connection and disconnect

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There was a time when you’d make a new friend, and you’d get to know his or her brothers and sisters, father and mother, or children… depending on the ages involved… you’d get to know the family. Today, the family is often a more complicated entity… with a somewhat fuzzy definition. My friend John has a daughter from his first wife, and a son from his second wife, but he’s closest to Annette, his second wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, and she was over having breakfast with him and his present wife Sally the other day when I came over with a recording of Oscar Peterson that John had wanted to hear. Annette had come with her best friend, Miriam, who as it turns out, loves Jazz too. Miriam is Annette’s ex sister in law, because she was married to Annette’s half brother Sam, before they divorced.

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Shortly after I arrived, Avigdor, John’s upstairs neighbor came by with Ruthy, his step mother who is five years younger than he is, and they joined us in the consumption of lox and bagels, while listening to the music and telling us exotic tales of intrigue in the world of jazz here in Israel.

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Miriam was telling me about the guy who introduced her to Jazz. That was Bill. He had one of the largest collections of CDs she ever encountered, and as it turned out, he was a second cousin of Ephraim… or maybe it was Oscar Peterson who was a second cousin of Ephraim. Ephraim is a disc jockey on radio 88, and his biological mother is Chava, who’s now married to Bill. They have these two boys who are part of the band called the ‘who dunits’, which is quite popular in France and barely known here… or was it Peterson who is well known in France but couldn’t make a living if he were living here…? Forgive me, it’s not that I don’t want to remember… it’s just that life has become a little confusing in recent years.

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Well, Miriam was telling me about how much she loved Oscar, and it was only about twenty minutes later that I realized she wasn’t talking about Oscar Peterson. It was when she mentioned that Oscar had died in a motorcycle accident when coming off the freeway in Tel Aviv. I told her that as far as I knew, Peterson had died in Canada in ’07, and I hadn’t heard that he was on a bike at the time… and it turned out that she was talking about Oscar Goldblum with whom she’d had a love affair before marrying her ex, Ilan, who is now married to Hagar, whose ex, Yekutiel has just recently joined the ‘who dunits’ in Paris, and they are thinking of doing a special ‘come back’ concert in Tel Aviv.

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While talking of her love for Oscar, she shared with us that his wife Ruby had arranged for a very private funeral service, and none of his old friends had been invited. So Miriam was aching for closure… she told us she felt like she was just hanging in air. John suggested that she might hold a wake for him, and invite all of his old friends. But Miriam said that he had a lot of old friends, and she didn’t know if you could legitimately advertise a wake with a ‘bring your own bottle’ policy. And then Sally suggested that she might organize a minion of ten people and visit the grave and say kaddish there.

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My role had been mostly that of a listener up till then. But having gotten completely lost in my attempts to follow the family ties in this story, I tried to approach the subject from a philosophical point of view, and raised the possibility that after the love affair had fallen apart, and both she and Oscar had each found a separate spouse, maybe it would have been best if she had forgotten all about him, and put the memories behind her. ‘Isn’t it better to disconnect when the relationship is over?’ I asked, ‘rather than to feel pangs in the heart each time you see him?’ Looking back, the question was probably superfluous, now that he was in his grave. But the answer I received was unanimous, right across the table. The general feeling seemed to be, the more love, the better. And once you realize that you and that special other weren’t really made for one another, there’s no reason not to be friends… and then there are no heart pangs either.

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‘But what about simplicity’, I groaned. How the hell do you remember all of your relatives? I looked across the table, in a vain attempt to find an ally. Sally met my eyes and winked at me as she said, ‘life isn’t that simple anymore’.

The photos here are of a hedonist gathering of friends on the balcony of my new home.

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62 responses to “connection and disconnect

  1. Hahaha. You really made me chuckle, Shimon. I can well understand your confusion. I also find it difficult to follow all the family and friend shenanigans, so often keep my ears open and my mouth firmly shut, lest I put my foot in it, 😀

    • Thanks for the support, anotherday2paradise. I was worried that this little sketch might be considered ‘putting my foot in it’. But I do run into such situations more and more… and felt I had to share my confusion with others.

