A little excursion down the rabbit hole of self pity. Maybe.

 

 

I never knew my paternal grandfather and grandmother. 

I knew they existed of course, but I don’t remember ever attending a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering where they were present.  Was I therefore deprived in some way?  I guess I will never know.  I suppose it is possible that I suffer some kind of psychological damage from not knowing them. I just don’t know.

Have you ever been “shunned?”  Shunning is the practice, particularly among the Amish people, of the social isolation of someone, usually a family member, for something disagreeable that they did or sometimes just because they believe something different from the rest of the group.

My father shunned my grandfather (his father) and my uncle.

Around the time when I was six or seven, my fathers alcoholism got the best of him and he lost the family farm.  I don’t remember a lot of details about this. I have been told that my Dad, one of his brothers and my grandfather were running a Kosher cattle raising and butchering operation, supplying meat to the Jewish community in Chicago (just sixty miles away).

Dad was the book keeper, and apparently he allowed his alcoholism to intervene with the family business.  Like I mentioned, I was maybe seven when this all came down, so I don’t remember many details.

An intervention happened,  involving my father, uncle and grandfather. Soon after my family was packing up and moving up to the Woodstock area of Northern Illinois.

That was the last I ever saw of my Grandfather or my uncle.  Well, until their funerals.  Actually there was another time. During the summer of my, I think, twelfth year, my father was at work and my mother received a call from my Grandfather: “Hey, how have you been?  Say, would Ellis like to make some money? Could you drive him over to my house so he could mow my lawn?”  My mom agreed and off I went to my Grandfathers house. I mowed his lawn, he paid me, and then made some hot dogs for me.

That never  happened again. My Dad was furious. A huge bi-lingual fight ensued (my Father in French. My Mother in Yiddish).  The next time I saw my Grandfather was in March 0f 1972. He was in a coffin.

So, I never really got to know my paternal Grandfather.  Dad had instituted a “shunning.” That was that. My needs were never considered.

Have you everheard the expresssion, “This has happened before and it will happen again”? Well, I have been shunned.

In the spring of 1992, I was shunned by my former wife. This took the form of a pact or promise that she imposed onto my sons.

I was married to Lynne on August 9th 1975.  Joshua, Jordan and Jesse were born in 1976 and 1981.  Lynne gradually became a raging Fundagelical, but I didn’t notice so much,  since I mostly worked graveyard shift at a local hospital.  I did take an active fatherly role with my sons, and became their Scoutmaster for a few years. Those were good times.

My Father died March 17th 1990.  My brother and I split his estate, and for the first time in my life I had a boatload of money.  Things with Lynne were getting more strained. I thought “space”would solve some problems, so I bought this really big house. A mansion really. Six bedrooms, three full baths, a half bath, a formal dining room, huge kitchen, sun porch, library, finished basement, etc. Two stair cases, one grand and formal, the other a servants stairwell, from the maids room (my den) to the kitchen.

She filled it with crap. Cardboard boxes full of clutter lined both staircases.  We had a third floor – an attic to store stuff – there was no excuse.  She ran a daycare out of the basement. Six or seven little kids whose parents paid “through the nose,” for day care.  Lynne didn’t drive so it was up to me to do all of the grocery shopping She would send me with a list of the cheapest crap she could cook in the microwave.

I stopped attending church around mid 1990, having come to the conclusion that they were all cults.  In 1991 I was fired from my position as Scoutmaster for Troop 313 (The People’s Church).  And, in order to punish the Scouts, the Troop was disbanded.  Later I found out that this had by instigated by Lynne.

In January of 1992 I left. An apartment in a building that I owned came empty, and I moved in.  The boys would visit once or twice a week. I think we had a good, but awkward, relationship.   I met someone on the Internet, and moved to Santa Cruz CA in May 0f 1992.

This is when my shunning began.  It wasn’t all inclusive. So long as I was the one reaching out, all was well. But apparently the twins and Josh were enjoined to not reach out to me.  So, they cannot travel out here to Northern California to visit me.  If I travel to Illinois, they may visit with me, but they can’t come visit me. This applies to all eight grand children as well. It was alright when I first moved here, and I was able to travel to Illinois a few times. But that didn’t last. Thanks to wife number two, I ended up in bankruptcy and my credit rating was trashed (she also committed identity theft on Joshua, using information she found in my personal records.   That  is what ended that relationship).  So travel to Illinois is practically impossible for me.

