Sunday, March 05, 2017

Snapshots: Breaking, Mending, Breaking and Bowling

Miami Beach, foggy at times
"Is there a free airport shuttle to the hotel?" I ask the switchboard operator

"The Trump National Doral Hotel is only five miles from Miami International Airport. A cab is about $25.00," she laughs, not exactly laughs, but informs, sounding a little like Siri. "Or you can take an Uber for less."

"Thanks," I mumble, hanging up. Her implication is obvious. If you can afford to stay at the Trump, you can afford the taxi. 

Who stays there? Mostly golfers, just a hunch. And others who are comped by their hosts. 

It did seem like a secure place to be, which always feels good, security at the gate, men in sun glasses on the roof, watching the stunning outdoor wedding. The chupah, or wedding canopy, is homemade, borders the greens; guests are in their finery. Rabbis in beards and long black coats bless the ebullient couple. Uninvited hotel guests and staff watch from a balcony above, no different than at any outdoor-at-the-swimming pool affair at any other hotel. But this feels different. 

You can rent bicycles at the Trump National, tour the grounds, ride the soft-hills on a paved path meant for caddies. There are several species of wild birds grazing, sipping at the fountain. Nearby villas for guests are named for famous golfers, the suites in taupe and white, the accents in gold, naturally, if faux. It is a beautiful place for a wedding, a beautiful sunny day in Florida, with an occasional light sprinkle of rain for good luck. We're grateful. 

But there's this feeling, like we're imposters, have no right to be here. We should talk about that some day.

The fountain at the Trump Doral Golf Course
1. Screen Busters: Breaking Things and Mindfulness

"How do you do it?!" he asks me in a calm, controlled voice. "It has to be a record, three phones, little over three months. One of the phones, need I remind you, mine."

No, he will never let me live that one down. His Nokia Windows phone screen smashed, leaving him, a doctor, with no means to communicate. 

This on a quick trip to Atlanta in November, a blustery, cold, miserable day in Chicago. We're searching for our preflight garage, a reasonably priced, shuttle-operated operation near Ohare. FD takes a wrong turn. He hands me his phone.

"Can you figure out where we are?" 

His phone (establish your excuses early) is a mystery to me, so I put it on my lap, search mine. He finds the garage without me, a valet opens my door. In the hand-off the Nokia falls to the pavement, an ex-phone, except for a hum when a call comes in.  

He’s upset, sees no humor in this (one can only try), and as much as I apologize, it will never be enough. But i
n all fairness, it had to be torture. A solo practitioner, he has chosen his volunteered slavery, as Roland Kirk, the jazz great, would have called it. He chose medicine, primary care. For whatever reason, it was hard to empathize, probably since he blamed me, and most of us check out when we're being blamed. He replaced his phone with another not-an-iPhone, an older Samsung, this time, that even he hated from the start.

But pride would not allow him to for complain.

Soon thereafter, mine broke. It hadn't been handling IOS software updates anyway, but rather than buy new, I had it fixed right away. Nobody saw the fall as the phone brushed off the counter to the floor at the Peggy Norbert Nature Museum

Mind those ceramic tiles at the entrance in the foyer, if you're off to see the butterflies. 

A few weeks later it happens again, but in an odd way. The almost new tempered glass is supposed to protect the screen, but the technician tells me that even tempered glass has a point of vulnerability, a place near the microphone, and a key in my coat pocket must have hit it just so

My empathy for FD kicks in. But as he examines the latest shattered display, he smiles nothing less than a schadenfreude smile, satisfaction with my loss. His stupid Samsung is working just fine. "Get one of these," he suggests.

I don't think so.

It becomes hard to confess to something else, opening a kitchen cabinet door only to face a terrorist Tupperware that resettles, knocking a juice glass to certain death. An accident waiting to happen, it still surprises me. Shards of thin blue glass everywhere. It could happen to anyone, to any glass, and manically sweeping, I consider: What  does one even do with broken glass? Is it recycle-able?

This quality of carelessness becomes a little scary.

Hand off a baby, a child, to a grandmother, and she'll hang onto it for dear life, snatch it before a fall off the sofa, grab a tipping lamp out of nowhere, a chair. The mischief and energy of toddlers is exhausting, but a return to motherhood and total functionality. You're on. When things are the center of attention, off. Not just off, but flip. Who cares? But is that normal? We always say:It's just a thing. But things aren't nothing.

We must take a closer look. 

Theoretically, joking about material loss could be, historically, due to one's early childhood, the cultural environment. Material things are exactly what mattered to a generation now passing, mothers and fathers, immigrants mostly, who took them very seriously. Those of us whose parents covered the sofas with plastic, who couldn't contain their disappointment when a kid broke something expensive, eventually got over it. Their children grew up, and they got over it, too. Once having winced at the criticism, accidental loss became a trifle, not such a big thing. At least to some of us. Grieve it and leave it, nobody's perfect, let it go, whatever it is.

