A Moment in Time

I am sitting in the room that has become your shrine.

Your picture is everywhere I look. Your art hugs the walls. Your space is tangibly empty.

This room holds a lifetime…it beats for an eternal second…it loses its breath and dies every day you are not in it…

I am sitting here and I am wasting away without you. I am losing something that I didn’t know I had until you left me.

This room holds the memories of you…this room holds the timelessness you have become…this room is choking me as I sit here and ache for you.

I want to scream and shout and cry and slam my fist against this room’s towering walls over and over and over again until my knuckles rip open and my blood paints the images of you parading inside my head.

I sit in this room and I am silent as I remember how much I do not remember.

Once you looked at me with a smile that made me smile and we shared a moment that was captured forever. I did not know that you would take your last breath twelve years later on that day. I did not know that you would not get to have the things I get to have. I did not know that you were not forever.

Had I known I would have held you in my arms and hugged you tight. I would have whispered my love for you. I would have let you feel my heart beat. I would have lifted you up and raised you high above my head and I would have made the world see you and cherish you.

Thirteen years ago I patted your head and laughed as you danced and walked into my own life without glancing back at you. Thirteen years ago I stepped away from you and let you find me without the urgency I would have had if I had known that thirteen years later I would be sitting in this room and wondering how a year could have passed since you walked away from me without looking back.

I am sitting in this room and I am aware of the lack of you. My heart is racing and my head is spinning and I am falling apart at the seams where I have been sewn back up too many times.

You aren’t in this room with me and you are in this room with me and you are playing with my head and you are looking up to me with your eyes wide open and you are never coming back and I am not sure if I can live another year without you.

Thirteen years ago I looked into your eyes and I smiled and you smiled and your timeline stopped and mine didn’t so now I sit in this room where you aren’t and you are and I am as still as a moment in time and I whisper your name and I hold your hand and we smile.

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When There Is Nothing Left To Say

There is so much I could say…so much to write about…

I could write about my sister…and her cancer…and what it feels like to be so far away…to be torn between my children and the baby I held in my arms at 14 years old…whispering my secrets to one of my only family members who couldn’t be angry at me…who I knew would never judge me.

I could write about my daughter…and how she has blossomed and regressed at the same time…how third grade is revealing what the course of her school life will look like…how she reminds me of me…at my most vulnerable age…and why that scares me.

I could write about my oldest brother and his grief…his mother-in-law and her table full of guests…how she battled another type of cancer…and lost.

I could write about my other sister…who is taking one day at a time…and trying her best…and how proud I am of her…and how much I wish I believed in prayer so I could get on my knees each day and pray to keep her going.

I could write about yet another sister…who is changing her life…is making emotional sacrifices she never thought she could make…so that she can become the big sister who swoops in and gets things done…perfectly each time…and how I wish I could speak to her every day.

I could write about my sister who is most like me…and so could never be written about…because it would not do justice to who she is…and I could never express how much I miss her anyway.

I could write about my parents…and how I almost lost them…and how I thought that whatever progress was made was never going to be actualized…until cancer came along and changed the direction of the path we had embarked on.

I could write about Israel…and the blood that is spilled…and the daily attacks.

I could write about Europe…and Paris…and Belgium and the United States and Obama and the outrages and the silences and the hypocrisies and double standards.

I could write about it all.

I should.

But I won’t.

Because tears are streaming down my cheeks.

Pain is flowing out of my eyes.

Sorrow is stopping my heart.

This broken world is spinning too fast.

And I can no longer feel enough to breathe.

All I can do is spill it out…through my fingers…onto the keys that form the letters to write…that I have nothing left to say.

Dear Spouses,

Dear, dear spouses

of victims

of survivors

of the broken people…

Thank you.

Thank you for not letting us push you away.

Thank you for seeing past the desperate facade we thought was infallible.

Thank you for understanding that not everyone wants to be touched…or can be touched…and adjusting your needs accordingly.

Thank you for remembering not to ask about it.

