Friday, September 28, 2012

The Day that Turned My Life Upside Down

It has been a long time since I last posted in my blog. That is because 12 days ago on  Saturday, September 15th a horrific tragedy struck my family. I was in New Jersey visiting my family. I joined my parents for Sabbath services and while walking to the house of dear family friends for lunch, a driver lost control of her car, went up on the curb and hit my parents, our friends and myself. Me and our two friends were badly hurt and my parents were killed.

My Parents
We left the synagogue after services and started walking with a large group of friends towards our friend's house. I was actually walking a bit ahead of everyone and my mom sped up to catch up with me. Me and my mom were just chatting about nothing particular as the large group followed behind.

When we reached the first corner me and my mom stopped and let the group catch up. As the reached the corner I could see that everyone was standing around my dad and they were hanging on his every word. My dad had an amazing, out going personality and he was often the center of attention because people loved to hear him speak. One of our friends said to me, "can you tell your father to move faster? I'm hungry and I want to get home." I smiled and replied, "you cannot bother my father while he is holding court." My mom was tired of waiting as well and continued to walk and called for me to follow. 

While walking the next block, me and my mom spoke about her really cool new shoes for a bit and one of the friends followed closely behind. Behind him was my dad, the other friend and the group that was slowly shrinking as people turned down different directions towards their homes. I loved talking with my mom. We could talk about anything for hours. No matter what we talked about, whether it be shoes or life decisions, my mom was fully invested in the conversation. For her, the subject wasn't necessarily as important as the participants. She didn't care what me and her were speaking about, she just loved every moment we spent together.

There was a short lull in the conversation and my mom started talking with her friend. I thought to myself how much fun me and my parents were having during my visit and how thankful I was that we had gotten past all of our issues. I knew how hard it was for my parents to accept me as not religious and gay, yet they loved me so much that our relationship had been saved and was as strong as ever. 

My father and the friend walking with him must have sped up, because we all reached the corner together. The five of us crossed the street together. When we reached the next corner, we started talking about an abandoned building on the corner. Me and my parents friends were a bit ahead of my parents who were now walking together, slightly behind us. My father started to talk and I looked back at him and saw him pointing at something on the building. I looked forward to see what my father was pointing at when suddenly I felt the most horrid pain. The pain was so strong, the only thought that went through my head was that I was being killed - that I was dead.

Next think I knew, I was on my back, looking up at the sky in horrible pain.I was not sure if I was dreaming or awake. I tried to move but couldn't. I started to scream out for help and because of the pain and people arrived on the scene. Because I was the only conscious victim, everyone ignored me at first and went to help the others. Eventually, EMTs (medics) arrived and started to help me. The one holding my head said "sir, you have been hit by a car." I was shocked. How did a car hit us? We were on the sidewalk. I noticed one of my parents friends next to me on the ground being treated as he screamed out for his wife.

I kept screaming and asking if my parents were OK, but they just kept telling me that they were there to help me. The fire department came and cut some wire that had fallen from a pole and landed on me. I was the last one taken away from the scene.
I was brought to the ER with my elbow broken into pieces and open, along with a broken ankle. I was told I would need multiple surgeries and that the first one was an emergency that could not wait. And after hours of asking every nurse and doctor that I saw about my parents, I was told that neither of them had survived.

And just like that, in a single moment, my world was shattered. My parents were wonderful people and amazing, loving parents and they had been taken from me and my sister. My two sets of grandparents each lost a child. Family and friends lost two people that they loved and cared for dearly.

After 3 surgeries, I am now in rehab. And even though I am in horrible pain and face a long road to recovery, I'm grateful that I was with my parents until the last moment of their lives. And even though it is very scary, I am thankful that I remember pretty much everything. I will forever remember being with my amazing parents until the last seconds of their lives. I would not trade that for anything.
I love and miss them more than words can express.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fear of Flying and Falling

At the moment I am sitting in Ben-Gurion International Airport waiting for my flight to New Jersey. When I was little, I use to love to fly. Through most of my life, my father would win trips from work and I was lucky enough to get to travel with my parents around the US and a bit internationally as well.

