And so, I started my new life as a widower. I delved into
my volunteer work as I had never done before. I gave many tours of the
museum and prepared several more programs for the docents. I did more book
reviews and kept teaching the adult class and the fourth grade class. I
went to Beth El every morning and night to say Kaddish for Anita and went
Friday nights to Beth Israel services after which I often spent more time
giving tours in the museum. At Beth El I was involved with four committees
and became active as a Gabbai giving out the honors during the Shabbath
service. Besides that, I went to Joel Gereboff's Talmud classes and to
many lectures. I did not return to Sun Sounds Radio. That brought back
too many memories of Anita who had helped me so much while doing that program.
I also started teaching another beginning Hebrew class for adults at Beth
Israel. This was a classic case of "One-Eye being King of the blind people."
I did not know much Hebrew myself but the people in my class did not know
any Hebrew, so I could teach them the Hebrew alpha-bet and some of the
common prayers of our service. They still thank me whenever they see me
for starting them off so they can now participate in the service and follow
the prayers. I continued teaching the fourth grade class at Beth Israel
Hebrew school. I enjoyed teaching but not the disciplining which was involved.
But I became better acquainted with Rabbi Plotkin and the new Rabbi, Rabbi
Segal, and with Cantor Tabaknek.
|Little by little I became more anxious to see my grandchildren, both Robert's in Chandler and Naftali's in Israel. This was difficult for me because of that inheritance battle but once it was over I decided to work on that, also. With Robert it was a little easier. Robert had a step child, Sara, whom he wanted to give a Jewish education. I volunteered to pick her up (he lived then in Glendale) and take her to Hebrew school. Sometimes she stayed overnight with me and I would take her to the synagogue on Saturday morning. It was as if I had a daughter again. I enjoyed her company and I think that Sara also liked being with me.|
During May 1993, in the fifth month of mourning, I came
to the conclusion that, if I could find the right person, I would like
to get married again. I did not want to stay alone. I was miserable alone
at home, especially in the evenings and at night. Even though I was often
invited out for dinner at several of my friends' houses, most of the time
I ate alone and I did not like that at all. I was thinking of traveling
again but I could not imagine traveling without somebody with whom to share
my impressions. Many times, when invited by my friends, I noticed that
they would invite a widow or two at the same time. I got the hint but I
was not attracted to any of them. One day I asked Rabbi Silberman if he
knew a lady who would be suitable for me. Without any hesitation he mentioned
the name Vera Kielsky, which did not mean anything to me. I had never heard
that name before. But he said that we had two things in common: we both
had a European background and we both liked traveling. He also mentioned
that she had been widowed at approximately the same time I had been and
that we were about the same age. But she was in Europe at the time and
he advised me to contact her some time in September when she would return.
Well, I forgot all about it.
|In August I went to Israel for one month, mostly to see the grandchildren. I was totally miserable while alone in the apartment in Jerusalem. After the first night I almost decided to return home already but I am glad I changed my mind. It was a wonderful experience to get re-acquainted with the grandchildren. I spent more time than usual with them. The rest of the time I was miserable and extremely lonely. I did spend a lot of time at the marvelous Israel Museum. At that time a senior person could become a member for fifty dollars which gave one free excess to all events. Sometimes I went twice in one day, once to see one of the many exhibits and the second time in the evening for a concert. But during the rest of the time I felt utterly lonely.|
I must have been emotionally off balance because many things went wrong. First I locked myself out of the apartment. I was just in my shorts and T-shirt and slippers as I was taking out the garbage. Fortunately, an English-speaking neighbor was home. She told me the telephone number of a maid who cleaned the apartment and had a key. I called her from the neighbor's apartment and I got directions to her apartment. Well, to make a long story short, I asked the bus driver where to get off and he let me off two bus stops past her street! I did not have enough money on me for the extra bus ride so I had to walk a long way back which in Jerusalem involves walking up and down hills in the brutal August heat. I finally got the key and returned to my apartment hours after I had left it. I was tired and upset.
I survived that, only to get another shock a few weeks later. There was a loud knock on the door. Under normal circumstances I would never have opened the door but, in the state I was in, I opened the door after the man outside told me in perfect English that there was water leaking from the ceiling in the apartment below mine. As soon as I opened the door an Arab, dressed neatly and clean looking, walked in. First he went to the kitchen, then to the bathroom. I followed him to keep an eye on him. Suddenly he went very fast and ran through the hallway into the bedroom, then the living room and out of the door. I could not keep up with him. When I got to the front door he was out of sight already. It was only then that I realized that I had been taken advantage of. I ran back and looked for my papers and money. To my great consternation my airline tickets and my passport were gone! I still do not know how he had managed to do it so fast. I was in a state of shock. This was Friday morning and the following Tuesday morning I was supposed to fly back to the States.