Thank you for listening to all of it and accepting it

even though you want to kill someone

even though you want to let anger take over and justice prevail.

Thank you for knowing that you just have to embrace it.

Thank you for sleeping on the floor when the bed becomes a trap.

Thank you for letting irrational behaviors slide…

because they make sense…because you get it.

Thank you for never attempting to relate to it.

Thank you for teaching us that we can be loved despite…

in spite…

because.

Thank you for always, always standing by…

through panic…

anxiety…

fear…

shame…

confusion…

delusion…

and hope.

Thank you for waiting for us to come to you.

Thank you for knowing when we are ready.

Thank you for knowing when we aren’t.

Thank you for agreeing to take part in a union we believed we could never deserve.

Thank you so very much…dear, dear spouses…

for loving people…who sometimes doubt the love they are in.

We are grateful for your patience.

We are overwhelmed by your strength.

And we believe in the salvation you offer when you look into our eyes

and show us who we are.

 

The Lonely Love of Faith

I walk the lonely road…

twisting…turning…forever changing…

and as I wander…

I believe…I doubt…I question…I yearn…I want.

He walks…on a different road…

twisting and turning in ways I don’t always understand…

with a belief…a doubt…a question…a yearning…a want…so different from mine.

Sometimes we meet…at a fork in the road.

He goes right…I go left…

our eyes drawn back towards the place we knew together…

as our souls move over rocky paths…smooth sand…and raging rivers.

We can be this lonely…because we are together…and we are together…because we are this lonely.

Flames

The flames are dancing again.

They sway softly, reaching up just enough to reveal blues and greens before settling down into the rhythm of orange fused with a yellow-white, burning my eyes as I stare.

There is a sudden leap in my heart as one little flame tries to escape and jumps off its wick carelessly.  The air crackles as the tiny flame realizes, too late, that it cannot defeat the oil-filled glass pulling at it relentlessly.  It falls back into the oil, diminishing in size and, defeated, meekly resumes its dance.

My heart, aroused by the plight of the dancing ball of fire, falls to the ground and shatters into a million wrenching cries.

I am screaming silently as I smile at my children and spin the dreidel, round and round and round…

I am mutely deafening the heavens as I sing songs of latkes and maccabees and kiss the kids goodnight…

I am nearing a pitch that can pierce through my silence when I break.

I turn towards my husband.  In a whisper, I bare my soul.

“I miss him.”

And then the dam breaks and I am filled with all the sounds I never got to hear.

The thin wail at his birth…the howl at his bris…the hungry whimpering at night…the coos of content in the early mornings…the pouting whine at naptime…the robust cries of triumph as he climbs up a stair…the sweet sound of peaceful breathing…

NOOOO!!!!!!!

The screams emanating from my soul are not enough to drown out the memories of the beeps and whirs an incubator makes at it labors to keep its occupant alive.  And through the noise, I can hear what underdeveloped lungs sound like when they are working too hard…not hard enough.  And no matter where my mind takes me and what I use to try to change directions I can still hear…the silence…when there are no machines…no breath…no life.

The first year, I was pregnant again.

I watched the flames and thought of him and prayed it would be different.

The second year was harder.  I looked at my little girl and thought I saw him dancing around her.  When the flames died, he slipped away.

When the flames danced in our window again, I thought of him and slipped away to the bathroom, scissors in hand.  My hair fell into the sink but it didn’t stop my tears.

At the four-year mark, I wrote.

He would have been four years old…instead, he is buried on a mountain with other sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts; forever a tiny babe.

He is happy there and well taken care of.  He does not feel the pains of growing up.  He does not suffer from physical ailments.  He does not lack anything.  He is safe.

He needs only my love.

I love my little boy so much.  I know where he is.  I want to go there.  I need to be good enough to go there.  I will do everything in my power to see him again.

It was suddenly there again.  The lights.  I wrote again.

It’s this time of year again and I’m thinking of you…wondering…how you’ve been.

