We relive a Lag B'Omer with Pa...
Pa was sitting in his wheelchair. He seemed to be very
uncomfortable, kept lifting himself as though trying to get
out. I pushed him over to Ma's bed, hoping that I'd be able
to swing him around onto it.
Too late. I saw that he wasn't going to make it. Slowly,
slowly, I eased him to the floor, put a pillow under his head
and covered him with a blanket. After reassuring him that he
was fine, I ran to call for help.
We always needed fresh spirits, new people around to pull us
out of our hopelessness. We gave up too fast, became
discouraged too quickly, stopped making the effort to wake Pa
up and get him interested.
How we rejoiced when we heard that a child was coming; that
was the shot in the arm that we all needed so badly.
The letters were also precious. Toby, Esther and Ida in
Canada religiously wrote long, detailed, shmoozy letters
every week which we read to Pa full of expression, but very
often he had no patience for even that. It was live people
that he needed around. New people who still had hope and
would keep trying to get him interested and involved.
As though in answer to our prayers, Toby called that she was
coming for Lag B'omer. Her son Yossi, who lived in Jerusalem,
was planning to bring his three-year-old firstborn to Pa on
Lag B'Omer for his first haircut. Toby didn't want to miss
the happy occasion, when, wrapped completely in a
tallis, the three-year- old was shorn. As there were
several other three-year- old grandchildren scheduled to have
Pa snip off their long tresses on that day, Toby was looking
forward to seeing the whole family at the multiple
Now that Pa had something to look forward to, he was full of
renewed life. Toby, the mezhinikel of the family,
would never cease to be her father's precious baby. Actually,
she was precious to all of us in the family.
Lag B'Omer arrived. Pa's room was crowded with the families
of the three-year-old grandchildren coming and going the
whole day; the adults all drank l'chayim, the children
stuffed themselves on candy and cake.
Everyone watched as Pa very carefully tested the scissors,
and very seriously cut off the flowing locks of each great-
grandson who had reached the age of three, firmly pressed a
brand-new yarmulka down on the child's head, slipped
the four-cornered tzitzis over the child's shirt, and
listened to him read the letters of the alef beis.
Very often, the child couldn't concentrate on the letters
because raisins and nuts and chocolates and candies kept
dancing down on the page. How could he help but always
associate Hashem's Word with wonderful, sweet, delicious
treats forever after?
It was a happy day for us all.
The next time Toby came, everything was different.
Toby knew that there'd been a change in Pa. She'd heard it
from us, from all those who'd visited, but she hadn't really
believed how much Pa had deteriorated until she was face to
face with it herself. It was much worse than she'd expected,
and she wasn't quite prepared.
Always full of joy, her smiles and laughter were now tinged
with sadness. It was painful to watch her try to be strong.
Though she put on a good show for Pa, reminding him of days
gone by with cheer and laughter, you could see the once
precious little girl with Shirley Temple bottle-curls turning
old with grief. The father that she loved so deeply was
slowly coming closer to the edge of the cliff, beyond which
lay the unknown.
Despite the dark, brooding thoughts that must have weighed
down her spirit, Toby acted as though everything was just
fine, and Pa would be well, and just see how nicely he was
eating and smiling and remembering things from long ago.
Toby stayed with Pa as much as she could, giving the
different caretakers a respite, as she took over each one's
shift. Her contagious cheer overwhelmed Pa so completely that
he was a different person while she was there.
How sad for Pa that she couldn't stay on, I found
myself thinking. How different life would be for him were he
granted his own loving daughter's care. Watching Pa
shepping nachas from every word that Toby said, seeing
him expand in love and joy at her every movement and smile, I
suddenly understood what people meant when they said that
blood was thicker than water.
Yes, blood was thicker than water; there was a difference
between a daughter and a daughter-in-law.
I realized all this as an innocent onlooker, like someone
totally uninvolved, standing at the side. There was neither
bitterness nor envy; just a very sad awareness that Pa was
being shortchanged by not having his own precious child care
for him during his final fragile years; that though I might
be doing my best to make his life -- if not comfortable, than
at least bearable -- I would never trigger within his heart
the same spontaneous joy that he felt when he looked at Toby,
the precious gift he'd been granted in his late middle