I remember sitting at my grandfather’s shiva with my mom and aunt, sometime in 1995, surrounded by friends and loved ones. Suddenly, I had a horrible thought. It occurred to me, that the barrier had been diminished. I had never thought about it until that moment, sitting on my parents’ living room couch, looking at my mom on her low chair and my aunt being comforted by others that there even was a barrier. You know what I’m talking about? That BARRIER, the one that separates you and protects you from the END.
As kids we are usually blessed with a thick barrier of four grandparents and two parents. As we get older though, the barrier weakens. Sitting on my mother’s taupe sofa that day, I suddenly realized that not only did it exist but that in that moment of my grandfather’s passing it had been weakened. It was a terrifying thought.
Many of you that know me know that since my kids were born my parents come every year for around 5 months. My friends (and my mom) have told me I don’t appreciate it enough. They say I take it for granted. That isn’t true. I have appreciated it and them and the older I get the more I appreciate them and realize how blessed I have been.
My mom usually comes a little before purim and is joined by my dad a week or so before pesach. They usually stay through yom haatzmaut. The routine, in the last five years that has developed is that my mother tells everyone what to do and we do it. My dad goes to the shuk daily, I go to the supermarket and she organizes it all. That is not to say I am incapable or unwilling to do it myself. I mean I am a pretty independent person and manage quite well on my own, but it is nice to have someone in charge other than me. She makes the food, rearranges the cabinets and drawers and offers Helpful Heloise tips.
Every year my dad and I rent a car and drive to Bnei Brak for a day of bonding in the non kitniyot grocery store. Arranging for the seder also is laden with routines; my mom polishes the silver, I set the table and make the charoset; my pre-pesach chores since childhood.
This year my parents are not coming. I know my mom is going to say I shouldn’t write this post because it makes her feel bad but I can’t help it. I am devastated Mommy. I am so afraid you will never be here again and that I will have to do it alone. At the same time, I think, having her here is a pain in the ass. We annoy each other, get on each other’s nerves and if she tells me one more time her “suggestion” I might scream. Yet still, I want her here. For all the selfish reasons. I want her here for me, and for the kids, and because even though I love my friends and we’ve spent all these holidays together for years, it’s not quite the same as your biological family.
I have been thinking lately about my aunts and uncles. The next row of the barrier. I spoke to my aunt today and while talking about the family I just kept thinking back to all those Sunday dinners with all of us; my family and hers, our grandparents and their siblings and I realized that, once the barrier breaks down again, who will I share those memories with? My sister was too little too remember. My cousins might not either, they were pretty small themselves. These memories, which I never really think about but all of a sudden seem hugely important to me.
I look at myself in the mirror and lately I do NOT see a girl, or a young woman . I see older; much much older. I think of how young people look at me and realize they think I’m old. I’m part of a different demographic. I keep thinking that in 25 years I will be the same age as my mom and that my girls will only be thirty. Isn’t that too young to have such an old mom? Then, of course, I think about the (additional) disservice I’ve done them.
I don’t have some witty or pithy ending. I’m just really sad. The circle of life is NOT always pleasant or happy. I’m trying to take it one day at a time but most days I wind up crying. For what was, for what isn’t and for what I hope will not happen for a very long time.