto my Shabbat Hot Plate
I worked until the last minute but was more organized this year, so I lit candles and showered and got dressed. I wore a black strapless “under dress” with a long sleeved black top with wine colored trim at the pocket and button holes with matching buttons – giving an understated but elegant touch to a semi formal/casual atmosphere. I applied soft makeup and Red Door perfume. I then set out to find the place where the Seder was to be held. This was not as simple as might seem and here I learned why there was no precise address on that piece of paper.
Walking to the Passover Seder
The walk up to the UpTown shopping center across from which was the path to the Seder was not easy and I noticed I was breathing hard and that my mouth was very dry from long hours of constant work and not enough drinking. At times I felt I was not walking straight and even feared I might stumble due to muscle fatigue. I remember hearing the rabbi repeatedly say to find an asphalt road. Let me tell you, it’s good he said it because two steps to the right of that were steps leading down to a nicely lit street, which was far more tempting than this bare, deserted, relatively dark, asphalt path.
G-d sent an angel in the form of a lone young man walking in my direction. I asked him whether he knew where the Chabad seder was being conducted, to which he said he wasn’t sure but he did see many people and that I should follow this path. I did and again reached a place where one could go left, straight or to the right and yet another young man appeared in my path whom I again asked whether he knew where the Chabad seder was to be held. He said there were a bunch of people there and pointed me in the right direction. There was a synagogue and many people were standing outside, about to go home after prayers. Someone told me the Chabad seder was being held on an entirely different street and that I would have to go back from where I had come and go entirely around. Sorry to say but you KNOW it was a man – they never admit they don’t know something! I asserted that it was not on “Yefe Rom” street but rather on “HaTe’ena” and that the rabbi specifically said that there was an Ashkenazi synagogue followed by a Sefardic temple and that the Seder would be held under the Sefardic temple. The man replied “This is HaTe’ena.”
I then saw a family and asked the WOMAN if there was a Sefardic temple, since this Ashkenazi synagogue was self contained in a courtyard. She directed me to ascending stairs and after I climbed them, to the right, I saw the Sefardic synagogue.
Finally signs also appeared with arrows affixed to various places, including trees, off the beaten path. Lehavdil, these reminded me of the low men in Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis. The plot seemed to thicken and this exhausted woman continued to follow the signs in the direction of the arrows until the Sefardic temple appeared. The rabbi had said it was below the Sefardic temple so I looked for stairs or some indication to where this might be.
At 7:55 PM, still following the signs, finally there was an incline leading down alongside the temple building and then a few stairs, after which there was a door and, lo and behold, the hall with long tables set with disposable plates and utensils. I didn’t have to give any password but a tall young married woman holding an infant approached me with a warm smile. She asked my name and I told her. She welcomed me and invited me to take a Haggadah and said that I was welcome to sit wherever I wanted. I sat at the center table where there were already two women seated, who looked like a mother and aging daughter. The place was strangely empty and I wondered why all the fuss about registering and why so many places were set when there were so few that attended. I took a Haggadah and sat quietly, smiling at the two women already seated. The young Rabbi Yossi Farber (some ultra orthodox and hassidim do serve in the army!) from Nazareth Illit and his brother from Betar Illit honored us by conducting the Seder. Yossi introduced himself and his brother. The two with their wives and children sat at a head table, placed perpendicular to the other tables and Yossi began to address the few that had arrived and said we would wait for some who were not punctual. At some point I mentioned that it is possible that people had a difficult time finding the place.
Three men arrived and took their places at a table along the far wall directly across from me. At the table between us sat two women, each with three small children in tow. At the table behind me sat two young families. The last to arrive were a couple, the man whom I recognized as the one waiting ahead of me to register at the Chabad Center in Gilo. At this point I will say that the acoustics in that particular hall were very challenging. If one exhaled too loudly, it echoed.
