Aug 19 2014
I have worked with retired “senior” adults for many years. The other day a woman I had never met came in sobbing about the loss of her mother over a year ago. This was not the first time I have been surprised by the intensity of grief experienced by an older woman over the death of a very, very old mother.
But it did pose the question: Can you be too close to your mother?
A few weeks ago, the same thing happened with another woman in my office. Years earlier, someone else told me she had never married or fulfilled her potential because her mother insisted that she take care of her until she died. I recall a man who slept on the floor next to his old mother’s bed in case she needed immediate attention during the night. She lived a long life and by the time he got up off that floor, he didn’t have much else. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 14 2014
Larry David is coming to Broadway!
David plans to star in a comedic play he wrote about death and mourning–something only Larry David could pull off. Initially titled “Shiva” but renamed “Fish in the Dark,” Larry says the show was inspired by the death of his friend’s father.
David told The New York Times that he will be playing “somebody very similar to Larry David–it might even be Larry David with a different name.” Read the rest of this entry →
Lauren Bacall, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 89, was a model, an actress, a movie star… and a Jewish mother.
Born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx to a Romanian mother and a father whose parents emigrated from Poland, she had three children herself, Stephen and Leslie with Humphrey Bogart, and Sam with Jason Robards. Her stage name, Bacall, was actually her mother’s maiden name. (She is also a cousin of Shimon Peres on the Perske side.)
In her autobiography, Bacall recalled being fired from an early modeling job because she was Jewish. It was the reason she didn’t tell the reportedly anti-Semitic director Howard Hawks about it, and why she allowed the studio’s PR department to claim that their new star was a descendant of some of America’s oldest families. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 13 2014
I love television. I always have. I love to talk about TV with friends, I love to rewatch shows I haven’t seen in years, and now with services like Hulu and Netflix, I love catching up on shows I missed the first time around. I don’t usually have much time for TV, but while recovering from a C-section this past February, I watched almost the whole 10-year run of “How I Met Your Mother” while caring for my newborn. Hundreds of episodes, probably.
I can’t believe I just told you all that. Because I love TV, but boy, do I feel guilty about it. Whenever I am watching, I always feel that I should be working, or cleaning the house, or exercising, or pre-cooking healthy meals for my family to be pulled out of the freezer at a moment’s notice, or, or, or… you get the idea.
For better and for worse, I have used TV as a method of self-care, distraction, and procrastination for decades. It’s not as destructive as drugs or gambling, I know, but it isn’t exactly virtuous either. Read the rest of this entry →
Here at Kveller, we love to talk about baby names, especially Jewish ones. And if there’s one thing for certain, any name that begins with a Z is automatically awesome. Take Zelda. It means “happiness” in Yiddish, it’s the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famously difficult wife, and the name of the princess in the “The Legend of Zelda” video game series.
It’s also the name of Robin Williams’ daughter, who was named for the video game Zelda. The actor, who passed away Monday, was a well-known gamer and active in online gaming forums. Robin explained to Game News that the name occurred to him while his first wife was pregnant and they were playing the classic game together.
Watch Robin and Zelda tell the story of her name in the sweetest video ever: Read the rest of this entry →
Many of us who grew up watching Robin Williams in so many dazzling roles are left reeling at his death at age 63 and the tragic circumstances surrounding it. It’s odd to think that a man who brought so much joy to so many people was quietly struggling with such severe depression, and a sobering reminder that mental illness can touch anyone, no matter how seemingly blessed and glittering the externals might appear.
Like other children, I watched “Aladdin” with rapt attention when it came out in 1992, and became an instant Robin Williams fan at age 6–though I only put a face to the Genie the following year when Williams starred in “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Since then, I’ve followed his career, along with a few million other people, and the canon of work Williams left behind is vast and the stuff of cultural legends. A few of the movies in which he starred have taken on an added meaning for me since I became a parent, and in re-watching some clips in the wake of Williams’ death, I found two parenting tidbits from his movies to be particularly powerful.
First up, in what is generally considered a lighthearted comedy, “Mrs. Doubtfire” actually contains one of the most moving monologues I’ve ever seen Robin Williams deliver in character and certainly one of the most touching discourses about parenting from any movie I can easily recall (and I watch a lot of movies). Towards the end of the film, the judge presiding over the custody case between Williams’ character, Daniel Hillard, and his ex-wife Miranda (played by Sally Field), asks whether Daniel has any closing remarks to make to stake a claim for partial custody of his children. In response, and with reference to his cross-dressing antics, Daniel says this: Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
When a Kveller reader recently sought advice on finding a Jewish ritual for mourning the passing of her cat, I wrote off the request as being outside of the boundaries of normative Jewish practice. Judaism’s elaborate and meaningful mourning rituals and practices are for people, not pets. I felt that saying kaddish or observing the yahrzeit of a pet, no matter how beloved, would somehow take away from the meaning and power of these customs and laws.
And then our beloved guinea pig Caramel died.
Caramel was no ordinary guinea pig. In addition to her rather impressive size and multiple chins, she was a fairly accommodating rodent who often kept my eldest son company during homework time and who enjoyed a good (supervised) romp on the front lawn (The smells! The tasty grass!). Caramel occupied a special place in our hearts (no offense to her cage mate, Cinnamon), and I knew that mourning her was going to be difficult.
We chose a sturdy shoe box for her coffin and my husband went outside to dig the requisite hole in the yard while the kids mourned over her furry, lifeless body. Not wanting me to close the lid, I explained to them that the coffin is closed during most Jewish funerals so that we can remember the person as they were when they were alive. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 7 2014
My husband and I bought cemetery plots today. We are both only 42 years old and (thank God) in good health, but we are trying to do the responsible thing. My parents purchased plots when they were around the same age and we figured it’s always smart to prepare for the future.
Unfortunately, there were no available spaces right next to our family plots, but we were pleased to find a nice spot just a short distance down the pathway. In some ways, the location is probably just right–close to my parents and family, but not too close.
The thing that makes me a little sad–but also a little happy–is that (in 120 years) we will not be buried right next to our daughter. Four years ago this month, we lost a very difficult pregnancy at 21-weeks gestation. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 2 2014
It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.
When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.
I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?” Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 1 2014
Too early that March morning, my mother came into our bedroom and told us, “You don’t have a Nana anymore.”
My sister and I sat up in bed, sleepy-eyed, and shocked into silence. We knew Nana had been in the hospital, but we had no idea she could die.
Although it is contrary to today’s thinking about children and death, I am still grateful that, at 9 years old, I did not go to my grandmother’s funeral. I know that forever after I would have thought of her suffocated in a box. Despite the trauma, at least my memories are of a smiling, well woman who delighted in me and whatever I did. Read the rest of this entry →