|Victory celebration with my family at "The Great Escape"|
A lot has happened since last Thanksgiving. Some of it beyond belief. Like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. And Donald Trump winning the White House. The former is something we Cub fans surely appreciate and are thankful for on this – the day of Thanksgiving. Even though we are constantly pinching ourselves to see if we’re awake. The latter – well I think the jury is still out on that one.
I will however say that some of the problems that many of us worried about have shown to be nothing to worry about. Trump has backpedaled or even reversed himself on some things. I still believe we should take a wait and see attitude.
But this post is not about Trump. Or the Cubs. It is about my own gratitude to God and country for the privilege of living in this great land. The land of the free and the home of the brave. It enables me to live like a Jew – any kind of Jew I want to be - without worrying about persecution. As Chicago Jewish News editor and publisher, Joseph Aaron, is constantly saying - Jews have never had it so good. I have every reason to believe that our religious freedom will continue into the future.
That said, I can’t predict what will happen. You never know. But it would be an ‘earthquake’ of unprecedented magnitude if Jews were to be persecuted in America in the foreseeable future. Of course earthquakes do happen. But I for one do not live my life in fear of the unlikely.
What I am most grateful for, however, is my family. The love of my life, Annie, and I both believe that our children are the best children anyone could ever ask for. Each highly accomplished in their own way with a highly developed character to boot. Devoted to their families; to their careers; and to their community. And yet they still find time for their parents.
I was the beneficiary of some of that time in a major way earlier this month when I reached age 70. Those that know me – know that I am not a big fan of birthday celebrations. Reaching a certain age comes automatically. You don’t do anything. It just happens. I therefore do not see any real reason to celebrate it. I tend to ignore them. My children have learned not to bother me with birthday gifts. Nor to make a fuss about it. Which is just the way I like it. But this year they rebelled. I had no clue what was about to happen.
My wife and children had been planning this for months behind my back. On November 8th I got my first gift. Which was a 25 minute video tribute to me from my wife, my children, their spouses and all of my grandchildren. I could not believe what they were saying about me. I didn’t realize the kind of respect and warmth they have for me. Even if some – maybe most of the things they said were exaggerated. Nontheless, it was truly the best gift I could have gotten. True or not, it expressed a feeling by them about me that is otherwise unable to be measured.
I thought, ‘How great are my kids for going to all that trouble!’ And how great it was that my very busy daughter, Rivkie, took the time and trouble to initiate, direct, edit, and complete this project. Needless to say, it must have taken her hours upon hours of time over the course of months to do it. I don’t know how she did it or where she found the time. But she did. Wow!
I thought that was it. But I was wrong.
Friday night heralded in a huge birthday party attended by my wife Annie; all of my children, their spouses, and those of my grandchildren that could make it in. My son Meyer and his wife Dini came in from Israel. My daughter Sari and her husband Elie came in from South Bend with most of their children. My daughter Tovi and her husband Neil and their most of their children were there. And my daughter Rivkie, her husband Micah and all of their children were there. (The party was at their house.) Also in attendance was my brother Jack and his wife, Ann and my sister-in-law Ruthie and her husband Perry.
A book of tribute and clever sayings about me or my habits was laid on the table in front of me that had an entry from each member of my entire family – including my extended family members (...including all of the above plus my nieces,nephews, and some of their children.)
We had a big meal. There were two birthday cakes. One was a giant glazed donut from the bakery accompanied by lots of sugar glaze commissioned by my wife (inside joke) and the other was a traditional birthday cake. I thanked everyone that night speaking from the heart about just how much my family means to me. (I think they already knew that). I truly felt the love that night.
The next day my daughter Tovi had us over for a huge family Shabbos meal (Neil makes a mean Cholent!) But the celebration did not end there. Motzoi Shabbos Annie and I, my four children, and their spouses went to ‘The Great Escape’ which is kind of like playing a real life game of Clue. We were all supposed to find clues that would tell us how to unlock the room we were trapped in. We had an hour to do it - and we did it! The evening ended off with a wonderful Melave Malka meal at Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed – a kosher restaurant in Chicago’s Lakeview area.
I will never forget my 70th birthday. On this day of Thanksgiving I can think of no better way to celebrate it than to thank God for giving me the most wonderful family one could ever ask for.