Monday, January 14, 2008

Five years without her...

Sunday, the 13th of Shvat, is 5 years since the awful and unreal day that my daughter, Liam died, just 2 months short of her 14th birthday. Although I do not usually talk about it, I decided to share some thoughts.

In the days and months after your child dies, you don’t believe that you will survive. It hits you first thing in the morning and last thing at night – your child is dead. I remember there were times when I was out and I wanted to just stop on the street and yell “How can you go on? Don’t you know that my daughter died?” The unfairness of life continuing and moving forward as though nothing happened was unbearable.

The question everyone wants to know is does it get better. Five years after Liam’s death I can honestly answer yes… and …no. The raw pain that is always with you in the beginning fades. It doesn’t assail you when you wake up. Flashbacks happen less frequently. And yet, time moves on. It is hard to believe that it has been five years since I’ve seen Liam. Since I’ve spoken to her, or heard her voice. Kissed her, touched her, hugged her, been exasperated by her, or yelled at her. The pain comes from watching her friends grow up and wondering what she would be like not as a child of 13 but as a young woman of 18. What she would look like, what decisions she would be making, how she would be changing and maturing. I am losing my frame of reference for things I measure by Liam’s age; it is getting too complicated to figure out. We left kibbutz the summer she finished 3rd grade. My mother died the winter she was in 4th grade. We moved to Zufim the summer before she went into 6th grade. How old would she be now? So how long ago was that? I wonder about her interactions with other people – how would she and Maor get along these days? How would she get along with my cousin’s daughter who is a bit younger than her? Or with my friend’s daughter who’s a bit older than her? And you realize that the questions will never stop. For as long as I live, I will be astounded that time continues to march on without her. One day I will be amazed to discover that Liam has been dead longer than she had been alive.

When Liam died, everyone in my circle knew that I had a daughter who died. As time moves on you meet new people, your circle expands, and you have to decide who to trust with this information. The simple basic question “How many kids do you have?” asked innocently and often is a loaded question. If you don’t include her, you feel guilty. But you don’t always want to get into it. At least I don’t. I don’t want to explain my life story to people who are basically strangers. They inevitably ask what happened and I don’t have a simple answer. I don’t want to see the pity in their faces. I am quiet and I keep things inside and I don’t want to talk about it in every casual social encounter when some unsuspecting person asks what they believe is a mild straightforward question. By not disclosing this information, however, I lose the ability to share parts of my life with others. I made aliyah when I was pregnant with Liam. We went to Disneyworld when Liam was 6 and Maor was a baby (Without Liam why we took Maor to Disney when she was 4 months old is a mystery). My parents came to Israel when Liam was one year old. There is a lot that I do not say without the context of Liam.

Losing a child creates a hole and a gap that cannot be filled. Yes life goes on (because what choice do we have) but you always feel that someone is missing. Everything you do as a family, both the big celebrations and the small mundane activities, leave you thinking and wondering and just plain missing her.

People imagine that missing a loved one works kind of like missing cigarettes.
The first day is really hard but the next day is less hard and so forth, easier and easier the longer you go on.
But instead it's like missing water. Every day, you notice the person's absence more.
Back When We Were Grown Ups, Anne Tyler

חמש שנים בלעדיה

.יום ראשון, י"ג שבט, נציין 5 שנים לפטירתה של בתנו, ליעם, שהייתה כמעט בת 14 במותה

בימים וחודשים לאחר פטירת ילדיך קשה להאמין שתשרוד. זה מכה בך דבר ראשון בבוקר ודבר אחרון בלילה – ילדיך מתה. אני זוכרת שלפעמים כשירדתי לעיר רציתי לעצור ברחוב ולצעוק "איך אתם ממשיכים בשלכם? אתם לא יודעים שבתי מתה"? הרעיון שהחיים ממשיכים ומתקדמים כאלו לא קרה כלום היה בלתי נתפס.

