Monday, June 04, 2007

Mazel Tov, Dad

Another late entry as I'm trying to catch up on my backlog...

Lori, Jon, Mom, Ken Krane, Richard (Dad's brother), Laura, Becca, Brian

As most readers of the blog know, my Dad died almost 3 years ago on August 15th, 2004. His death was in many ways a catalyst for our trip and for trying to find a way to change the way we lived our lives day to day. I think that he would be very proud of the things we've done but I miss so very much being able to share all of this with him.

On May 2, he would have been 63 years old. On May 12th we celebrated what would have been another milestone. It turns out that before his illness Dad and his good friend Ken Krane had been making plans. The Kranes and the Bloomfields have a history of coincidental connections. Both Mom and Dad and Ken and Paula were married on Aug 28, 1966 and both Dad and Ken had their Bar Mitzvahs on May 17th, 1957 (and David and I were born only 9 days apart). A few years ago they started talking about how fun and cool it might be to stage a joint 50th "golden" Bar Mitzvah, aka a Bar Mitzvah Jubilee, aka a "re-Bar". Ken abandoned the idea for a while after Dad died, but then realized that it was still a very meaningful thing for him to do and that he could honor Dad by continuing on with it.

So last Saturday [ed note: accurate when I originally wrote this] we gathered at Corvallis' Beit Am for the first Saturday morning temple services I have been to in years and years. Some thoughts from that emotional day:

Even though the Jewish community in Corvallis has grown and changed a lot since Jon and I lived in town and there are lots of new young families there, for whatever reason most of the people at the service that morning were part of the original community that founded Beit Am. That means they were people who have watched us grow up, and had been at my Bat Mitzvah and Jon's Bar Mitzvah, were there for our weddings, and were there for Dad's memorial services. There was something so comforting and grounding about looking across the room and seeing all these familiar and caring faces. The funniest part Jon and I agreed, is that many of the pillars of the community looked exactly the same to us as they have our whole life, despite the fact that we've known them over a 25-30 year period!

It was definitely different being at a Bar Mitzvah Jubilee instead of a normal one. For one, when the Bar Mitzvah boy gets up to recite (sing) his torah portion you get a whole lot less voice cracking from the 63-year-old. Also, I have to say that his speech/discussion of the reading was a whole lot more thoughtful, insightful, and eloquent than you’d get from your average 13-year-old.

I’d also forgotten how very long Saturday morning services are compared to the Friday night services that we used to attend. Not only are they a lot longer, but there is also considerably more Hebrew used, with lots of standing up/sitting down/singing, and the particular prayer book used had very little transliteration [phonetic spelling of the Hebrew] in it. That means not only do the guests (and those of us who don’t read Hebrew) not understand what is being said, they can’t even follow along with where the congregation is at many points. It’s certainly not the most inclusive of Jewish events. (Unlike the Passover Seder, say). Despite that Brian and Lori were real troopers and participated as best as they could.

As part of the Torah service congregation members are called up to recite certain blessings. It's considered an honor and during a Bar Mitzvah it's often family or close friends of the bar mitzvah boy who get called. For the aliyot Ken split it between his family and Dad's. So Mom had an aliyah of her own, then Jon and I did one together, then Richard (Dad's brother) and his wife Laura did one. There was something really special about doing this with my brother. Neither of us had done one since we were 13 (or since the cousins had gone through their ceremonies), and there was a little bit of panic in relearning how to sing the blessings, but when we were standing up there reciting the traditional words together, I just felt a very strong sense of connection to Jon, to the community, and to Dad. (Even if the way we kept screwing up the last part made me giggle.)

Part of the laughter came from stress relief. I was completely unprepared for how emotional the experience turned out to be. I had known about Ken's plans for a long time, but as it turns out knowing this was something Dad had been going to do and then actually sitting though it imagining how much fun he would have had with Ken preparing for it and putting it on were two completely different things. There were a lot of tears just picturing him up there with the twinkle in his eye that was always there when he would be up in front of a crowd in all of his didactic (but humor-filled) glory. It was really hard; it made us really, really miss him.

In some ways though, he felt closer than ever. It was strange/cool/comforting. (I don't even know the word to use). But in that building that he had been such a part of obtaining, in front of all these people that had watched him raise a family and become a community leader, in a ceremony celebrating the achievement and rededication to the faith of one of his best friends that also very definitely and frequently made mention of him, with his family participating and sharing in the aliyot...with all of that there he was absolutely a tangible presence in the room. And it wasn't just me that felt that. I lost track of the number of people who came up to me during the reception afterwards and made a comment to that effect.

So Mazel Tov, Dad... it was your jubilee too.....


Steven said...
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Steven said...

I am so incredibly grateful to have known and spent time with your dad, Becca. Your mom & him were our first visitors at our new house, and that was an incredible experience to have. I still think of him often. You have made me laugh and almost cry with this blogpost. I felt his presence throughout. Mazel Tov !