The Marriage Gift

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In The Absence Of A Personal Moment

When I left for Chicago to tour the different Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses around the city, my husband reminded me not to forget the camera.
 I had longed to see those houses ever since we moved to Iowa City, only four hours away. But with two small children at home it was not so simple to just take off and go. Then a friend suggested that we could drive to Chicago for a couple of days, to see Lloyd Wright's work especially. We could stay with her good friend whom she wanted to visit. The latter was in town for the summer at a home of a third friend who had just moved into town.
 I was delighted, and soon afterwards we found two days when my husband was able to take care of the girls. On the drive there my friend supplied several details about our host: he had just graduated from law school and worked for the community. I didn’t think to ask but, because of his modern Israeli name, I assumed that he was Israeli.
 When we arrived to the house it was apparent that, in spite of his name, Barack --which in Hebrew means  literally lightening and metaphorically swift or rapid-- was not an Israeli. You may have guessed by now that the young man, our host, whose last name I didn't know until years later, was Barack Obama.
 Barack shook my hand politely and quite formally; it was gracious of him to invite us to stay at his home and I was thankful,  but that was all. We stayed there for two days and didn't have even one personal exchange. I remember the distinct feeling that here was a busy young man who was focused and distant.
 People who met President Clinton, especially in Israel where he is still immensely popular,  report that even in the briefest of meeting he comes across as personable and warm. When he came to the funeral of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin he shook hundreds of hands. Many people said that somehow he made them feel special.
 That was not the feeling I got from meeting young Barack, quite the contrary. Back in 1985 I was already thirty and he was only twenty four. At that age it was a huge difference, and our circumstances could not have been more different. He was just starting out his public/civil career and I was " just a mother" which meant that at that point I had no career at all.
I could not claim that, from our brief encounter, I sensed that Barack would go far. However, from my perspective a man who, on the one hand was generous, and on the other hand did not waste unnecessary time on socializing with his guests, was made of different, perhaps stronger material.
Apart from the civil handshake, I don’t have anything else to report, yet perhapse the absence of any personal moment could also reveal something about one's character.
As my husband suggested I did take the camera and shot some photos of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, but none of Barack or the visit to his home. Till this day I remember in great details the different houses which I saw at that visit almost thirty years ago, they touched my heart; Barack didn’t. 
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Good Reports


Last Sunday Gerald took us down to Cape Girardeau to the hospital to join others there to offer our emotional support to his brother Garry, who had been told his wife needed to have her life support stopped.  With great anguish and emotional trauma, Garry did what Ginger had said she wanted under these conditions.  And she started breathing on her own.  Her daughter Vicki spent the night with Ginger, and by the next day, Ginger even said a word or two to Garry.  

He and their son Kerry began making the arrangements to take Ginger home to the farm—just as they had been explaining to her they were trying to accomplish while she was in the nursing home those three months.   They secured a hospital bed and hospice was made available to them.  They received some training about her care. By Tuesday late, the ambulance took Ginger home.  All reports are that Ginger is very happy and peaceful being back at her beloved home, and her family is very happy to have her there.  She is communicating some, and everyone feels good that God is in charge of her life now—not artificial support.

My brother Jim was in the hospital waiting more repair or some kind of work done on stints following the surgery done Friday on his 86th birthday.  On Monday that work was postponed until the next day to let his kidneys recover more from Friday’s procedure.  Tuesday’s phone call said he had the surgery on the stint on his right side of heart but was being kept in the hospital over night following that morning’s work just to be sure all was well.  Later he could face what needed to be done of the left side.  However, evidently the problems on the left side were more serious than hoped because he still had more chest pains. So yesterday his wife Vivian’s phone call explained that another surgery had worked on his left side.  He was supposed to go home today unless I heard differently.  His two daughters live locally, and their only son has come down from the quad city area to stay with them and help during this recuperation just as Robert did last fall following the four stints put in at Springfield. So I am relieved that my brother is home where I know he wants to be, and Vivian and their children are there taking care of him.  

Other good reports include the local news that the two young girls who were injured in the tragic accident coming home from Evansville are doing good and preparing for their start soon as new high school students.  I am sure that they both have much work and pain ahead of them before their recovery is complete.  But since one had not even been expected to live (and might have never recovered if she did live), people are so happy and excited about progress that one doctor described as a miracle.  It has been satisfying to know of the prayers and the concern that our community had shown for these young people as well as for the family who lost their loved one in that accident.