Now a difficult few days followed. I knew that there was an American consulate just behind the apartment building. I ran to the consulate building but was told that this was not the one for passports. I had to go to the one in East Jerusalem, in the Arab section of town but first I had to go to the police station for a report. I ran to the Russian compound (fortunately I knew all the short cuts in central Jerusalem) where I made a police report. Then I ran to the American consulate in East Jerusalem. This was much farther than I had thought and when I finally arrived there, covered with sweat and very agitated, they were just about to close for the weekend!
By this time I was so upset that the consul herself (it was a lady then) came out to calm me down. She personally told me what forms to fill out and she re-assured me that I would get my passport on time. I do not remember how I got back to the apartment but I was exhausted and totally depressed and very worried. I immediately called the travel agent who fortunately had given me her home telephone number and told her to fax a copy of my ticket to the El-AI Airline office in Jerusalem. She was very helpful and gracious, especially considering that I had completely forgotten about the time difference and that I had awakened her in the middle of the night!
My Shabbat was not particularly peaceful but I made the most of it. There was nothing I could do to help things until Sunday. That is when El-Al called me that they had received the information and that they would issue me a new ticket. Of course all that involved extra expenses and I was glad that Naftali was there to lend me some money. Monday afternoon I received a call from the consul that my passport would be ready for me the following morning. I had to persuade her that I needed it that Monday as I was leaving Tuesday early in the morning. I convinced her and I immediately went back to the consulate. When I arrived there was an enormous line of Arabs waiting to get in. I explained my situation to the guard but he insisted that I go to the end of the line. It was brutally hot, the hottest time of the day in August, there was no shade and the line was barely moving. It was near closing time again. Finally the guard came around and told everyone to go home. Only people who were already inside could be taken care of before closing time. In desperation I told the guard to call the consul directly and ask for her permission for me to enter to pick up my passport. At five o'clock I finally had my new passport in my hand (after forking over another sixty dollars) and I could now try to relax for a few hours until it was time for my flight back.
As I soon was to find out, my troubles were not over yet. I arrived home in Phoenix after midnight, finally ready to unwind and to get all the tensions out my mind. I opened the door to my house and promptly stepped into a pool of water: a water leak had sprung under the floor of the kitchen and half the house was under a foot of water. Can you imagine how I felt? For hours I tried to mop up the water with towels. I was going back and forth forever and there was no end to it. Luckily for me, my neighbor Betty who had helped me so much while Anita was ill, saw me working as she went to empty her garbage. She told me about a service which pumps out the water for you and she thought that the insurance company would cover the expense. So, I called them and they arrived within thirty minutes with a large truck and for an hour they pumped the water out. Of course, the house was smelly and damp but they lent me two powerful fans and told me to keep those going for a week with the windows open. They also gave me good advice how to approach the insurance company so that all the work and damage would be covered. To make a long story short, the insurance paid for more than I could have hoped for. I took their recommendation of a contractor and he felt, that although the damage of our carpet was only in a small part of the house, I should replace the carpet in the whole house, plus the tile in the kitchen, the drapes in the kitchen and the living room and have the interior of the house repainted (there were water stains on the baseboards of about half of the house) and to have much of the dining room and living room furniture touched up. The total bill came to almost six thousand dollars which my insurance covered completely. After they were done, the interior of the house looked like brand new. Besides that, it was just at the same time that our townhouse complex got new parking lot pavement and the exterior of our house received a new roof and a fresh coat of paint. So my whole house looked wonderful when it was all done.
After I finally settled down again I decided to start meeting some single women I knew from Beth El and also some that were introduced to me by my friends. I went out with a few but nothing came of that. I just did not feel comfortable with them. Then, one day in November, after having given a book review, Eve Hubschman, a friend and also a recent widow (but not a prospective partner for marriage), introduced me to Vera. The name did not ring a bell and that was it. Then, about a month later, after the Saturday morning service, I was talking to Eve and Vera was there, also. We talked small talk and I mentioned that I was going to Laughlin for one night. Eve said that she would like to do that some time and I told her that I had an empty car and that, if she wanted to, she could come with me. She was delighted. Then she turned to Vera and asked her if she wanted to come along also, if I would not mind. Vera said that she would love to and Eve introduced Vera Kielsky to me again.