  2. I lost track of my family disconnects and connections a long time ago. Where there is a lot of movement through political/economic situations, pogroms and wars, there are bound to be fractures in family networks. The continuation arrives when people attempt to recreate new networks, which, often, because of background, these are difficult to achieve first and even second time round. Some people are serial searchers and extra complexities evolve from that.

    It’s always good to sit down to a good nosh and be sociable. It’s rather like the metaphorical comfort of being given a bowl of chicken soup. (There’s a book about that, I cannot think of the actual title at the moment).

    • Hi menhir. I am familiar with the disruptions caused by war, tragedy, and disease… but it seems that there’s a new life style that has sprung up in the last generation, which includes all kinds of regrouping and parallel development of family. I can’t say I completely understand it. But it doesn’t seem at all like some of the tragedies I witnessed. It reminds me more of political realignments. And if everyone is happy with the situation, I’m certainly happy to accept it. I just might not be able to follow the subtleties.

  3. Such fun to read this this morning! Yes, the edges are fuzzy anymore. Your re-telling is fabulous. Thank you for sharing this.

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Kathleen. Always curious about new social trends, and this is something that seems to be gaining momentum. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I felt, and felt for your confusion, Shimon. Actually this sounded somewhat like a script for a Woody Allen film. It would certainly make a brilliant one-act play. Love it.

    • How sweet of you to say that, Tish. I haven’t enjoyed all of his movies, but there are some I liked very much. And coming from a rather conservative society, It is fun to examine new social mores from the perspective of an outsider.

      • Does it mean we are shallower emotionally now are heading that way..I enjoy your portraits

        • From my perspective, the new family relationships point to a greater emotional depth. The framework of ‘family’ seems to be opening up, and there is more room for subtlety in our relations. Thanks for you comment, CW.

  5. Your wonderful tale had me laughing … and wondering, where’s the scorecard so I can identify the players. … and then the perfect ending. Well done!

    • So glad that I was able to amuse you, Frank. I do think we’re watching a new social order in its establishment… and I can’t help but wonder what it’ll be like in another 50 years.

  6. PS: Let us imagine a drink together to this. Cheers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KneOi4QLbtU

  7. Sounds like a great discussion and the food looks fabulous too.

  8. Yes! A scorecard would definitely come in handy. Reminded me of a soap opera. The food looks delicious and the company happy. Can’t ask for much more than that. Thanks for sharing the laugh.

    • Good company is a very important ingredient for a full life. And it’s when people don’t agree, that you get challenging conversations, and a lot of new ideas. Thanks very much for your comment, Judy.

  9. I don’t know I’m following the conversations 😀 It looks like everyone enjoyed the delicious food. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • It’s enough if you were amused, Amy. Too bad I couldn’t share some of the food with my cyber friends. Now that would have been sharing in the best way.

  10. The food made me hungry, the conversation made me laugh and the complications of all the permutation of what a family was and what it is-perplexed.

    • Hi Rachel. How good that I provided a laugh. I have a feeling we’re seeing a really important change in social structure, but it isn’t quite clear what it will turn into in the long run. I’ve been thinking about this seriously. But of course it seemed more fun to look at the amusing side.

  11. `We’re all related! You need a special web-site for your family alone! Good looking family, Nice home.

    • Thanks very much, Barbara. Nice of you to offer that point of view, that we’re all related, though it seems sometimes that fights between brothers are much harsher and crueler than fights between perfect strangers… so do we want to be all related? I wonder sometimes.