כולם רוצים לדעת אם זה נעשה יותר קל ככל שעובר הזמן. חמש שנים לאחר שליעם נפטרה אני יכולה לענות בכנות כן... ולא. הכאב החד שתמיד מלווה אותך בהתחלה דוהה. זה לא מכה בך כשאתה מתעורר בבוקר. פלשבקים קורים לעתים רחוקות. ובכל זאת, הזמן ממשיך. קשה להאמין שעברו חמישה שנים מאז שראיתי את ליעם. מאז שדברתי אתה או שמעתי את קולה. מאז שנשקתי אותה, חבקתי אותה או התעצבנתי עליה. מקור הכאב נובע מלצפות בחבריה מתבגרים ולתהות איך הייתה ליעם לא כילדה בת 13 אלא אשה צעירה בת 18. איך היה הייתה נראית, איזה החלטות היא הייתה מחליטה, איך היא משתנה ומתבגרת. אני מאבדת את נקודת ההתייחסות שלי לדברים שאני מודדת לפי גילה של ליעם. זה מסובך מדי. עזבנו את בית רימון כשליעם סיימה כתה ג. אמי נפטרה בחורף שליעם הייתה בכתה ד. עברנו לצופים לפני שהיא התחילה כתה ו. אז בת כמה היא צריכה להיות היום? לפני כמה שנים זה היה?
אני מדמיינת איך היא הייתה מסתדרת עם מאור. או אם הבת של בת דודתי שצעירה ממנה בשנה. או אם הבת של חברתי שמבוגרת ממנה בשנה וקצת. ואתה מבין שהשאלות לעולם לא ייתמו. עד יומי האחרון אני אתפלא שהחיים ממשיכים בלעדיה. יבוא היום ואהיה נדהם לגלות שליעם מתה יותר שנים ממה שהיא חיה.

כשליעם נפטרה, כולם מסביבי ידעו שהיתה לי בת שמתה. אבל ככל שעובר הזמן אתה פוגש אנשים חדשים ואתה צריך להחליט למי לספר. השאלה הבסיסית ופשוטה "כמה ילדים יש לך" שנשאלת בשיא התמימות היא אקדח טעון. אם אתה לא כולל אותה, אתה שטוף ברגשי אשם. אבל לא תמיד בא לך לחלוק את המידע הזה. לא בא לי להסביר את סיפור חיי לאנשים שהם בעצם זרים. הם שואלים מה קרה ואין לי תשובה פשוטה. אינני רוצה שירחמו עלי. אני שקטה מטבעי ושומרת דברים בפנים ואינני רוצה לדבר על זה כל פעם שאיזה מסכן שואל מה שהוא חושב שאלה סטנדרטי. מצד שני, כשאני לא מגלה את קיומה אני מאבדת את היכולת לחלוק מידע על חיי עם אחרים. עליתי לארץ כשהייתי בהריון עם ליעם. נסענו לדיסני כשליעם הייתה בת 6 ומאור בת 4 חודשים (בלי נוכחות ליעם זה באמת תעלומה למה לקחנו את מאור לדיסני כתינוקת). הוריי בקרו בארץ כשליעם הייתה בת שנה. יש הרבה שאינני יכולה לספר בלי להזכיר את ליעם.

אובדן של ילד יוצר חור ששום דבר לא יכול למלא. אומנם החיים ממשיכים (יש ברירה?) אבל תמיד מלווה בהרגשה שמישהו חסר. כל דבר שהמשפחה עושה, מהקטן ועד הגדול, משאיר אותך עם מחשבות ותהיות וסתם געגוע

Friday, January 4, 2008

3 for January

Shelly from Shelly's Book Shelf has 3 questions for January:

1. List up to 3 books you read in 2007 that you loved.
2. List up to 3 books you read in 2007 that were disappointments.
3. List up to 3 authors you discovered in 2007 you definitely will put on your Must Read list.

