Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



A River Divided

As told to Leah Gebber

I was the golden child; daughter of my parent’s old age. I would comfort them, amuse them, distract them from their looming mortality. While they played overprotective parents, I played overprotective daughter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

whirlpool I hurt them once — it was something silly, grades in school, perhaps. And I still remember the pain in their eyes, my father’s hunched back as he loaded up his disappointment in me and hefted it around along with his life’s cares. I couldn’t do that to them again, I knew. In those bowed shoulders, I lost my childhood. I couldn’t ever be free and easy, yell down stairs, or harangue substitute teachers. What if it came back to my parents? What if their delicate hearts were pricked with pain?

My parents, after all, had been through difficult times, and it showed. My father lost his business when he was in his 40s, and he never managed to hold down another job. My mother battled diabetes, and her vision was starting to dwindle and fade. In horror of their vulnerability, I tuned myself exquisitely to their emotional vibes. Body language, a cough, the smallest verbal hint — my fine-tuned instruments caught it, my emotional needle quivered, and I would swiftly dispel the worry and lift the mood.

As I matured, I took on stricter standards in my Yiddishkeit. Yet I engaged in an elaborate dance to shield my parents from the discomfort this might inflict. If they planned a night at the theater, I would steer them into a classical music concert. If they wanted to host a Shavuos Kiddush for all their friends and their children — without a mechitzah, socializing required — I would awake an hour earlier to help my mother set up and, when the table was festooned with flowers and cream cakes, slip out for a walk.

The intricate dance steps were good for me — they built me into a person who had clarified my standards of behavior while upholding what was so important to me — kibud av v’eim. Indeed, in this mitzvah my parents provided me with a sterling example — my grandparents had passed on long before, but I watched them care for elderly aunts and uncles with devotion.

 

 

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?