When I moved out to California, I was a broken man, a very sad boy who's only asset was confusion and lack of direction. I hadn't been taught anything that was necessary to be a man, and I had no idea what a man looked like. All I had were questions and fear.
The lucky thing was that I started meeting many people who were eager to help in all ways. They started filling in the missing pieces that had been shattered eighteen years prior. They didn't need to know what was needed because it said it all over my face. I needed everything. I needed to learn Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, History, Linguistics. I needed to know what happened to me, how did it happen, and whether it would happen again. I needed to know what religion I belonged to, and will I ever be able to make a decision about what is right and what is wrong. I needed to know how to make a decision. I needed to know how I could know if a girl liked me, and if she did, what would I do next. I had always wanted to learn how to play basket ball, and about how to make money and balance a check book. I wanted to learn about investing. How does one know what path to follow if one has never heard of the path, or if one is allowed to follow one. I needed to learn how to listen to what was going on inside me and that it was OK. That there actually was a voice inside, that, were I to let it talk again, were I to tell it that I would listen, it would begin telling me, in earnest, what it wanted. I needed to know how to dress and which colors went with which. I needed to know that my thoughts were OK, and that I could think. I had been so distant from my mind, that I didn't know anymore which thoughts were real, part of me and which thoughts were just wandering through really fast, because they all seemed that way.
One day, after I had begun performing for little kids, I decided that I wanted to get really good, so I decided to start speaking to people who were really good to see how I could get more popular and polish up my act. I met a woman named Rachel. She had been teaching and singing for about 40 years, and she was overflowing with love and laughter. I performed for her class one day, and since that time, I had begun to get to know her more and more. I had also been working in the restaurant at that time, and one day, after I hadn't seen her for a while she came in, and from that point and on, we started getting to know each other on a closer level. I felt like she was my mother. She was nice, healthy, talented, proud of her self and not nosy. She was just a healthy and mature adult and I really gained so much from knowing her. It filled some of that void, that yearning to have one good, healthy woman in my life.
One day, when she came into the restaurant, it was a little slow so I was able to sit down with her and chat. We started talking about her life, and she said, "Meir, I get a mazal Tov" I said why? She said "because I just got remarried" I said, what do you mean? I never knew that you weren't married, but I'm happy that you are married. She says "No, I just remarried my husband". "You see, six months ago, I divorced him, and now I just remarried him". Now to tell the truth, I was shocked out of my mind because, I read people pretty well. Many times,or most of the time,I can tell if they are having, or have had some kind of issue, especially something as life consuming as a marital issue, and her saying this caught me totally off guard, because I had known her for a while now, I and I didn't have any idea that anything was wrong.
I was curious to understand this, and she explained to me what had happened. Her husband came from a very orthodox (chassidishe) background, and simply never rebuilt his life. He never got a chance to actually learn a skill and make a living. He had tried several businesses and they all barely or never succeeded. After 40 years of being married, he was so ashamed of himself that he just walked out, and they got divorced, but she did love him dearly, but it was more his shame that made it impossible to be around his wife. He simply didn't accept himself and couldn't feel accepted by her. During this time, they went to therapy and he was able to come to a greater and deeper understanding, that his wife, Rachel really did love him for who he was although he hadn't been successful in becoming the bread winner of the family. He had been a good father and a kind and helpful husband and that was enough to keep her love.
I was so moved by the story. It taught me so much. Until that time, I had had the impression that once a person reached middle age, they had no problems. I was embarrassed to let my inside story be known to people of the mother, father uncle category.Now, I realized that nowhere in life, no age, is too late or early to have a crisis, a life changing moment, or a time to learn some very significant lessons.
I assumed that a man with this kind of shame and guilt inside couldn't have been a good father, so I inquired a little into what kind of father he was and she told me a little anecdote which I found very poignant, surprising and very inspiring. She said, that when they were in the hospital, after she had just given birth to their first child, the doctor noticed that her husband was not holding the baby. He was letting her do all the holding. The father grabbed the baby out of her hands and handed the baby to her husband Abe, saying loudly and commandingly "HOLD YOUR BABY". The doctor knew that a baby must be touched and held by its father in order to be a healthy adult. She explained that he husband came from a family where touch was not something comfortable, and so he stayed away from it, but after the Doctor gave his such a strong reprimanding, he held and touched all of his children, thereby facilitating them having a great father, even though that was not the kind of fathering that he had.
I was really touched by this story. It helped me understand that even the perfect adults around me, had struggled. We are all moving at our own speed towards the place that we imagine will be perfect.