Now that I have a grandson, and now that I realize that maybe I won't have the chance to tell him my stories when he is able to relish them - or remember them in his adult life - I have the urge to leave him these memoires as a legacy. Perhaps they could be given to him when he's sixteen, at a time when he is sensitive to his history and to the idea of a message from me.
So, in case that's how it turns out........this is for you, David!
Why am I writing these memoirs?
One simple answer is: my children asked me to, and I agreed to do it.
Another reason is that in fact I have done and experienced many things out of the ordinary run of experience and have been present at historically interesting events. It may be worth the record.
A third reason is catharsis and self understanding. As I have been writing it I was surprised at the emotional turmoil that I experienced. Part of that came with the realization - as I tried to recreate the emotions I felt at the incidents I reported - that my experiences as a small child and the meaning I gave them moved me to protect myself by emotional armoring or numbing. From here at 63, my memory is of the absence of perceived or conscious emotional content or ground for much of my life. At one level that seems tragic to me. Poor little bastard! Going deeper, though, I understand that though sadly limiting those defences really served me pretty well. With them, I got through to now. After all, my "script" was that I would go mad and be institutionalized - and that was the only alternative scenario I thought of to killing myself. Since I tried (or at least thought I tried) to kill myself twice very specifically and thought of suicide many, many times over the years, this survival is no small achievement. In therapy, in my 50s, I came to understand this and accept it - and not feel that I was bound to continue avoiding feeling. (Actually it was just after my marriage ended, in 1973 at the age of 45, that I chose feeling over non-feeling. That was when I stopped using sleeping pills and tranquilizers and chose to accept insomnia and to accept feeling whatever I felt - sadness, freedom, fear, remorse, joy - about the end of my marriage).
As I go on with this work I am very aware of my limitations as a writer. Someone once said that it is good writers who make good memoirs, not necessarily those who have had interesting lives. So I will start with bald chronicles of of who/where/when/what. Later I may go back and try to weave it into an interesting, rather than simply expository, texture.
I intend to write this in sections. First I will make a chronological map of my
life. I will break it down or rather consolidate it into "eras". I will
also look for some unifying or overlying themes. The book will have two parallel
structures: some sections describing a chronological era will be matched by an essay
or explanation of some aspect of that period that seems to ask for clarification.
The chronological map starts with family: who were my grandparents, who were my parents and their siblings? Their culture and their styles influenced me a lot as of course did their genes.
Then comes my early childhood. Carried along, almost unknowing, between Chicago and Jerusalem, pulled between a mother and a father who apparently did not get along or even cooperate at being parents to me (I was an only child, then). It was not a "good" childhood.......but in fact the results in terms of the person I became and the life work that I have done are not bad at all.
I take the period from the age of 8 (1936) to 16 (1944) as a single chunk even though it has many parts. That era covers my being sent away by my father and his new young wife, to live with my Aunt Lela and Uncle Jack; being taken from there (Los Angeles) for a year in Malaya with my mother and her second husband; the trip back to England and from there back to New York on the ss "Queen Mary", alone; living in Chicago and then in Winnetka with my father and his second wife; being manipulated to agree to go to boarding school in Tennessee; and my wanderings around the country in my teens, ending up in Los Angeles.
That's where the next era begins, with my leaving boyhood and starting to become a man. I go into the romantic/comic story of my passage to what became Israel while I was en route: imprisonment in Lebanon and release; escape from the ship and the Italian police at Palermo and the dramatic passage up Italy; the secret flight to Israel; my enlistment in and desertion from the army; illicit enlistment in Palmach; the experience of war; my difficulties as a discharged veteran and on the kibbutz in whose founding I played a small part.
Then comes a section on my experiences in South East Asia, living for 8 years in Singapore and what is now called Malaysia, amid sensual pleasures and spiritual and intellectual aridity.
After that I describe going back to Israel in 1957; the ulpan where I meet and court my wife, Diana; the move to Haifa and then Jerusalem and then a suburb of Tel Aviv; my achievements and frustrations in my work; and the profound experience of being father to two children, Avi and Tani. This part ends with leaving Israel to return to what turns out to be home - the USA.
Back in Los Angeles I build a conventionally good life (wife and children, camping on vacations, a decent job and nice home) while staving off bouts of depression. The family part is rich and rewarding, but my psyche is still badly twisted.
Then, in 1973, comes the end of my marriage and the anguish of separation from Richard and Avi.....and Diana.
Following that is my experience at the City of Hope Medical Center, working productively and living a search for meaning in my life. This includes creating some relationships, three of which turned into warm and lasting friendships.
The comes the breaking away from safety and comfort, leaving my job. That period includes the development of warm relationships with my father, before he died, and with my mother.
Then I will describe my feelings of joy at being a grandfather.
