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I wear a large, gold pendant on a thick, gold chain around my neck. My hand frequently gravitates to the pendant to make sure the necklace is still there. When I am nervous, I rub the six points and the intricate grooves on the surface and feel the smoothness of the two Hebrew letters—Chet and Yud—that spell Chai. I never take it off, unless I need imaging done and the techs force me to unclasp it and then I hide the necklace in my purse, as it is really worth its weight in gold these days. The large pendant—a popular style from the late ’70s and designed for a man—has sat on my chest for almost 25 years, but the chain is not the original and was replaced less than a decade ago.
The pendant was my father’s. He bought it for himself most likely to follow the trend and display his pride of being a Jew when most men had large crosses, and wore it until the disco look went out of style in the early ’80s. The pendant is solid gold and heavy—far too heavy for the near 30 years of wear on the original, thinner, gold chain. I never noticed the links were wearing down in spots or that the chain was slowly weakening, like that old bridge on I-5 in my home state of Washington that just gave way and collapsed into the river below.
Around 7 years ago, I was living in a dumpy, rental condo across town. One afternoon, I was standing in the living room next to the laminate pass-through from the kitchen. I bent down for some reason and when I came up, one point of the pendant caught on the edge of the pass-through and the chain ripped off my neck. I saw it fly through the air in slow motion in a state of shock—as the necklace had so much significance to me. I picked it up off the floor and saw that there were numerous thin spots in the chain that I had never noticed, but it was that one spot—the weakest link I suppose—that had broken the chain in two. I knew at that moment that like the chain, the relationship with my father would never be mendable, and thus far, I have been right.
My father and I were estranged, as usually is the case, when the chain broke. We have semi-mended ways and then become estranged again at least a dozen times since that fateful day. He stopped talking to me—and by that I mean via infrequent e-mails—two weeks ago. I had responded to one of his chain e-mails, usually something Jewish: a little humor, a story of the Holocaust that he adds a memorable comment to, or some randoms facts that come his way.
I told him I was about to reach my insurance’s limit for physical therapy for the year and that I could not get an override, despite numerous attempts to do so. My Ehlers-Danlos and subsequent tendonosis is getting worse and I need physical therapy like a diabetic needs insulin. I have not been able to work for years and despise even hinting that I need money. He gives the same stock answer to any problem I mention, even though he would never really do anything. The e-mail came back with the familiar, “What can I do to help?” It sounds so wonderful and caring, like the father I knew as a child who I would search frantically for in our house after a day of being called derogatory slurs at school, but it is just smoke and mirrors now and I already knew the game we would play.
As he would never part with a dime to pay cash for my physical therapy, I gave a smart-ass reply and asked if he could grow a money tree outside of his home—the one that is half a block from Lake Washington with a 180° view of Seattle and the lake. The argument ensued. He claimed he was broke, his other stock answer, and I asked how a broke man has that home, and a custom Mercedes, and two country club memberships, and takes vacations every year. I would have mentioned shopping at Nordstrom’s and his young, gold-digger girlfriend, but that gets very messy. He replied with, “How easily you forget.”
That was a reference to my childhood: growing up as the daughter of a successful businessman who bought me rabbit fur coats and diamond earrings for holidays, living in the beautiful homes that he, a high-end contractor, built, and taking vacations to warm places with palm trees and swimming pools. The poor-little-rich-girl saga that he loves to put me in lately. I suspect the gold-digger, pulp-mill-town girlfriend is behind this as my father would never insinuate such things about me. I was as self-made as he was and he knows that.
How easily he forgot that he, my only real parent, emotionally abandoned me by middle school, made me start working when I was 14 so I would have a work ethic, that I never had anything in common with the few, spoiled, Jewish girls I knew growing up, and that if I wanted something as I got older—I bought it myself. Let us not forget that I rarely even lived at my home once I was a teenager due to the dysfunction swarming inside it.
I have had enough of this Jewish-American-Princess story he has invented over the past few years to avoid looking like the horrible father he has unfortunately turned out to be. His story is almost laughable considering I am on SSDI and live in a motel, but I suppose this is how he saves face while golfing with his old friends who have the princess daughters who aren’t even disabled. I ended the e-mail argument by replying, “I do not even know who you are anymore.” I really do not know this man who was so great at times in my early childhood—memories that have nothing to do with material possessions.
Before the price of gold went through the roof, I replaced the broken chain with the thickest twist chain I could find that would fit though the loop of the pendant. It is strong and sturdy and has only had one weak spot that I had a jeweler fix for next to nothing. The newer chain—of a lower karat and different style—is like the father I remember: the rock in my life, the bridge that would never crash down into the cold Skagit River north of Seattle. The old chain, with all the weak spots that eventually broke due to the heavy pendant, is my father now. He is a damaged version of his former self, unable or unwilling to carry any load, and like the chain that was beyond repair, so is he.