The two women I mentioned wore skinny jeans but long sleaved tops. They are obviously weak parents who cannot control their children and the children evidently never go anywhere and do not know how to behave in any civilized manner. The two mothers looked like they were about to collapse from all the pre-holiday cleaning and preparations. These children must run on batteries – they did not stop for one minute – they made so much noise that it was difficult to hear the young rabbi who was bringing the story of the Jews’ release from bondage in ancient Egypt, to life. He had a lot of patience, having young children of his own but even he at some point asked the parents to control their children. The children were in perpetual motion climbing on and off the plastic chairs and at some point running up and down the breadth of the room, stomping on a cardboard box that had contained bottles of soft drinks, completely flattening it and sliding on it across the floor.
At some point, even these two obtuse single mothers felt embarrassed and once the food was served, wanted to leave once the main course was eaten noisily. The rabbi magnanimously told them that if they would stay, they could have pineapple for dessert. The women stayed and once the pineapple slices were consumed, they packed all their kids and left. At this point I want to say that the two mothers are to be commended for taking these children to a place where they would hear and have a proper Seder. One never knows how deeply these childhood experiences penetrate the soul and recesses of one’s mind.
After the months that preceded my grandson’s death at age 7 1/2 weeks, it was good for me to be around children, even if they were not my own.
The food was abundant and had a definite homey quality. There were salads, an assortment of fish that included St. Peter’s fish/Amnon/Musht, the main course of potato kugel, roasted baby potatoes, tzimmes, roast beef and roast chicken with offers of plenty more helpings for whomever wanted. After all of that, cool slices of pineapple gave just the right perk to the palate. There was an abundant supply of soft drinks and when I asked for water, a pitcher of cool water was placed on our table.
We ate the afikoman and recited the grace after the meal. It was done with decorum and the rabbi’s welcoming demeanor and positive disposition never faltered. In spite of four glasses of semi dry white Emerald Risling wine, I was not drunk.
The Farber brothers offered food to anyone who wanted to take some home. I approached one of the wives and said I would love some of the fish. They insisted I take food if I wanted so I took some kugel, roasted baby potatoes and chicken. I could not believe my good fortune. Here I had planned just gefilte fish from a jar with jarred horseradish and my homemade soup and suddenly I had an entire meal that would have taken several more hours to prepare, which I had not.
The Walk Home
The walk home was happy, though for the most part I was alone on that asphalt path and even on the street, as many people were still at their Seders. I made it home at about 10 minutes before midnight and then paid attention to Pnina Rosenblum, my beloved pooch.
The Story of Passover
This short story of my experience this year is admittedly long. It is my personal Haggadah of my exodus from Egypt this year. I wish all those who celebrate a happy and kosher Passover!
Sitting one day and thinking, it dawned on me that I can compare two experiences I share with my dog.
Two years ago, Pnina ran out into the street on a very sunny day when I took her to work with me in a ground floor office. A client left the door wide open and she ran out. The client, not knowing anything about dogs, probably thought that dogs belong outside or something like that and did not even warn me that she got out. For all he knew, she could have snuck in. In fact, she snuck out and ran straight to the street where a [woman] driver ran over her left hind leg, despite pleas from a woman on the side walk who told her not to move the car, that there’s a small dog under it. In any case, we ran to the vet where Pnina’s leg was immobilized and she was given antibiotics.
A year ago I broke my leg. It was a Friday night, Shabbat and I did not see an oily spot in the dark and fell on the stone steps outside my building and broke my left leg. A neighbor took me to an all hours emergency treatment center. I was treated horribly and once the doctor saw my x-rayed broken leg, he put only a half cast on with ace bandages. This was to hold me until Sunday when I could see a proper orthopedist. I was not given antibiotics or painkillers. It doesn’t matter that I’m allergic to antibiotics, the doctor did NOT know this.
The second parallel was when I went to a doctor who didn’t know me, who tried every which way to cajole me to go for tests and she tried to hint that I could benefit from more physical activity. The previous doctor who practically attacked me for being a large woman, was fired by yours truly.
The other day, I took Pnina for her mandatory annual rabies vaccine. The vet tried to convince me to spay her and one of the things I told him was that spaying often resulted in them getting fat. He looked at me and said “And what is wrong with that? Whoever said that fat isn’t healthy? There’s no real proof of that.” Okay, at that point I thought that if he wasn’t married, I would grab him and kiss him.
My conclusion is that in future I might benefit more from being examined by a vet.
Shopping at Rami Levy in the Rav Mecher building in Talpiyot is not what you might imagine a supermarket experience to be. On different occasions I have experienced different things but this past Friday, doing my weekly shopping with my best friend Esty in the morning before Shabbat, it was not the usual sequence of events to which we are accustomed, a few surprises were in store. Esty and I got there at approximately the same time we usually do. To begin with, we were determined to become “Club Members.” We almost ignored the fact that there was very little parking and walked from the far end of the underground level. Shopping carts were nowhere to be found but I told Esty that we could first go to the Customer Service counter and get our club cards. Well, as luck would have it, the woman who signs members up was out that day. We then set to find a shopping cart. Nary a cart was to be; people escorted shoppers to their cars to get their carts. I refused to do this and while Esty went to the underground parking to find these elusive metal nuisances, I stood my ground outside the main entrance with a view of the outside parking.
At the far end of the outside parking was a dark car with an old, heavyset man peering over the edge of the trunk. This would be an ordinary site if not for the fact that the man’s trousers had slipped down, exposing way too much of his hairy (curly, gray and white) buttocks in the morning sunlight. I’m not talking a slight crack, I’m talking saloon doors, okay? What to do? I’m far-sighted and could see in too great detail a sight for no eyes. He became aware of this and hoisted up his pants with one hand expertly moving to the rear of his belt.
Finally —— a cart was in sight!!!! I cannot tell you how much joy this gave me and all but forgetting about hairy butt, I almost danced over to release a wagon. I entered the supermarket and it is sometimes so crowded, you would think people were getting their provisions for free. The layout of this store has some sale items outside, in part of the sheltered parking lot on the ground level, as well as some regular produce. One then enters this corridor where the elevators are, which contains more sale items and sundries. Once past the security guard who usually looks like a solid meal won’t hurt him, the shopper is in the main store. Ordinarily, I first turn left into the aisle of green leafy and other fresh vegetables and this past Friday was no exception. I should tell you that in Rami Levy the customer is regarded a nuisance by the workers who, backed by their foreman, habitually shove, push and leave all kinds of carts and cartons blocking strategic parts of the aisle. I stood back and observed a well mannered man try to get through with his cart. A backless cart was left diagonally mid-aisle, blocking anyone who wanted to pass in either direction. Whose cart was it? Lo and behold – hairy butt’s!!!! There was the man, bent over some veggies, ignoring the world and the gentleman who politely asked him to move his cart over so that he could proceed. Nothing doing, hairy butt (hereinafter: HB) was playing deaf. I will add that I now know why they call it mooning and one more thing, if he thought he was blending in with the melons, he REALLY WASN’T! This was hard on the eyes and I was glad I had a light breakfast of coffee and yoghurt and nothing heavier.
The gentleman pushed the cart aside while HB remained oblivious. I then got to the greens after selecting some firm, unripe tomatoes which I let ripen at home. I wanted leeks and asked a worker stacking beet leaves where the leeks might be. The man moved ALL of the beet greens aside and there were some great leeks under them so I took one and then said I wanted another. While I leaned over, HB pushed my cart away with a rough thrust, to which I told him “Don’t push my cart and besides, your backside is hanging out!” Two women audibly choked back their laughter at that one and HB told me “What? Just because I shoved your cart, you tell me my backside is out? You are rude and impudent!”
Mind you, I went about my business and left him to stew, the two women sneaking admiring looks while stifling laughter still. The irony of this man who pretends not to hear when another shopper cannot get by his obtusely placed wagon but then hears VERY WELL when I told him his back door was open, calling me rude…well, with all my respect for people, he needs a dictionary and a good mirror (front and rear view, I say).