Friday, November 21, 2008
Rahm Emanuel's dad could be my dad. From Time:
In an interview with Ma'ariv, Emanuel's father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son's appointment would be good for Israel. "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel," he was quoted as saying. "Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."
Around the time Roots was being televised author Alex Haley was conducting some research at Budget and my father asked him, "Are you still writing that black stuff?" Once an African American woman we had archiving film for us came into my office and closed the door. She advised me that she had heard my father tell a filthy joke about a little black girl. I tried gently, for the zillionth time, to urge him to watch his mouth and his angry response was that if she had been wearing her headphones, and therefore working, she wouldn't have heard the joke.
My mother would embarrass me in public often with regard to money. She responded to panhandlers by proclaiming her own poverty. She argued at the supermarket about expired coupons. The Thanksgiving before she moved to the hotel she used Dial-a-Ride to transport her to us from the valley. When she arrived, jello mold foisted, I tried to hand the driver a few dollars and she grabbed it from my hand, screaming, "You don't have to tip him." She continues to fade but always, when we are in a restaurant she tries to shove a fistful of precious money at me. The names of her dead daughter and of her grandchildren are lost to her forever. Her love for me is one of the last remnants of her.
Himself and I were talking about our earliest awareness of sex. I hope he tells his story on his blog. A one word teaser is "Sambo's." I don't remember a particular pivotal moment when I became aware of that "thing" but I learned early on, the importance, the necessity, the absolute essentialness of feminine allure. There was no straight talk about sex but from nearly first memory it was clear to me that a man was to be ensnared to take care of a girl and that beauty is the bait. Later I learned that sex is the trap. Himself's first emotional association with sex was shame. Mine had something to do with commerce. My mother loves me. She offers me money as love and because I am her unbeautiful girl with no one to take care of me. So much has faded but still there is love and pity.
My mother liked my friends if she thought they were attractive or their families were well to do. I had one date once with the son of a dentist. I figured about ten minutes in that he was a nutcase and extricated myself as delicately as I could. But he kept calling. I asked him not to call and he kept calling. I had my phone number changed and delisted it. Six months later my mother told me that that nice dentist's son had called and she'd given him my new number. Why the hell wouldn't I want the son of a dentist to have my number?
One of my Dad's well worn catch phrases was that he'd lost two houses on two wives. He left my mother's house, the home he loved the most, and my mother reminded me of his abandonment of us until the dementia freed her from resentment. My father married his second wife about two years after divorcing my mother. She disliked children he told me from the get go. They lived less than a mile from me for most of their marriage but I visited their apartment no more than half a dozen times. Once when things were particularly horrible on Fulton Avenue and my mother had made it clear that she didn't want me there, I stayed for a few days with my father and his second wife. She was into new agey and outdoorsy things. They camped and rode bikes and went on weird diets. They spent time at nudist camps and racier venues too. Once some papers arrived special delivery and we were sitting at the breakfast table and she opened them and I was curious and she caught me glancing at them out of the corner of my eye (they were airline tickets) and exploded at how nosy I was. She was also completely intolerant of my weight and threatened to make me strip so she could weigh me accurately and put me on a diet. I wheedled my way back to my mother's house. I never visited that apartment again.
They later bought a home in the Palisades, where she still lives I believe. I visited that home once but it was only to deliver something and the transaction took place at the door. I was not invited inside. My time with my dad from the time he remarried, when I was about eight, was pretty much at the office. He would bring in scrapbooks from his travels through Europe and South America and Asia and point out the beauty and expensive wardrobe of first wife number two, and then wife number three. My father took me to San Francisco on an airplane for my only visit with his mother when I was about seven. There was a Bedlington Terrier and I learned to play blackjack. I never traveled with him again. I was living in London when he was there for a few days on his honeymoon with wife number three. He was furious that after being there for six months I couldn't find him an edible American hamburger but other than that, the bulging travel scrapbooks have no pictures of me.
This is my second Thanksgiving without my dad, the third one on which we will attend the early Tuesday celebration, with live entertainment, at my mother's residence and my first in my new kitchen. Cooking and entertaining are a great joy and for all the inadvertent things my parents did that wounded and hobbled, this is their gift to me. They loved a party. My father threw me a lavish 30th birthday party at the Scandia and financed a lovely wedding. My mom and dad were both lucid and present at my son's Bar Mitzvah. The last festivity. I feel the most tender towards my parents when I hostess. But, I don't trot out the thimble sized coffee cups and funnel Old Fedcal gin into the Tanqueray bottle.
There was a stalled car in a traffic lane on a blind curve on the Pasadena Freeway. The dog toppled and the kids looked up from their IPODS and the words that came to me were, "I failed these children,” but I hit the brake and with a half an inch to spare they were saved. How vulnerable we are at every moment. How much time I've wasted pouring out love never destined for reciprocation and suspiciously rejecting the genuine article. I drove up the 101 to Pismo Beach, a brief reprieve from smoky air. Every grove of eucalyptus might be the one I remember. The earliest thing I remember remembering, a long narrow grove from the jump seat of my uncle's station wagon. My mother's sad and happy memories are lost to her. My own ebb and flow. When the hour came to brave the traffic and return home from the beach in time for yoga, I felt a sad stab at how very fast time can pass. I drove past the Coldwater Canyon off-ramp returning and I wept to think about how much sweeter my life is than I could ever imagine in my girlhood dreams on Fulton Avenue. I feel beautiful in a way my parents would probably not value or understand. I love my father and he is blessed to rest in the peace of having been loved. I love my mother and she is blessed to know the time is now.