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Lifetakes: It's Okay

As told to P. Diamond

Suddenly, the tears started to fall. But he’s my son, I told myself. I worked so hard to raise him. Why is he so happy to run off?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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H e was 20 months old when I left him for the first time.

As I waved goodbye, he started crying — bitter, wrenching wails. 

I hesitated at the door, about to give up my carefully laid plans and scoop him up in my arms and take him home. But the babysitter assured me, “Don’t worry, two minutes after you leave, he’ll be okay. I’m telling you, this happens all the time.” She softly closed the door and I stood outside, listening. She was right. Several minutes later, his cries subsided, calmed by her soothing voice.

He was 20 years old when I sat at the table with him, making a list of everything he’d need for his wedding. Shirts, check. Gartels, check. Suits, check. “Oh, and look, Mommy,” he said, “I’ve gotten myself a mobile phone.” He’d never had his own before, never needed one in his yeshivah-home-shul life. “I’m calling you so you’ll have the number. I won’t be picking it up during kollel time, though,” he added virtuously. “Only if my wife calls, of course.”

I startled at those words. Only if my wife calls? And what if your mother calls? Does that count for nothing? I looked at him with what I hoped was a penetrating gaze but he was on to the next items on the list, entirely oblivious. Shoe polish, toothbrushes, hat brush…

The next day, I spoke to his kallah, Dina, on the phone. She talked with excitement about the progress she’d made with her gown, the sheitels, the Tefal steam iron she’d found on sale. She had such a soft, musical voice and a tinkling laugh.

I told her about all the buttons on Shuey’s suits and shirts that I’d reinforced with clear nail polish so they wouldn’t fall off.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you,” she said. “You really shouldn’t have — I could have done it.” Again, that tinkling laugh.

I really shouldn’t have? I thought. And why on earth not? I’m only his mother, you know. You weren’t there to tell me I shouldn’t stay up all night with him to check he wasn’t getting convulsions when he was four years old and running a fever. You didn’t make his sandwiches every night for 12 years in a row or iron his shirts thousands of times or do car pool or memorize his bar mitzvah pshetel with him, or wait up for him when he went for his yeshivah farher or make zillions of phone calls to arrange swimming lessons and music lessons for him. Where were you then?

But of course I didn’t say any of that to this sweet, earnest, well-meaning kallah. Instead I just said brightly, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It was my pleasure!”

The Big Day arrived. My big boy looked so spiffy in his new shirt and suit and shoes.

And Dina. She looked gorgeous. As I caught sight of her in the wedding hall — that radiant smile, the graceful bearing — there was a catch in my throat. What was it… tears? Why? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 578)

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