Wednesday, July 23, 2003


One of the major complaints my parents have is that I do not share with them the minutiae of my daily life as my sisters do with them. My parents knew just about every wise, profound statement that my four-year old nephew spouted like, don’t whales live in the ocean (genius!). They also knew what brand orange juice my other sister preferred. And in this time of desperation for understanding, I wondered if perhaps I had gone about it all wrong, all these years. Maybe they did have the insight I needed. Maybe they possessed the answers I desired. Or the ideas that would change everything for the accountant from Ohio. Or the ones that the waitress who served me my veggie burger looked everywhere for. After all, my parents had both been very successful in the fields that they had chosen. Maybe they knew better than we did.

My father, a selfless individual, serves as a man of the Lord. He is a Rabbi that most respect and revere. He is the perfect combination of secularism and religion. He lives, as he would say, "in both worlds." My mother is a principal of one of the largest private schools on the East Coast. Every ex-student of the school that I encounter has nothing but the up-most respect for her, insisting that at the time of their education, they feared the slightest mention of Mrs. Dworken but now they understood everything she did was in their best interest. I am still waiting to reach that same enlightenment.

"It seems as if nothing had turned out the way I had planned it to, father," I said on the phone.
"Look, the times are tough. The economy isn’t so good," my father retorted. I had heard this line in a number of variations from a number of people. Like a character in a game of Clue, the economy did it. In the living room, of course, with a pipe.
"Did you plan on being a Rabbi when you were young?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? A child dreaming of being a Rabbi? Sure, it was up there with astronaut and superhero."
"So what was it that you hoped to be?"
"A baseball player." Besides being a spiritual leader, he is an avid Red Sox fan.
"Then why aren’t you one now?"
"Because, Arye, there are dreams and then, there are "dreams.""

Recently, I had discovered that I like to write. I would be most happy finding a stable job as a writer, preferably writing about music. It is something that I could do for the rest of my life. It is something I want to do for the rest of my life. But I always ask myself, is it a dream or is it a "dream"?

Every time I write something, I can barely stand to read it over and edit it (I hope that is not so apparent). I cringe at my own choice of words. I am angry at myself for thinking that what I have to say is important. That people should read it. I am bewildered by that need for self-fulfillment. Having grown up in a family that is for the most part, givers, I wonder where this egocentric desire came from.

And even if I did have the persistence to work at writing, do I deserve to work at it? Like my father had said to a friend of mine after he had asked why someone would want to be a garbage man--maybe he was meant to be a garbage man. Well, maybe I was meant to be anything but a writer. Maybe I should consider the department of sanitation.

Sometimes I fantasize about an alternative world where writing is as practical and lucrative as being a doctor or a lawyer. Where my grandmother says with pride "my grandson is a writer." I imagine all her friends cooing with envy. I often wish for that world so people would persist from saying, stop being so impractical.

"You should know that your mother wasn’t always so practical," my grandmother revealed to me. "Oh, she wanted to be a painter so badly. She would go the Met and walk around, spending hours analyzing each artist’s process. Their brush strokes. Their technique. To her, this was where she was most satisfied."

"Why did she stop?" I knew about her passing interest in painting because I had one of her works hanging in my room but I did not know that there was much more to it.
"Well, we were always supportive of her art. We were so pleased that she painted." My grandmother’s facial expression turned to a warm smile. A smile that revealed memories. "I remember her last painting. I remember the day when she said that I am through with painting. She screamed that she could not do it anymore. Painting, she said, had taken and taken from her and given nothing in return. She felt exhausted. She felt used. It was enough."

The funny thing is that I understood exactly what my grandmother had said. I too felt used.
Maybe this is why every time I wrote I needed to take a nap afterwards.


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