  12. Haha, it’s a amazing that all that jazz you enjoy didn’t lead you to have a similar love life, Shimon. Things are similar on this side of the globe, in spite of all the seeking to keep things simpler. My aunt has a rainbow of grandchildren. The internet makes strangers seem like friends and neighbors seem like strangers. I love the looks of your new place and I hope you are enjoying your Spring! p.s. all that food is really making me hungry!

    • Compared to my generation, I believe that my grandchildren have much more genetic differences… though we live in a rather conservative society. But I do believe that the future will bring many more rainbow families, and I am convinced that that leads to stronger offspring. As for friends and neighbors, I still believe that there is great potential there, and a treasure when the potential is realized. But it is amazing, all the same, how close we can get in ‘virtual’ relationships. Thanks for your good wishes, Michelle. Good to hear from you. And yes, the spring is delightful.

  13. I could have read that ten times, and still not have managed to get it straight. Yes, things are more complicated these days. It does make me ache for a time when family ties were more lineal, rather than intersecting and crisscrossing all over the place. Complicated, indeed.

    Lovely photos; glad the weather is allowing you to enjoy your patio.

    • Well, it was written in fun, N. But that’s the way I feel sometimes, when people explain their different relationships. I haven’t made any value judgments yet regarding these new family set ups… but my gut feeling is that it’s a bit like a tribe… which is something that’s missing from our odern lives. And yes, it’s a great pleasure getting out in the patio and enjoying that hybrid feeling of being both inside and outside.

  14. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    this is why I am happily disconnected from family drama, I love my family at a distant most of the time,
    Wonderful story, I gave up after 2 reads LOLs..
    Love your photos always Shimon, takes me to places I have never been and only dream of going
    Take care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

    • Yes, Maryrose. I can understand what you’re saying. The most essential difference between family and friends is that we get to choose our friends. Of course, there’s good luck and bad luck both with family and friends. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Always good to hear from you.

  15. Hahaha….this had me chuckling away! I am not at all surprised at your confusion, my mind was well and truly boggled! A marvelous tale though and how nice to see you entertaining friends on your balcony, I can almost hear the Jazz playing. You are a born story teller.xxx

    • So glad to hear that you were chuckling away, Dina. I have the feeling that you always catch the spirit of my writing, and this one was truly, all in fun. It is very good to be able to enjoy the balcony, now that it has warmed up. And had you been here, I assure you we would have had a number of vegetarian dishes in your honor. The good jazz is always here. Thanks. xxx

      • Oh….how I would love to sit on your balcony enjoying veggie food….lots of olives I hope….I LOVE those…and sundried tomatoes….yes….and jazz softly playing and you with Nechama on your knee, purring away, allowing me the odd stroke….and you just doing what you do best….being you!xxx

  16. Ah, so it is the same everywhere:). Yesterday my favourite nephew from California was in London with his family. He is actually my ex husband’s nephew (who After 26 years of divorce I am still good friends with) My ex husband’s third wife is a friend – oh and my ex husband is her fourth husband, and her daughter from her second marriage sometimes comes to stay with me……and I could go on and on:). Yes in today’s world things are very complex and so maybe it is better if we can all just keep loving one another….:). The food looks great and love the portraits. Going with the flow has become the only way to go. Have a lovely weekend. X

    • I have only recently become aware of the possibilities, Janet. For some time now, I had the feeling that the family unit had become less and less important, with the focus on the individual. People are having less children in the west… and some preferring to have none at all. The tribe is only a memory. Old folks find themselves in ‘protected housing’ at best… But here, from an unexpected direction, one sees a new pattern of family ties between people. People do need people, and it turns out that the ties are not just virtual. Going with the flow is all the more essential in changing times. Thanks for your comment. Always very good to hear from you. xxx

  17. As I read this post, I felt as if I were reading a Russian novel where there were way too many characters to track! Too funny! And I loved the shots. It looks like it was a wonderful gathering of friends, wine and good food.

    • So glad that I was able to amuse you, Cathy. And this is the best time of the year for me… when the days get long, and we’re able to sit out on the balcony with friends. And of course, this is the time for trips and hikes in nature too.

