Monday, December 01, 2008
It has been about a month since I really wrote to you. A lot has happened. Jumping into the not-too-wayback machine, I guess the most important thing to tell you is that we have a new President.
This guy, Barack Obama, was elected to follow George Bush in the White House. Mom and I liked him from when he first announced he was going to run for office.
Hillary Clinton, who is the wife of your buddy Bill Clinton, was running too, but we really liked Obama. He was all about "Hope" which is what we and Hope for Henry are all about. Gotta have hope, right. Here is a bumper sticker that Mom has on the Honda.
I have put nothing on the Defender. It is definitely a brand of truck with a history of travel and adventure that would look just right with some stickers from all over the world, but I've kept it squeaky clean. Well, except for the mud of course.
I spent a few days right before the election helping people in Virginia understand why it would be a good idea to vote for Obama. It was fun driving the Defender on the unpaved backroads in rural Virginia. I bet people were surprised to see Obama things hanging on their doors when they lived in such out-of-the-way places that looked like the mailman couldn't even make it to their house.
Then the night before the election I went to this town nearby where I was in Virginia, called Manassas, and saw Obama speak. It was incredibly cool. He rocked the place. I felt something I haven't felt since the 1984 convention in San Francisco where I saw Governor Mario Cuomo speak. I was living in California at the time and helping a friend of mine who was in charge of the Mondale for President office in that state.
There were tens of thousands of people at the Manassas rally. Mom and your brothers drove there separate from me with Aunt Tracey and Emma and Sam. It was so packed that I never even saw them. I am glad the guys went. We kept talking about history and how lucky it was for us to be a part of it.
We had a bunch of friends and family come over for election night. Mom motivated everyone to walk down to the Vice President's house to say goodbye to the Cheney's after it was clear Obama won. While they were out whooping it up, I just sat in the living room enjoying the relative quiet, savoring the win and wondering what life is going to be like in the coming years. Like Joe, I hope he is good.
This was also the month of Bar Mitzvahs, or is B'nai Mitzvahs or B'nai Mitzvot the right way to say it? Don't know. Anyway, it was Jake up first on your birthday, then Simon and we ended up a week ago with Ari.
Mom and I were talking the other day about all of this. Before everything we thought we might feel really sad especially since they land smack dab in the sad zone between your birthday and your death day. Now that it's all over I gotta admit that I feel very content - not sad. There were times during services where I cried, but overall I felt really good. Good because we were surrounded by friends who we love and who love you and love us.
Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like all of the Torah portions this month had to do with loss. Jake's portion was about the death of Abel. Simon's portion was the Akedah - the binding of Isaac - so I guess that is more about potential loss, unless you were the ram or goat or whatever it was that ended up getting sacrificed.
What's with all the father and son and death stuff?
Frankly, I never considered the Torah to be a place to look/study about your death, but maybe there is something to be learned from all of the stories and commentary.
When we got to Ari's Bar Mitzvah, which was at Adas Israel, we sat down and read the booklet that Sid and Linda prepared.
Remember how I said there were times when I cried. This was one of them. In his D'var Torah, Ari focused on "chesed" or kindness. That was a perfect thing for him to talk about since he is so sweet and kind himself. He, like cousin Hannah, shared his Bar Mitzvah with you. It was like a B'nai Mitzvah.
I came across this poem today and it made me think of what Ari said in the booklet.
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Mary Frye, 1904-2004
Of course, the B'nai Mitzvahs weren't just about sitting in synagogue pondering sad stories. We had parties to attend. And the parties, as parties are know to be, were fun-tas-tic!
The best part wasn't the music, dancing, food and wine, though they were awesome, it was being surrounded by all our friends, who are all of your friends and their parents.
So as we hit Thanksgiving this past weekend, instead of being sad I thought hard about at all that you've given us - our friends - and felt really good and at peace.
The holiday was perfect as usual. It is hard to pick a prettier spot than St. Michaels. We did miss Abby, Andy, Michael, Rachael, Josh and Noah, but I'm sure it was nice to celebrate in London. I bet you are very appreciative of the U.S. when you are away for something like that.
