Monday, February 14, 2011

The Oy Factor

During her time with us last week Ellie noticed what she says is a disturbing habit of mine—almost all of my morning movements are accompanied by moans or “oys.”

Now, anyone who knows me well knows I “complain” a lot about my physical infirmities. If asked how I’m feeling, I invariably respond with the truth, the full truth. Any aches or pains are catalogued in vivid detail. Hey, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask. I won’t be offended if you don’t ask. But if you do ask, don’t be offended if I respond to your innocent inquiry under the belief you really do care about me.

Oy, or ugh, conveys more in one syllable than any full-throated sentence. You can look up what oy means. But until you’ve lived with me you will not appreciate what Gilda (and for a week, Ellie) goes through daily.

Exodus Redux: Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.—Exodus 1:8

How poignantly wondrous that the overthrow of a modern day Egyptian dictator occurred just weeks after the annual synagogue Torah readings of the exodus of the Israelites from bondage and the vanquishing of Pharaoh’s army at the Sea of Reeds.

Several friends sent along a short joke making the Internet rounds—"Israel to Egypt: do not destroy those pyramids. We will not rebuild!”

Cute, but not historically accurate. Jewish slaves built the Coliseum in Rome, but not the pyramids in Egypt. The pyramids are believed to have been erected hundreds of years before Jacob and his clan made their way south to Egypt during the famine Joseph forecast when interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh. The Bible recounts how the enslaved children of Israel built the store cities of Pithom and Raamses. No mention of any pyramids.

After the exodus, the Israelites had few military entanglements with Egypt until the modern era, until 1948. Since the Camp David Accords were signed in 1978, a fragile peace has existed between Israel and Egypt, a peace reaffirmed for the present by the Egyptian military now in control. What could have been 30 years of tranquility and prosperity devolved under Hosni Mubarak into 30 years of repression and economic stagnation for the masses in Egypt while the elite grew fat. Israel, meanwhile, prospered, becoming a high-tech beacon.

The world, and especially Israel, trembles while it awaits the evolution of the Egyptian revolution and its impact on the Middle East. Will future Egyptian leaders choose continued peace or a return to a belligerency that sapped the country of its pride and youth?

Grandpa Who? I slowly made my way up the stairs from the garage Friday evening. Finley heard my footsteps. As he does with most visitors, he smiled in anticipation. But upon deeper observation of my bearded countenance, he grimaced and cried. In the near two months since we last saw each other, he had virtually forgotten me.

While he instantly re-bonded with Gilda and played with her, he’d warily look towards me from across the room. I figured the best course of action was to bide my time. It was hard waiting for my turn. By the next day Finley was more comfortable with me. He’d bring books over to read, but stayed for just one page. I didn’t take it personally. Even his mother could get him to sit still for just one page at a time.

By the end of our visit on Sunday he’d come full circle and even let me butt heads with him when we departed, our signature good-bye ritual. Our next time together is Passover in April. Two long months from now. Too long a time.