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Shalom, 2020

There is a rainbow on the other side of you, 2020, reaching to new tomorrows. We have learned new things about ourselves- what we care about, what we can endure, what we cannot. We have learned to "shelter in place," and to cook more and make things and maybe even garden. We have begun to notice and hear the birds all around us. We have been reminded not to take our health, or life, for granted.

Many times, I have asked Gidon how he endured four years in a concentration camp. Four years of gnawing hunger, cold and fear. He tells me that because he was a child, he made a game out of it. Could he dart behind the back of a soldier and steal a potato? Could he taste a fingerful of jam by scraping the empty barrel?

Even today, at his age, Gidon assesses risk according to how likely it is that he will get caught. I don't think he realized, when he was in Theresienstadt, that he wasn't likely to survive the experience. He saw plenty of death - hangings, dead bodies stacked up in the streets - but blessedly, his childish mind didn't entirely process what was before him. For child survivors, this often comes back many years later when, as adults they learn more about their experience and that of millions of others. Then it really sinks in. So the trauma is multiplied from an early, fragmented sense memory into a fully knowing horror years later.

If you ask Gidon what he thought of 2020, he will tell you that things have been pretty rotten. He noticed that I felt anxious and depressed. He watches the news. We wore our masks, sterilized our hands - and continue to - and took small walks around our park when we weren't allowed to go more than 500 meters from our home. But Gidon also danced during that time, and started making IGTV videos on Instagram, and began watching the birds on our street, and noticing their song. He helped build shelters for the feral cats for when the rains came. He made soup, he read books and he was beside me every step of the way.

On social media I often refer to Gidon as my #lovinglifebuddy because that is what he is. Before Gidon, my cats were my loving life buddies - and they still are (loving life buddies don't have to be human!), but having Gidon in my life during this time brought me so much comfort - and perspective.

But it also brought me fear. Gidon will be 86 in March of 2021. He is most decidedly in the vulnerable group of people who should NOT get Covid-19. Thank god, so far, he has avoided it. This makes me wonder whether he has some kind of super-immune system. As a child in the camp, he was exposed to typhus, yellow fever and probably a couple of other illnesses that I am not aware of, all of which were rampant in the over-crowded, half-starved population of Theresienstadt. Gidon has survived two bouts of cancer, as well, one of which was stage 4. While in hospital for one of those cancer treatments, he came down with Legionnaire's disease. But he just keeps going.

More and more lately, I help Gidon out when he delivers flowers. During the different stages of lockdown in Israel, this was of course off the table, but intermittently it has been allowed. At first, I freaked out. I didn't want Gidon anywhere near anybody for any reason. But he loves doing it and who am I to tell Gidon how to live? But lately, perhaps because he is nearing 86, and perhaps because its winter, I go with Gidon. I don't like the idea of him running around by himself. Sometimes he can get a little flustered and frustrated with Waze. If it's only one or two deliveries, he goes on his own. More than that, and I want to be there.

I actually really enjoy going with him. That's when we are at our best, actually. I ride shotgun and hold the flowers and help out with Waze. I watch the car when Gidon parks it in a dubious spot, as he delivers the flowers (with his mask on!). We both rejoice if he gets a tip. Lately he's been wearing the rainbow scarf I crocheted for him. Usually we stop somewhere or other to pick up milk or fruit and vegetables. Sometimes Gidon darts into our favorite (not kosher) Russian store and picks up some bread and even a little ham to eat, on the go.

Together, as a couple, Gidon and I had a great year because our book came out and was well received by trade publications and readers. That, for us, was really something. But it was dampened by the general feeling of stress and depression that seemed to encircle the entire world. We both know that life keeps moving and changing and that better times are ahead - because they always are. As Gidon says "You don't get the life you want, you get the life that you get." Life is what you make it, in other words. Gidon chooses to notice the birds and the flowers and the good, hot soup. He chooses bright colors and big smiles and soft blankets. He reminds me that "life insists upon itself." We did a lot of fun things this past year, one way or another. And hey, our book was listed as one of the best books of 2020 by the Kirkus Review, that is pretty spectacular, though given everything else I have to sort of hit the pause button and think that one over.

Gidon gets his Covid vaccination on December 30th and I will breathe such a sigh of relief. I guess I won't get mine for some time but that's okay. Gidon and I had each other in 2020 and we will have each other in 2021. Thank god for #lovinglifebuddies.

Who knows what new opportunities and innovations will arise in 2021? Who knows what new appreciation and new approaches to living and learning that we've already begun to incorporate without being fully aware of it?

“Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute?”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town

May the spring of 2021 be a season of renewal for all of us. We can get through this winter knowing that it does have an end and that at that end, things will be different.


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