  18. I’m not at all surprised you lost track Shimon. What a wonderful gathering. Good food, wine, friends, sunshine, music.. wish I’d been there Shimon!

    • Yes, those are the ingredients that bring us together to enjoy life all the more. I love the summer. And it would have been wonderful to have you join us here, Chillbrook. I can think of two advantages immediately. You could have included me in a shot with my guests. And I could have finally gotten a good clear shot of you for all your fans, who would like to see you more personally.

  19. Wot a hoot! Kinda like an IQ test question…the answer is ‘Red’!!! LOL.
    In the olden days, my ex and I kept in touch and he included me in any of his get-togethers even after he married again. But, then, there came a time when I realised that his marriage would be better off without the ex (being me) being a fixture in their, new lives. Psychology would say I was very wise in this!
    PS: The ‘girl’ in the blue dress is very masculine-looking… 😉

    • Well, I’m not at all sure that I understand the psychology of all of this, but my guess is that we can give and receive a lot of support in situations like that; that it takes us back to a mentality that is closer to tribal relations, in which each member of the tribe had something to contribute to the social structure. And of course the many varieties of love come into play too. As for the woman in the blue dress, that is Rivka, my daughter, and I often hear that she’s quite similar to me. At least she doesn’t have a beard. But both the masculine and the feminine sides of her are duly expressed. Thanks for your comment, Janina.

      • Psychology: it is recommended that for a new marriage to work and remain healthy, the ex-mates are not recommended to hang around the new couple. As we had no children, that was not a problem. Often I was asked why I was still ‘seeing’ my ex-husband and I said that is just the way we are, it was a friendly divorce. I was ahead of my time in that regard. Of course, in old tribal situations in small groups, you would still be ‘seeing’ each other during daily interactions, but when you live a big modern city, it is very easy to not see each other at all and, therefore, no problems can arise.

        As for your daughter Rivka, I wouldn’t be too concerned about her masculine look. Often I’m called butch as I no longer wear dresses (too big and lumpy for them to look anywhere near as nice on me as they used to when I was trim and not as comfortable as a good pair of slacks).

        An aside on this issue of looks: as I was born in Germany and as a toddler I had a pair of lederhosen and tyrol hat and jacket to match. When my hair was tucked under the hat, I looked like a boy. When my beautiful blonde wavey hair was flowing free and without the jacket but wearing a feminine cardigan with the lederhosen, I looked like a gorgeous girl! It’s amazing what a change of clothes can for how we are perceived. Marlene Dietrich proved that many years ago with her tuxedo outfit! And, No, I’m not a lesbian nor bisexual, just suffering from my genetics! 😉

        • A friendly divorce sounds like a real blessing. And it does sound like you were ahead of your time. I don’t worry about my daughter at all. She has grown up children who’ve turned out quite well, and a successful marriage, despite many ups and downs. She has done well in two different careers, and even manages to teach new things to her old man. I know I’m not completely objective, but it is always a pleasure to see her.

  20. WOW! Wonderful photographs, made me hungry and yes I laughed too I am confused too 🙂 Thank you dear Shimon for sharing with us. Love, nia

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Nia. I was having a little fun with the subject. But in all seriousness, we are seeing a change in relationships between people. Always so good to hear from you, my dear friend. You know, the cat was with us too, but she managed to avoid getting into any of the pictures.

  21. Life is full of confusion these days with marriages and love affairs so rapidly left for something that feels a little better at the time. You have to be careful what you say as someone within hearing is sure to be related or had been related. With all these family connections, it is indeed possible to become your own grandma!

    • I just loved this comment, Bev. I’m still laughing at the thought of my becoming my own grandma! But it is true, that we have to be careful. I was a little worried that my light hearted attitude might offend some of my readers, for instance. But of course, as long as there’s love, we all come out richer.

