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Lifetakes: Waiting Again

Esther Kurtz

We stew, and we think, and we regret, and we memorialize, and then we just sit quietly waiting for the phone to ring

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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A gain I’m left waiting. Mommy just called. “Did you hear, do you know?” she starts.

“I don’t know anything, nobody tells me a thing,” I answer.

“They’re taking Bobby in for surgery soon.”

“And?” I prompted.

“It’s not good if she doesn’t have it, it’s not good either if she does.” “What does that mean?”

“The doctor said there’s a 10 percent chance if she has it.”

“Ten!” I say. “Ten if she has it?! And what if she doesn’t?”

“He doesn’t know, but he recommends the surgery.”

I’m already crying. “Why are you so calm?” I ask.

She sighs, there’s a world-weary laugh in there. “I’m old, Esther,” she says. “I’ve been through too much. There’s an Eibeshter, and whatever will be, will be for the best.” A pause. “You think I didn’t cry? I cried. I’m okay.”

There’s a lull.

“Oh, they’re here, I’ll talk to you,” and she hangs up.

And now we wait. And we stew, and we think, and we regret, and we memorialize, and then we just sit quietly waiting for the phone to ring.

I grew up right near my grandparents. I used to threaten my mother I’d run away to Bobby. My mother would laugh, because Bobby is one tough cookie, who had my mother picking lint off the bedroom carpet every morning before she left to school. Bobby always made me hold my cup with two hands — I hated that. She hasn’t been that woman for a long time, though. At least six years.

The Bobby I know and love and grew up with, she doesn’t exist anymore. I said goodbye to her a long time ago. Sometimes there are moments where she’ll pop up with a sharp line, or really laugh in reaction to a joke, but mostly she sits in the corner and plays a lot of Rummikub.

My kids tell me they don’t like Great-Bobby sometimes. I don’t blame them. She tells them to stop jumping on the couches, to pick up all the pillows, and stop blowing bubbles with their chocolate milk. I grew up with that Bobby too, that strict Bobby, but I also grew up with her sewing a lot of clothing for me, inviting me over when I needed a little TLC, and shepping such nachas when I made a sharp comment.

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