01 October 2011

Journeyman

My grandfather turns 90 in a few weeks. The world has changed since 1921, and my world has changed in the ninety some odd days it has been since my mother has died. I hold his hand and listen to him talk about my grandmother, gone 6 years, the love of his life, and he is the door in the cupboard. He longs for her, he misses her, his cough rattles deeper through his bull-like body, and he prepares to meet her again. On Rosh Hashanah, we sat alone and I listened to him again tell the story of coming home, one early afternoon, from getting whitefish salad for my grandmother. He sat down next to her, she lifted her hand to his face. Her hand dropped, her throat rattled (it is true, the death rattle happens, I didn't know if it would but it did, it began the night before my mother died and it terrified me) and she was gone, but she is never gone. Before he sleeps he sings her the anniversary song, "I remember the night, when we danced, la la la..." and as he sang it to me, soundless tears poured down my face. He cut the challah at my wedding, and I can feel him getting ready to go to her. He is here, but he is going there, and I want to say, "Poppy, send me a postcard. Let me know that they are all right. Slip this letter in your pocket for my mother. Kiss her for me. Millions of kisses, please, Poppy."

I miss the fresh feeling, the daze and haze of the world without my mother. Three months later, I do not understand her absence more than I did then, but I sit easily next to this feeling, or the place where my feelings ought to be. The passing of time signifies to the world healing and understanding, but for me time robs me of the cloak of sympathy. How can I heal what I do not understand? On Thursday, for the first time since her funeral, I went to temple. I saw the plaque with her name and date of death. I did not think of her funeral: I thought of the velour that used to cover the chairs stratching my small legs, under the short plaid dress my Nana Hannah bought for me at Bib and Tucker with it's thick-planked, creaky, gleaming wood floor. I thought of braiding my father's tallis when I was very young and my parents were still married. Most of all I thought of fingering my mom's jewelry during services, the pearls and diamonds and cut jade bracelet that is now mine. One day, Adam will give a girl my grandmother's engagement ring (it was in a box in the vault, my mother wrote on the box "for Adam, love Nanny" and Michael will give a girl my mother's engagement ring. They won't be able to call her, like I did, and whisper "Mom, I'm getting married." My boys, I am so sorry you will not have that joy. But, there will be joy, the joy of watching what magnificent husbands and fathers you will one day be. For now, my boys, you are magnificent sons and brothers, and I am so proud of you. Mom is, too. You give her such nachas.

3 comments:

kenzaloo said...

I'm sorry about your Momma... and I'm sorry about your Poppy and the love of his life. ... my heart breaks for you. My Momma has been gone a little over 2 yrs. I miss her more now than I ever did. I love that you're a Mom. Good for you. I wish my babies would have gotten to meet their beautiful witchy fairy grandmother. I send love. I don't know you, you don't know me... but can you kiss Poppy for me?

Neha said...

Your words are so beautiful.

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