We added shooting to the usual football, family, fireplace and FarmAll tractors. Joe, Mom and I shot at this place Pintail Farm that is close to St. Michaels, but Jack decided that he would not participate since he objects to weapons. I respect that.
We came back early on Sunday morning from St. Michaels so Jack, Joe and I could go with Rich and Jake and Jake's grandfather to the Redskin's game.
Before the game they had a ceremony to honor Sean Taylor and induct him into the "Ring of Fame" at Fedex Field.
The guy hosting the ceremony asked Sean Taylor's dad, "Where do you think Sean is today?" That seemed like a very awkward question.
Personally, I'd answer, "Well since he's dead, I really don't have a clue."
Sean's dad didn't look all that comfortable.
I thought he was going to say something like, "He's looking down on his teammates and helping them on to a win." Instead he said, "He's out on a boat fishing."
Even though it was miserable out, I liked being at the game. What I don't like, or better yet, who I don't like is the Redskins owner Dan Snyder. While I watched the Sean Taylor ceremony, I looked up to see a huge ad for the National Rifle Association that spanned a number of sections in the stadium. I think that was just in such bad taste considering Sean Taylor was shot dead. Dan Snyder takes anyone's money.
I also cannot for the life of me understand why he allows smoking in the stadium. It is gross. During halftime we went into the stadium concourse to get some relief from the rain and cold. There was no relief. All we could do was suck in the disgusting cigarette smoke that was all over the place. That is so wrong. Fedex Field certainly isn't "family friendly" when it could so easily be.
Dan Snyder has no class and does not care about the health of the people forking over $40 to park 2 miles away from the stadium, which is what we did for the New Orlean Saints game.
I saw this in Jack's classroom the other day.
Pirke Avot 4:1 says,
"Who is rich? He who is content with what he has."
That's from Ben Zoma. I am not so sure Dan Snyder is very content.
Speaking of Jack, November meant learning about new schools for him. Since JPDS ends in the Sixth Grade, Jack is looking at a few new schools, including Maret, Sidwell Friends and JDS. There is something about each school that really appeals to Jack and to Mom and me. Aside from the academics, which are strong at each of the schools, Jack likes the Rabbinics at JDS, the language options at Maret and the standalone coffee shop at Sidwell (Mom was digging that too). There's more to his thinking than that, but for now that's a good summary.
I really like that Jack goes to his interviews at these schools as "Jack." A lot of the other kids we see waiting for their interviews at the Admissions Offices are "gussied up," but Jack doesn't try to be anyone other than himself, and that self includes Crocs (that's a kind of shoe/sandal that people - not me - wear these days) and no socks. Personally, I need layers and layers of socks and thick boots, but Jack appears impervious to the cold.
The most important thing is that Jack is presenting himself well in his interviews, and that plus how well he's done in school hopefully will give him a chance to go to the school of his choice - whatever that ends up being. I'm really proud of him. Maret and Sidwell are pretty close by, so I'd love it if he went to one of those. I know how hard it is to get him out of bed in the morning, so the closer the better.
Liane works at Sidwell Friends and had lunch with Mom the other day. Bella is in 10th grade there, I think, and doing very well. Mom and Liane talked about Mom's book and how Bella factors into it. According to Liane, Bella still has a note from you on her bulletin board in her bedroom. She hasn't forgotten you.
For Joe, the past month has been about football. He is playing on a team called the Ravens and they are in the playoffs.
I'll let you know how far they go, but understand that Joe has excelled on the playing field just as Jack has starred in the classroom. And it seems that Joe is no slouch at school either. When we had a conference with his teacher, she said that he really enjoys school and is a delight to have in class. He is doing very well at learning to do math and to read. I know that it is just as likely we could go into parent/teacher conferences and learn that your brothers need a lot of help with something or need to do extra work, so I don't take all this good news for granted.
What else can I say other than this past month has helped me realize how incredibly fortunate and really content I am. I am a very rich man.