My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
If Shosh were my genius, then you are my magical elf, Jaialai. (Have you ever seen the elves in the Lord of the Ring movies? They are cool!)
Shosh’s memorable lines includes such gems as seaweed “tastes like bean!” Yours include such lines as, “We’re all from Africa!” (Anthropologically speaking, that’s a claim most scientists would agree with.)
Shosh grew up during the “good” years, when I worked hard but earned a good income. His life was of leisure and not one of want. It was only later, for example, when I bought a car with GPS that I came to better understand what life had been for him. Apparently, while I worked, mom, being bored, would drive him around all over the place to explore. Often, they would get lost. That’s why he hated to explore and would rather stay home! That’s why he hated streets that lead to dead-ends! (“If I see a dead-end, I’m going to roll it up and put it in my pocket!”) That’s why, when I bought the car with the GPS, he positioned himself in the middle of the back seat so that he could always see where we were on the map at all times! (Of course, during the divorce, your mom got rid of both cars with GPS. Mother-of-the-Year stuff.)
On the other hand, Jaialai, you grew up during the lean years. These were the years when I lost my job because I blew the whistle against the Enron of Healthcare. (For example, the insurance company was lying and telling members their insurance plan didn’t cover bariatric surgery when the insurer knew well it did. Even their Vice President of Legal and General Counsel participated in the fraud.)
It was a dark time for me. I had been a well-paid and highly valued problem solver with top firms and corporations. (For example, shortly after I joined the company, they promoted me to management and gave me a 30 percent salary increase; however, because I refused to let go of the numerous violations of insurance laws that I subsequently discovered the Enron of Healthcare was engaged in, senior leadership eliminated my position. Fortunately, a couple of directors stepped forward and fought the decision, arguing I was the only one working to resolve problems; thus, until they finally got rid of me, the company had to keep me at my management salary level despite the demotion.)
As a man and a workaholic, it was extremely hard for me to be stuck at home babysitting every morning when your mother returned to work. What made it even worse was that, despite years of her nagging that I should stay home to let her go back to work because she was bored babysitting Shosh, after I lost my job and she returned to work, she quickly hated work and complained incessantly of that and the fact that her salary was insufficient to cover expenses for our lifestyle. (I told her so when she wanted me to quit earlier.) She started going around the house, pointing to this and that, saying “Mine!” She considered everything hers because she was earning a salary and paying for expenses at the time. This cruel and petty act ignored the fact that she voluntarily chose to quit her job and was a housewife the majority of the time we were married; thus, until this short break where the roles were reversed, I had been the breadwinner and she had been the one staying home. Did I walk around the house saying everything is mine? No!
I became depressed.
You saved me. You’d come around and say, “Are you sad, Daddy? Let me dance and make you happy!”
That’s you. You spread joy.
Gramma used to laugh so hard when playing with you. I had never seen her laugh that hard. You would make up all these games and rules, and you were a stickler when she broke the rules. (Half the time, I think she simply didn’t understand your instructions because her English was poor.)
Despite all that has happened, Jaialai, don’t change. Embrace life. Bring joy. That is a gift.
All my love, always,
P.S., quick, what do you make with young pumpkin leaves, the vines of the root vegetables, and a piece of tin?