Sunday, June 06, 2004

Crouching Jew, Hidden Tears

Here's my Friday, pre-Shabbos schedule. I get up early and go to shul for minyan where I say Kaddish for Ariel. Most people, including Jews, mistakenly refer to the Kaddish as The Prayer for the Dead. In fact, the Kaddish never mentions death, nor guilt, or memory. Rather it is a declaration of faith in our national purpose, of loyalty to God, of confidence in the ultimate triumph of the ideals for which heaven and earth were created. Adding to it's power, mystery and majesty is that we recite The Kaddish in the original Aramaic, the common everyday language of ancient Judaism. May His great name be exalted and sanctified in the world He created according to His will...
At home, I eat breakfast while reading the newspaper. We live in Los Angeles, but stubbornly subscribe to the excruciatingly Wahabist Liberal New York Times, mostly because Karen likes to do the crossword puzzle. She can even do most of their Friday's brain melter. And may He establish His kingship during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetime of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon. I take Lila to work at the architectural firm where she is interning, and then ferry Chloe to school. I write five pages of whatever script I'm working on and then take a twenty minute run around the neighborhood. Pico-Robertson is a warm and intimate shtetl surrounded by strip malls. I set the table for Shabbos; white table cloth, individual salt shakers, crisp linen napkins big as a poster when unfolded, good (well, at least not bad) silverware, and a special knife to cut the challah. I do the dishes and clean up the house in honor of the Seraphim who will dwell in our home during the holy Shabbos. But I do not vacuum nor do I do windows. I am afterall heterosexual. May His great name be blessed forever and ever. Blessed, lauded, glorified, extolled, upraised, honored, elevated, and praised be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed be He... I still set Ariel's place at the table. Nobody sits in his chair. He's still a presence as far as we are concerned, and when I give the girls their Shabbos B'rachos I silently whisper Ariel's B'racha. I dash over to the local library to pick up books for our Shabbos reading. The librarians know me well. My best friend there is James, tall, slim, with suffering Renaissance eyes. A very religious Christian, James davens in the AME, Los Angeles' oldest black church. James knew Ariel, always greeted us with a wide and welcoming smile. James remembers my son's delight in checking out books by Avi, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Coville. When Ariel was in serious decline, James prayed for his recovery. Beyond all blessings, songs, praises, and consolations that are uttered on earth. Now respond: Amen.
This Friday at the library, prowling the book shelves, I was slapped by a wave of grief, a surge so mighty that I froze, I simply could not stir. I don't know exactly what brought on this particular convulsion, but it happens so frequently that I'm no longer surprised. Through my tears, I glimpsed a man checking books out at the front desk; he was a bit goofy-looking, wearing ill-fitting shorts, badly furrowed t-shirt and clod-hopper shoes. Unkindly thought to myself: "Oh no, another schizophrenic haunting the library." However, I quickly realized that it was the infamous blogger Luke Ford. I wanted to go over and greet him with: Hello, how are you? Good Shabbos; thank him again for linking me to his website. But my face was bright with tears and mucous was dripping down my nose so I just crouched between the high metal shelves, Fiction: A - D, and waited for the grief to pass. A tiny, doe-eyed Iranian child saw me and pointed, saying: "Mommy, mommy look, why is that man crying?" Mom looked at me in horror, quickly yanked her child away. Obviously she thought I was a mental patient taking refuge in the library. May the prayers and supplications of the entire Family of Israel be accepted by their Father who is in heaven, now respond: Amen. I huddled there and sobbed and thought of all the times Ariel and I had been in the library together. He loved the children's section above all others because so many adult books are, well, too adult and not appropriate for an observant Jew. He loved books and he loved the library and I suppose that here was as good a place as any to dissolve, grieve and remember. May there be abundant peace from heaven, and good life upon ull Israel. Now respond: Amen.
Finally, I managed to collect myself and drive home. Luckily, the Pico- Robertson branch is just two minutes from where I live. I prepared to go to shul. I didn't tell Karen, Lila or Chloe about the emotional onslaught in the library; to what end? After shul, after the Shabbos meal, when we all sat in the living room reading our library books, I gazed at my family -- I affectionately refer to them as The Girlses -- and I said to myself: this is real, this is fact, Ariel is gone, Ariel is gone, and next Shabbos will be exactly the same. He who makes peace in His heights may He in His mercy make peace upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.

6 Comments:

Blogger LukeFord said...

And I thought I had looked rather debonair. I like to stock up on books too prior to Shabbos. I didn't see you. I was too absorbed in my learning.

June 6, 2004 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Cecile Dubois--too lazy to log in I suppose and it wouldn't be appropriate if I logged in as Kotoka. My condolences--I hope you feel better. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by my fleeting emotions. Hope you had a good shabbos the rest of the time--it is supposed to be peaceful and happy. A good book that may lift your spirits is Bill Maher's 'True Story' or Jerzy Konsinksi's 'Being There'--a political satire-speaking of which since you were in the library. Take care.

June 6, 2004 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for the loss of you son. I've been very moved by your grief and your descriptions of Ariel.

June 7, 2004 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Rochelly's Kitchen said...

Hi, Robert
I am totally addicted to your blog. I check it every morning for new articles, and I read your latest on your Friday experience in the library with great sorrow. Again, only the members of your club can truly empathize with what you are going through. Since I have already been where you are headed to, I cannot promise you that you will not have similar incidences even 11 years later (that's how much history I have). The first time is very difficult for every situation, several weeks ago, my two grand-daughters, Tali (the eight year old named after Rochelly), and Devorah, age five had a ballet recital in the auditorium of Prospect Park. The last time I had been there, Rochelly was playing the role of the mayor of the 'Munchkins' in the Wizard of Oz. I forced myself to focus in on my adorable, talented granddaughters, but I could not help substituting them with the vision of how great Rochelly was in her role. I very tightly hugged my 3 year old granddaughter, Gitti, hoping that she, my 12 year old granddaughter or my pregnant daughter would not see the flood of tears rolling down my face that I could not control. I forced myself to focus in on reality, fighting hard to push the memories into the background, where they will stay forever. With many years of hard work, I have become an expert in doing that. I also feel that all of us parents of this exclusive club should win an academy award for fooling the world at how great we are at handling this awful situation. Like I told you when we met, what drove me to work so hard at hiding things so wee was my family and good friends. I promised myself that I will not drive my children and grandchildren away from me by turning into a morbid person. I will not bring Rochelly back no matter how much I cry, but I will alienate and hurt those who matter a lot to me, and in turn also hurt myself. Be strong, concentrate on Karin, the girls and your family and friends that mean a lot to you and you will do fine.
With all my love to you, Karin and the girls,
Surie

July 12, 2004 at 8:13 AM  
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October 31, 2005 at 2:21 PM  
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