How to separate myth and fancy as they color my memories, from the bone of reality? It cannot be done. All is seen through my biases and moods. But I will work diligently to speak the truth.
|1928||Born in Chicago [see Roots and Childhood]|
|1930||2||We go to Palestine. Israel leaves, I stay with Miriam|
|1931||3||Back to Chicago|
|1933||5||Back to Palestine with Miriam. She puts me in a boarding school in Jerusalem|
|1935||7||Back to Chicago. Miriam goes to Malaya to marry Jonathan. Israel marries Berenica. I am sent away to live with Lela in Los Angeles.|
|1936||8||Living with Lela and Jack in Los Angeles. Bobby Harrison is my friend.|
|1937||9||Miriam comes to take me to visit her in Malaya; Peter is with her|
|1938||10||Return to Chicago; we live on the near North Side.|
|1939||11||We move to Winnetka. I go to 6th grade (Mrs. Woody) at Hubbard Woods School.|
|1940||12||Living in Winnetka, I go to Skokie Junior High School.|
|1942||14||Sent to Pleasant Hill Academy|
|1943||15||Back in Chicago, I drop out of high school. Berenica joins the WAAC, Israel moves to NY, I stay in Chicago and live at the YMCA while working.|
|1944||16||I go to the Habonim Institute in NY. Later I stay with Dov & Eva; Summer at the Habonim Camp at Green Valley.|
|1945||17||I try the Chava at Cream Ridge, stay with Dov & Eva, start courting Chana.|
|1946||18||Living in Los Angeles, going to radio school, movement work, Chana.|
|1948||20||To Israel, via Baalbek, and the war.|
|1949||21||Discharged, I try kibbutz life. To Malaya, Seremban and then Sime Darby.|
|1950||22||Working in Singapore|
|1953||25||Long leave. Visit Israel & Berenica at Meir Shfeya Children's Village. Trip to Paris. Finish leave as farm laborer. 6 week sea voyage back to Singapore.|
|1955||27||Move to Ipoh.|
|1956||28||In Ipoh. Trips to Thailand.|
|1957||29||Leave Sime Darby. Visit Israel. Tour Italy with Israel & Berenica, then on my own. A month on the Riviera. London, loaded. I look for a job, lose my money and head for Israel.|
|1958||30||Ulpan Ein Hashofet. I meet, court and marry Diana. We live at Beit Sira (after lots of tiyul including S'dom and Eilat) and I work at Transasiatic.|
|1959||31||I work at Pazgas. Diana goes home for a visit. We move to Margalit Street.|
|1960||32||Avi is born!|
|I work for Shemen.|
|1961||33||I work for the government, and we move to Jerusalem.|
|1962||34||Richard is born! after a difficult pregnancy.
We move to Neve Magen.
|1963||35||Ophir Fabrics is created and fails.|
|1964||36||We leave Israel, visit the Kings in England, settle in Los Angeles. I join City of Hope.|
|1965||37||We move to Encino, and take an active part in The Movement.|
|1968||40||Still in Encino. We are active in the Peace & Freedom Party, and go to give witness at demonstrations and rallies for peace and social justice.|
|1970||42||ditto. Avi, at ten, is a volunteer at KPFK. Richard does judo and soccer.|
|1971||43||ditto. I leave the National Office and start working at the Medical Center.|
|1972||44||as before. Richard goes to JCA camp, loves it.|
|1973||45||Our marriage ends.
I move to South Pasadena.
|1974||46||Avi & Richard move to Berkeley with Diana. Avi is 14, Richard is 12.
I move to West Los Angeles.
|1975||47||I go up to Berkeley every other month, to see the kids.|
|1976||48||I move to Sierra Madre and thence Monrovia. Tahoe trip with Tani.|
|1977||49||I move to Duarte.|
|1978||50||I am happy to be 50! I meet Avi in Israel; she's been doing a walkabout in Europe all year.|
|1979||51||I move to Claremont. I make grim contact with the White Mountain Apache.|
|1983||55||I go to Cambridge for a course on spying; and move to Park LaBrea in Los Angeles.|
|1984||56||In Los Angeles, close to Rapps. Avi and Ed marry!!! I go white water canoing.|
|1985||57||I leave the City of Hope and move to Kensington.|
I start looking for a new job. I move to Berkeley, Miriam comes to share a joint home.
|1987||59||I join Calgene, and Miriam and I move up to Davis.|
|1988||60||Still in Davis. Miriam moves out. I am laid off.|
|1989||61||I move to Oakland. Start on insulin. Work in World Security Council. Work as a tutor in Second Start, an adult literacy program. Get my own Macintosh. See myself as retired. Work in the office of A Traveling Jewish Theatre. Avi & Ed are in Berkeley, Richard in Portland.|
|1990||62||I move into the King Family flat in Berkeley. I experience acute fatigue and weakness.
Doing some telephone consulting for the World Security Council, and I'm on the IRB
at Childrens Hospital Oakland.
Then, on 27 December1990, my world changes drastically: David [grandson] is born!
|1991||63||Eli was weak during much of the yearr--at the time we thought it was chronic fatiqute syndrome. During his better periods, he spent a great deal of time with David.|
|1992||64||Diagnosed with polymyocitis, started treatment. Sometimes quite active.|
|1993||65||Heart surgery in July, seems to restore some energy. Moved one block from Avi in December|
|1994||Severe back pain finally diagnosed as collapsed vertebra (side effect of prednisone). Weakness and pain. Died March 15, 1994.|