Friday, September 19, 2014

A Day to Remember - My Mother

This morning my mother died peacefully in her sleep.   She was 87 years old.   Nine days before her death she was happily living in her new apartment not far from where I live, unaware that major health issues were about to be discovered.

She accepted that she could not recover from the medical conditions she had and did not want to prolong her life with no hope of getting well or having a slower, happier time ahead of her.

My mother was both a beautiful individual and a most difficult person.    Her social graces were lacking in some ways which could be infuriating.   Undoubtedly some of my weak areas were inherited from her as we were tied in not always healthy ways.

My mother had a loving heart and did her best to please various other people in her life.   She also made serious mistakes including alienating my son as he grew through his childhood.   I was very sad about this, but could do nothing to prevent it.

I am very, very very proud of how my son forgave her and was with her the last five days of her life in a most loving and caring way.   It meant a lot to her to meet her new daughter-in-law and be treated so wonderfully by the two of them! 

It was tough for me to feel our relationship reverse course recently as in important ways she sought my advice and I could no longer lean upon her for what I used to take for granted when I was younger.

My mother always meant well.   Over the last several months of her life she adjusted incredibly well while her life was being turned upside down.   Losing her house (to a fire) and eight days later losing her husband was a lot to cope with.    She happily moved into a retirement home near where I live and developed a support network quite rapidly there.

This morning her struggles with death ended peacefully.   Ma, I miss you already!   My tears flow as I think back over so much.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Remembering Reumah

My first cousin once removed Reumah Rekhav died yesterday in Israel at the age of 94.   She was a most fascinating, wonderful woman who lived an extraordinary life.

I will share some of my memories including what I’ve been told over the past decades.
Gertrud Marx was born May 11, 1919 the younger daughter of Hermann Marx and his wife.   She was named after her paternal grandmother who had died several years earlier.   

As a young child she happily played with my father who was 10 ½ months older than her.   At the 80th Birthday gathering of their paternal grandfather in 1923, they are clearly two of the youngest in the group picture.   Around this time they determined that they would marry each other when they grew up.   They loved to dress up together.

In 1933, upon arriving in Haifa on a ship from Europe, she left older sister Kitty,  who had met her there, with a young man on the back of his scooter roaring away (somewhat shocking her sister I believe).

Later on she changed her name and was “Reumah” thereafter.    My father was very happy to be reunited with her on our family trip to Israel in the spring of 1963.   Reumah had eventually become the secretary of a high level leader (perhaps  the president) of Bank Leumi.

Unlike most of our other relatives, Reumah never married.    Unlike most of our other relatives, Reumah was a vegetarian.

I was told that she brought transcendental meditation to Israel.   She certainly was a non-conformist in many ways.     It was a joy to stay as her guest at her Tel Aviv apartment.   While much of the food that she prepared for us wasn’t familiar to me, it certainly was excellent and very healthy.

Around 35 years ago she visited us in Madison, Wisconsin on her way to some training at the Maharishi University (in Fairfield, Iowa).   My mother, wife, she and I had a delightful day including seeing the geese at the Horicon Marsh.   When eating in a restaurant my mother felt compelled to tell her that she might not want to eat the pie because it probably had lard in its crust.

Sometime proximate to then, my wife and I, while visiting her in Israel, went on an Israeli bus tour with another relative to see some beautiful flowers in a rural, hilly area.   She helped translate some of what the guide said so that we could understand.

In her later years she shared much of her life with Aharon who is also a most interesting person.    Until her health interfered around age 90, they went together to peace demonstrations and other political actions around Tel Aviv.   If one Googles her name now, one primarily brings up her role as a signatory for peace and justice efforts in Israel.

Reumah was an upbeat, warm, sharing, caring person!   I will always remember her feeling a sense of peaceful strength and the energy of her warm heart.

(Reumah - on left with Mimi - on our Bus Tour)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Thanks CVS - Ending Tobacco Sales!

I am very pleased that the CVS pharmacy chain will be ending tobacco sales at all its stores later this year!   Cigarettes and other tobacco products are much more visible and available for purchase than is necessary.    It is important that we encourage actions that particularly may help teen and pre-teen youth avoid getting addicted to products like cigarettes and snuff.    Where adults struggle the most to stop smoking, nearly always they’ve become addicted while quite young.

Cigarettes are “worse” than liquor as well as lottery tickets and many other products (like donuts) commonly sold in part because they “kill directly” through their usage.   Alcohol, for example, may be abused and contribute to the deaths of many, however when consumed in moderation it generally won’t hurt most people.   There is no “safe consumption level” of tobacco products.

CVS, the second largest U.S. pharmacy chain, is taking a major step in announcing its termination of tobacco sales.   CVS’s joining Target in not selling tobacco products by itself won’t substantially cut smoking in the U.S.   It will, however, introduce the issue of voluntary limitations upon tobacco sales.