But they could come out to see me, right?  Well Josh and Aisha and their son Jalen did a few years back. But the twins haven’t tried.  Jordan has stated his desire to come see me, but if that happens, it will be after Joy (my youngest granddaughter) gets over her Leukemia. Jordan and family did come out to California this past summer.  Jordan works for WMAQ-TV (Channel 7 – Chicago).  WMAQ is an ABC owned station, and ABC is a subsidiary of Disney.  So their trip to California was to Anaheim – Disneyland; all expenses paid. So no time (or money) for a trip to the North Coast (a 12 hour drive).  Jordan enjoys a lot of Disney perks.  Jordan has also won eight Emmy Awards for videography and editing (Just FYI).  His twin brother, Jesse is also a videographer. Jesse owns a private video production studio. He is one of maybe six videographers on the continent that videos surgeries,  mostly for Northwestern University Medical Center/School in Chicago. I truly believe that Jesse does the more important work, but gets no recognition.

A couple years ago Jesse was doing some work up in Portland OR (about eight hours drive) but was too busy to travel down.  Jesse has never expressed an interest in visiting me or bringing his three girls out to meet me.  I know he can afford it. Even as I am typing this he and Lyndsay are visiting her best friend —in Paris France.

This is the third year in a row I have not spoken to any of them over the holidays.  I guess I expect them to call me. Joshua used to call me quite a bit, but not for some time. This year Jordan called me on my birthday. I really appreciated that. They have all called me when was in the hospital (2008, 2012, 2020).

I used to call them on the holidays.  You know, not one time did any of them say to their kids, “Hey, guys come talk do your grandfather on the phone.”   Not once.  And usually they talk about their work. I have to coax out news of their children.

Honestly? I don’t know if my grandchildren even know I exist.  Maybe I am dead?  I have a smallish  relationship with Jalen (Josh’s son) over Facebook (he is a very, very talented budding Rapper. I think he’s going to be very famous eventually).  None of the others is on Facebook (or perhaps they are not allowed). I wonder if they even have smart phones.

So, where am I at with all of this?  I am grieving.

 Let’s talk about the 7 stages of grief    (These are about grieving some one who has died.My situation is radically different, since a simple change would correct everything. But still…..):

  1. Shock 

“Feelings of shock are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one. We know it’s going to happen, but not right then, not on that day. People in shock often appear to be behaving normally without a lot of emotion, because the news hasn’t fully sunk in yet.”

This is where I have been for at least the past thirty years. I just couldn’t believe that people who professed to be followers of Jesus could be so hateful and narrow.

  1. Denial

“Many people experience denial after a bereavement: they know something has happened but it doesn’t feel real.”

Actually, my experience has been a combination of shock and denial.  I refused to believe that someone I love could treat me with such distain.

  1. Anger

“It’s perfectly normal to feel anger in times of loss, but often people try to keep this stage of grief hidden.”

I’ve been taught all my life that anger leads to hate; that hate is a cancerous emotion (and perhaps can even cause cancer to manifest).  It’s part of the “dark side,” to be denied and avoided at all costs.

Except today, when I learned that Jesse is in France visiting “a friend.”  I was livid for a moment.  But I got over that.  I love my boys. They can do no wrong.   But –it does prove that he can afford to travel for pleasure.

  1. Bargaining 

The bargaining stage is about making promises to yourself or a higher being, asking the universe for a chance to put things right. A bereaved person may seek reason where there is none, and may feel guilty about how they behaved, or feel in some way to blame.”

“There’s a sense that, ‘Maybe I could have done things differently’,” says Nathan. “If only I’d stopped them leaving the house or I knew more about their medical condition, I could’ve intervened. We may feel helpless and hopeless, and consumed by thoughts of, ‘What if?’”

When I first landed in Santa Cruz, and for several years after, my plan was to go back to Illinois and collect my sons, and bring them back to California to live with me. The money for that (thanks to blood sucking wife number two) disappeared.  So did opportunites to visit in Illinois. I missed three High School Graduations. Three College Graduations.  Three Weddings (although Jordan did send an invite to his, after I badgered him about it, but, lack of money kept me away.  Actually I never learned of the other events until after they occurred. Lynne strikes again!)