Wishing you could see me now…look at me with those big, big eyes…maybe even smile.

It’s late…you should have come home from school long ago…I ache to see you burst through the door.

The bag we would have picked…together…slung over your slight frame…weightless.

Your face would have lit up…as you held out…the special treat your Rebbe gave to you…for Chanukah.

Chattering about your day…as I prepare your supper…and tend to the others…you flit about my mind.

And I miss you.

Five is a big boy now…I remind you gently to let me go…big boys know better.

You fade away from me…but cling…your tiny hand grasping…my pinky…forever.

And then we lit the lights again.  And I waited.  For eight days.  I held out.  Until I saw the little tiny flame fighting to break free and I broke down and wrote again.

It’s been…six years…filled with love…joy…happiness…hardships…and longing…for you.

My happily-ever-after…standing before the lights…watching the flames dance…to the beat of the perfect little life inside me…dies with the last lick of fire…and left a hole…where you used to be.

The day you broke away approaches…

I am not ready…to face the dark memories…the images of you…slipping into another world.

The truth is…I am angry with you…for giving up…for giving in…and letting the pain…consume you.

You should have lived…should have struggled through the pain…like I do every day…and been there to be held by me…touched by me…loved by me.

My love…for you…sits inside me…killing me…forcing me to hold back…with everyone around me…chaining me to the place where you tore your body from mine.

Sometimes…secretly…shamefully…I wish…you would have waited just a few more moments…maybe hours…and then…you would have taken me with you…far from the intolerable feelings…and maybe I would have been…lying near you…in the cold ground…so I could keep you warm.

Every day that passes…I miss you more…there is no comfort…nothing can ease the sorrow…I can only wait…and long for the day…when you will come back to me…and tell me…why…you didn’t want…to stay.

Now, as the flames finish twisting and turning, I breathe deep and exhale my tortured thoughts.  Together, my husband and I sweep up the pieces of my heart off the floor and into our cherished box of shared pain.

As my head sinks into my drenched pillow, I hear another sound.  It is you.  The woman in the NICU…holding her lifeless little one…and you are screaming…and you want so badly for someone to say the right thing…but no one does…because no one can…and you want so badly for someone to write that to you…to share her thoughts with you…about how a child is never forgotten…always loved…always pulled back by the strong oil-filled glass with the upward-reaching wick, united with a flame…one, unique flame…that is forever jumping away…

And then I am sitting up in bed and my screams become a shout…and then form words…words I hear you saying…as you and I are joined by all our sisters as we storm the gates of Heaven with prayers begging…pleading…demanding that our Father bring back the ones He didn’t’ let us have…crying together as mothers of children who deserve to live in a glorious kingdom full of all the love and happiness they were denied.

Please…please, bring them back…please bring us home…together…all of us…whole.

Father Of Mine

The discussion was about Divine Intervention and whether it is an integral aspect of belief.

It was mostly intellectual with the bouts of emotions (that always seem to trickle through with me) getting properly addressed and shelved by the most significant influence in my life.

First, my mother left.

She tried to pipe in with emotions at the forefront.

It wasn’t the point so she lost interest.

Then my brother tried to lighten the mood with irrelevant quips.  He went back and forth from the computer screen, seemingly trying to take part, but on his terms which were to change the topic and make everyone laugh.

Soon it was just my father.

On my side of the world, the topic pulled my husband in and sat him next to me as we worked through a complex topic that needed less than a screen between us all.

My father closed with a comment that made my heart sing.

“And that’s all for this session of intellectual conversation between father and daughter.”

And I flew.

My husband and I talked about why our stimulating, interesting conversation bored or turned off other members of my family.  He wondered if they don’t know how to participate in open communication based solely on intellect.  I’m not sure that’s true.  I supposed that maybe they thought it was a fight.  Or that it was a session between teacher and student – that he was trying to guide me.

I thought it was incredible bonding and loving.

Maybe that’s because everything I always thought about my relationship with my father was based on a childish view on genders.

