Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

An unknown June 11th Bonnie Chelin and Joyce Katzman story…by Robert M. Katzman

By Robert M. Katzman, Copyright June 11, 2017:

This is a kind of a melancholy story, honestly, but not what you might be thinking.

What follows is a true but and unknown Bonnie/Joyce story, in which the villain, I truly regret…was me.

My beautiful older sister, Bonnie Sue, who, as she endlessly instructed me,was 2 years, 6 months and 8 days older than me, and who died today in 2010 at 62. Since she was born in the same year as Israel, when Bonnie turned 13, so did Israel-a unique country/human Bar Mitzvah–whose government issued a large special framed document to any boy or girl who requested it. Bonnie’s hung on the wall above her bed. It was in Hebrew, in full color and to those of us who understood the historical sequence of events, deeply movie. Even I at eleven years understood that.

Their lives shall not be forgotten while I still breathe. Their names kept alive. Bonnie and Joyce mattered to many people.

Bonnie’s eventual extraordinary close friendship with my wife Joyce who recently died on May 14th, or Mother’s Day, was amazing to me, since it began in a screaming fury when Joyce, the (formerly) Lutheran girl from Dolton, Illinois quietly approached Bonnie and made it clear that she was in love with (continuously) Jewish me and we were going to be married. She wanted peace between them. It took a long time for the two women to learn to appreciate each other. Then love each other. I found this incomprehensible.

In former times for some people, most likely even today, differences in religious beliefs were a sufficient barrier to prevent love between two people. But Joyce came to love Bonnie, and probably eventually, Bonnie felt the same way about her. At the end of Bonnie’s life, Joyce was her nurse, confidant and endlessly available to her–which then antagonized me because I didn’t have that sort of relationship with Bonnie.  Even when we were both children.

Then one day Joyce suggested we go to a rabbi whom we both respected and listen to what he would say about what I considered an unresolvable issue between my wife and self. I agreed to do that, and was surprised to know that rabbis did that kind of thing. Who knew?

At the end of the hour plus, when each of us carefully expressed our perspectives and frustration, and probably in my case, jealousy of how they treated each other, the rabbi slowly repeated exactly what both of us had told him, so that we both knew he actually understood how we felt.

After that, he turned to me to say he believed that Joyce’s care for and relationship with my very ill sister had nothing to do with me, that I should be more compassionate about Joyce’s love and grief over Bonnie and her situation, and that in return Joyce would likely become closer to me as a result of my agreeing to this new perspective.

I was incredibly surprised to see how uncomplicated this situation was to the rabbi, how perceptive and clever it was for Joyce to get perpetually stubborn and angry me to agree with her arranging this meeting and in a flash I realized the clear logic of the rabbi’s opinion. Took me a minute to reorganize my thinking and let go of my fossilized anger.

I turned to face Joyce, apologized for my blindness to what mattered so much to her, and then hugged and kissed her, to her wide-eyed astonishment, then I turned back to the equally surprised rabbi who evidently was not used to such rapid resolution between estranged couples, shook his hand and informed both of them that no further Solomonesque intervention was necessary. That I understood how difficult I had persistently made it for Joyce and I was truly sorry.

I promised to change, support Joyce’s relationship with Bonnie and never act like I had acted again. I didn’t realize how much stress I was causing and that it was a terrible way for me to be.

Then as we stood up, and I helped Joyce put on her coat, I watched with some amusement at the mystified facial expressions being exchanged between my good wife and the wise rabbi. Almost like a silent movie moment.

Sort of a “What the hell just happened…?” mutual kind of look.

I’ve always believed that when I realized I was wrong about something, I should just say it, be sorry and get on with my life. My worrying about “losing face” or anything stupid like that was ridiculous to me. Pride can ruin lives.

That meeting did bring down the wall  between Joyce and me. It did bring us closer because I was willing to except and understand Joyce’s emotions, and it somehow increased my own own compassion for Bonnie, despite the coldness between us.

Joyce’s care for Bonnie continued until Bonnie’s death on this exact day, June 11th. It never was an issue between Joyce and me again and lowered the overall combustable temperature of our relationship. Just possibly more kissing ensued.

So, this is the happy ending to my story. It was sometimes difficult for me to type all these more than one thousand words. I had trouble seeing the letters on the keys when I reimagined the love between those two doomed women.

God should reconsider how quickly he takes irreplaceable people. Maybe He has. Maybe that’s where this story came from on this sad day. I never planned to write about something so intensely personal and where I was the source of pain to both women.  Maybe I should be more forgiving about things I don’t understand.

I love Bonnie and I always will no matter what wasn’t possible between us during our time together.

And Joyce? Oh, beautiful Joyce. What are you to me these 27 days you’ve been gone? You are the gentle light in the morning, the silence in the dark at night, and as essential as the air I breathe. I am the unfinished story between us, and I will do my best to fulfill your last wishes for me.

I love you, faraway girl.

Bob

(I keep trying to perfect this difficult story. I am thinking that will be impossible. But, that’s my problem, isn’t it?)

robertmkatzman@gmail.com

Comments may be left below, and are welcome. Takes a moment to write and I do read all of them. Thank you.

 

9 Comments »

Comment by Jerry

June 11, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

Thank you for sharing. beautiful.

Comment by Don Larson

June 11, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

Hi Bob,

May peace in all matters come to your life.

Don

Comment by Don Larson

June 11, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

Hi Bob,

May peace in all matters come to your life.

Don

Comment by Herb Berman

June 11, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

For your wife, you let go of, or at least set aside, resentment, pride, anger. It was an act of love for Joyce, Bonnie and most of all for yourself.

A long time ago, I learned that anger, justified or not, is a demon that tears a hole in your heart.

Your rabbi was probably a trained therapist. In any event, he was very wise.

Comment by Brad Chelin

June 11, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

Thanks Uncle Bob. I have great memories of their relationship.

Comment by Brad Dechter

June 12, 2017 @ 5:20 am

Nice story with nice feelings shining through. Thanks for sharing. It will always be a great memory for you and you will always cherish it.
Be grateful for such good memories in terms of the love you felt and believed existed. Smile when you think of them. They alone will help you uplift your spirit and help you grieve your losses.
Hugs!

Comment by Astri Lindberg

June 12, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

Dear Bob,
Thank you for yet another beautiful story. Again, you show your deep love and your ever present courage. Such a hopeful example you give. I am grateful.
Love, Astri

Comment by David Griesemer

June 17, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

I wonder how Bonnie resolved her knowledge of the abuse Bob suffered. Probably she couldn’t bear it unless she distanced herself from him.
As for Joy and Bob, this atypical chapter about trouble in the relationship, lends depth to a picture which is often other-worldly, so far above our marriages that we can hardly believe it. Does he see this? Does he know what a breed-apart they were as a couple? Or was he too busy living it?

Comment by Pat Favia

July 8, 2017 @ 7:11 pm

Keep on remembering. It is a consolation and connection. your love for Joy transcends time and space. this story chronicles a small part of it. grief teaches us who is boss,but you have defied the boss and lifted our spirits with the loving simplicity of all involved in this remembrance. God bless and angels comfort.TY

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