So much had happened since I had talked to Rabbi Silberman some seven months earlier, that the name again did not even sound familiar to me. So, the following week, it was December 21 1993, we went to Laughlin. On the way out Eve sat in the front and we all three talked about superficial things. In Laughlin we had separate rooms and we had a lovely, quiet time gambling but we spent more time walking and talking. Then Eve suggested that, on the way home, Vera should sit in the front. Well, we started talking and found out that we had so much in common, it was really unbelievable. We both had three children, two sons and one daughter. Both daughters had just had a back operation and needed to sit on an inner tube and they both were married to non Jews by the name of John, both tall and blond young men. Neither of our daughters had children. We each had a son in Israel, who each had four children, both having three sons and then a daughter, all with similar ages. Then, we each had a son in Greater Phoenix who had just bought a new house in Chandler, both near Chandler Boulevard, one East and the other West of the freeway; they each had two children, both first a girl and then a boy, again all close in age. We also found out that our three children had much in common in their character and their habits. Then we started talking about our spouses: her husband and Anita were born in the same year and had died five days apart of the same disease and were buried five feet apart at the Beth El cemetery. Both our spouses' funerals were officiated by Rabbi Silberman, who officially was already on his way out, and not by the new Rabbi. And so it went on and on. If you would put such a story in a novel you would call it a ridiculous idea but this was real life. We had both been in Israel at the same time in August, both to see the grandchildren and both had been miserable there. We both loved to go to Israel often and would stay there for one or two months but we both did not want to move there permanently. A little later, when talking about the people we knew, we discovered that we had more than one hundred friends in common. She knew them from her activities in different women's organizations and I from my activities in committees and especially in the ritual committee and from the museum.
That could have been the end of it all. New Year Eve approached. I received several invitations to join friends with their celebrations but I still was not in the mood for celebrating. Yet, I hated the thought of spending the end of this horrendous year all by myself. Then a thought occurred to me: I knew four people, three women and one man, who were widowed about the same time as I was. I decided to invite them just for a quiet get together, no dancing, just quiet music and noshing (munching) and a little champagne at midnight and then we would all part. One lady declined but the other three, Eve Hubschman, Vera and the gentleman Hy, whose last name escapes me, told me that it was just what they wanted. They all felt uncomfortable going where all the rest of the people were couples and there would be drinking and music and dancing. Well, we had a wonderful evening, sometimes a little sad, especially when we reminisced about our spouses, but generally it was not morbid and everyone appreciated that they had an appropriate place to say good bye to a very difficult year.
A week later Vera had a little reception at the first anniversary of her husband's death. She invited me and there I met some of her family and also some of our common friends. Afterwards, I helped clear the tables and stayed a little longer and talked some more with Vera. When I left, I hesitated whether I should kiss her like I did some of my female friends whom I had known for many years. I did not but I felt that I should have done it. I started to like her but I did not want to seem aggressive. After all, it was just over one year since our spouses had died. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, believe me. But it all worked out for the best.
Soon after that we went out for dinner for several times, after which I took her home and we had long talks. I seriously considered to propose marriage to her. I started to fall in love with her seriously and I made no secret about it. We decided to meet more often. We both felt very comfortable talking to each other, especially when comparing our families and backgrounds. All that time we discovered more things we had in common. On Friday evenings I asked her to go to Beth Israel with me. I still was going every Friday night to the reformed service and Saturday mornings to Beth El, to the Conservative service. Even though Vera did not care to go to services that often and so long (I like to go from the start, early in the morning), she accompanied me every week.
On the last Sunday of January I had a Beth Israel Chavura meeting and I again wanted to invite her to accompany me. I realized that my acquaintances would suspect a serious relationship. I did not feel like getting in and out of relationships so I proposed seriously to Vera. She was a little taken aback because she had not considered the prospect of remarrying. I did not want a relationship without a commitment. So, we talked about that. I also said that, if she wanted to accompany me to the chavura meeting I wanted some kind of positive response from her. I did not want to be embarrassed in front of my friends showing up with a lady friend and then telling them the next time that we had broken up. I received an encouraging answer from Vera although not a positive commitment. I took the chance and we had a wonderful time with our friends. They all liked her instantly and she was immediately excepted as one of the group. After returning to her house that evening we talked a long time and I finally got my wished for answer. Nothing could have made me happier!