1. I am not an easy reader to please and I do not give out superlatives very often. So I'm not sure that I "loved" these books but they were definitely among my favorites:
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle - this was the first book in a VERY LONG TIME that I stayed up way too late to finish. I really enjoyed this book, even though it is on a heavy subject.
  • How to be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward - I listened to this book on audio. I thought I had it all figured out (and I often do) but this book managed to keep me guessing and surprise me.

2. I'm not going to list books that I just didn't like but books that I had heard great things about that let me down:

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy - I kept hearing about this Pulitzer Prize winning book and every time I picked it up I thought, no it's not for me. But it got so much praise I was curious so in the end, I opted for audio and suffered through 8 hours of misery. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts about what you like.
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon - this was the first book I read by Chabon and all the reviews were great. And everyone who saw me reading it said "Oh, how is it? Did you read Kavalier and Clay? It was great." I didn't enjoy Yiddish Policemen's Union and it was disappointing after all the raves. I did then read Kavalier and Clay and enjoyed it.
  • T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton - what can I say? I really like Sue Grafton's writing, the Kinsey Millhone character, and this series. I was very excited when I saw a new book was coming out and I was #20 on the waitlist at my library. It wasn't one of her better works. I know I should cut her some slack after 20 books but I was still disappointed.

3. When I read something I like I usually look for other books by the same author. Here are some authors I'm looking forward to reading more of:

  • Julia Glass - She won the National Book Award in 2002 for Three Junes and followed up with The Whole World Over in 2006. They were both quite good, with some overlap of characters. I look forward to reading whatever she writes next.
  • Amanda Eyre Ward - I haven't yet read her other novels but I will definitely add them to my forever growing TBR list.
  • Carolyn Parkhurst - I would give her book, Lost and Found, an honorable mention for question one, and will also try to read some of her earlier works.

The problem of book lovers everywhere, too many books, not enough time. The list of books I want to read keeps expanding but there are only so many hours in a day. Ah well, we'll see what 2008 holds in store for us.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Winter break 2007

We began our winter break with a JSN shabbaton in Santa Clara. Maor babysat for the little kids and we hung out with the adults, listened to some interesting divrei Torah, particularly by Rabbi David Fohrman, and enjoyed not having to cook for Shabbat.

On Sunday morning we grabbed some food for the long drive and set out for Las Vegas.

I took my laptop so Maor could watch movies in the car. I think she should be able to occupy herself without always being plugged into a screen (tv, computer, mp3) but for the sake of not listening to her whine for over 8 hours (and saving my sanity) I gave in to the electronic box.
The drive down was uneventful and after arriving Sunday night we went out for pizza and settled into our hotel.

On Monday we visited the small and unimpressive Las Vegas Zoo (alas, no tigers) and then headed over to the Las Vegas strip where we saw 3 slumbering lions at the MGM lion habitat, visited m&m world, and walked down to the wildlife habitat at the Flamingo Hotel. That night we went out for dinner at Tari Grill and Deli with my Uncle and cousin. I haven't seen my cousin in about 20 years and the last time I saw my uncle was 10 1/2 years ago when he came to see us in New York when I was visiting my mom. As we reminisced, at that time, he came to the NY Aquarium with us, where Maor had a tantrum during the dolphin show (she was 2 1/2 at the time) and I had to go out and find her milk for her bottle while my uncle watched the rest of the show with Liam. Anyway, one of the highlights of the trip was spending time with my uncle, my mother's brother.

Tuesday we headed to Circus Circus where Maor played arcade games at the Midway and we all played skee ball. This was definitely a trip down nostalgia lane since when I was a kid my uncle would take my cousins and me to Coney Island every summer, and skee ball was always a hit. We then headed to the adventuredome but Maor didn't want to go on the rides by herself so after one 4D movie and a spin on the bumper cars with my cousin we headed out. We went to Adar pizza for a late lunch again with my uncle and cousin and headed back to the hotel. That night we left Maor with the electronic babysitter and went back to the casinos by ourselves. We are not big gamblers but it was fun to soak up the crazy atmosphere and gamble a bit.