Katherine’s hospital stay at Carbondale, which coincided with mine in Marion, seems to have helped her not only to get over her latest IUT but in other ways also made her stronger.  When Gerald and I have gone by, she looked good and was cheerful, the house looked well kept, and things seemed to be going as well as when I was going in to help.   

Our long-time neighbor Edith Tanner, whom we had received a message about when we returned home last Sunday, did pass away on Tuesday.  And so did Russell Stapleton, our neighbor on the other side of our Pondside Farm house. Our children played with their children, and we know how much they loved their parents.  Russ served through terrible times while in service during World War II, but he never complained about it. 

Then he and Mildred endured the deaths of their two oldest sons in recent years.  I liked seeing the photos of their younger days displayed at the visitation Wednesday night.  And I loved the story Bruce Beasley told me as we visited together as our long line moved forward toward the casket. Mildred had told Bruce she knew Russ really loved her because when they were dating, he walked up from Pope County each weekend to stay with his relatives so he could visit her and take her to church.  Then he would walk back home to Pope County. Yes, that is certainly proof of true love as was his faithful care of his family and his long years in the coal mines. What their many years of service meant to our community is immeasurable.  Russell and Edith were both wonderful neighbors, but both had lived long lives and were no longer healthy or able to do the things they loved.  I consider death a wonderful blessing as we age, and I know that both are in a better place experiencing a happiness we cannot even imagine.



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Please Leave Me A Note: The Language Of Personal Notes

My husband Tzvi and I were the kind of people who left notes to each other, they were short, very often functional, but full with attention and love. By the time our first daughter was born, we had been writing notes for almost 8 years.

 At that time we lived in the US but, of course, we always corresponded in Hebrew. I never thought about the complex meaning of English versus Hebrew until it was time to read to my daughter. I knew that she would learn  English in pre-school, so we decided  to read to her mostly in Hebrew.

But then I started to think about the language of her future notes. As personal notes are such an intimate form of communication, I felt that it was crucial for my daughters (first the one and soon after the two) to be able to write them in Hebrew.

 Thus I decided to teach my daughters to read and write in Hebrew. I explained to them my rationale, and they agreed to make an effort. We created our own Hebrew school and every Sunday wrote letters to their grandparents, and invented  stories that the girls wrote in their note books.

 Although Tzvi and I spoke Hebrew at home, there was a period when my daughters spoke English to one another. I used to hear them play school with their stuffed animals giving them instructions in English. I didn’t say anything, but was worried about the future of those personal notes. Then we had spent a Sabbatical year in Israel and once we  moved  back to the US I noticed that the girls naturally shifted  back into Hebrew.

  Around us there were many Israeli friends who spoke English with their children. The strong Hebrew accent in English of the parents in contrast to the perfect accent of the children seemed to reflect something about the relationship within the family. I felt that it  weakened the position of  the parent in the new country.

 I had some frame of reference, since Israel has always been  an immigrant society. Often when new immigrants arrived to Israel they knew very little Hebrew and their  children normally became fluent in the language much faster than their parents and grandparents. A friend of mine told me that when she was 11 in the late 1960s she used to accompany her grandmother everywhere, especially to places like the local  hospital and different government offices. She was the interpreter for her grandmother who knew no Hebrew. This is a typical story, those children who became the mouthpiece for the whole family  were put in an awkward position. On the one hand, they gained a special status in the family because of their responsible role. On the other hand, this reversal of roles, in which the child is the ambassador to  the outside world, was also a source  of confusion for everybody within that family.

Our Israeli friends in the US were young professionals whose English was good enough and they didn’t need an interpreter, but still they lived in a foreign country where their children had a better mastery of the English language.  I felt that speaking to my daughters in my native tongue was  a better way to preserve the traditional roles in our family.

And as for the personal notes, my daughters, who spent most of their life in the US, prefer to read and write in English. But whenever I come home to find a note from one of my daughters, it is always written in Hebrew. This makes me especially happy.



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Thanks, Di.
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Pure poetry - very evocative - you are a painter with words..Di
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