Thursday, September 30, 2010

My version of a holiday season...

I've been on a real jewish food kick lately- last weekend I made cholent with vegetarian kishka (the cholent was my mom's recipe, the kishka recipe I found by searching through a great forum to search for jewish food recipes). Today I'm having matza ball soup for dinner.

And just now I was really craving my grandmother's old rugaluch. They sometimes have rugaluch at the grocery store, but the pastry part is all wrong, it's like this croissant type thing. The type my grandmother made was like this cookie..almost like a hamentash dough type recipe, but less crumbly. She would make Cinnamon ones and chocolate ones and ones with jam and they were liked rolled up cookies almost. She would make dozens and dozens of them in all different flavors when we would go down on our once yearly trip to visit my grandparents for a week in florida, where they moved to when I was 3 or 4.

The recipe died with my grandmother in 2007; my parents later went through all the documents in that house when my grandfather moved back up to the northeast to live near my parents after my grandmother died. They didn't find it.

My dad is going to send my some of my grandfather's paintings when they pack up his small apartment in NJ near where my parents live. In addition to being a NYC cab driver, a radiator repair man, an author (of a memoir about the holocaust), a survivor of 10 different concentration camps, and an avid fisherman, he was a painter. It'll be nice to have some of his stuff to remember him by.

The condo in Florida is now my parent's vacation home, soon to be retirement home. Apparently they've redone the whole place because it was depressing my dad to be there when it reminded him of his mom all the time. Things change. The childhood I remember isn't there to go back and visit anymore, even if I wanted to.

Does anyone have a rugaluch recipe that might be like the one I'm describing? I'd love to try out a few and try to reproduce it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not going...

Thanks for all your well wishes.

I've decided not to go to the funeral. I was never particularly close with this grandfather, since my whole life he lived in Florida and I saw him at most maybe once a year for a few days. He also has had no idea who I was for at least the last 3 years (he had severe dementia), and we never talked on the phone since I was a young child, and even then, I mostly talked to my grandmother and he would say hello at the very end of the conversation, and that's about it. I did attend her funeral because I felt like I had a personal connection with her. While I'm sad about my grandfather's death, I don't feel that I need to attend his funeral in order to get a sense of closure.

If anything, I know if I attend his funeral I will be angry about it, because my parents are not giving him a eulogy because it's Erev Sukkot, and because every single time I see my parents I end up feeling resentful and hurt by the end of the meeting. I would rather attend his unveiling in a year, and hopefully there will be some kind of eulogy at that point.

And all you people telling me to go to support my father...are you new to this blog? I've barely spoken to my father in years, by his choice (not mine) so why should I go for his sake? You can't stop talking to your children and then expect them to support you through difficult times. You can't tell someone they are no longer part of your family and then expect them to act like your family when times get tough.

My grandfather had been living with my parents for the last 3 years, and not once did I see him at their house. You know why? Cause my parents haven't invited me to their house in over 3 years. I'm not welcome there.

As for "he must really want me to be there if he offered to pay for B", well I moved the date of my wedding to a Sunday (rather than a Saturday which was more convenient for me and most of my guests) because I really wanted my parents to be there. They didn't show up to that either.

And yes, they did come to my PhD graduation- because my dad's parents (including my grandfather who just died) didn't come to his PhD graduation and he decided that he would come to mine even though we were barely talking. I think that was more about him not wanting to be like his parents than anything about me. Even then, they scheduled a flight that afternoon (which they didn't have to do at all- they could have taken a later flight or gone the next day, and it was a vacation, not even a business trip) so that they would only be there for the ceremony and about 20 minutes afterward, and then they high tailed it out of there.

But this is not about revenge on my dad, although I still am angry at him for many things. This is about my lack of connection with my grandfather. I don't feel like I would get anything out of attending his funeral other than a lot of stress, and having to work all weekend because of all the work I would miss. My job isn't the type of job you can just take a few days off from-if I don't work this week, I don't have lesson plans prepared for next week.

I went to my grandmother's funeral, in the same place, and I pretty much know what to expect. I'm glad I went to my grandmother's funeral, because my grandfather was very upset and I was able to help him out and hold his hand during the funeral. But now he is gone, and funerals are not for the dead- they are for the living. And in between my grandmother's funeral and my grandfather's funeral, all the living people I know who will be there have told me I'm no longer part of their family (my non-religious brother isn't going either), and have stopped talking to me or contacting me, except when people die (and my once yearly phone call from my dad on erev rosh hashana). So I don't feel particularly inclined to help make them feel better. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so. I think it makes me someone who has been hurt on so many occasions of trying to get along with certain people, that I just can't show up and get hurt again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My grandfather passed away today.

I am completely in shock. While still adjusting to the news that he was dying that I got in a text message this morning, I got a call from my dad that my grandfather had passed away at around 3:45 this afternoon.

The funeral is in 2 days in Florida...I don't think I can go, cause I teach Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon...but is that the kind of thing you cancel class for? Probably. But I don't know if I want to go anyways, because of that whole "horrible grandmother funeral experience" I talked about in my last post. And apparently at my grandfather's funeral they are not even having a eulogy, because it's erev sukkot or some BS like that? How can you have a funeral without a eulogy??? And if it's not a eulogy it's going to be jewish prayers and basically burying my grandfather and that's it. (and apparently my dad doesn't sit shiva either because it's sukkot??? so he's only sitting shiva for a few hours between the funeral + sukkot).

When my grandmother died I went to the funeral so I could be there for my grandfather. But now they are both dead, so I would be going for my dad...who just told me he is kinda relieved he's gone (my dad has been 100% responsible for his care since my grandmother died 3 years ago, and my grandfather had a severe case of dementia to boot. My dad has been taking anti-anxiety meds lately cause of all the stress related to taking care of him). So yeah, I don't know.

Mostly I'm just in shock. Still have no idea what I will do, but I should probably make a decision pretty soon since I would have to cancel class tomorrow and probably Wednesday as well (and book a flight for tomorrow).

My dad also said he would pay for both me and B to go down to the funeral...probably won't happen with the dogs and our lack of dog sitters, but I appreciate that he offered that.

ETA: Hmm, looking at flights, there is a 5:20am wednesday flight that would land in florida at 9:17am, and the funeral is at 10, about a half hour drive from the airport. Am I insane to consider teaching my Tuesday night class (the one that only meets once a week and is graduate level) from 6-9pm, waking up at 3:30am the next day to shower and do my hair and leave at 4:30- the airport being 20 minutes away and bound not to have any people in it at 5:00am on a Wednesday morning, giving me approximately half an hour to make that flight, then getting a taxi to the funeral and making it in the nick of time (if nothing gets delayed and it all goes well), only to return home later that day on another 4 hour fight (both of which include a connection) since my parents prolly wouldn't be cool with me staying there over night and flying back on sukkot morning if they are paying for tickets...and then possibly attending a 6pm dinner with the president of my school after landing around 5:20pm, thus attending all my Tuesday meetings, the dinner with the president, and only missing one day of my undergrad class (that meets twice a week). If I missed wednesday's class I would have to delay the quiz they were supposed to have next monday, since it's directly related to stuff we were supposed to do this week wednesday, and I might need to rearrange the midterm too...

Recieved via text from my dad this morning:

Hi. Hope the holidays went well for you. On a sadder note I wanted to inform you about Sabba's condition. We hospitalized him erev yom kippur. After completing a CT scan of his abdominal area they found that he had gall bladder cancer which had spread to the liver. The doctors say that there is no effective treatment for this. He only has weeks, maybe a couple of days. He is in no pain. I'm hoping he can come back to his apartment for hospice care.

For the non yiddish speakers among you
Sabba= Grandfather (in this case my father's father)
Erev Yom Kippur- the day before yom kippur, last Friday.

So basically, my grandfather is dying. This is the guy who was married to my grandmother, whose death inspired this blog when my dad spent approximately 75% of the eulogy talking about how he has to honor his mother's memory by making sure his kids turn out to be religious jews. I had been running around for two days, making sure my brother's got on their correct planes at the correct time, dealing with random people like the rabbi and the funeral director, I canceled long standing plans to attend the funeral, and after all that I was incredibly hurt when my dad spent the whole eulogy basically shaming me (at that point I had been dating B for about 8 months, and my parents knew about him).

I don't know if I will go to his funeral if/when he dies. If it's in the middle of the semester, there's just no way I can feasibly go and keep up with my work load. Also, not sure if I would want to go after my experience at my grandmother's funeral. I suppose if he happens to die around fall break I might be able to go. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Busy like a bee, feeling kinda homesick.

I've been working pretty hard and pretty long hours. I've finished the first 4 weeks of teaching, and while I feel I finally have a handle on the lesson planning aspect (I'm preparing 2 entirely new courses, one of which is graduate level statistics which is a bitch to prepare for), I haven't gotten much research done at all- but I keep becoming more and more efficient, and I've found a few shortcuts (like an awesome website at my university that has videos on pretty much every academic subject) so hopefully I will be able to fit some research in soon.