I was positive my father wished I were a boy.  My theory was that he enjoyed our learning sessions but was secretly upset that it meant nothing because I was unfortunate to be born a female.  I saw the look in his eyes when he practically begged his sons to learn and then they would drift off or get angry when they didn’t like the way he taught them.  Then he would reluctantly sit down with me.  I was so jealous of them.  I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want his attention.  I thought his brain focusing on me was the most amazing thing in the world and I craved that intellectual attention.

I still think it’s great.  And I still crave it.

But after this long over-due conversation I realize that all those years of resentment were based on nothing but my silly insecurities that held me back from a deeper relationship with my father.

I saw a look in his eyes that I recognized from my childhood, sitting at the dining room table trying not to jump in with an answer to his question before he completed his thoughts.

He enjoyed every minute of those learning sessions.

That look in his eyes that I took to mean disappointment that I wasn’t a son…I’m pretty damn sure it was a look of pride that it was his daughter who was capable, willing and craving to grow up to be the one he could stroll through the throes of intellectual connectivity with.

So until next time…

Your Daughter.

P.S.  Is this a good, non-sensational blog post? Wouldn’t want to disappoint you…:)

Being Born

We are finishing dinner when I begin.

“See, I always had an issue with birthdays.”

Smiling, he settles back in his chair.

“My mother always forgot my birthday…well, she still can’t figure out the right date…”

He laughs.

“You never know, maybe this year she’ll remember…the day’s not over yet.”

We smile at each other comfortably and I am filled with gratitude that I am sitting here with my best friend.

“Anyway – she’ll definitely remember my Hebrew birthday.  Everyone does…because it’s a holiday.  Just makes it worse.  Like the holiday is remembered, therefore I am remembered.  And here’s what I mean by that.  All I ever wanted out of a birthday was the acknowledgment, or rather the celebration of the day I came into existence.  It’s a real appreciation for ME, regardless of how old I am or what I’ve done with my life.  And getting a cake, although I understand that ten kids equals ten birthdays and the expected cake is the only fair way to go about it…just didn’t cut it.  I wanted more of an emotional gift of pleasure that I am in this world.”

“You know that you’re talking about a very intense, deep view on birthdays, right?”

“Of course!  But – that’s me.  That’s who I am.  So, not getting that validation always put me in a dark, depressive place because when a kid equates birthdays with people acknowledging their very existence, and then said people either forget, don’t say ‘I’m happy you were born’ or happen to have other things on their mind that day that cause feelings other than pure joy, a kid could start questioning their place in the world altogether and whether it might just be a better idea to ease people of the burden of there existing a child who no one cares exists.  And yes, I’m aware of the immaturity of the logic – remember it’s a thought that somehow followed me from a different sort of childhood then what is considered ‘normal’ to an abnormal adult life that I’m comfortable with.”

He looks at me, waiting as I take a breath and look around the room.

The kids are running around in their pajamas, singing silly songs.  The room is the kind of messy happy families create.  There is a smell of wood that can only mean my husband has worked hard today to support us.  The princess sign on the wall is starting to roll up a bit at the edge and the bits of colorful popped balloons hide in the one corner I forgot to sweep.  The sun is setting over the mountains and I am content.

“So what I’m saying is, well, right now there are three people in this room, in the world, who are happy I exist.  And I know it.”

I look up at him, lovingly, wishing he could take my heart and feel how overwhelmed with feelings beyond words it is.

“So I just wanted to say, thank you.”

He stands and begins to clear the table.

“Happy birthday,” he says, and I know that my birth was, for him, for my little girl and my baby boy, worth it.

I Write the Songs that Make the Whole World Sing…

The world knows about the songs she wrote.

I know about the poems and heartfelt musings she keeps together with some sketches in the back of the file cabinet in the section marked “misc.”.  Most of them are from when she was in high school.  The words are fading and it’s hard to make out the script that used to be mandatory in English classes, but it’s tangible and smells like cheap construction paper and my grandmother’s house.

