Monday, November 10, 2003

i look

three red bumps plotted on my face like the vertices of a triangle. glasses. hair parted straight down the center, pulled straight back into a ponytail. i don't know how many days i will wear these clothes. i only expected (packed) for a weekend.

family trickles in by plane, train, car, phone. everyone murmurs, feeds each other. when the need strikes each of us, we move to a different room in my grandparents' apartment and face a different wall, a different window. or sometimes. we hold each other. the rabbi comes when called, surprising pleasing me, and stays, encouraging my grandfather's stories. for the rabbi's sake, my grandfather speaks more than he has all day and in a stronger voice. he likes to say the word, to call him simply "Rabbi." the rabbi listens until the tape in the player runs out. he speaks to my grandfather with respect, not the way you fear people will speak to a man in the last stages of cancer.

the siddur sits open on the kitchen counter to the "viddui" page.

my father sits open in the kitchen dressed for the yeshiva, white button down shirt, dark pants, dark kippah, reading, not the New York Times, but "Psalms." he says things in yiddish to my grandfather, who answers in kind.

deli, chinese in the fridge. i make tea. everyone loses it but no one really does. it is as though we carry ourselves in our fists. politics. movies. a day passes, a full day, not just the time between lunch and dinner. there is no lunch and dinner. there is tea, deli, chinese. coffee cake. my grandmother tells me gently i made the tea too strong. i make more.

inevitably, because the family has gathered, it feels like a celebration. we make jokes. we suggest movies to see. we try to watch the english patient but who has patience for it even outside of this apartment? my grandmother amazes me. my uncle amazes me. everyone amazes me. my father, my mother. my grandfather tells the rabbi, She'll be America's Poet Laureate someday.

he is conscious, at least for now. he knows who he is, who we are, if not who we'll be. of course, he amazes me. the rabbi asks him, Do you want me to read the viddui, the confessional? my grandfather says, Not yet.

No comments: