Saturday, January 13, 2018

Skyping with my parents

It recently occurred to me that I never updated this blog (that I hope some people still read) about whatever happened with my parents after I sent that email to my dad about being too mad to talk to him.

So here's what happened. We didn't talk for a couple of months.  A few days after Thanksgiving my dad emailed again asking if I wanted to skype sometime with C and I agreed. So we set up a time to talk like a week later.  Unbeknownst to me, he set it up for a time that he was visiting my Brother and his new wife at their home.  So of course I couldn't chew them out for not going to my brother's wedding- since my parent's were sitting right next to my brother and sister in law, and that would be weird. Sneaky.

The good news though is that my parents were at my brother and sister in law's house about 2 months after the wedding!  They didn't even meet B until a year after we married.  So that's good.  My brother seems unwilling to fight with them and just wants to stay in their good graces, which kinda annoys me a little- like I seem more upset about this whole thing that he does, but since he's not too upset, I feel like I don't have as much of a right to be upset.

Meanwhile I haven't seen my parents in person and they haven't seen C since August 2016, and we have no plans to meet up in the future as of yet.  I will be in Philly in August for a conference so I may ask them to meet up with us down there (about a 2 hour drive from them).

While on skype I asked my parents to send me a real menorah so I could light candles with C (the only one I had was a fake light up one for the mantel and a travel one where the candles constantly fell over and doesn't have the classic menorah shape).  She has been talking about being jewish lately and when we saw the Frozen holiday short (during her first movie at a theater!) she was super excited to see there was a family with a dreidal and menorah.  But I don't want to pay for one, so I figured I could ask my parents for one. But they sent me a huge oil menorah without the oil cups and with a bunch of tiny candles?

We ended up crumpling up some tin foil to make little candle holders to put in the oil cup, and we lit it once with all 8 candles- two nights after Chankuah actually ended.  But during chanukah we did a thing where each day we added an additional candle to the big menorah (but didn't light it).  I've decided I don't mind doing some traditional things as long as we aren't too religious about it.  I also made latkes for the first time in 10 years and C had like half of one. Learned how to use a new function on my food processor though, so that was cool. :)   We also played dreidel a few times but instead of pennies we used some of the fancy rocks we have from going gem mining last year.

Meanwhile I've emailed with my dad a couple of time about random things over the past month, but only had that one skype session about 6 weeks ago.  That is about the level of contact I want right now.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dad said he would call so I emailed him back

Right before Rosh Hashana, two days after my brother's wedding, my dad emailed and was like "When is a good time to call?"  I just never responded.  He sent me an article link a week later, didn't respond.  Today he sent me an email saying "Happy yom kippur" and in the email it just said "I will call you this afternoon."

So I went and took the nuclear option and this is what I responded.  At first I considered just letting him call and telling him off on the phone (letting him call and just pretending everything is cool is not an option).  But I know I would end up flustered and crying on the phone or something, so I felt like on print I could say what I really meant.  It was mean, but whatever.  So was not coming to my brother's wedding.


Do not call me this afternoon.  I am too angry to talk to you right now. I spent all of D's wedding explaining to his wife and his mother in law and his friends why my parents weren't there. It was extremely painful and hurtful. It takes a lot of chutzpah to think I would welcome a call about your religious holiday while my brother is still on his honeymoon for the wedding you skipped because of your religion.  I do not want to talk to you about yom kippur. I do not celebrate yom kippur. I think your religion is wrong and has done nothing but hurt our family. I do not want to hear about religion from you ever again.  I'm not sure when I will be not angry enough to talk to you again, but it is not yet. 

Abandoning Eden."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My brother got married

My brother got married on Sunday, to a kick-ass woman, who happens to not be Jewish. My parents didn't come.  My daughter was the flower girl. About an hour before the wedding I sent my dad a picture of C and a message saying "there's still time to do the right thing." He wrote back "She looks cute, I am doing the right thing."

So here's a list of responses I've come up with, for the next time he asks if I want to skype him with C:

"To quote our former president "Fool me once, shame on you, fool can't get fooled again.""

"No thanks"

"Why don't you skype your rabbi?  You should probably double check that he'll take care of you when you're old"

"Sure, but C is only available to talk on Saturday mornings"

"Great, C is waiting for an explanation of why you weren't at her Uncle D's wedding" (To be honest, thankfully, she hasn't seen my parents in over a year- in part because they said they weren't coming to the wedding- and didn't ask about them at all at the wedding.  I don't think she realized they are related to Uncle D.  She did ask if her Uncle M would be there- which is B's sister's husband.  So clearly she's not clear on who is related to whom). 

"I'd rather not curse in front of my child so maybe we should hold off on that, indefinitely"

"[Basically the entire text from this post about evidence for Ezra writing the Torah]"

"So I'm wondering what exactly the jewish source of not attending your child's wedding is.  Or did you just pick that up from the handbook of shitty parenting?"

"Who dis?"

"Just wondering, what if you're wrong and there is no god, or no god who gives a crap about missing your kid's wedding, or even looks poorly upon it (since god is good and all) and you just alienated your kids and grandkids for nothing?"


ETA: Actually did get an email from him asking if I have time to talk briefly today so he can wish me a shana tova!  What fucking chutzpah!!  Here are two additional responses I've come up with (so far I've not replied at all, thinking of just ignoring it until tomorrow:

"I'm too mad to talk to you right now, and I certainly don't want to hear anything about your evil cult and its holidays."

""I don't have time to talk, I have a long day of work and then afterwards I'm going out for beers with friends to talk about my rough weekend explaining to all my brother's new relatives about how sad it is that my parents are part of a cult"(true story apart from the long day of work part). 

Monday, December 26, 2016


I could post the back and forth exchange we had after that last email where my dad was basically like "I've been so nice to B's face for the past several years" and I was like "I can't even with this" and then my dad never wrote back to that last email and is now calling me and pretending like it didn't exist.

BUT INSTEAD, here are some pictures from our intercultural Christmas/Chranukah! I decided that I am going to teach C what a menorah is, and how to play dreidel, and we will have some menorahs out with our christmas decorations. Also this year, we lied and told her Santa came down the chimney to give her presents (this is the first year she's old enough to even understand what that means). We even took her to see Santa at the mall to ask for presents (an elephant- she got a stuffed one and a plastic one) and left out milk and cookies for Santa. I went back and forth about whether or not to do the Santa thing, but I think I'd rather she get to experience the classic Santa thing, and then when she figures it out we'll teach her about giving gifts but not taking credit for it, and also about how sometimes adults lie. We also did stocking stuffers for the first time (Or "Santa Socks" as C calls them), and included a bunch of chanukah stuff my parents sent us (gelt, plastic dreidels full of jelly beans, more chocolate, chanukah stickers) as stocking stuffers.

So while my parents would be and probably are horrified by this, I am happy with how we are incorporating both holidays together and keeping the stuff I actually like and having some Jewish cultural elements to our winter holiday celebrating. Maybe one of these years I'll even make latkes.  Not this year though. Later today my orthodox brother is coming to visit our house for the first time ever, so I need to go clean some more. :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

A letter I actually sent my dad

Dear Abba,

Hi.  Thanks for the invite to Florida, but I can’t just drop everything and take off to Florida with less than 2 weeks notice.  C has school the third week of December (including her violin recital and a second school-wide recital that week), then we have holidays over those two weekends that we celebrate, and we are having a visitor the last week of December.  And like you, I plan my schedule months in advance, and have a very busy winter break schedule planned with my coauthors, with deadlines the first week of January for a 35 page conference paper and a 15 page major NSF grant proposal, and advance preparations for my new job as Director of Undergrad Studies in Sociology that I start officially in January.  Taking a 2-3 day break (+ half a day to pack and get everything ready + a day to recover) will make my break a lot more stressful because I still have to write 50 pages somewhere.  

We also took that big trip in August to visit everyone specifically so that we wouldn’t have to travel over winter break.  And the cost of travel for us is more than the cost of plane tickets and lodging.  We have to board our dogs, which requires a vet appointment ($120 for both) to get shots for “kennel cough” (the shot only last 6 months), and an appointment at the Kennel ($65 a day).  And the last two weeks of December usually gets booked up at the dog kennels months in advance.  Plus in general I would rather visit you in *State* as long as you still live there, because that way I can see my friends up there and other family members in the same trip.

To be honest, apart from all these reasons, which are all true, there is another one that I’m not sure if I should bring up with you (Since I’m not sure it will do any good). I had hoped that after all the drama we had before my wedding that I would never write a long email like this to you again, and D has asked me not to fight with you about this, but after going back and forth I think it’s better to just say it instead of silently resenting you from afar and avoiding spending time with you without telling you why.

Ever since I found out you are not going to D’s wedding it has brought up a lot of hurt feelings for me. I spent years being upset about you not attending my wedding, and maybe I fooled myself into thinking you had ‘gotten over it’ and had accepted my family. Over that time there has been and continues to be a lot of painful reminders of the past, and I have felt rejected by you and mom’s actions many times, but I know it is a difficult adjustment for you as well, and for C’s sake I try to hold my tongue.  But the fact that you are not attending D’s wedding has shown me that if you could travel back in time and do things differently, you would do things the exact same way, despite all the hurt it caused me and our family, the damage it did to our relationship, and all the years in which we barely talked to each other.

It seems to me that you still look at my life choices and my husband as being ‘lesser than’ you, and I don’t think anybody likes to hang out with people who look down on them and clearly disapproves of the entire way in which they live their life, and feels so strongly about it that they are willing to skip two out of three of their children’s weddings and ruin their chance of a normal healthy relationship with their kids, son/daughter in law, and grandchildren.

I often wonder if you only tolerate us now that we have a kid, so that you can hang out with your grandchild and try to kiruv her into your religious beliefs. Or at least that’s how it looks from my perspective. The fact that you usually fly in for 3 hours at a time, just long enough to snap pictures with her to show off to your friends and give us a ton of jewish stuff and then fly out again, reinforces this view to me. As does the fact that I asked you to not send C Jewish books anymore, and yet they are still coming.  When E has a ‘real’ jewish kid some day are you going to drop her like a hot potato?  When she has no interest in being religious as she gets older, are you going to lose interest in her or treat her like a second class citizen, the way you and mom treated me differently than D and E when you thought I was the only one not religious? Or, just as bad, are you going to treat her better than D's kids because she's a 'real' jew and you can try to kiruv her but his kids won't be halachicly jewish? Are you going to skip her wedding some day and hurt her the way you hurt me and now D?  What about when she inevitably realizes for herself the way you feel about her father and, by extension, her? These are things I worry about and feel I must protect her from.

So I’m not sure where exactly that leaves us.  I can’t just go on pretending everything is ok and just swallow my resentment and take fun family vacations together while you treat my brother and sister in law in a way that shows you don’t regret the way you treated me, and which is leading to a lot of hurt and angry feelings on my part. I want so much to have that family life you are thinking of, where we come to visit you in Florida just like I visited Sabba and Savta as a kid, but I feel like that is a fantasy of some other family that never will be real, because of the choices you have made and continue to make. In a way I feel like this must be what it is like to be related to a heroin addict. I see you going down a path this is once again irreparably harming your relationship with my family (and D’s family) even further than it is already harmed, and driving an even bigger wedge between people in our family, but I am powerless to stop you.  So even though I love you, I feel I have to distance myself from you to protect my feelings and my family.  

You have said you don’t want to go to D’s wedding because of the message it sends. Well what message does it send to my husband and daughter and me, and what message would I send to them if I pretend like nothing is happening and continue to just visit like everything is normal?  What exactly am I supposed to say to C next Fall when she asks why you aren’t at D’s wedding, where she will be the flower girl?  She has already seen a wedding album from my wedding and asked why you weren’t there, and it was heartbreaking for me, and I had no idea what to say to her.  That her grandparents believe in an extremist version of Judaism that puts religious beliefs over their children and family connections, and they believe they have to miss their own children's weddings to show their devotion to god and their religion?  