Hopefully other major corporations will follow CVS and help cut the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products in U.S. stores.    Hopefully people will now talk more about the importance of further cutting the consumption of tobacco products in the U.S.   Hopefully someday in the not-so-distant future 10 year old kids won’t be stealing cigarettes, getting given cigarettes and getting hooked while so young!


Friday, January 31, 2014

Wooden: A Coach's Life - by Seth Davis - a Review

Wooden: A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis  (2014) is an amazing book for those interested in John Wooden, UCLA’s former men’s basketball coach.

It shares a tremendous amount of detail describing the 99 year life of (probably) the most significant men’s college basketball coach of all time.    Winning the NCAA Men’s Championship ten times in the last 12 years of his career (for example,)was an amazing feat!

What makes this book worth reading are not the facts and data which are certainly interesting.    What is fascinating is trying to understand the total person that John Wooden was with both his strengths and his flaws. 
John Wooden regularly attempted to intimidate and harass opposing players as well as the referees in his games.   This was rather inconsistent with his public image as a polite, proper church-going man who didn’t smoke or drink.

While Wooden’s actions regularly showed that he was anti-racist (including during the 1940’s and 1950’s when blatantly racist actions were common), he consistently avoided using his influence to confront racist actions by others.   

During his coaching career he was hardly approachable by his players.  His emotional distance alienated a significant number of them.  John Wooden also lied about some of his achievements (such as saying multiple times that he’d never had a losing season as a coach).  Some of his public statements made it more difficult for those who succeeded him at UCLA in surviving trying to replace “The Legend”.

Some of the weaker sides of John Wooden helped alienated him from peer coaches as well as various basketball players.   At the same time he was a great teacher for most of his players both for basketball and for life beyond their basketball careers.

John Wooden mellowed as he got older.   After he retired gradually more and more of his former players began enjoying time with him.  Some healed their hurt feelings.    After struggling with the death of his wife in the mid-80’s he seemed to flourish and appreciate significant parts of his later years.   He was an avid reader and poet.   Wooden touched the lives of many.

John Wooden was an amazing person.   While I no longer see him as singularly positive, I can still appreciate what he gave to his world.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger was a wonderful amazing man.   He lovingly influenced many of us in various ways, remaining humble and connected.    While being sad at is death last night is understandable, we should also recognize that he lived a full, eventful life which we can celebrate in various ways.

He wrote and performed a lot of wonderful music with the Weavers into the early 1950’s.   “Good Night Irene”,  “If I Had a Hammer”, “Wimoweh”,  “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”,  and “Turn, Turn, Turn”  were some of his best known songs  His work on “We Shall Overcome” was significant in modernizing it from an old gospel song.

Pete Seeger was much more than a musician.  He confronted McCarthyism at its worst and was blacklisted while facing significant other persecution standing up for his beliefs.

Seeger clearly saw the interconnectedness of many issues through his life work.  He was a peace activist, a Civil Rights activist, an environmental activist, as well as a strong supporter of labor and many others.   

When he made money, he used it to support “the people” through many causes.   He inspired many musicians, activists and “normal people” in various ways.
Most significantly – he was a warm, loving, caring man who lived his beliefs in his life.   

I am sad at the death of Pete Seeger!   I’m happy that I’ve been exposed to a little of this incredible man who meant a lot to me over the past 40+ years!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish-Arab Divide – by Susan Nathan

A Book Review:

The author (who is Jewish) emigrated  from England to Israel after her children were grown up.   Against the advice of friends and family, she moved to Tamra, an Arab town of 25,000, whose other residents Arab Israeli citizens.

Her story is a strong indictment of how the Israeli Government and Israeli Jews treat the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs.   The story is primarily not about residents of the West Bank or Gaza (who are not Israeli citizens).

The parallels with how Black People were treated well before the Civil Rights era resonated with me.   I can not imagine Black People being told over a period of decades that their land and houses were not legally their own, with more and more land confiscated for White People.

The racist nature of “Israel for the Jews” is shown within many of the author’s explanations.    In some ways the story portrayed shows sometimes more subtle forms of exclusionary policies.

Arabs are not in the Israeli military and many loan programs require one to be a veteran of the Israeli army.     The Jewish National Fund owns a huge portion of the land in Israel and becomes the owner frequently when land is confiscated from its Arab owners.   Its status as a non-governmental agency shields it from significant Israeli laws which might otherwise give at least a little protection to Arab Israeli citizens.

One need not agree with everything the author says to be greatly affected by her words!   While this book is far from perfect, it is a significant book for those who may at least be open to a non-traditional perspective on Israel.