Since then?  If not for Facebook, I would have missed eight births, and eight 1st days of school and one High School Graduation.

  1. Depression

“The jumble of emotions that usually accompanies the grieving process can typically lead to feelings of depression, isolation, anxiety and a feeling of dread. Sometimes the suffering seems too much to bear.”

Periodically I have boughts of feeling sorry for myself, of self-doubt. I think that I should never had left when I did. That I should have at least waited until the Twins had graduated from High School. That things turned out as they did because I wasn’t around to supervise and influence.  On the other hand, I needed to get as far away as humanly possible.  I knew Lynne would never forgive me, and Doreen was crazier than a road lizard. Of course, as it turned out, wife number two was even crazier.

  1. Acceptance and hope

“Humans, by nature, crave contact, connection and support, and at some stage in the grieving process will want to engage with friends and family again. Acceptance is about realising you can’t change the circumstances, but that you can gain some control over how you respond.”

This is sort of where I am headed.  I feel like I need to just accept the fact that I’m never going to have any kind of relationship with my grandchildren; that I am never going to meet most of them, or that they are never going to know that I existed.

I’m not there yet. I want to try sending them birthday presents. See if I get any kind of acknowledgment. Maybe a thank-you card. Maybe.

I thank the G-ds that I have a support group among the Kirtan community. People who love without limits or conditions. They just love.

“Love is the answer, love is the way. Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.”

  1. Processing grief

There is no right or wrong way to grieve – the process is highly individual. In addition, there’s no quick fix; the healing process takes time and varies from person to person. Importantly, there is no “normal” timeframe, so be patient with yourself.

The following coping strategies have ben suggested:

  • Express your grief in words or another creative outlet, such as painting or drawing.
  • Connect with others – this can be loved ones or community support groups. (Thank you Skywater Kirtan Band!)
  • Ask for help, in whatever form.
  • Practise deep breathing regularly.
  • Set small, realistic goals.
  • Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and aim for some form of movement each day.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep hydrated.
  • Rehearse how you respond to questions and new situatoons.

Good suggestions. For me. But what about my grandchildren? What about Cam, Ian, Joy, Mia, Poppy and Dorothy? What are they missing from not knowing me?  Of  course that assumes  that they even know I exist. Do I?

 


Here are my sons and their families. This is what I am being denied:

My three sons: Jesse Jonathan, Joshua Joel, Jordan Justin

 

Aisha and Joshua

 

Joshua’s son Jalen. Jalen is the only Grandchild I have met. He will be 23 this coming February 10th.

 

Jordan and family: From top row: Jordan and his son Cam (Cam will turn 16 on May 24),
Second Row: Nikki,
Third Row: Ian (He will turn 12 on July 16) and Joy  She will turn 6 this coming October 17)

 

Jesse’s Family:  Top Row:  Jesse, Lyndsay, Mia (Mia will turn 18 on August 22);
Bottom Row: Poppy (She will turn 12 on December 24) and Dorothy (She will turn 10 on April 26th).

 


The things I miss

 

 

I’ve lived in California since May of 1992. Actually I left Kankakee on May Day of 1992 and arrived in Santa Cruz about seven days later.  I left Santa Cruz in May of 1998 and moved to Ashland Oregon.  I met Ceridwen  there (my wife of 22 years, my soul mate, whom I’ve lived with for many, many previous lifetimes). About a year later, a friend of ours offered to rent a cabin he had about ten minutes north of Grants Pass OR, where we lived until February 2004.  It was at that time that we moved back to California and landed in Eureka, home of the famous “Redwood Coast.”  We have been there ever since – eighteen years.

 

I love California. I love the Redwoods (both the Sequoia Sempervirens (Coast Redwood) and the Sequoiadendron Giganteum (Giant Redwood).  I also love the ocean, and I love nature in all of it’s glory (after all I am a Druid  (or Jew-id or sometimes a Hin-Dru). I love the politics (I am a lifelong Progressive Democrat – Democratic Socialist).

