“Where you go, I shall go also. Your God shall be my God.” The book of Ruth.
That’s a paraphrase I’m afraid. I know being a child of the 21st century this may sound either condescending or an out and out lie but I prefer the King James Version the best. There is something about the King James version of the Bible that is more poetic, more believable.
She wasn’t my mother-in-law but she was widowed when I met her. I was coming down off a serious high and the police brought me into the drunk tank, found out after I had been raped by the local female gorilla (yes women rape other women), that I was underage and with all abject apology tucked me into an upper scale dry-out clinic.
I met her there she was a volunteer mentor to under advantaged girls like me. Now her idea of upper scale and my idea were two different things and at first I just didn’t like her. She was an old widowed Jew who, I felt, was there just to see how the outer echelon lived outside her pampered world.
“What was your mother’s name?”
“Why was? My Mom’s name is Kathy. Some call her Kate. She wanted to be called Kate but she decided that way too late in life, it never stuck.”
“Why isn’t Kate here?”
“Why should she be?”
“Because she is your mother,” she said quietly. To her the fact that Kate was my mother obligated her to come and see about me.
“Kate never cared about me, she never will and that, is they say is that. Where’s your mother?” I asked. She was old as dirt and I knew her mother was dead but decided to be cruel our first meeting so she wouldn’t come back.”
“With God,” she replied
“Does she like it better there?”
“I would think so,” she said evenly and looking me directly in the eye. I got the feeling that the interrogation was all on my side but I was feel less and less in control.
“Right, like she has a choice. God said that’s it and she had to go.”
“So you believe in God?”
“Sure, He’s a male, on the male side of everything and He created women so He and all his male buddies could be made to feel superior.”
She laughed out loud. She laughed with real mirth and her eyes went from a slate gray to a brilliant blue and all the wrinkles in her face softened and crinkled to her forehead. I was feeling like I had been kicked several times (I knew how that felt) and my mouth was dry and I knew my breath was rank from not eating but I had to laugh at her laughing at me.
It was the first time I felt as if I didn’t know it all and that fact was okay. It was the first time I felt that I could put all my observed ideas before someone who wouldn’t tell me I was wrong but tell me how to see my observations from another view point.
I was incarcerated for three years in a juvenile detention center and for three years I had no choice but to dry out. She came every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening.
“What’s it like being a Jew? Did you go through the Holocaust?”
“What’s it like being a Christian? Did you go through the Inquisition?”
She was good with things like that. She taught me that I couldn’t have the same feelings as her and she couldn’t have the same feelings as me – we could compare notes and meet on mutual ground, sometimes we couldn’t even do that.
“Do you think I’d make a good Jew?”
It was the first time I laughed out loud at her and she smiled and I could tell almost cried. I don’t know what happened but at that moment, beyond the book recommends, the letters we wrote, the drug rehab and the mourning we shared, it was the first time we were miles apart culturally and never closer spiritually.
“Women need women,” she said.
I suddenly began to talk of my rape, why I ended up in a better place than all of my other drug induced cohorts. She frowned slightly and leaned forward listening, intently – interrupting only to bring my language up when I felt the power of hopelessness overcome me. “Genitles,” for “cunt.” “Penetration,” for “fucked,” and so on. I was sweaty and chilled when I finished telling her of my night in lock up.
“My husband came from a long line of Jews – as you call me. Some of his family wore the traditional garb. He was more liberated and though he celebrated the holidays and the Sabbath, his diet wasn’t kosher, nor was his ideas strictly that of his more conservative family members. Our marriage was arranged. Yes, even in this country. It was many, many years ago. I came from a very wealthy family and my dowry was large. I did not have to marry him; I could have refused but I wanted to feel a part of my ancient heritage. I was young and thought doing rather than thinking was the way I should go. He was brutal. He could only come to a sexual climax by cruelty. My children, I have three who lived, were begot in horrific ways. It was not their fault.”
“What happened? How did you survive?”
“I had him murdered. I could not stand one more rape. I had begged for a divorce and I had run away with the children but he would fine me. You must understand that many men of all races and cultures are like this.”
“Is that why you laughed at me when I described God to you?”
“Perhaps. I simply saw a young, hurt woman lashing out upon a Being you had no concept of; your anger was against your circumstance and you had placed God as a sort of surrogate of that circumstance. Not surprising as you are a Christian and your Church teaches that Christ has paid the price for your sins. Not a bad plan but it does have its repercussions on the human mind. I think Christians are the front runners for blaming God for everything.”
“But what happened? How are you here?”
“I got away with it dear. I paid for his demise and no one is the wiser, except now for you.”
I stared at this white haired old lady, her bright blue eyes shining. I was dumbfounded.
“Dear girl, I only tell you because you have grown tremendously in the three years we have known each other. Let this be our parting gift to each other – bad happens, we lose and we win but through it all God grants a chance at human connection that make the bad bearable and the good a humbling experience; not all take advantage or cherish that connection.”