The majority of her writings make their way into the piano and off to some production or other.  Most of the time I don’t think about them.  Most of the time I just write.

I write words to my children, day after day, month after month, year after year, and I wonder how they will read them when they are older.  As I write, I hum the tunes to songs I sang straight through the long hours of childhood, through the minutes of confused youth and right into the second of my very own adulthood.

And then I stop.

And I listen.

And I hear her words…

…well hello little stranger…entirely new…only born an hour ago…look at you…open up your little eyes a glimmer or two…hey there…can you see me…I’m the one who’ll be there taking care of you…and all the things I do for you…are things you’re gonna do…for children of your own…someday…

…there’s just one more adornment…I’ve added in…my own little prayer…I always sew in…may I live to see…that a bride you will be…and I’ll sew you a dress for your chuppa…as we walk down the aisle…it will have all been worthwhile…

…all those dreams…my child…that you dream tonight…will come true…you can be sure…close your eyes and dream of tomorrow…for tomorrow there’ll be more…

…little one…yes it’s true what they say…fathers cry for their children…and Hashem does the same…when we hurt…so does He…yes He does feel our pain…

She wrote…while we were young…and as we grew…and changed…she wrote…and wrote…and wrote…

She hasn’t written in a while.  She says she doesn’t have the time.  But maybe…she doesn’t have the need…because here I am…writing…and humming her songs…with a smile on my face and understanding in my heart.

Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel…

When I was in kindergarten I colored a dreidel.  To me, it was just another shape outlined in thick black ink that I was meant to color in with whatever crayons I chose.

To my teacher, who happened to be an artist, it was amazing.

My mother worked in the school so the teacher ran to get her.

She pulled her into the classroom and proudly showed her my dreidel.

My mother looked at the twenty-five dreidels hanging on the wall, saw that mine was, indeed, the best colored, and sort of shrugged her shoulders helplessly.

The teacher couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t oozing with pride over her superior daughter.

My mother couldn’t understand why it was incredible that I colored in the lines.  She’d seen me do it hundreds of times before.

*

My mother is my best critic.  I love sending her my writings and look forward to her replies.  She always has a comment on a particular sentence or description that she liked and tells me how she relates to what I wrote.  My mother communicates her feelings much easier through writing, as do I (see How I Met My Mother).  I feel validated by her responses and connect with her through those e-mail exchanges.

My childhood, regardless of how things stand now, helps me shape how I mother my children.  I use my mother’s mistakes to fight my natural tendencies.

The dreidel remains as a witness to the words that never voiced themselves to my five year old ears.  She didn’t have to say it was beautiful.  I was secure enough in my abilities to know I hadn’t gone out of the lines, but maybe a comment on the choice of colors would have made me feel as proud as my teacher wanted me to feel.

*

The lesson I learned actualized itself this week.  My four year old drew another picture.  She draws all the time.  If I let her, she would sit at the table all day with her crayons, markers and pencils, creating masterpieces.  She is extremely talented, and way beyond her years in the creativity department.  I’m not surprised.  She is not exceeding any expectations.  She’s my daughter, my mother’s granddaughter, my artist grandmother’s granddaughter – of course she can draw.

But I don’t say that to her.  I gush at every single thing she makes.  I pick something specific to talk about and make sure to save it to show Abba when he comes home.  I am her number one supporter and because of all the painful silences in my childhood, she knows that.  When she tells me that there’s no girl in the world like her because she’s mine, I know that I will never stop talking.

Together, my little girl and I are taking that dreidel down and making it count.

Bleed

We sit beside our friends of grief

And know not where they came

What was once clear and understood

Now hides behind this game

Of fear, distrust, clouded minds

And words that can’t be said

As we race around the things we know

Are locked inside our heads

We struggle to release the sounds

Binding our love

To turn this train around again

And, united, rise above

Embrace me now and feel the beat

Of yearning and of need

For I am nothing without your heart

That’s why I make you bleed.