On Wednesday morning we headed South to the Hoover Dam. I was never very interested in history or geography, and being a typical New Yorker (as my Chicago husband is constantly reminding me) I think the USA revolves around NY so now I actually find seeing the USA quite interesting and a real eye opener. I am amazed at the vastness of the United States. As a kid my family didn't really go on vacations and except for a few trips: a weekend in Washington DC in 6th grade, Disneyworld with a friend in high school, and a high school trip to Canada I didn't leave New York (well, a few summers in Israel as well). After my year in Israel where I met people from other parts of the US and the world, I had the chance to visit both Southern and Northern California and then before making aliya we drove cross-country. But for some reason it is only now that I am really appreciating the sights of the US. When foreigners think of America they imagine the big cities - New York, Los Angeles, Boston, maybe Chicago but not the wide open spaces and the beautiful landscapes that America has to offer. Anyway, back to the Hoover Dam. For those of you as ignorant as I, the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s to control the Colorado River. It was a government project that actually was completed ahead of time and under budget. The dam supports itself by selling electricity and the electricity generated by the dam serves over one million people in Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. After our tour of the Hoover Dam we stopped to eat lunch at Lake Mead, the largest US man made lake, which was created by the building of the Hoover Dam.

On Thursday we went to Red Rock Canyon and again, it's amazing that this beautiful site is located so close to the Neon of Las Vegas. We did the scenic drive and took a very short hike where we saw a frozen waterfall. Thursday night we went to see a magic show - Steve Wyrick Real Magic. We all enjoyed it although I thought it was a bit too much gimmick and show and not enough magic. We walked around Planet Hollywood and while passing by some of the carts selling things I started to say to Arthur, I wonder how many of these kids are Israelis and sure enough, we hear them talking Hebrew to eachother.

Friday we went to the shark reef at the Mandalay Bay (what can I say, we like zoos and aquariums) and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame which has pinball machines and some old video arcade games. To Maor's chagrin they do not dispense winning tickets like in Circus Circus but we all had a good time playing. I used to love pinball, since I used to play in the bowling alley when I went bowling with my friends and I hated to bowl. They also had games like Ms. Pacman and Centipede in this hall of fame, definitely a blast from the past. Maor and Arthur played this old time baseball pinball:

We then went to buy food for Shabbat and checked in to our new hotel conveniently located literally next door to 2 orthodox shuls! Arthur and Maor went to shul Friday night and we ate in the hotel room, played some card games, read, and went to bed. Shabbat morning we went to shul and were invited to the Rabbi's house for lunch. In shul we met a family who had made aliyah to Karnei Shomron and were there for 3 years before coming back to the US since half their family was here (work and school) and it was too difficult with the family split. They hope to go back to Karnei when their kids finish college. Some of the kids went to the same school Maor went to and when certain teachers were mentioned, she grimaced and everyone laughed. One of the nicer things about traveling is meeting people in shul and doing the Jewish geography thing. In New York if you're an unfamiliar face in shul no one gives you the time of day.

After breakfast on Sunday morning we headed back to San Jose with a short stop to see Calico ghost town which was way too commercialized and not enough information. Unfortunately I felt nauseous the entire way home and eventually threw up about an hour away from San Jose. That hasn't happened to me in a very long time.

We had a quiet new year's at home and are now back in the routine of work and school. One of my classes is starting this Tuesday (it's from the University of Pittsburgh) but the other two don't start till the 23rd. I am NOT liking my job and hope I can hang on till the summer. That's all the news that's fit to print for now. Enjoy the photos from our Las Vegas trip below.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 Reading Wrap-up

2007 was the first year that I kept track of all the books I read and listened to on audio. I used librarything to index my books and although it is not perfect for now it is the social cataloging site I like best. I don't review the books I've read (I did think about it but I have no patience for analyzing why I do or don't like a book - I just know if I do). So without further ado, here is my list in alphabetical order:

