One family finds year full of simchas

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Barbara and Don Rubin and family have really been on the go this year — all for the good. So far, their year of simchas has included: two significant birthdays, two bar mitzvahs, a family vacation, and the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Their children have been part of all the celebrations though they live in three different states: daughter Andrea, her husband David and their children Sam and Sydney live in Chicago; son Scott, his partner Stephen and their children Zeke and Stella live in San Francisco and son Bob, his wife Elly and their children Marty and Josh live in St. Louis.

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The family festivities began in March with a surprise 70th birthday luncheon for Barbara at Meadowbrook Country Club. In actuality, Barbara’s birthday is in May. However, Andrea was in town so they had an early celebration for women only.

The next celebration was in May when the family gathered in Chicago for Sam’s bar mitzvah. They also celebrated Barbara’s birthday again with a special dinner for family and out-of-town friends.

Marty’s bar mitzvah in St. Louis was the next family event. By this time the children had already asked their parents what they wanted as a gift for their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary in October. Don and Barbara told them they wished they could all be together on a family vacation for a week. Everyone agreed, though finding a date proved a little challenging.

“It was very hard to find a date that worked for everyone between jobs, grandkids commitments with sports, camps, and other activities,” Andrea said. “Never mind that we are in three different states so the school schedules are all different, too.”

Finally they discovered the week, literally in-between all things.

“We found one week out of the 52 weeks in the year that worked and we grabbed it,” Barbara said.

The family is still talking about and reliving the fun memories of their summer vacation together in Mexico. They went swimming with the dolphins, rode on ATVs and just enjoyed being together. One day three-year-old Stella found her way on stage to take part in a dance contest.

“We looked up and saw her dancing on stage in front of hundreds of people,” Barbara said”She tied for first place.”

The six adult children and the six cousins were all close before said Andrea, but now they are even closer.

Scott agreed. His son Zeke, who just turned eight, already has a strong sense of family. He knows how many cousins he has and where it fits in the scheme of things said Scott. This year has really cemented Zeke’s sense of belonging in the family.

“It really gratifies and anchors me,” Scott said. “Zeke has had such as great time at everything; he asked me if we could move to St. Louis. When I told him no, he looked at a map and then asked me if we could move to Colorado which he figured is half way.”

The children credit their family’s closeness to their parents. Scott said his parents are his role models: they are all about building family and creating connections.

“It is enormously gratifying to be with family,” Scott said. “I make a choice every day to stay in touch with my family –not out of obligation but out of desire. I genuinely like my life.”

The next celebration in the family was Don’s 75th birthday. Barbara surprised him by sending him his own invitation to his party.

“We had a barbecue at home with family and friends,” Barbara said.

Don said one secret to their family’s closeness is they always had dinner together when the children were growing up. He said he always tried to be home by 4:30 pm so they could talk. He still talks to Andrea every morning.

“We are so blessed,” Don said. “Everyone is a part of our family and everyone works together. We truly enjoy each other and love each other.”

Having a year of celebrations has made Andrea see things differently.

“I was always a glass-half-full kind of person, now I see it as overflowing,” Andrea said. “It has been such an incredible experience to share these milestones with everyone.”

Scott said that this year of celebrations has been in the “family consciousness for several years.” Attending all the simchas has been a little more challenging for him since his family has to travel the farthest. However, when he and his partner Stephen set their priorities, family is always at the top of the list.

“Our family is a prime example of social networking,” Scott said. “I talk to someone in my family pretty much every day. We make it a priority to stay close despite our busy lives.”

The final celebration was Barbara and Don’s 50th wedding anniversary in October. They planned a Shabbat dinner at United Hebrew, going to services and being blessed by Rabbi Howard Kaplansky. It is a most fitting highlight to their year of simchas and the family they all cherish.

“Our closeness is a compliment to our parents and the way raised us and the example they set for us,” Andrea said. “It is so special getting to set this example for our own children.”