Shuk HaCarmel

We were the only customers at one of the little restaurants in the back alleys parallel to Shuk HaCarmel on a late morning in early March 2009. I hadn’t seen or heard from my father for weeks prior to this meeting, and the longer I had gone without hearing from or of him, the more I had hardened in acceptance that I may never see this person again. I say ‘person’, because he was not the father that I had known growing up; I had separated the two people, burying the one in my childhood memory – and accepting the other as good as dead. A phone call informing me of the worst-case scenario would not have caught me off-guard and would only have put closure where a question mark remained dangling. I was a naive woman who had made aliyah six months earlier and was struggling to make a life in Israel. My father had swung from being severely depressed and suicidal to manic all in a matter of a mere few months. He had severed every relationship with friends and family in the U.S., found himself homeless and in jail, and then had hopped on the first plane he could to Israel, where he became a wandering homeless American in Tel Aviv. In Israel, I encountered him (sometimes unexpectedly) as a shaved-headed, thin-lipped sneering man spewing hurtful words at me and spouting delusions of grandeur – once even with a kitten he had named Pepsi on his shoulder. The day before we met at the shuk, however, I had received a call from him and his voice had sounded markedly different. It was sad – and low. And right away I knew that he had changed (again). We met up at the top of Nachalat BInyamin, near the Burger Ranch, and wandered solemnly and awkwardly in the shuk together – father and daughter reunited under very unusual circumstances while all of the shuk vendors around us went about their daily routine of hawking their wares. After much indecision and back and forth about what and where to eat, we finally settled on a restaurant with a few tables outside in the sunlight, and ordered stuffed vegetables with meat and rice in a rich tomato sauce to share. As we ate and spoke, I realized how much pain and havoc my father was just now understanding, like a little child, that he had caused. He apologized to me, and for the first time in my life, I saw his eyes tear up. Then I knew that he could be helped and that I would help him.

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Filed under The moment adulthood came crashing down

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