 

As much as I love it here, there are things back in Illinois that I truly miss:

 

  1. Museums and Zoos: Honestly, with the exception of the Monterrey Aquarium, the Museums and Zoos of Chicago are far superior to any that California has to offer.
  2. Chicago style Hot Dogs:  A few restaurants out here have attempted to make these but they always leave out some key ingredient, or they add ketchup (EWW!). A Chicago-style hot dogChicago Dog, or Chicago Red Hot is an all-beef (usually Kosher) frankfurter on a poppy seed bun. The hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers  and a dash of celery salt.  The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be “dragged through the garden” due to the many toppings. The method for cooking the hot dog itself varies depending on the vendor’s preference. Most often they are steamed, water-simmered, or less often grilled over charcoal (in which case they are referred to as “char-dogs”). The canonical recipe does not include ketchup, and there is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoans and aficionados that ketchup is unacceptable.  Most Chicago hot dog vendors do not offer ketchup as a condiment.
  3. Chicago style (or Deep Dish) Pizza:  Up until about two years ago, you just couldn’t find one of these anywhere in California. Now, having said that, there is a Pizza restaurant in San Francisco that allegedly serves these up, but I haven’t been there.  There is another here in Eureka that is supposed to open, but it’s been over six months since it was talked about, and nothing  has materialized. However, Safeway is now selling a frozen version, much smaller that ones you can buy at any restaurant in Chicago, but otherwise very authentic. And you would expect them to be because they are manufactured by one of the iconic  Chicago Pizzareas, Gino’s East.  The sauce is to die for!  Chicago-style pizza is pizza prepared according to several different styles developed in Chicago, widely referred to simply as deep dish pizza due to its cooking style. The pan in which it is baked gives the pizza its characteristically high edge which provides ample space for large amounts of cheese and a chunky tomato sauce.  Basically, the pizza is made stating with the pan. The pan is round and about two inches deeps. A thin crust is spread across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Next comes cheese, then other toppings (except they are not on the top) of your choice, then more cheese, and finally a thick covering of sauce.
  4. The Little Corporal Restaurant: This was my favorite place to eat growing up, and well into my adulthood, in Kankakee. I won’t go into detail here, but there is a Facebook page  dedicated to it with pictures, anecdotes and even a few recipes.  My favorite (something I could get for a quick lunch) was their chicken noodle soup. Or maybe it was more like a stew. The sauce was so thick you could almost eat it with a fork. Another favorite was Eggs Benedict.  Another was the Hamburger Boneparte.
    The restaurant featured the only revolving door in Kankakee County. The motif was a historical tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte, who was portrayed in a Lifesize painting that adorned the inside of the restaurant. Other touches were drum shaped lamps over all the tables in the main dining area. Trumpet shaped warming lamps over the serving counter.  A huge crystal chandelier over the dining counter,  In between the round booths that lined the walls, were paintings of military troops and officers dressed in the uniforms of the period (Napoleonic France).  The really cool place was the Waterloo Lounge.  The back wall featured a painting of Napoleon relaxing in his imperial garb, complete with a Roman style leaf headdress.  Chairs on along the wall were underneath a map of the battle of Waterloo, with throne like chairs dedicated to the various generals who fought the battle.  The bar itself was a piano bar, and once hosted Barry Manilow on a regular basis (before he became famous). In the back of the lounge were these very private booths (you could make out with your girl friend if you wanted to) made like period  military tends, each dedicated to one of the armies that fought Napoleon’s troops.
    The Little Corporal was a chain restaurant, with locations in Chicago and Hollywood CA. There is one still surviving in Green Lake WI.  It doesn’t look like the menu has survived to me. The Kankakee restaurant closed forever about a year or so after I left Kankakee.
  5. My family.  My three sons, Joshua, Jordan and Jesse, and their children:  Isaiah, Jalen, Cam, Ian, Joy, Mia, Poppy, Dorothy, and Isaiah’s daughter (my great granddaughter) Olivia.  The range in age of the eight goes from thirty four (??) to age five. Great granddaughter Olivia recently celebrated her first Solar Return.

Number five on this list is really number one. In fact you should really read the list from the bottom up, that being the list from the most thing I miss to the least.

