Be here now...Dad's 100th (Original Version)
I plan later to write something on Facebook but I'm prewriting this entry on dad's, Milton Nussdorf's, the Cohanan's 100th birthday on July 15th. Unfortunately, dad is not around for it. As some of you know he passed away at the end of January, 2018 at 99 ½. My sister posted on Facebook that his 100th birthday would have been an occasion, a unique goal reached. She even thought of having a big party. In afterthought, she thought it was her own goal more than his. I commented he would have liked the milestone, but did not really doggedly pursue it. My sister followed by saying he was too focused on the day to day survival needs to really think of it. I think this is accurate.
Some of my thoughts on the matter are as follows. First, my family at a certain point in time would relish their party celebrations. Often distant from them, I saw this as an escape, pushing the reality of what had to be faced into the background. It denied the reality of our lives, particularly my conflicts with them. Nothing was solved, just covered up. Energy was wasted. I was after a new direction, solutions, not rehash of old ones and their glorification.
Now as I get older I do understand the need for escape. Sometime life doesn't work out all the time, and some socialization can hit the spot, even if it is meaningless. Straining for meaning and resolving difficulties doesn't always work You stress on it and it still remains there. In the meantime, you could have gone on with life and had some enjoyment. Perhaps. For a time maybe. But if one is bothered internally, covering it up can just go so far. Eventually things have to and will be faced.
Second, my dad suffered much his last year. He once said 'I'm being punished.' This implies there is a punisher, a force beyond himself that is orchestrating events. Or that there are laws that catch up with someone, or karma as they say. Dare I say after such a year of suffering on all levels, physically, emotionally, and spiritually celebrating a milestone trivialized the ordeal. Perhaps the powers that be above did not let this happen and had my dad exit before that time. Maybe even out of mercy. I would have been uncomfortable with the ra ta ta of it. I do have love for my dad despite it all, but I also love the bigger truths.
Now the Jewish people live through holidays and celebrations, but their system is a total one. Celebrations and occasions ideally are tied into their history of exile, praise of God, the year's cycles and spiritual prayer and mending. Unless just going through the motions, one has to believe it all ties together and fit in. The group events than have meaning. Sure, there still can be riffs and personal difficulties. But if all agree to the entire context as a goal, there is a framework to operate from and even to heal in.
Outside of such a complete system, celebrations and events have to take on a different tone. They have to be sensitive to looking for a better way to live, to resolve various violations and traumas, and be humble if the answers aren't there. Perhaps even asking for help from the universe, or God, would be appropriate. If one doesn't believe in a God, then just asking for help is a good step. If answers aren't had, then this should be acknowledged. So outside of a good, mutual belief system, these variables should be there. Then a ;little celebration can be had.
Third, as said, my dad had many physical difficulties. Just maintaining himself was an ordeal. Cleaning his eye lens, adjusting his hearing aids, fixing his dentures, all required time and patience. Then he broke his hip, his blood pressure was high, and he caught infections. Before this his body was in decent shape. But not in this last period.
Before this period, I would caution him to be careful crossing the street, to not lose his balance, to be careful of bikers on First Avenue. Most of all, I would say don't fall. If he did and broke his hip his fate would be in others' hands. Eventually he did. The rest is history as they say.
The point here is that his day to day life, the functions of just minimally staying alive, took all his energy. In the sense there was no past or future, just the moment at hand. What's funny is that all the psychologies, spiritual systems of mental health, Eastern meditative religions, mystical and New Age religions all teach this as a way to live. My father was living this way, He was 'being here now.' He was living in the present. However, his path to this came from not having a choice anymore. It was minute to minute survival. What a price that was paid for such an 'enlightened' state.