June 14, 2021
I’ve mentioned my parents on this blog a few times before, which honestly is a testament to my self-control because the amount of time that I think about my parents is all the time. I am grateful to them every day, the people who raised me, who love me unconditionally, are proud of me when I give them no reason to be, and at times when I have been lonely, have reminded me that I will never be alone as long as I have them.
While I’ve spent the past six months living close to and getting to know Z’s wonderful parents, I’ve been missing my own. Because getting to Long Island and staying with my parents feels highly inaccessible, my parents have not really had the chance to get to know Z or be able to hang out with us together. Even though I can visit, it’s sad for me to think that my parents don’t really get to see how happy I am in my relationship. I know that they are missing me, and that they worry about me and what I’m doing and not doing in my life right now. I want them to get to have Z in their lives and get to love him as much as I do. And I want him to be able to love them as much as I do, if that’s possible.
I love my parents a lot. Once a month, I spend the week before my period crying about how grateful I am to have been raised by them. I’ve always felt this overwhelming gratitude toward my parents, but since coming to Ithaca it’s mixed in with something new: guilt.
Recently, Z and I watched the movie version of “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s a show I’ve always related to, not only because of my judaism, but because I can see my own parents, M and D, in the characters of Golda and Tevya. Like Golda and Tevya, my parents want nothing more than easy fulfilling lives for me and my brother. They have worked themselves into exhaustion for their entire adulthoods to provide me and J (my brother) everything we needed. Also like Tevya and Golda, my parents sometimes have a hard time imagining that J and I could find happiness outside of traditional ideas of success.
To be clear, M and D have always been accepting and supportive of the crazy ideas I brought home about my future. “You want to be an artist, do it. You want to date girls, go for it. You want to marry the tailor, Motel, screw Laser Wolfe, La’chaim!” But at the end of the day, I’ve always known that my parents can’t stop worrying about me until they’re sure I have a well-paying job, with vision and dental, and am on my way to building my own family. My current adventures don’t quite fit the bill.
My parents question my relationship with Z. Their concerns aren’t unreasonable, in fact they’re the same concerns that I’ve spoken about in many blog posts: they worry that my relationship will make my life harder and introduce limitations that will keep me from accomplishing what I want to. They worry that at forty, I could lose Z and discover that while I’ve been caring for him, I haven’t cared for myself. They worry that I’ll forget that I want to go to grad school, and have kids, and travel, and that one day I’ll look back at my life and realize I never lived it. They worry because they’re my parents and that’s their job.
I think perhaps my parents know me too well. They know that I doubt myself to the point of not pursuing good opportunities, I tend to become complacent when I’m comfortable even if I’m comfortable in a place that is far from my goals, and I put things off past their deadlines. So, in their way, M and D try to push me. They remind me of all the potential I have and that I ought to be doing something with it. They ask me if I’ve applied to grad school yet every time I call them and if I’ve been practicing driving. They drive me a little nuts sometimes, but if they didn’t they wouldn’t be my parents.
Lately, I feel like I’m letting them down. They have always wanted me to grow into my own life, but instead I’ve abandoned them.
In “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevya and Golda’s second oldest daughter, Hodel, falls in love with a radical who is arrested at a protest and taken to Siberia. As Hodel waits for the train to take her to Siberia to join him, Tevya comes to the train station. He is a workhorse (pun intended, if you know the film), but that day he puts off work to wait with Hodel, so that he can have one last moment with her. In this moment, he reminds me so much of my own father that I’m crying just thinking about it. More times than I can count, my dad has waited with me at the train station, in the freezing cold, to have a last goodbye before I spend a long weekend with friends. Now that I've gone so far from home, I feel like I might as well be in Siberia. At least I have a cell phone and internet connection so I can facetime my mom and dad.
Hodel sings to her father, “How can I try to make you understand why I do what I do? Why I must travel to a distant land, far from the home I love…” She goes on to sing about how she never thought a man could come who would make her want to leave her home, but she loves him and she can’t help that. Who knows what happens with them, maybe Perchik catches a flu in Siberia and widows her, maybe they have a fight over who’s music they should listen to and break up, but in that moment, Hodel feels she needs to be with Perchik, despite any arguments from her parents. So it is with me. I miss Anatevka, I miss M making me chai tea whenever I’m stressed out, I miss D’s funny voices, I miss eating dinner together, I miss rides to the train station and being told to be careful no matter how many times I go, but right now I need to be in Siberia and I swear I’m going to be just fine.