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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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‘Not of this Generation’

I may be 80 but my memory is as good as it was when I 40.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I hope you read this letter. I’m told that people these days don’t pay attention to anything written by hand or sent by post. They assume that anyone who utilizes this form of communication must be “old.” I’ve discovered that those of us who don’t e-mail or text are increasingly viewed as out of touch with reality and not to be taken too seriously.

I’m 80 years old. I have no computer in my home, and while I have a cellphone, I don’t know how to text. People tell me that if I really wanted to I could learn it all – texting, e-mails, etc. They may be right but I just don’t have the patience required. I do, however, think it’s shameful that the young have such little respect for the elderly and will make judgment calls on superficial things like e-mail. My little grandchildren are wizards on the computer but does that make them wiser than someone my age? And yet that is exactly the mindset of our culture.

I also happen to think it’s shameful that this so-called smart generation doesn’t know how to write an intelligent sentence or a meaningful letter. It’s all e-mail, with no small measure of grammatical shortcuts, silly abbreviations and acronyms, and fractured syntax.

My beloved husband was 83 years old when he died but he was a young 83. He was in good health and had a sharp mind. Then, suddenly, he had a heart attack. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. He collapsed and died on the way to the hospital. No one would have guessed his age. He had retired from his business and handed it over to our son. We traveled extensively and always enjoyed ourselves. Now that he’s gone I feel lost and lonely. I cry myself to sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night and I cry some more.

I have two children and they are both married with beautiful families. My daughter and son-in-law live in Jerusalem. They made aliyah several years ago so I hardly see them, though we do talk on the phone regularly. When I told my daughter of my loneliness and my desire to see her and the grandchildren, she suggested we Skype. I don’t know how Skype works. I’m old-fashioned and prefer the phone and that’s how I speak to my grandchildren as well.

As for my son and daughter-in-law who live fifteen minutes away from me, I see them much more often but they also fail to understand the emptiness in my heart. They invite me to dinner but the conversation between them is like a foreign code I cannot quite follow. They don’t bother to involve me so I sit there feeling unwelcome. Should I try to engage them in conversation? I worry that if I do I will receive some glib or offhand answer. I rarely sleep over, though they always invite me. I just don’t feel comfortable. So I make my way home and I go to sleep in loneliness.

My daughter in Israel says I should move to Jerusalem to live with her and her family. I don’t want to be a burden and I do not know whether at my age I’d be comfortable resettling or changing my life so radically. Of course I love Israel but I don’t think I’d want to move there and find myself in a new environment, without friends. And I don’t want to be a burden to my daughter and her family. I’m not a widow of means and I do not know if I could afford to buy an apartment near her. Apartments in Jerusalem can be very expensive, especially in the neighborhood where my daughter lives.

Rebbetzin, what do I do? Should I make a change and move? Or should I stay here? I want to clarify that in New York I have friends. I’m active in organizations. I have a nice social life. But that does not make up for the vacuum in my heart. And if I moved to Israel, what would I do the whole day? I will miss my friends, doing things with them like playing cards and Mah-Jongg. It may sound silly but it does gives me some escape from the pain of having lost my soul mate.

I may be 80 but my memory is as good as it was when I 40. I can still walk nice distances. I can still drive my car. But starting a new life at my age is something I don’t think I can do. I don’t have the usual shidduch or shalom bayis problems people so often write about, but I know I’m not alone in my dilemma. There are so many others like me from the older generation who have more or less been put on the shelf. We also need guidance. We also need a support system.

So I ask again: what should I do? Should I stay in New York or should I move? I know I have to make that decision for myself but just the same I would appreciate your input. I realize I am not objective about my own problems. No one can really be and therefore I turn to you for guidance.

Thank you so much from a reader who is not of this generation.

(Continued Next Week)

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