Soon after that we met regularly and frequently. We started talking about our wedding plans. We were in total agreement that it should be a traditional Jewish wedding, a celebration of a new life without any undue merry-making. We both belonged to Beth El, so that was our synagogue of choice. Also, most of our common friends belonged to Beth El. Neither of us liked the new Rabbi very much, so we asked the retired Rabbi Silberman to officiate. Then it occurred to me that I would like Rabbi Plotkin of Beth Israel, who had liked Anita so much and who also got to know Vera very well because we talked a lot after the Friday night services, to participate in the ceremony. First I asked Rabbi Silberman's permission. He said that he did not object to that at all and that he would welcome Rabbi Plotkin on the bima and to let him be a part of the ceremony. Then I called Rabbi Plotkin and told him that I would be very honored if he would participate in the ceremony of our wedding. He accepted so graciously. I knew that, with these two wonderful Rabbis and human beings, it would be a very special wedding. To top it all, I also asked cantor Tabaknek, who was and still is today the cantor of Beth Israel, to officiate at our wedding. He has a beautiful voice and a large repertoire of melodies for the different prayers in the service. He also accepted graciously. We were thrilled. We knew that this would be a very memorable wedding which not only we but also our friends would always remember.
The following weeks we ran around like crazy to get the caterers lined up, the invitations printed, addressed and mailed and to do a thousand and one things necessary for a successful event. And that was what it ended up to be. At the very last moment we remembered to get a pianist, one of my acquaintances, for the musical part of the service and the dinner. Everything went as planned. It was a totally successful evening. We did not want any dancing; we were not ready for that. But how would we indicate the end of the evening? Could we just walk out and wave good bye to everyone? Then Vera came up with a brilliant idea: we asked the pianist to play "Hatikva," the Israeli national hymn, at the end of the evening. Everybody would know what that meant.
It was time for our wedding and now I could enjoy it fully and without any worries. Everything went as we had planned. Before the service, in the bridal lounge, I did Vera's hair with a curling iron. We had tried a hairdresser the week before but he made such a mess out of her hair that I decided to do it myself. My experience came in handy! After that Robert, Mike (Vera's younger son) and Dorit, a cousin of Vera's who by chance was visiting Vera at that time, took a lot of pictures, both still pictures and videos. I treasure these very much and look at them frequently.
I led the mincha-maariv (afternoon and evening) service. After a short break the ceremony started. First we went to the back room where the Ketuba (wedding contract) was signed. One of the witnesses was Rochelle. What a thrill! It brought tears to my eyes to have my daughter be part of the wedding ceremony. Another witness was one of our common friends. After that the actual wedding ritual started. Vera looked like a movie star. All heads turned when she walked to the front of the bima (stage) to accompany me under the Chupa (wedding canopy).The pianist played soft music in the background and accompanied cantor Tabaknek during his moving rendition of the "Seven Blessings." Both Rabbis made wonderful speeches, in particular Rabbi Plotkin who had known Anita so well. His speech was especially sensitive. At the end I had to break the glass which reminds us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, so that even during such a happy event we have to remember our history which is full of turmoil. The official ceremony was over.
We went to the hall in the back of the sanctuary where the tables were set beautifully for the sit down dinner. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting. The caterers had done an excellent job. During the dinner we walked around to each table and thanked everybody personally for coming to our wedding. The dinner was served punctually. It was well prepared and well served. I had tears in my eyes during the whole ceremony. We had one hundred and twenty people at the wedding, ninety five percent of these were friends we had in common. So, it became the event of the month. Everyone mentioned to us how proper and meaningful the ceremony had been and what a thrill it was to have a positive event for people at our age. Which was true, considering that we had all met for funerals many times during the previous year. The greatest thrill for me was that, besides Robert and his family, Rochelle, with her husband John was there to share in this simcha (joyous event). It was a little over a year since we were re-united. In no way can I describe my emotion to have her sitting next to me at the main table during the dinner after the service. She loves Vera and she was genuinely happy for me which gave me a great moral support during this emotional time.
During that time we were busy selling our respective homes and looking for a house to move into. We both felt that we did not want to start our new lives in the house where we had lived with our previous spouses. Vera was lucky: she sold her house within a few days. Her house was only one and a half years old and was therefore easier to sell. We were also lucky that we found a house we both liked and within the price range we had set and within the area we wanted to move. Everything happened in the proper time so that we could move out of Vera's house and into our new home shortly before the wedding day. The problem was that I would not have the money for the house until after I sold my house. And now I was lucky. I mentioned before how all throughout my life things happened which prepared me for the next step in my life. Well, here is another example.
As I told you before, my house was completely repainted inside and outside, recarpeted and with new drapes and a new tile floor in the kitchen. It also had a new roof and the parking lot had been repaved recently. It showed beautifully to prospective buyers and I was able to sell this twenty two year old townhouse within three months for the price I wanted, just in time to pay for our new house. As a matter of fact, I received the payment for my house on the same day we had to pay for our house. It was just like a miracle.
Next -> CHAPTER 20: A NEW LIFE
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