None of my sisters hit 5 feet.
All three got close, and I think they have themselves convinced that they still have a chance. It's quite a point of contention between them over who is actually the tallest. My middle sis, Dina, definitely held the height crown in the late 80's and early 90's when she had this awesome curl mosh of permed goodness adorning the top of her pretty head.
Somewhere in the middle of the decade (I think the crazy huge hair styles were fading by then), I was sitting in my parents' insanely large master bedroom (the owners remodeled the front and added a master bedroom to the master bedroom), minding my own business, and I had this strange sensation that everyone was talking about Dina.
"Is something wrong with Dina?" asked my cute 11 year old pre-beard voice.
Everyone stopped talking and looked at me in shock, as if I was from Pluto, which was already showing signs of its coming identity crisis.
"She's getting engaged tomorrow. We've been talking about nothing else for the past two weeks. Where have you been?!"
Thing 1: In my world, "getting engaged" means you already decided that you're getting married ("will you marry me?" "Yes!!! Ask me again!"), and now you are going to get the blessing of the Rebbe (previously done through a letter or phone call, now usually at the Ohel (his grave site), or through an email which someone could read on your behalf at the Ohel). Once you do that you are "officially" engaged.
Thing 2: I was (and still am in some ways) the most oblivious child the world has ever seen. So while it may have been odd to my family that I had no clue of all these going-ons, it seemed normal enough to me.
Dina was the first in my family to get married, so it was a whole new experience for me. I got to go to New York, had my first taste of Scotch (I think it was Chivas Regal, I thought it would be bad, it was way worse), got to freeze my outer appendages in the -7 degrees outdoor ceremony, got to dance like a complete lunatic (I still do that), and many other things I'm sure, all forgotten (or otherwised unnoticed) in my non-drunken obliviousness.
The dude she married was a young Rabbi from Brooklyn. He was a handsome fellow, with clean pressed shirts, a tidy beard, and ice skates. And everybody seemed to know him. I mean everybody. He was the most easy-going, engaging, pleasant, honest, and open person to talk to. He knew his way with a guitar, had a wonderful voice, and was a splendid dancer. A bit of a New Yorker, but he got that part Temeculad out of him fairly quickly.
Seven children (one who was just had recently Bar Mitzvah) and seventeen (or so) years later they now lead a wonderfully eclectic Jewish community in Temecula, Califonia.
I recently came back from an event where Dina was talking about her husband's ability to talk to anyone. Anyone. They were sitting on his parents' front porch in Crown Heights (as either newlyweds or almost-weds, I forget) and on the porch above them there was a set of 3 year old twins staring down at them as kids sometimes do. My sister was attempting to engage them in some sort of conversation. Wasn't happening. Yitzi looks up and says "I can go to the bathroom all by myself", and boom! they had a whole conversation about the intricacies of a three-year-old's potty challenges.
Last year after experiencing an increasing loss of speech control, Yitzi was diagnosed with ALS more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a disease affecting voluntary muscle movements, where the nervous system which is supposed to be telling the limbs to move isn't really doing its job well. It's also symptomatic in that there is no way to test for it other than looking at the symptoms. There's no virus or bacteria or marker anywhere in the body where you can test, point to some sort of oddity and say with certainty "This is ALS".
Since the diagnosis, Yitzi has been losing his ability to talk and recently has lost his fine motor skills in his left hand and a bit in his legs. He can't talk as well, sing, play guitar, or dance. These are the things he loves, and how he shares himself with the world. Yet even so, over the past year and half, Yitzi has been amazing. He's happy, involved, still acts as Rabbi, is always hopeful, and is somehow, still a remarkable communicator. My sister, understandably, is overwhelmed. But she too is showing remarkable strength and wisdom in her not-so-old age.
One of the symptoms is the inability to control emotion. When he is happy he laughs, and when he is sad he cries. No hiding. No layers. And Yitzi has been laughing. A lot. The only time he lost it was when he was on the phone with the Rabbi in Los Angeles, asking about his inability to say all the prayers. Saying all the words would take over three hours and he'd have no energy for the rest of the day. After getting his reply, he broke down crying. That's the type of man he is.
There are a few different treatments, most in the trial stages. All are very costly. They are currently on a flight to Israel for a cutting edge new treatment called Brain Storm. It uses stem cells and has shown some very positive results.
There also is the hope that it isn't actually ALS. Again, being symptomatic no one ever really knows the actual disease. Many symptoms are shared by certain types of Lyme disease. And then there is a whole world of alternative medicine and treatments. Homeopathy, Herbology, Acupuncture, etc. All time consuming, and all costly.
The community, both in Temecula and the larger Jewish community has been amazing in their support. Emotionally, financially, personally etc. But even so there are still many bills left uncovered and treatments underutilized due to finances.
I was mentally writing this blog post on the 101 freeway yesterday, and remembered that they got a blessing from the Rebbe for a recovery by Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). That's less than 40 days away and I was thinking how that isn't much time. Right then (literally 3 seconds after this thought) a motorcycle roared by on the left, with a sign on the back saying "Expect Miracles".
And I am.
I really didn't want to write about this. It's so personal, and this being a place where, in addition to just writing whatever pops in my head, I attempt to publicize my photography, get new clients, and hopefully get more business, I almost feel like I'm using this story to get more traffic, more publicity. As I know it will. And I can't really stomach that.
But I want to help, and this is the way I could.
*** Very important thing 1: Quick Shoot Fundraiser
I wanted to do something to help and decided I would make a quick session fundraiser. I'm not sure what the response would be so as of yet I only have one day planned (though I'll do as many as there is interest).
So here are the Details:
I'll be shooting the entire day of Sunday, August 18th at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. 12 sessions.
Each family will get 30 minutes of my shooting time to do family portraits, and each will get a disc with all the high resolution images (around 20).
Cost will be $275, of which $75 will go to me to cover costs of film, developing, gas, burgers, beer, etc. and $200 to go to Dina and Yitzi.
To book a spot you must email me at email@example.com or call 714-460-3967, and pay in full.
Again, I'll be doing this again on other days and in other places if the demand is there. I'm really hoping it will.
Almost as important thing 2: East Coast Dates
It seems that me and my flock of cameras will be heading to New York toward the end of October. Followed by a meander down the East Coast for some other bookings. If you are interested in a family session, email me, call me, text me, fax, telegram, moneygram, send a letter, walk over, or somehow get in touch and lets make it happen!
I am also setting aside a day or two for the same quick session fundraiser in the large apple. Very tentative date of Tuesday October 22nd, other days will be added as per demand.
Please share this post! And if you can add Yitzi to your prayers, or can help in any way please let me know.
Love, life, and health, Zalmy