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  • Home > Simone Elkeles > How to Ruin > How to Ruin a Summer Vacation     


    In a matter of seconds parents can change the course of your life.

    How does a relatively smart sixteen-year-old girl get stuck in a sucky situation she can't get out of? Well, as I sit at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on a Monday afternoon during the one hour and forty-five minute delay, I think about the past twenty-four hours of my now messed-up life.

    I was sitting in my room yesterday when my biological father, Ron, called. No, you don't get it...Ron never calls. Well, unless it's my birthday, and that was eight months ago.

    You see, after their affair in college, my mom found out she was pregnant. She comes from money, and Ron ...well, he doesn't. Mom, with her parents pushing her along, told Ron it would be best if he didn't have a big part in our lives. Boy, were they wrong. But the worst part is he gave up without even trying.

    I know he puts money into an account for me. He also comes by to take me out to dinner for my birthdays. But so what? I want a father who'll always be there for me.

    He used to come around more, but I finally told him to leave me alone so my mom could find me a real dad. I didn't really mean it; I guess I was just trying to test him. He failed miserably.

    Well, the guy phones this time and tells my mom he wants to take me to Israel. Israel! You know, that little country in the Middle East that causes so much controversy. You don't have to TiVo the news to know Israel is a hotbed of international hostility.

    I know I'm off on a tangent, so let's get back to what happened. My mom hands me the phone without so much as an "it's your dad" or "it's the guy who I had a one-night stand with, but never married" to warn me it was him.

    I still remember what he said. "Hi, Amy. It's Ron."

    "Who?" I answer.

    I'm not trying to be a smartass, it just doesn't register that the guy who gave me fifty percent of my genes is actually calling me.

    "Ron ...Ron Barak," he says a bit louder and slower as if I'm a complete imbecile.

    I freeze and end up saying nothing. Believe it or not, sometimes saying nothing actually works in my favor. I've learned this from years of practice. It makes people nervous and, well, better them than me. I huff loudly to let him know I'm still on the line.



    "Um, I just wanted you to know dat your grand mudder is sick," he says in his Israeli accent.

    A faceless image of a small white-haired old lady who smells like baby powder and mildew, and whose life's goal is baking chocolate chip cookies, briefly races across my mind.

    "I didn't know I had a grandmother," I say, emphasizing the 'th' because Ron, like every other Israeli I've ever met, can't say the 'th'--that sound is not in their language.

    My mom's mom died shortly after I was born so I was one of those kids without a grandma. A pang of sorrow and self-pity from never knowing I had a grandma and now knowing she's 'sick' makes me feel yucky. But I shove those feelings into the back of my head where they're safe.

    Ron clears his throat. "She lives in Israel and, uh, I'm going for the summer. I'd like to take you with me."


    "I'm not Jewish," I blurt out.

    A little sound, like one of pain, escapes from his mouth before he says, "You don't have to be Jewish to go to Israel, Amy."

    And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know Israel is smack dab in the middle of a war zone. A war zone!

    "Thanks for the offer, but I'm going to tennis camp this summer. Tell Grandma I hope she gets over her illness. Bye," I say and hang up.

    Wouldn't you know it, not more than four seconds go by before the phone rings again. I know it's Ron. A little ironic he's hardly called twice in a year and here he is calling twice in a matter of seconds.

    My mom picks up the phone in the living room. I try to listen through my bedroom door. I can't hear much. Just mumble, mumble, mumble. After about forty long minutes she comes knocking at my door and tells me to pack for Israel.

    "You're kidding, right?"

    "Amy, you can't avoid him forever. It's not fair."

    Not fair? I cross my arms in front of my chest. "Excuse me, what's not fair is that you two didn't even try and live like parents. Don't talk to me about fairness."

    I know I'm sixteen and should be over it by now, but I'm not. I never said I was perfect.

    "Life isn't simple, you'll realize that when you're older," she says. "We've all made mistakes in the past, but it's time to mend them. You're going. It's already settled."

    Panic starts to set in and I decide to take the guilt trip route.

    "I'll be killed. Unless that's what you ultimately want--"

    "Amy, stop the dramatics. He's promised me he'll keep you safe. It'll be a great experience."

    I try for another two hours to get out of it, I really do. I should have known trying to argue with my mom would get me nothing except a sore throat.

    I decide to call my best friend, Jessica. Supportive, understanding Jessica. "Hey, Amy, what's up?" a cheery voice answers on the other end of the line. Gotta love caller ID.

    "My parents decided to ruin my life," I tell her.

    "What do you mean 'parents'? Ron called?"

    "Oh, yeah, he called. And somehow he convinced my mom to cancel my summer plans so he could take me to Israel. Could you just die?"