“Like tides of the departing sea, I am moving on from you, between tears and pain, I’m leaving.”
כמו חופים של ים עוזב אני עובר עכשיו ממך, בין דמעות ובין כאב, אני הולך אני הולך
Shlomo Artzi שיר פרידה/Shir Praida
I will always be a proud American, a patriotic, flag waving, believer in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A lover of baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and the Ford F-Series. I’ll never give up Thanksgiving or July 4th and will mark those days accordingly in Israel much the way I see no conflict in celebrating Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, while residing in the USA. Bottom line though, between tears and pain, I’m leaving.
Mine is not not a breakup of incompatibility it’s more like “it’s not you, it’s me.” I am not leaving America because America lacks something I want or need. Nor has America done something to hurt me or make it so I cannot bear to stay. If anything, what I leave behind begs the question why I am leaving at all. Yet here I am breaking up with the only lifestyle I’ve known, leaving behind my kids, grandchildren, siblings and a 91 year old father to start life over well into middle age.
Complacency can be a form of regression and I am a creature of forward motion. If my life were to be cloned with everything sans my cultural connection to Israel, I might be writing now about a move to Asia, South America or the Pacific Northwest. Whether dictated by circumstance or my semi nomadic tendencies, I am not destined to live in one community or home until the inevitable retirement to warmer climes. Part of me is traditional but within those norms I am also an outlier. No one who knows me is ever really surprised by my vicissitude, what might be unconventional in others is routine for me.
To be clear, this is a personal journal but not a solo journey. I take it as a point of pride that my single greatest accomplishment is my marriage, 35 years so far, same woman. And yes, like every partnership it’s not perfect but admittedly that’s mostly on me. Shira, my wife is the catalyst of this move but not the sole impetus. Unions require sacrifice and she has done more than her share. A Los Angeles native, she moved to, and we stayed in New York, my hometown for all these years. While my family became her family too, only one of her siblings lived in the area and that too was in two separate stretches.
I’ve posted about my deep rooted connection to Israel but Shira’s is as intense as mine. She grew up in the Bnei Akiva movement and went to Camp Moshava. Her family moved to Israel in 1973 and they lived there for three years, her youngest sister was even born there. Her oldest sister stayed when the family returned to Los Angeles, married and is one of the founders of Ofra, a settlement in Samaria. In one of those “small world, only in Israel” stories, my brother lives there as well and yes the Ofra connection led to our meeting. Like me, Shira did two gap years in Israel and we missed meeting at Bar Ilan University by a year.
Now she has two sisters in Israel and her father returned there as well. I have felt for a long time that she deserves to live near her family, to be close (physically) to her father, to have the type of proximity that I have emotionally benefited from all these years. We were always going to end up making this move and in fact started the process over a year ago, Covid just moved up our timetable.
Breaking up is only hard to do when you are stuck between two good choices (or bad). I’d like to say I’m one of those guys who makes thoughtful decisions after sitting down and writing lists of the pros and cons. I’m not and in my own self assessment, my record of being spontaneous is mixed. One that worked out pretty well though, was giving Shira an engagement ring six weeks after meeting her for the first time; we were married six months later. I’d rather not list my spontaneous failures. My point is, despite planning this move for quite some time, the big push like the pandemic that caused it came pretty suddenly.
In theory, if I stayed, I’d still need to travel to visit with two of my three children (and all of my grandchildren) albeit via shorter (and less costly) flights. I leave my youngest, my baby in parental parlance, on her own. Being the baby myself I understand the difficulties of being set free but I also know the benefits, she’ll be fine. Much more complicated for me will be saying goodbye to my father. Thankfully, he is the poster boy for ninety being the new seventy. As I’ve noted earlier, the hardship of separation is assuaged by Zoom, Facetime and other technology.
I’m in the final stretch now. I’m living out of my one suitcase and carry-on bag in my brother and sister in law’s home on Long Island. Like every step in this process I am still waiting for one more bureaucratic hurdle but the flight is booked, a short term furnished rental for quarantine and getting settled is procured and the goodbyes for now are being made. The old saying is that you can always come home and right now I’m about to leave America to do just that.