Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Lifetakes: A Gift and a Promise

Leah Friedman

Now, suddenly, on this night before bedikas chometz, my old father has reappeared. The father who knew us, who loved us

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

 Mishpacha image

 

I n my memory, everything is perfect, almost dreamlike.

I’m standing with my mother and my son, Eli, who’s ten, by my father’s hospital bed. My father is sitting up, feeling better than he’s felt in weeks, possibly years. The light is dim, cozy; as night falls, our reflections materialize on the windows.

It’s warm in the room. The scents of hand sanitizer and leftover cafeteria meals mingle. Distant beeping sounds grow louder and fade.

Abba’s face is shining. He’s so pleased to see us. The rage, the coldness we’ve grown accustomed to, are gone, and I’m wondering if they were all figments of my imagination.

This man, this is my father. My real father.

Except he can’t figure out where we are. He asks my mother to please bring him something from the living room. Her eyes meet mine briefly. Calmly, she bends over him. “We’re in the hospital. Remember, Hatzolah brought you here? You’ll be home soon.”

“Oh. Right.” He looks mildly confused.

But then the conversation picks up. He comments on my brother’s recent move to Australia. Again, my mother’s eyes slide to mine. They shine with pain. My brother did not move to Australia; he made aliyah a few years prior. We have no family or friends in Australia; my father has never even been there.But my father has always loved Eretz Yisrael. This is an odd mistake for him to make.

My mother looks calmly into his eyes. “Israel. Avi and Miriam are in Israel.”

“Oh. Israel.” The look of confusion lingers.

“Abba, you know, Pesach is coming.” I aim for a lighter topic.

“Pesach? When?”

“Today is Wednesday. Friday night will be the first Seder.”

My regret is immediate. What kind of Seder will my father have, here in the hospital?

But he doesn’t ask. Instead, he’s reminded of food. “Bikur Cholim sent a whole tray! Did you see it? It was delicious!” he enthuses, gesturing vaguely.

My father hasn’t expressed such delight in years. This disease has been taking him from us, bit by bit. First, the cognitive decline. Then, generosity and warmth were replaced with rage and paranoia. And a deep coldness, a frightening apathy that froze any possibility of connection.

Now, suddenly, on this night before bedikas chometz, my old father has reappeared. The father who knew us, who loved us.

“Don’t we have the best children in the world?” He beams at my mother, an expression of pride mixed with mystery. For a breath, the years fall away and my parents are a young couple, happy.

He sinks his head back onto the pillow, content. I hold his hand, black and blue and bandaged. His fingertips are cold.

Abba asks Eli what he’s learning in school, tells him he is handsome and sweet. Eli smiles shyly, shares some jokes and quotes from his rebbe, delighted with the attention.

“Tzaddik’l.” A shaky knuckle brushes Eli’s cheek. It’s as though my father is seeing him for the first time. 

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 585)

Related Stories

Tempo Story: One Day We’ll Laugh

Shoshana Itzkowitz

One of my teachers used to say, “If you’ll laugh about it in five years from now, don’t cry over it ...

Windows: Beggar in the Basement

As told to Leah Gebber

The name Berel elicited a sigh — apparently, it wasn’t easy to help Berel. He was too rich, too poor...

On the House: Chapter 9

Faigy Schonfeld

Mimi tapped the mouse, something inside her begging. Do it. Don’t. It’s not only about Zoberman’s, s...

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
 
Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without