Monday, May 30, 2005

Milestones: The kid rents a car for the first time; we take a trip to New Jersey to see a fellow congregant, probably for the last time

Our son needed clothes, and our favorite place is on Long Island, outside of New York City, so he charged the car rental to his credit card so that he could be the primary driver. (It’ll cost us an extra $125, because he’s under 25, but he’s pretty responsible about charging things to his credit card, knowing that we’re paying, and he certainly needed the driving practice, so what the hey.) It was his good fortune that his dear old dad, whom I dubbed “Punster” over at , did something extremely unusual and actually got lost on Long Island. Unlike his clueless wife, the Punster has an excellent sense of direction, and it’s rare for him to get lost at all, much less this thoroughly so. In this case, it worked to our son’s advantage—he got an extra hour’s driving practice. I’m happy to report that neither the Punster, who was in the “suicide seat,” not I, playing “backseat driver,” had to spend too much time with our hearts in our mouths—our son is actually a pretty good driver, especially considering how little opportunity he’s had to practice. And yes, we did finally find the store. Our son got four new t-shirts out of the deal, though jeans that actually fit him eluded him.

Monday morning, in the middle of the Amidah, it suddenly dawned on me that we should keep the car for an extra day and go see S_______, who’s now in a hospice. He’s had a good run, baruch HaShem (thank G-d), being in his mid-nineties, but, considering his current condition, it occurred to me that we, and, especially our son, might never have another opportunity to see him alive. Our son remembers S_______ very well, and, until S_____ and his wife moved to a seniors’ residence in New Jersey, was happy to come to shul whenever he was home just to be sure to see him. And S____ certainly always got a kick out of seeing him.

It turned out that one of our sister congregants also had a rented car, so we agreed that we would return ours (to save a fortune) and all pile into hers for the trip. So off we went, the four of us, trying, with little success (because of a portable CD player with limited volume) to listen to my CDs of Moshe Skier, Zamir Chorale of Boston, and Sarah Aroeste (“A la Una—In the Beginning” [Ladino music]). (That worked a lot better when the driver was doing 40 miles per hour than went she hit the suburban highways and got up to 60, believe me. Sorry, PT, but the bass line was the first thing to “disappear”—a great loss, especially when one is listening to your band’s “Sh’ma.”) The driver, who’s a cantor by profession, brought her guitar. (She’s currently between congregations, so if any synagogue happens to be interested in hiring a member of both the Cantors’ Assembly [Conservative] and the American Conference of Cantors [Reform], an operatic mezzo-soprano who earned a Masters and the title of Cantor from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music and has served as cantor of eight congregations [some Conservative, some Reform] please let me know and I’ll pass along the information.) When we arrived, we found that poor S________ was in at least as poor a condition as we had been warned to expect. He wasn’t able to speak at all, though he did attempt to whisper something to our son that our son was unable to hear, unfortunately—which, we hope, means that he recognized our son, at least. Our cantor friend, whom he knows from when she was a member of our shul for many years before taking a cantorial position, accompanied herself on the guitar while singing a few songs in Yiddish. She even sang “Morenika,” the Ladino original of the Israeli song “Shecharchoret,” mostly so that my husband and I could do the Israeli folkdance that was choreographed to that song—I figured that perhaps S______ would recognize us if we danced together, since we’re infamous as the “dancing duo” of our shul, cutting a rug at every Chanukah and Purim party. We talked about our synagogue (in which he used to lead the weekday morning minyan, an honor that he passed on to my husband and/or our regular cantor and/or, lately, our cantor friend—we get away with all sorts of egalitarian practices when none of the traditionalists are present to object), our local Jewish War Veterans post (in which he used to be Quartermaster [treasurer], a post that he also passed on to my husband), and just about anything else we could think of that he might be interested in and that might jog his memory. Frankly, he looked like hell. I’m glad we went to pay a bikur cholim (visiting the sick) visit, because I think that the next time we “see” him will probably be at his funeral. May he live only as long as he is not suffering, and may his wife and daughters be privileged to spend more time with him and to be left with good memories of him when the time comes.

Update: Every year, for as long as his legs would carry him, S___ marched in the Salute to Israel Parade with our local Jewish War Veterans post. When he could no longer walk that far, he stood on the sidelines and cheered, wearing his JWV cap with pride. So, when the time came, less than a week after we'd visited him, our congregation did exactly what we thought he would have wanted us to do: Half of us went to the parade, in his memory, and the other half went out to the cemetery, took shovels in hand and threw dirt onto his coffin, in accordance with tradition, and helped give him a proper Jewish burial. Zichrono li-b'rachah--may his memory be a blessing.


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I've got two kids taking driver's ed this summer.


Tue May 31, 05:09:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Best of luck to your kids, your wife, and you. Hope you don't have to spend too much time diving under the dashboard.

Tue May 31, 11:52:00 PM 2005  

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