My Antisemitism Experience(s)

"Well, Candace is still married to that JEW Boy!"

In the late 1990s I stood outside the bedroom door of my 80-something year old father only to hear him slander the man I'd loved and lived with for over 25 years. I was stunned, but not surprised. After all, hadn't the bigotry storyline been a major theme of my parents all of my almost 50 years?

The invisible iPod in my head looped into the lyrics of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific.

"You've got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You've got to be taught

From year to year,

It's got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You've got to be carefully taught."

As a child I remember my mother extolling that she "wasn't a racist!" Devoid of self-awareness, she used what Southern ladies thought the polite equivalent of the N-word for black people, nigra. Usually appended with the adjective "uppity," I listened. I learned.

So that was why my mother wouldn't allow her lily-white, blonde daughter to invite black and Jewish elementary school classmates to birthday parties. "They wouldn't feel comfortable," she'd say through pursed lips.

"You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,

You've got to be carefully taught."

"Some of our best friends are Jewish," my parents would state unequivocally. Yet I knew that despite being taught to call our Jewish family dentist the honorific title of "Uncle Milt" that he was neither my uncle nor welcomed in our home. Elementary it was, given I'd never seen him there. So apparently he too wouldn't feel comfortable?

"You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You've got to be carefully taught."

My parents had done their level best to teach me their lessons by the time I finished elementary school, but my heart apparently was Teflon to their hatreds. Maybe I was too busy ducking their emotional and corporal abuse to grow hatred of others, as unbeknownst to me a hatred had begun to grow within me of my parents.

When I was 20 years old my father's chronic back pain worsened, so he spent a year living and sleeping on the family room blue carpet floor. He decided it was god's punishment for his conversion in 1933 from Southern Baptist to Presbyterian Christianity. Now that he saw the light, he decided to become a born again pain in the ass, dragging my pliant mother along for the ride.

My parents' mythology was rewritten. My father's chuckling tales about the Texas liquor store where he bought alcohol in 1.75 liter bottles, a store so big that the manager wore roller skates to get about, STOPPED. He conveniently forgot the 3-martini NYC business lunches of the past, as he put the past literally in a closet at home alongside the their remaining bottles of alcohol. For some never mentioned reason, they moved the alcohol bottles with them from Texas to North Carolina where it sat for another 30 years in another closet.

At 21 years of age, I gave up on the Protestant church I'd attended as an adolescent. My growing enlightenment about the world wouldn't square with a church that gave the retiring minister a 35 foot sailboat. Couldn't he buy his own damn sailboat, given he was a widely published author?

I considered converting to Roman Catholic until I realized it involved talking to a man to talk to god.What, I can't call direct?

It was then that I was invited to a couple of Shabbat dinners at the apartment of Jewish friends at the University of Georgia. The people were kind and socially liberal, so I began to read about Judaism. When I learned my very serious boyfriend was Jewish, it seemed to be the answer.

But that was the past. Today I stood outside a bedroom door, unsure what to do next. I could easily change my flight from Raleigh NC to Mexico City and leave the old man who toddled about only via a walker to his fate, for clearly my father had simmered too long in the bile of his hatreds. In a misplaced filial duty, I was there to help him sell off a lifetime of collected stuff to downsize.

The more important question wasn't about him, it was about me. What punishment I was willing to take from him now? So with a deep breath, I knocked on the door to ask, "Dad, where do you want to start."

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    Candace Drimmer

    TIMELINE June 1972 to June 1973---Candace moves to Lima (Peru)----- June 1973 to May 1974---Candace and The Husband live in Glendale AZ----- May 1974 to August 1974---Living in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)----- September 1974 to May 1975---Living in Aberdeen SD----- May 1975 to July 1979---Living in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)----- July 1979 to June 1980---Living in Asuncion (Paraguay)----- June 1980 to September 1980---Living in NYC----- September 1980 to November 1982---Living in Connecticut----- November 1982 to January 1983---Living in Ponce, Puerto Rico (USA)----- February 1983 to July 1986---Living in Willemstad, Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)----- July 1986 to July 1989---Living in Guayaquil (Ecuador)----- July 1989 to July 1995---Living in Connecticut (yes, again)----- July 1995 to August 2001---Living in Mexico City (Mexico)----- August 2001---Return to Gringolandia (a.k.a. United States of America)----- I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew I met a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love and moved to Peru in the 1970s. WHAT an adventure it's been!! NOTE: I gave up Facebook, so apologies that I cannot answer any comments since it is only set up via FB.

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