Tuesday, July 14, 2020 -
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Segues of our lives: F and B

Life’s points of departure are always a challenge. How do you leave a life or a world behind and embrace a new, different one?
Navigating these transitions is never easy. There are always those places, geographical, emotional or spiritual, that beckon and hold us close. And yet. Sometimes, there are competing dreams and you feel caught between worlds. Caught between where you are and where you are going, and where you might want to be.

Sometimes it’s a clash of worlds, sometimes it’s nurturing a dream of returning to a world — a way of life, or a path once taken and then abandoned.

Many of us live between two worlds, between two places, be it in real time, or in our mind’s reality.

It’s a matter of crossings. How do we cross from one place to another? How do we disconnect from one place in order to enter and connect with a new one?

It’s a question of fusion. Of fusing two places, two cultures, two homes, perhaps also fusing our multiple identities. Integration — and separation — and back to integration again.

Over time we all learn to meet the art and challenge of riding the segues of our lives with as much openness, grace and poise as possible.

As one aspect of our life runs its course, we prepare for the next one we will greet — as they eventually dovetail into the whole of our lives.

Of course, our journey is not usually so clean and sequential and compartmentalized. It’s usually messier, and simultaneous, and porous — demanding a lot of emotional juggling.

Ever since I met my friend David, I’ve heard about his quirky sidekick, also named David. These two are known by their last names and I’ll refer to them by the first initial of their last names, respectively: F and B.

F and B are a team. Through the years they have bobbed and weaved in and out of some tight and difficult life spots together. With boyhood bonds and an affectionate rivalry and competitiveness that is alive between them, they are the best of friends.

From listening to their story of the razor close call of who won valedictorian in the eighth grade to stories about going through Columbia law school together and then living in “The Pit” together for years on the west side of Manhattan — listening to them, watching them together with their snappy rejoinders — it’s like being in an award- winning live sitcom.

When it’s F and B at a Shabbos meal these two spunky, sarcastic and quirky best friends are the scene stealers — in a good way, and their repartee carries the meal. There is always plenty of laughter to go around, and then some.

Then came the news: B got an amazing job offer in Israel. A great career opportunity that is simply too good to pass up.

And so the round of goodbyes began. B, for years, a prayer leader (baal tefilla) on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, running around Manhattan from minyan to minyan — because his special and heartfelt expression of prayer and nigunim is sought after by so many — and especially because he always davens at the minyan at Mount Sinai Hospital, prayed what was to be his last time as ba’al tefilla in America.

It was neilah of Yom Kippur.

The next night an “evening of song” was organized by Abby as a farewell to B. What more appropriate farewell for a guy who is constantly teased about everything, actually, but especially, about how he is always humming his melancholy and haunting Yom Kippur melodies for every song and every occasion throughout the entire year — even at festive times such as the holiday of Purim!

So everyone came and went from “The Pit” — as B and F’s apartment came to be known over the years. It was goodbye.

Or so we thought.

Turns out B never left.

There was a delay . . . something came up . . . a glitch . . . an opportunity . . . don’t ask, because I don’t know exactly, but somehow B kept sticking around.

All I know is that by this week, eight months since then, here is a sampling of some of the e-mails I have received from F:

“So he claims that he has a ticket for this Thursday (yes, 2008). Obviously those of you who have been to 14 goodbye events are exempt — wait, that is all of you so you are not exempt . . . ”

“Update #1 out of #47 . . . so far the exit polls are looking good . . .”

“In honor of the alleged imminent departure of B there will be a farewell l’chaim . . . ”

“I’ll send a confirmation e-mail tomorrow night depending on . . .

“a) is B going to show?
“b) is B going to leave Thursday?
“c) am I (F) going to show?”

Through the years part of F and B’s whole thing is creating this aura of them together as two fly-by-night whackos who can never get their act together.

Meanwhile, of course, they are two super accomplished, humble people who deflect attention from their achievements by caricaturing all their quirks. What can I say, it’s a fun show.

And after the second evening of song organized by Shif, and after Deb’s creative question game highlighting B’s shtick and idiosyncrasies that brought on a montage of memories, such as B’s drinking his milk with peas (everyone else hates peas but B is all about “contraire!” and so peas it is), or B’s wearing what was coined as his “talking shoes” because they were so old the soles had separated (being the Land’s End model since B is known by the light blue shirt he always wears) — or B’s insisting on giving himself haircuts instead of going to a proper barber, driving his beat up Volvo, letting the words “Shabbos, Shabbos” escape his lips as Friday, erev Shabbos wanes, noting that whenever any memory of note happens or a humorous story is recalled, it invariably happened in the year taf shin lamed chet (1978) . . . and so much more.

Last night was the real and final goodbye.

Apparently it has been confirmed — B’s got a ticket.

And maybe everyone there was not his blood family, but there was definitely a spirit of an extended, collective sense of family.

The evening was marked by the usual fun and jokes and laughter, but maybe everyone knew this was the real goodbye, not so much because B finally got a ticket, but because the evening was tinged with a sense of real departure that the previous goodbyes lacked.

The parting shot of the evening was when B spoke.

He shared how watching the movers pack up the past 13 years of his life into some boxes was hard. And that leaving has been so hard.

But that he is glad that it was so hard because it taught him how much the strong bonds of friendship he built during this time meant to him.

And that he feels a real sense of accomplishment in knowing he is leaving behind such deep and strong friendships, that he will always be connected to them wherever he might be in the world.

B spoke of how his parents have always dreamed of making aliyah, but somehow until now it never worked out. And now, by his going to Israel he is in some way fulfilling their life’s dream.

And so, the cards of time have fallen. It seems, finally, now is the time for the great synergy of these two cities and homes to connect — the synergy of New York and Jerusalem, as will be expressed within B.

So…so long, B. We know we will hear great things from you!

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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