The Arbor Vitae 2013

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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

RED TAPE

September 4, 2013

Tags: Rosh Hashana, red tape, ipod

My mother in 1956
Every year as I prepare the traditional Sephardic Rosh Hashana foods, ritual and celebration float on an undertow of sadness, for my father died on the second eve of Rosh Hashana at the age of 63. This year the undertow I try so hard to ignore spills out into everything. My mother at 99 is in the last stages of vascular dementia, and in the midst of overwhelming emotional distress, my holiday preparations are constantly interrupted and infiltrated by the minutiae and Kafkaesque contortions of attempting to disentangle the mess of red tape that surrounds her care. This is not a tale of two cities, but the schizophrenia of living in two worlds.
My vibrant beautiful mother endures the remnant of life that remains to her, lost deep into herself, eyes closed, hunched in her wheelchair, her right hand feverishly tapping a rhythm only she understands, music from my old ipod leading her feet in a barely remembered beat, a subconscious memory of dancing and joy and the music of hope.
My brother, my sister, and I circle the wagons, faster and faster, anxious, desperately pursuing the status quo of her care, hacking daily at the tangled yards of red tape that emprison her in an uncertainty to which she is oblivious.
We are old, ourselves. At 99, people have old children. Every day we try to be the spouses, parents and grandparents we are, and to forget for rare moments that we are still children, her children, needed and loved, loving and lost. We search anxiously for laughter and sleep, moments of sanity. Red tape consumes us. We hold her comfort as carefully in our hands as she held us when we were babies, and we journey stubbornly with her to the elusive end to her life through wildernesses of frustration and emotional debris, paying the price of love.

Echoes of a past and intimations of a future

September 14, 2012

Tags: Egypt, Jews, Copts, Rosh Hashana, chaos, parents

My parents on their honeymoon in Luxor in 1937
In 1937, my parents, Guido Mosseri and Joyce Smouha, were married in the Nebi Daniel synagogue, in Alexandria, Egypt. The synagogue was ablaze with flowers and candles and packed with relatives and guests. So it was with a gathering sadness that I read a recent blog in Tablet Magazine (see my biography page for the link) and learned that a handful of elderly Jews -all that was left in Egypt from a community 80,000 strong - will in fact be deprived of a rabbi and cantor and do not have enough men for a minyan as we approach the High Holidays. Rosh Hashana services will not be performed in Egypt in 2012, probably the first time in 2000 years.
As Egyptians riot in self-righteous clamor in the name of insults to their faith, and Libyans commit murder in the name of outraged religious fervor, I am struck by the irony lived by the Egyptian Jews, last guardians of their past, elderly, vulnerable, and unable to rise above the menace that surrounds them.
And what of the Coptic Christians? They who claim to possibly be descended from the Pharaonic splendors of old? Their churches are burned and their populations suffer silently in fear of exile from the only country that holds their roots.
Why is there not more clamor? Human values are at issue here. The Middle East hosts a war that destroys history and leaves the Arab lands in economic chaos, unable to fill the void they themselves have caused. This virus will not die, and it will compromise everything we hold dear unless an antidote is found soon. (more…)

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