For our parents it was about the value of money, the value of things and they were totally right, for them, in their world. If you have only a few things that are dear to you, you appreciate them, protect them, invest in a curio cabinet, maybe. But even the essentials, clothes and furniture, warranted care, because, let's talk, good stuff doesn't come cheap.

My mother-in-law, quoting her mother:

We're too poor to buy cheap things.
My mother:
We worked hard all our lives to get by. 
as the Beatles used to sing. Amazing song.

So shrugging off a broken phone or three could be about differentiating from parents, reconciling the trauma of parental rejection for not being cautious.

It is hard to think of the quality, the value of caution, however, as something over-played. Behind the wheel, it only takes a moment of carelessness and lives are lost. Caution is a virtue in the professions, too. In mine, if a patient alludes to suicidal thoughts, red flags should wave furiously. We therapists are cautious. Attention can be life-saving. Substitute today's buzz words mindfulnessawareness, being present.  These are qualities to be valued.

How to get there from distracted, hurried, and careless?

For one, break a few things, consecutively, within a few short weeks, like phones, a crystal goblet, or just a juice glass, a cereal bowl. Soon the cabinets are better organized, the new phone will have a bullet proof case, insurance. Because habits change when you hit bottom. People in AA know this all too well.

Otherwise, you're stuck talking about it in therapy for who knows how long.

2. Hating Hate

Desecrated Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia

Bomb threats, swastikas etched on automobiles and subway car windows. Synagogues and cemeteries vandalized, some 90 hate crimes, just against Jews and Jewish institution in over 30 states and in Canada. Hate crimes more than doubled in NYC from January 1 to February 15, in 2017.

FD and I use the Jewish Community Center in Chicago, almost daily, and our grandsons go to nursery school there. Now, because of the bomb threats, we must stop at the front desk to scan in our membership cards before we swim. Staff need to know who is in the building.

You don't ask why.

These things upset me, but at dinner Friday night, a guest, a Holocaust survivor, is clearly moved by the discussion. She shakes her head. She knows hate. "This time," she says, "we will fight back. Never again."

The bomb threats have been baseless so far, hateful harassment. In one case authorities are still sorting out a spurned lover's ridiculous vendetta. Juan Thompson made bomb threats by phone to several Jewish community centers in the US, identifying himself as the woman who rejected him, his creative way of hurting her.

Then there's this:
Headstones are expensive. What wonderful achdut (Hebrew word, rhymes with Bach-shoot, means unity). You have to love this.

FD and I paid special attention to the Missouri cemetery desecration because his father is buried there. His brother, still in St. Louis, explained that their father's grave is fine. Security is stepped up in the area, but investigators are still looking for evidence that the vandalism was a hate crime.

Nearly 200 headstones turned over at last count. Must have been an act of love.  

3. Bowling and Bonding

It is time to go bowling, one of our guilty pleasures

We're that cute older couple that high fives with every strike or spare, occasionally jumps up and down. We have our own shoes, our own bowling balls, but no league, thank you.

Bowling balls

We settle into Lane 37, change shoes and work the video scoreboard above us. I change the boring background to a Disney theme. FD starts us off with a strike, and it is looking like this could be a good night.

It is an after 9 PM crowd, which, unbeknownst to us, is the time that rates go down to $9.00 a person until closing. So kids start filing in, filling up the place, and a large group of teenagers join us at Lane 36.

There's something about getting older. You feel a little vulnerable, as if the energy alone of a group of teenagers could knock you down. It is my turn and I get a spare, catch the eye of a beautiful dark-eyed teen watching me from 36. She is smiling broadly, and this is contagious. I smile back, more for her, to thank her for liking this, liking me, than for silently applauding my spare.

Then I watch as her boyfriend rolls up his sleeves. He is a young man already, tall and muscled, his hair cut very short, a tattoo in Arabic scrolls along his biceps. The writing feels threatening to me, and I know, at this very moment, based upon the Harvard racism test (anyone can take it online), that we are all racists, each and every one of us, that this fear of mine is exactly that, my racism, so I put it to rest, out of my head, the fear, the intimidation. We are so obviously yiddin, they are so obviously our cousins, let someone else play out the politics in the Middle East.

And for the duration of our two game max, the girls and I cheer one another along, and the boys smile at us, too, when we knock all of those pins down, and even when we don't. And we smile at them, because everyone, it seems, can be a good enough bowler with enough practice. At only $9.00 until closing, Lane 36 has a good start.


What's Going to Be with Our Kids?