I remember before my fist flight ever when I was about 6 years old or so, I told my grandmother that I was scared to fly. She explained to me that flying is extremely safe, even safer than cars. I was very surprised by this, and even though at six years old I had no understanding of statistics, the information was trustworthy enough to rid me of my fears. During that first flight, I insisted on sitting by the window and looking outside the entire time.

Fast forward a few years. By the time I was a teenager, around 14 years old, I had had the idea of the "fear of god" drilled into me. On top of that, I was racked with guilt over my attraction to men and the fact that I, like every 14 year old masturbated. I was taught that these two "sins" were amongst the worse things that a person could do and that the punishment for them was death. Not only that, I was told that the punishment for "wasting seed" was that you could never get into heaven. At the time, the idea of godly punishment and heaven were extremely real to me and I lived in fear of being smitten by an angry god.
So scared! :-/

My fear reached a point that every time I got on a plane I actually expected it to crash. I would spend a good portion of every flight that I was on, mentally begging "god" to spare me. I would make all kinds of deals with "him". I was actually taught to do this by a rabbi that had taught me. He told me that it was a good idea to try and make deals with god, but that they had to be realistic. So I would say to "god" that " should I survive this flight I would not look at men for 30 days and that with "his" help I could go longer." But I also asked "him" to make it easier for me, because such promises were so difficult to fulfill.

Death Plane

Having realized that religion is  make-believe, and a man made invention, I no longer board a plane expecting the worse. In fact, just like when I was a little kid, I try and think of how statistically safe I am flying in order to fight any fears of flying that remain. I do not know if I ever will be completely without fear when flying, because in the end I do not like heights and really really do not like falling. But it is definitely a lot nicer flying now than it was in the past.

Monday, September 3, 2012

To Hide the Pride?

Throughout my life, I have always tried to be proud of how I live my life. Even when I was young, I believed that if I could not be proud of my lifestyle, than there must be something wrong with my lifestyle. I remember that many times when I was younger, my parents would tell me that I should take off my kippa (Jewish skull cap worn by religious males) because we were somewhere that people might not like Jews. This always upset me because I did not think that I had anything to hide.

Fast forward to today and I still have the same attitude about my life. Anyone that knows me or that reads my blog knows that I am very into the idea of gay pride. I have written several posts on the subject. I went to 2 different pride parades this year, one in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem. At each one I marched proudly waving my rainbow pride flag. I walk around with a pride pin on my bag and I have a mini Statue of Liberty holding a pride flag in my living room. I also wear a pride bracelet on my arm at all times.
Proud Miss Liberty
My Pride Bracelet

Recently, my mother was visiting Israel and I joined her, my sister and my sister's family for the weekend. At one point, my mom called me to the side and said the following:
"I noticed your bracelet. I get it, I understand it. But please don't wear it around extended family or any of mine and abba's (father's) friends. We just can't deal with that yet". 
As I wrote earlier, since I came out to them, my parents have come such a long way in accepting the fact that I am gay. I do recognize this and I am grateful for their amazing effort. I am also sensitive to how difficult this is for them and considering all this, I agreed not to wear the bracelet when I come to America to visit family for the Jewish holidays. However, I really do hate the idea of having to be dishonest about who I am, just so my parents can save face. And the irony of hiding a pride bracelet is not lost on me.

I know that while visiting them for the high holidays, at least one of their friends will tell me how they know a girl that would be perfect for me and will ask to set me up. (Oh really? you don't say? A girl? For me?) I know members of their synagogue will come over and say things like "how are you not married yet? Are there no nice girls in Israel?" Rather than coming up with some fun, witty response, I will have to put on an act and pretend, just like I did for so many years.

I know it is a very short visit and what my parents friends say and think is really of no consequence. And I really am not looking to make my parent's lives any more difficult or complicated. However, after all those years of denial and hiding, I really hate the idea of having to go back into the closet, even if it is just for a short while.