Monday, March 26, 2012

Loving Acceptance


The Matriarch

Tante sleeps in morphine comfort.  Thank G_d for peaceful comfort.  Thank G_d for peaceful sleep.  In ninety-five years she held court from anywhere ... a kitchen sink, a kitchen counter, a vegetable garden, a dining table, a potters' wheel and kiln. 

"As clay are we, as soft and yielding clay
That lies between the fingers of the potter.
At her will she moulds it thick or thin,
And forms its shape according to her fancy.
So are we in Thy hand, G_d of love;
Remember Your promise and show Thy mercy."  (after an anonymous poem from the Yom Kippur liturgy) 

Monday, March 19, 2012



Do We Ever Know the Whole Story?

"It's not good to get old." 

That's what Beatrice had the chutzpah to say to me, ... TO ME ... while I was in the middle of my second round of chemotherapy.  I stood there in her apartment waiting for her to get ready to come to us for dinner.   She is toddling around her apartment looking for something, her glasses perhaps.  One of those things that you need in order to find.  Oh well, I was ready to scream but all I said was that it looked good to me.  Maybe it was the missing glasses.  Did she not see how bald I was from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  No eyebrows, no eyelashes, BALD.   ... I resembled my baby pictures all thanks to this chemotherapy.  Getting old, raising my family to meet milestones like bar/bat mitzvah, chupah (the wedding canopy), grandchildren, the next generation, another gift to the world... maybe they will improve on the mess we leave to them.  Getting old sounded good to me. 

What was it that made her thoughtlessly bad mouth her gift and blessing of time in my presence?  Ver Veys! (Who knows?!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vodka with Cracked Pepper


To Speak For Oneself

He was two years old and we were at the pediatric clinic for his well child check-up.  Nurse Joy reached out for my baby boy and he for her.  Everyone was all smiles and giggles.  The few preliminaries done, it was time for the doctor.  Out walked Nurse Joy with waves and flying kisses, in walks the pediatrician with the stillness of a thoughtful leader which she was.  Doctor Mann was the chairman of pediatrics in the medical school, for this was a teaching hospital's clinic.  She reviewed the nurse's notes with me and proceeded to ask me questions about my little guy.  It was a small exam room, I suppose for the small people, so the doctor could stand between me and my baby boy who was sitting quietly on the exam bench while we were both next to him.  Isaac tapped Dr. Mann on the shoulder, "Isaac is here," he said.  She stopped looking at me as she stopped talking with me.  She turned to look at my baby, "Oh, should I be asking you these questions?" she said moving her reading glasses to the tip of her nose while getting a better look at this tiny guy.  All business now my son said, "yes," as manly as a two year old could muster.  The interview and exam continued, now between the doctor and the baby.  I sat there watching and listening to my son conduct himself with purpose and responsibility while looking at his toes.  He just would not look at the doctor after the initial "yes".  Dr. Mann was all business and so was Isaac as they approached the final question, "Are you a happy baby?"  With a sober face and eyes firmly gazing still at his toes the answer was, "yes".  Dr. Mann turned to me, "you have a happy child" she said with a smile and a laugh. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Commune with Joy


First Purim Under Nazi Occupation

When I was a child I thought that the holidays were great!  So,it puzzled me tremendously to hear and to read reports that the holiday season is a difficult time for many, many people.  Decades later, a significant number of decades later since I am now middle-aged, I begin to understand in my own way that there exist these difficulties which can burden us when we are supposed to be celebrating. 

All the more so in 1940, among the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto.  The historian Shimon Huberband says at that time that "the mood was terrible; the predominant spirit wasn't of Purim but of Tisha B'Av."