1. The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde
2. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
3. The Accidental (audio) by Ali Smith
4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
5. Arba'a Batim Ve'gagua (ארבעה בתים וגעגוע) by Eshkol Nevo
6. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
7. Beautiful Lies: A Novel by Lisa Unger
8. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
9. The Case of the Missing Books: A Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom
10. The Cleaner by Brett Battles
11. The Cold Moon: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffery Deaver
12. Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel (audio) by Louis De Bernieres
13. The Corrections (audio) by Jonathan Franzen
14. Cross by James Patterson
15. Death Row by William Bernhardt
16. The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
17. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
18. The Echo Maker: A Novel by Richard Powers
19. Echo Park by Michael Connelly
20. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger
21. Fragile Innocence: A Father's Memoir of His Daughter's Courageous Journey by James Jr Reston
22. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
23. The Garden of Ruth by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
24. The God of Animals: A Novel by Aryn Kyle
25. Good Grief (audio) by Lolly Winston
26. Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston
27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
28. The History of Love: A Novel by Nicole Krauss
29. How to be Lost: A Novel (audio) by Amanda Eyre Ward
30. I Know This Much Is True (audio) by Wally Lamb
31. Invisible Prey by John Sanford
32. Judge and Jury by James Patterson
33. The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle
34. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel by Vendela Vida
35. Little Children: A Novel (audio) by Tom Perrotta
36. Little Women (audio) by Louisa May Alcott
37. Lost and Found: A Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst
38. Lucy Crocker 2.0: A Novel by Caroline Preston
39. Magical Thinking: True Stories (audio) by Augusten Burroughs
40. Mask Market by Andrew Vachss
41. A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance by Ze'ev Chafets
42. Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
43. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
44. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
45. Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer by Tracy Kidder
46. My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman
47. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks
48. Nineteen Minutes: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
49. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, David Kessler
50. One Shot by Lee Child
51. The Overlook by Michael Connelly
52. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
53. Promise Me by Harlan Coben
54. The Road (audio) by Cormac McCarthy
55. Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers by Elizabeth Edwards
56. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
57. Shvuat Rachel (שבועת רחל) by Michal Shalev
58. Simple Genius by David Baldacci
59. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
60. Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver
61. The Slow Moon: A Novel by Elizabeth Cox
62. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel by Lisa See
63. Songs Without Words by Ann Packer
64. The Spellman Files: A Novel by Lisa Lutz
65. Swimming across the Hudson by Joshua Henkin
66. Swimming Toward the Light by Angela Tehaan Leone
67. T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
68. The Teahouse Fire (audio) by Ellis Avery
69. Terminal by Andrew Vachss
70. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
71. Three Junes by Julia Glass
72. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
73. Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Quest, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother by Peggy Orenstein
74. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
75. We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel by Lionel Shriver
76. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
77. The Whole World Over: A Novel by Julia Glass
78. Wild Fire by Nelson DeMille
79. Without Fail by Lee Child
80. The Woods by Harlan Coben
81. The World to Come by Dara Horn
82. The Worst Thing I've Done: A Novel by Ursula Hegi
83. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Of the 83 books I consumed in 2007, there were 11 authors I read more than one of his/her works, 11 were audiobooks, 10 were non-fiction, two were in Hebrew, two won Pulitzer prizes (one of which I hated: The Road), and one I both read and listened to (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

Among my favorites were Corelli's Mandolin, Good Grief, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, How to be Lost, I know this much is True, The Kindness of Strangers, Lost and Found, Mountains beyond Mountains, Nine Parts of Desire, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Three Junes, and Water for Elephants. Books I thoroughly disliked were The Accidental, Brick Lane, The Corrections, The Echo Maker, The Road, Swimming Toward the Light, and We need to talk about Kevin. I found the Yiddish Policemen's Union disappointing after all it's hype.

I have a pile of books waiting to be read in 2008, and two that I started this weekend that I'll finish in 2008 so I guess my list will continue to grow. And if I haven't convinced you to pick up a book or two this year, maybe the following quotes will:
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. ~Mark Twain, attributed
TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book. ~Author Unknown
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. Dr. Seuss