Karin and I seldom go to parties. Since we became full-time caregivers for our toddler grandson, Asher, we don’t get out much. Asher is still a bit young for a babysitter, so any gathering we might attend has to be child friendly. We don’t go to parties in the evening, because Asher has an early bedtime. For that matter, so do I. In some respects, my wife and I are like new parents. Our social lives are limited and will be until the boy is of school age.
Oddly enough, we went to two celebrations last week. One of them was a farewell party, and one was a graduation party that morphed into another occasion to say goodbye. In both cases, the gatherings were for close friends, and it was important for us to be there. It was surprising to me that we actually made it to both events. With Asher, any activity we plan is a crap shoot. When we agree to meet somebody, depending on who they are, we always add the disclaimer of “God willing” or “inshallah” or “min ezrat haShem.” Karin and I never really know what will happen from day to day, or even hour to hour.
The first event was the farewell party for a woman from the synagogue. We have known her for about fourteen years. Our friend is a fascinating person. She spent her early childhood years in France and then lived in Israel. She married a rabbi and moved to the United States. She has lived in Milwaukee for the last nineteen years. Now all her children have grown up, and she is ready to begin a new chapter in her life. Three of her kids live out east, so she is moving closer to them. It’s going to be an adventure for her, and she knows it.
The woman was hostess for her own party. Our friend invited a small group of people to her house. Most of her children came to celebrate with their mom. A dozen or more close friends showed up to wish her well. Karin and I knew most of the attendees. Most of them knew us, and they certainly knew Asher.
There was one woman who brought along some recordings of Israeli folk music with her. After people had something to eat and drink, this lady invited everyone to come out onto the lawn and form a circle. Karin and I went out there with Asher. The woman had us all join hands (including Asher), and then she started the music. She led us in a dance. We went around and around the circle as the melodies played. At one point she had us all move toward the center of the ring, and then move back outward again. We moved in and out and in and out several times. It was like we were all one, and we were breathing together in time with the rhythm of the songs. Our hostess joined the circle, and she sang the Hebrew lyrics of the songs as she danced. She was all smiles.
Before the last dance, the leader asked our friend to move to the very center of the ring. She stood in the middle of everyone as we danced around her. Each person, one at a time, came up to our friend and offered her some kind of blessing. Each of us encouraged her as she began her new journey in life.
After the dancing was over, Karin and I spoke with our friend. She invited us to visit her in Philadelphia. She wasn’t just saying that to be nice. She was being sincere. She really wants to see us again.
I don’t know if it will happen. It’s hard for me to see into the future. Karin and I don’t even know what we will do tomorrow. Will we ever travel out east again? Maybe, anything can happen, and it would be a joy to see this friend again. However, it is probably more likely that this party was our last opportunity to be together. When we said goodbye to this woman as we left the party, there was a finality to it, a sadness.
Two days later, we went to a graduation party for a girl from a family of Syrian refugees. We have known the Syrians for several years. They got to the United States in 2016, after fleeing the war in their home country. The parents were farmers in Syria, and they are raising eleven children. The eldest four kids are adults now. Somehow, that amazes me. I met them all shortly after they arrived in this country when I was tutoring them for school. They were so young then.
Many friends of the family came to the party. Some were Muslim, some not. The Syrian family is Muslim. The walls of their rooms are covered with calligraphy, verses from the Quran. The mother and the older daughters dress modestly and wear the traditional hijab. Everyone had plenty to eat. The mother is an excellent cook and she made chicken, lamb and rice, beans, ground meat wrapped in grape leaves, and various pastries. The house was overflowing with people eating and talking.
Karin and I talked with the new graduate. She just finished high school and will start going to college. This is a huge deal for this family. No woman from their relations has ever gone to college. This young woman is doing something new, something exciting. Her family is proud of her, and rightly so.
Asher ran amok during the festivities. There was always a young person to keep an eye on the lad. He ate and drank and played. He was very upset when we had to leave.
Before COVID I used to go to their house almost every week to tutor the kids. I got to know them all very well. I had to stop tutoring during the pandemic, and then Asher came into our lives, and I was seldom able to visit with the Syrians. However, they live very near to us, so there has always been the opportunity to see them.
Karin and I found out at the party that the family will soon be moving out of town. There aren’t going terribly far away, but far enough that we can’t just pop over for a visit. They are getting a much larger house and I am happy for them. However, it means that we will see each other even less than we do now.
Our goodbyes seemed rather final after this party.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.