  22. I’m dizzy with confusion, Shimon. Two things I’m sure of: Firstly I feel hungry seeing all that food. And secondly I’m a Jazz lover and Oscar Peterson was one of my favourite Jazz pianists. I heard him Live here in London, after his stroke, and with only one and a half hands he was still a phenomenon. we lost a huge talent when he passed away.

    • Ah, a fellow Jazz lover, Andy. I didn’t see him after the stroke. But he is certainly alive to this day, in my living room where my friends and I continue to enjoy his gifts. You’re an example and an inspiration, Andy. Still visiting the mountain peaks, and enjoying the peaks of culture too. Looking forward to following your summer adventures.

  23. I tried keeping up too, but it can’t be done without a spreadsheet Shimon!! That you had a great evening is all that matters. A fun post to return to after a long time away from your site. Thank you 🙂

    • Very glad you came by, Madhu, and glad that I was able to amuse you with my thoughts on contemporary life styles. Of course, it’s all in fun. But good times with dear friends is what keeps us going. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Hilarious! I love your friends’ attitude to the situation – it’s the only way. And your portraits are lovely.

    • Thanks very much, Richard. The sketch of the contemporary family was all in fun. But I agree with you as to the attitude of my friends. They help me to see the light, when I get lost in the complexities. And how nice that you liked the photos.

  25. My mother was one of 12 children, my dad one of 10. I am also one of 10 and most of my uncles had at least 4 children each. 4 years ago, we decided to have a big cousins gathering from my father’s side in Madrid and I struggled to place them as it was over 50 of us and many even didn’t come: who was who’s son or daughter? Who were they married to? We too have children now, but thank goodness we left our offspring behind! I am still confused with my own family and that was only my dad’s side!!! Great post and pictures. Cheers to all families, big or small, they are always important!

    • I always loved big families. There was more variety, and a lot of support and love. But in recent years it seemed as if the family was losing its importance. So from my point of view, it’s encouraging to find people so connected, even if the style has changed a bit since our parents’ day. Glad you enjoyed my humorous sketch, Fatima. Always very good to hear from you. And I join you in cheering for the family… even if we don’t remember all of their names…

  26. Dear Shimon,
    I had to laugh when I read this post. Are you familiar with the music of Tom Lehrer? Your story, with the tangle of connections, would have made great material for one of his songs! I have never kept in touch with any old flames–never wanted to or felt the need to, but if everyone is happy and agreeable, then the more love, friends, and friendship you have in your life, the better.
    It is lovely that you have such a large and interesting circle of friends to break bread with in your new house!

    • You’ve paid me a great compliment, my dear Naomi. I am old enough to remember when he was still lecturing, and how we loved the retelling of some of his fascinating stories… and then he made a few records that were just wonderful. To this day I remember him saying that when Mozart was his age, he was already dead for ten years. We would hold our sides laughing. And yes, I try to look at life with a little humor too. After all, there’s enough to be sad about…

  27. Lox and bagels and friendly chatter. Sounds lovely.

  28. What a happy gathering of friends! Good grief, I couldn’t have followed the relationships either. I’m delighted to see you entertaining again. I missed Janne, and I see her there. I love the tongue-in-cheek take on the “new family”. You and I are far too old and serious about life to have ever adjusted to the easy-come-easy-go relationships. We love and fight to the death. 😉 Old warriors, we are. Obviously, the young people who gather around you find you as fascinating as ever! Nothing surprising about that. I enjoyed this post very much! 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, George. Yes, it amuses me a bit, to hear about the ‘new family’ and sort of connections that one hears about these days, but I realize that society is changing… and that most people find these relationships completely natural. I have a problem sometimes, using Hebrew words or names in English, because we have some sounds and letters that are not commonly used in English. I now refer to Janne as Chana, because the first letter of her name doesn’t exist in English. It is like the X in Spanish, and is pronounced like the j in Tijuana. So writing her name in English is always a challenge.

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