 

Of my  grandchildren I’ve only met Isaiah and Jalen.  Is this my fault? Perhaps.  I’ve been able to afford to travel back to Kankakee exactly three times.  The first was around Xmas in 1995(?). I remember buying all three boys cameras and film for Xmas, and exhorting them to take pictures and send them (at my expense) to me.  They never did. That was when I met Isaiah, whom (I think) was five at the time. I took the boys to the Paramount Theatre (an iconic art-nouveau theatre) to see Starship Troopers,

 

The second time was to attend the hearing for my divorce from their mother.

 

The third time was a visit in the Spring of 1996(?).  This time I brought along  “she-whose-name-is-not-uttered” whom I was “married” to at the time.  I remember a tornado chased us from the South Suburbs all the way to our hotel in Bradley, where we watched the weather in our room until an all clear was proclaimed.  After the all clear she and I traveled to my ex’s house to pick up the boys, and then drove up to the south suburbs, to Geordano’s Pizza (that was the last Chicago pie I’d had to that point. It would be 2020 before Geno’s East began selling it’s pizza at Safeway).

 

But since then I just haven’t been able to make the trip. I haven’t had very good jobs, especially after leaving Santa Cruz, and I just could not afford to take a flight.  I missed three High School graduations, 3 College graduations, 3 weddings, and the births of seven of my grandchildren.  The only invitation I received to any of these events was to Jordan and Nikki’s wedding, and I think that was only because I guilted him into sending it. Plus, I had a pipe dream that I might actually be able to book a flight.

 

I got to meet Jalen when his father Josh, mother Aisha and he flew out to visit me about five years ago. I really enjoyed showing them my world. Jalen was (is) a way cool kid.

 

Other than that, Facebook has been my main contact with any of them.  Interestingly, I’ve never talked to any of the younger grandchildren. When I have called around the holidays I always talk to Josh or Jordan or Jesse, but they’ve never said “Hey kids, your grandpa is on the phone. Want to talk to him?”  Not once.  Frankly, I don’t know that any of them know I exist.

 

Will I ever meet any of them? I don’t know. I suspect that their mother made them swear an oath that they would never come to visit me.  Although, Josh did. And Jordan has made some comments about making the trip, but I don’t expect that  to happen until after Joy is completely free of Cancer. I know that Jordan has to make sure that the medical infrastructure has to exist for them to travel (because of  Joy). They’ve been to Orlando FL a bunch of times, and this past summer to Anaheim CA. Jordan works for WMAQ TV (Channel 7 in Chicago) which is an ABC station. ABC is owned by Disney, so his family enjoys a bucket load of perks from Disney, including (I suspect) all expense paid trips to Disneyland and Disney World.  Jesse travels a lot for work (he has his own video production house) – He’s one of about six videographers  in the US (or maybe the Earth) who video tape surgeries. Pretty specialized stuff.

 

My plan is to live to be one hundred.  That Solar Return will occur on November 15 2053.   That gives the twins 31 years to make the trip out here. The problem is not meeting the grandchildren while they are still children. For Jordan’s Cam, and Jesse’s Mia, their childhood will end fairly soon. Both will be eighteen in just about a year or so. The youngest one, Joy, will be 35 when I turn 100.

As we say, WAITING IS.


Happy Solar Return to Jordan and Jesse Arseneau

 

 

They turned 41 today.

41. That’s 4 decades plus a year..

They are both videographers. Jordan works for ABC-7 (WBKB-TV) in Chicago, and Jesse has his own video production business.  Jordan has won, I think, 6 Chicago area Emmy awards for his camera work and for editing. Jesse specializes in surgeries. He is one of about 6 in the country that do that. Maybe in the world. As you can tell I am very, very proud of both of them.

Their mother and I did not know we were having twins.  Her doctor didn’t know.  So, imagine the surprise on May 8th, 1981 when we witnessed not one, but two births, about 5 minutes apart. Seems like yesterday.

They have both achieved the American dream.  They own houses and cars. They are both married to very beautiful and intelligent women, Nikki and Lyndsay.  Jordan is father to Cam, Ian and Joy.  Jesse is father to Mia, Poppy and Dorothy.  Cam and Mia are in High School. Both of them are artists, and Cam seems to be a budding entomologist.

Here is a picture of the two of them from a few years ago:

Left to Right: Jesse. Jordan

Happy birthday sons. Your father is very, very proud of you.