Sunday, February 3, 2008

Being an August...

Being an August means lots of things. There is the uncanny ability to eat. The passion for politics. The love of road trips. The infatuation with movies and television. And of course, it goes without saying, the striking good looks. But there is something else. Something innate--Augusts are on time. And by on time I don't mean showing up at a predetermined hour and minute. I mean showing up ten minutes early and still having dark drenching pit stains from the terrifying clicking tock in our heads. Many witnesses have seen an August in action when a deadline looms. We get panicky. We get irritable. And frankly, we get insane.

No story better exemplifies our lack of grasp on reality when time is on the line then when I was thirteen years old and had just three hours to make it to an indoor soccer game. Three hours would seem like a lot of time but the problem was my father, Brad and Walter Shron, and I were in Boston...and the game was in South Orange, New Jersey. The time-released insanity gene took hold of my father as he rolled down his window, stuck out a red licorice NIB with his left hand and "pretended" to be a police car with the licorice being his siren. He turned down the radio and at the top of his lungs let the rest of the cars on the highway know there was an emergency: "Woo Ooh Woo Ooh. Woo Ooh Woo Ooh. Move out of the way, police car coming through! Woo Ooh Woo Ooh..." The Shrons' pulses beat nearly as fast as the reading on the speedometer...90MPH...100MPH. However, my calm demeanor eased their worried looks as I sat in the back left seat of our Jeep knowing the most important thing in the world--we'd make the game on time. We were fifteen minutes early. 

So, what's the point of this anecdote as I start my year-plus abroad? Well, it's simple. My flight is at 1:55PM and I'm sitting here in the JFK Terminal 7 lounge three hours before boarding. It's one thing to be on time for a flight. It's another thing to be through check-in and security and still have three hours to go. Oy, to be an August. 

And that is what this entry is about: The Augusts. My parents. 

I have always felt fortunate--and have bragged to countless people over the years--that I have the most amazing parents. As I tell my parents in a card every Mothers and Fathers Day, "Zev, Hannah and I are the luckiest kids in the world to have such loving and supportive parents." All the cliches and sappy descriptions of what they mean in our lives couldn't even begin to do justice as to how they have set the foundation for the adults we have grown up into. 

My mother is a living angel. There are few people sweeter or more caring then her roaming Earth. As a physical therapist she has probably treated at least one member of half of the families in Livingston and our neighboring towns. Her moral fiber is unparalleled; when it comes to doing what is right or wrong, she never chooses the latter. But my mother is something else too. My mother is the rock of our family. Her strength is Herculean. Ever since I told my parents I was moving to Vietnam she has braved a smile and projected boundless enthusiasm for my "adventure ahead." She has been excited for me and bragged to her friends and patients about my plans as if I was just accepted into Harvard. 

Now my father, well, he hasn't been as strong. As almost all parents do, my father lives for his children. Breaking the news to my dad that I was moving away for a year-plus was not easy. This is a man who cried every time he dropped me off at the Newark Airport over the last seven years whenever I flew back to California. This is a man who still calls his children, "The Big Guy," "Benny Ben Ben Ben" and "Cookie." This is a man who still demands kisses and hugs every night his kids sleep at home and fakes having short-term memory loss by constantly asking, "Where are my kisses and hugs? I don't remember getting any recently." Yup, breaking it to Dad was tough. Over the last week he's half joked about using his power as the Deputy Mayor of Livingston to have his "boys" arrest me. By his boys, he meant the Livingston Police Department. Even this morning he contemplated calling in a bomb threat to Cathay Pacific and simply explaining they could go on with the flight, but just not with his Benny Ben Ben Ben.

Last night after I crushed Mom in Scrabble (I beat her by one point solely because the one tile left in my hand subtracted less from my total than the two tiles left in her hand subtracted from her total) my mother kissed me goodnight and told me she loved me. After that I played the original Big Guy in backgammon. After soundly destroying him in our fifth game (no need to elaborate on the results of the first four) I said goodnight to Dad...and the tears began...and they continued...and continued...and I imagine are still continuing now as he drives back home with my brother and mother. I know, despite his tears, my Dad is excited for me and proud of me for doing what I'm doing. I know this despite what he said to me during the car ride to the airport: "I'm like the Tin Man from The Wizard of OZ. I just got a new heart but now you broke it." *

I can picture my Dad reading this and saying, "Why are you picking on me?" Well, I am unfairly picking on him because I'm not so tough either. I just cried like a baby when they dropped me off. I gave Zev a big hug and it hit me, I'm not gonna see him for over a year. And then I saw the tears streaming down Dad's face, and even tougher to bear I saw the tears streaming down Mom's face. Crap, and now as I type this I'm tearing up again. The point is, sometimes to do what is best for oneself we have to do things that hurt ourselves too. Going away is something that I really feel I need to do at this point in my life, but leaving my family thousands and thousands of miles behind for so long is without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever done. So long first blog entry short: I love you Mom and Dad. 

As they say in Vietnam, "___." Crap, I don't know any Vietnamese!


*For those who don't know, my father had a triple bypass and a valve repaired on January 10th. He's doing great and gets stronger each day (Hey, Dad, you better be walking every day and eating right or I'm extending my trip for another six months! Don't test me!).