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saying goodbye to Lola

Yesterday a very moving experience: a memorial event on Zoom for Lola, who died this year at 98 – my father’s cousin, a painter and jewellery maker, born in New York in 1922 two months before Dad. There were perhaps 40 of us, from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, some of them family I know a bit and others not at all. A rabbi saying Kaddish in Hebrew brought tears to my eyes, that ancient language soft in his mouth. Some reminisced; I told them Lola meant New York to me, the place my father was exiled from by McCarthy, a huge family visited only once a year and gradually shrinking, until at the end there was only Lola, with the energy of a woman half her age. (I didn’t mention Cousin Ted, the other NYC relative I visit, since nobody there speaks to him or he to them.) 

“A culture junkie,” someone called Lola – museums, galleries, concerts, theatre, the latest books – she was up on them all. “Grow old in a city,” I said, “is one important lesson I learned from her.” Until last year, she was out and about, seeing, doing, devouring, criticizing, in typical New York fashion. 

Feb. 2018, our last visit. She was 97, still living alone in her rent-controlled art-filled studio on the Upper East Side. I’m wearing a gold and tourmaline ring she made. 

Afterward, Lola’s daughter’s daughter Becky, a beautiful young woman I’ve never met, texted that she hoped I’d come back to New York and get in touch with her. I’d love to, I said. New family. Means everything. Not sure when, tho’.

I just found a calendar I’d drawn up in January to organize my late winter travel: March 21, arrive Paris, stay with Lynn. March 25, EasyJet to Venice to meet Bruce. March 30, Trieste. April 2, Vienna. April 7, Budapest. Good Friday April 10, EasyJet to Paris. April 13, home.

Giant sigh. SIGH. In early March, it was clear Venice was out of the question. Lynn said, Come to Paris anyway, you can come back to Montpellier with me. And I considered it! It was March 10 before I cancelled. March 12 I taught my last classes, March 13 everything shut down. 

Seems another world, doesn’t it? Hopping around the world. MINGLING. Hugging. Absorbing all those droplets spewing about us with nary a thought. 

And that was when Trump and his team had shown just a fraction of the vileness that was to come. As always, I try to explain things to my father who died in 1988, 32 years before Lola. But with the current world situation, I don’t think he wants to know. I’ll leave him blessedly ignorant. He’s up there arguing with Lola, and everyone else.

Watched some terrific TV on PBS last night – a doc on the alphabet, and another on social media and the mind. “Writing binds humanity together almost more than anything else,” said the doc. “It’s the most powerful idea humankind has had.” Could not agree more! 

And then another doc discussing “confirmation bias” – how we cherrypick evidence, shaping narratives of what we see to fit what we already believe. “We make decisions based on cognitive illusions, the world our mind creates.” They talked about the silos we all live in now, where we are right and “they” are evil. That a survey of young people in the States found a majority of them didn’t value living in a democracy and thought the military should take over the government.

Dad, please, don’t watch, don’t listen, these things would appall you. Rest in peace. And Lola – although peace was not something that interested you much – you too.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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