Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Life during the Pandemic–Visiting Family, Friends, and Other Animals


  • My flight to Boston on a Friday, November 19, was the first leg of my trip. I arrived at Jonathan’s (my older brother) that evening. The next leg would be from Boston to Zurich and then onto Tel Aviv, Israel. Jonathan and I were going to Israel together.
  • We had to take a COVID test within 72 hours of travel, i.e. on Friday morning. Uh oh—the results were only guaranteed to arrive within one to two business days. I.e. there was a distinct possibility that they wouldn’t arrive before our flight.
  • I took a rapid COVID test at the Pittsburgh airport ($275)—I didn’t trust that my Friday morning test results would arrive in time.
  • I spent a couple of days at Jonathan’s in Massachusetts. We are both starved for family, most of whom reside abroad. We hugged fiercely, reveling in each other’s company.
  • Googi and Melki, Jonathan’s rescue dogs are big and loud and lovely. Melki’s barks are more like greetings. Googi’s are more of an expression of his anxiety.
  • Israeli health declaration forms had to be filled out 48 hours of travel, i.e. Friday evening. Jonathan and I filled them out together, helping each other to decipher the often ambiguous and at times contradictory bureauocratese. (On one website it said 48 and on another it said 24.)
  • We filled out the Swiss health declaration form (because of our Zurich stopover) on Saturday morning
  • We were subjected to more COVID stuff at the Boston airport. Jonathan almost wasn’t allowed on the plane (his passport number wasn’t noted on his negative COVID result). My Friday morning test results had not arrived, luckily I had the Pittsburgh airport test results, and the form had my passport number on it.
  • We flew business class! A first for both of us. I was actually able to sleep on the way there! And the food was actually good. I learnt that I like elderberry juice.
  • There were more COVID hoops to jump through at in Zurich
  • And even more hoops on arrival in Tel Aviv, including another COVID test.
  • We took a taxi to Haifa, our hometown.
  • We held an animated conversation with taxi driver, Mahmud. We learned that he is a published poet in both Hebrew and Arabic. After he recited one of his poems, I asked to purchase one of his books.
  • We stayed at my sister, Rachel’s, apartment.
  • Jonathan slept in a room with Zoe, a Cane Corso pup, huge and lovely and not loud. Though she did growl when she wanted to play, just like my dog, Gus, does.
  • We spent time with Mum and Dad every day. Their dog, Schultz, is a fat medium sized dog, yippy and well in need of a breath mint.
  • Mum and Dad are in their mid-eighties, both frail. Mum has dementia. She recognized me, off and on. But she didn’t recognize Jonathan until our last day there, and even then only briefly.
  • Jonathan, Rachel, and I had dinner at a fabulous restaurant, “Talpiot,” in the souk in downtown Haifa. The food was divine—seafood, seafood, and more seafood. So fresh and flavorful. And the desserts were to die for. I think I actually moaned as I ate.
  • I took a nice day trip with Jonathan, to Yodfat, where he lived during his stint in the army. We visited two of his friends, Monica and Ruti. Monica is a veterinary who lives with several dogs—one old and fat, another three-legged and affectionate, and a third loud and scruffy. The rest stayed away, every so often peaking at us through the window. Ruti, wheelchair bound, produced fresh-made tomatoes juice from fresh-picked tomatoes from her garden. It was beautifully refreshing with lots of garlic—so good. Lunch was made by another friend of Jonathan’s—yummy falafel in a delicious fresh pita.
  • We spent a lovely afternoon with just the four of us siblings, Jonathan, Rachel, Simon, and me. We had a nice simple lunch out on Rachel’s balcony.
  • On the morning of Friday, December 26, we took a COVID test for our trip back to the US.
  • Once more we had to fill out health declarations, for our stopover in Munich and our arrival in the US.
  • Another dinner at “Talpiot,” with all four of us, plus Simon’s son. More wonderful seafood and scrumptious desserts.
  • Our last evening in Israel, Sunday, November 28, was the first night of Hanukkah. We lit candles at my parents’ house. We were quite a crowd—Mum and Dad, us four kids, four of the ten grandchildren, Simon’s wife, Schultz and Zoe. I loved the singing. Usually, as the sole Hebrew speaker, I sing on my own, which is one of the reasons I stick to only one stanza of Ma’oz Tzur. We sang all but the last stanza together, out of tune, as we used to growing up. Mum, in her dementia, was nervous. Who were all these people? And why was this huge dog there. (During previous visits, she adored Zoe.) Did our presence discombobulate her more than usual?
  • Jonathan and I got up at the crack of dawn the next day to make our way to the airport, with the same taxi driver. Mahmud gave Jonathan and me each a copy of one of his poetry books. It didn’t disappoint. His poetry is beautiful and reflects his Ahmadi view point—love, not hate.
  • We had to jump through more COVID hoops at the Tel Aviv airport.
Florida Gus–NOT a lap dog.
  • We arrived in Boston on Monday, November 29th. At passport control they didn’t look at our health declaration form. All they cared about was our passports and our CDC vaccination cards.
  • I stayed overnight at Jonathan’s and flew back home to Pittsburgh, on Tuesday, November 30.
  • I took a rapid COVID test on the morning of Saturday, December 4, in preparation for a trip to Florida. That evening, my son, Daniel, and I flew to Fort Lauderdale to visit my daughter, Sarah, her lovely partner Adam, and their gorgeous baby, Mia.
  • Gus (a.k.a. Florida Gus as opposed to Pittsburgh Gus) is a gentle giant of a dog (American Bully) who doesn’t know his own strength. He’s not at all loud.
  • Daniel and I flew back to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, December 7.
  • Pittsburgh Gus (a.k.a. Gus) was excited and wriggly when I came through the door. He’s medium sized, occasionally loud, very sweet and Lovely.