For about the past month we've been doing school- and neighborhood-related social activities nearly every weekend (new faculty events for 2 weekends in a row, a party that second weekend at a prof's house, a small gathering at another prof's house the weekend after that, and then a neighborhood block party last weekend- we also have a dinner at the school president's house this wednesday). This weekend I finally got to just veg for the whole weekend. Of course when I veg I get bored, and when I'm bored I get kinda lonely...while I didn't have a lot of close friends in the city I last lived in by the time I moved away (almost all my closest friends had graduated or just moved on before I did), I was only 2 hours from my "real" friends- my friends for life- the people I first met in high school and who more or less went OTD with me. I was also within 2 hours of several of the friends I made during grad school who had moved on. Now they are 10 hours away, and I've finding being 10 hours away from my friends a lot more lonely than being 2 hours away. The worst part is that my 3 closest friends in NJ (one of which is my brother) all live with their parents, who probably definitely would not welcome me for a sleepover, especially not with B, let alone our 2 dogs. They all used to come visit me cause I had a place everyone could crash at. But 10 hours is a little far for spur of the moment visits, and I'm really feeling that.

I also am far from my whole music scene, and the music here is not super great- I don't have any of my music friends who go to shows with me living close by (which is part of the reason I like going to shows so much- always seeing the same awesome people over and over again), and good music doesn't really come through the area that much-there's only a show I'd be interested in seeing maybe once a month or once every other month. In my old city I could go to shows by great bands at least 2-3 nights a week if I had the energy.

At least I have B though. When I first moved to grad school (that 2 hour move) I was completely on my own and didn't make any friends for about 5-6 months. Now I have B, and we go out to restaurants and such- we've been doing a brunch tour of our new city (we like brunch) and so far have tried out 4 different restaurants for brunch. We have a resturaunt guide and have basically decided we will slowly work our way through most/all the resturaunts in town. There's some pretty great food here, and we can afford to go out to eat fairly frequently now that I'm not a grad student anymore (our usual expenses haven't risen much at all- our mortgage + insurance + taxes is about 20$ more a month than our rent was before- but my salary has gone up)

But it would still be nice to have some friends beyond B...I've been kinda friendly with this one adjunct prof in my department, and me and B went to a gathering there on labor day, which we had a lot of fun at...but we are still colleagues, so there is still that professional distance thing I feel like is always there. I have no idea how I will meet any friend possibilities beyond my job though, as the only people I really come in contact with are my colleagues and my students. We've met a few of our neighbors at the block party- most seemed to be retirees or couples our age with kids, not a lot of other kid-less couples. Not that people with kids are uncool, just at a different phase of life than we are.

Anyways when I get homesick I cook comfort food, and I have a whole comfort food plan for the next week. Today I'm making my old favorite, baked mac and cheese (only fancier with 4 kinds of cheese including smoked goat cheese from the awesome farmer's market goat lady and lots of herbs) then I have a whole plan that involved grocery shopping, 3 days of eating a rotisserie chicken + brown rice for dinner, then using the rotisserie chicken carcass + some more chicken to make a ton of chicken soup (to mostly freeze, but also to eat that night). Might make some matza balls, if we can find matza meal at the local grocery store- but I doubt we will. I'm going to try to find some I can order online so that when we defrost some of the chicken soup later we can make matza ball soup with it.

While making the chicken soup I'm also going to make kishka from a very well reviewed veggie kishka recipe I found on and soak some beans and defrost meat for cholent, and then next day I'm going to make cholent with my mom's old recipe (which includes a marrow bone that I also got at the farmer's market) with kishka in it. At some point I'm also going to make my mom's meatball recipe- possibly after the cholent.

We might not have spoken to each other since her and B met at my PhD graduation in May, but my mom's food still makes me feel better, and it's been so many years since I've had cholent (and kishke!)- probably 6 at least- that I have really been craving some lately.

I've had pretty much no contact with other jews or jewish culture anything here since moving here, and I'm a bit nostalgic for it. It's especially noticeable now during the high holidays when my facebook friend's list is exploding in talk about rosh hashana, yom kippur and sukkot, while in my real life things continue on perfectly normally. Even in grad school I went to a school with a huge orthodox population in it, so even though I never participated in anything (at least for my last 4 years of grad school) there were still jews around, doing visibly jewish things, like a comfort blanket. Now I gotta make my own chicken soup and cholent with kishka it is! :)