The Sheer Surrealness of Real Life

I booed when I heard the name of the evil man in the holiday story and stomped my feet along with the rest of the congregation. My kids wore costumes and shook noisemakers to add to the fun and pandemonium.

And across town, my grandmother was being admitted to the hospital.

Real life is more surreal than anything I could spin in a story. On Sunday, while I carted my family to our synagogue to celebrate the carnival holiday of Purim, where the story teaches that what seems good is actually evil and what appears evil is actually good, my grandmother was being tended to for a minor heart attack.

She’s almost 91; in fact, her birthday is a few weeks away. My elegant, soft grandmother with such a big heart, so full of love for everyone around her.

I sat in synagogue, in the moment with my children, yet a piece of me was in the hospital beside my grandmother.

I was simultaneously in the here and now – noise, song, performance, celebration – and returned to so many yesterdays …

* dinner with my grandparents on Friday nights, warm in the kitchen with the salad my grandfather made (cucumbers and hard-boiled eggs cut into tiny pieces) and my grandmother’s dishes to warm our souls

* my grandparents visiting me in Washington, D.C., when I was out of college and living on my own – crossing the Chesapeake Bay to the outlet mall, the Hitchcock film in an old restored theater and their energy far surpassing mine

* every fall and spring as a child, modeling my new clothing purchases for my grandparents

* at every school play, performance, graduation, ballet recital and virtually any other accomplishment or milestone in my life, there they were, smiling, loving us, celebrating all the many moments

My grandmother is a strong woman. I hope I take after her – her magnanimity, her generosity of spirit, her loyalty, her elegance. I am lucky to have her love and to love her as I do.

The oddness, then, of being in one state of mind while half of me was in another – how do we do it? Balance the tightrope of real life with all its incredible highs and lows?

Or must we merely ride the waves and crests, knowing that true heart exists only at the bottom of the ocean, where there is no good nor bad, there just IS?

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