I don’t even fully understand it myself. I know plenty of other OTD people whose parents came to their wedding to non jewish people, or who compromised by coming to the reception but not the ceremony, whose parents are much more religious than you. So I wonder what makes you different from those parents? The only explanations I can think of is that maybe you are under the sway of your Chabad-trained rabbi, who believes in a cultish version of Judaism with strict “in group-out group” rules like missing your children's weddings. Maybe you have developed your own extremist dogmatic version of hashkafa, perhaps influenced by those rabbi courses you took, your strong feelings about preserving jewish culture because of the holocaust (alienating your kids over religion is probably not the best way to go about that), and maybe too many times watching Fiddler on the Roof (which, by the way, was originally written as a satire/critique of shtetls, not a history lesson).

And honestly I think this is partially about control and you trying to show your disapproval when you feel you can’t control our actions, and trying to punish me/D to try to sway us to do what you want us to do and marry Jews, just like the way you threatened to stop paying for my college tuition if I wouldn’t come home for shabbas when you knew I wasn’t religious in college (which, incidentally, makes me wonder if every ‘gift’ you give us for C is a future manipulation tactic to withhold if we don’t silently put up with your disrespect).  Or maybe it is a simpler explanation and you’re just a narcissist or a coward or an extremely stubborn man who cares more about getting your way and looking good to others and maintaining your social standing in the community than about your children and how much they get hurt in the process.  None of those explanations are very flattering, and I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to even share these thoughts with you since I feel it will only insult you and put you on the defensive which is not my intention, but they are honestly the only ones I think explain your actions.  If any of that hit close to home maybe you should think about why.

This whole situation is also making me hate Judaism and my own heritage to the point where I don’t want to pass it on to my kid at all.  After I came home from L’s wedding when I found out you weren’t going to D’s wedding I was so angry I gathered up all the 50+ jewish childrens books in my house and stacked them up in my laundry room so C wouldn’t have access to them. Yes religion has a lot of good to it, and we have a rich history and traditions, but preserving it comes at what cost? Your relationship with your kids and son/daughter in law? Your grandkids? Even God told Abraham in the end to not sacrifice his own kid. And in the end you are driving us further away from Judaism, to the point where I want to pass on none of it. I think there might a dvar torah in there somewhere. 

You are of course entitled to your own beliefs and decisions no matter how much they hurt me. I considered sending the first two paragraphs of this email and just leaving it at all the other reasons for why I am not visiting. But I feel it is better to say what I am really thinking and try to maybe understand each other.  I’m also just not sure if you are aware of how much your actions have hurt me and continue to affect and hurt me, since I often just bottle up my resentment and don’t tell you.   It’s hard because we live so far apart and only meet up for 2 or 3 hours at a time, so meanwhile I just sit at home and resent you from afar and never talk about it with you. In the end, even if it doesn't change your mind, I want you to go into the decision to skip D's wedding fully informed of the impact you are having.  And I also worry that you live in an echo chamber of people telling you this is the right decision, and don't have anyone pointing out why it isn't. 

In the meanwhile, while I do very much appreciate your invitation and offer to pay for our flights, I don’t think a trip is in the cards this winter break while I am still so upset, and if you are not going to go to D’s wedding then I don’t think realistically I’m going to want to go out of my way to come visit you in Florida for at least the next couple of years.  It really saddens me that we can’t have a closer relationship where an invitation to visit you in Florida makes me happy instead of filling me with dread and resentment, and worry that if I am honest about my feelings I will lose our fragile relationship again. But I’m not going to bring my husband to stay in the house of someone who looks down on him and me and our life together while this hurt is ongoing.

Maybe over spring break or next summer, with plenty of advance warning and planning around both of our schedules, you can go stay in  *Nearbye city 1.5 hours away* where there is a kosher restaurant and we can meet up somewhere in between like at the Zoo or the *other local attraction* or something with C. I’m also planning to have a tenure party in April which you are invited to, but I’m not sure yet if it will be on a Saturday or a Sunday or when exactly it will be. The only trip I’m planning to make North next year is to D’s wedding, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to visit you during that trip since it will just upset me and confuse C, and I’m not going to lie to her on your behalf.

I hope you have a good vacation and I'd be happy to talk more if you would like. 
Abandoning Eden