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Turning Tides

As told to Leah Gebber

When Mommy opened her eyes, I saw something there — was it that the chestnut hue darkened? Or did they narrow a touch? — I wasn’t sure. But I knew that that something was understanding. And I knew that she would speak for the last time, and perhaps, too, that this was the last time she would know who I was.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

And so I crouched down next to the hospital bed so my ear was nearer to her mouth. And I half expected to be disappointed, to hear something like: “Wish Nurse Jackson happy birthday.” Which is lovely, of course, but not exactly a spiritual legacy. Though on second thought, maybe it is. But this time what she said meant something, even if we were baffled at the time. “Take care of Mom,” she said. Mom meant Savta, who, in her early seventies, had an entire bathroom cabinet devoted to anti-aging serums. Her lipsticks — every shade from bronze to light purple — were lined up on the dressing table: open each one and you’d see the distinct molding of her lips. She had a Google spreadsheet where people signed up to invite her for a Shabbos meal — and she was booked for weeks in advance. So there was a brush of residual pain that Mommy’s last words were not about me, my future. They weren’t about Hadas, my younger sister. She didn’t even focus on our bond, tell us to take care of each other, be there for each other. She focused on her own mother. Five years on, I began to understand. My mother was an only child. After her death, my father remarried and moved across the country. Savta had a massive stroke. And my sister Hadas and I were the only relatives who lived nearby and could care for her.

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