Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pesachdik Meanderings: The Tenth Plague

It is something we say twice every year when we retell the story in the Haggadah Shel Pesach[1] of our redemption from Egyptian bondage. I refer here to the "ma kas b'choros".[2] It was the last in a series of ten, as if God were saving the 'best' (read: the very WORST!) for last. By the time of the tenth plague, there should have been no doubters as to the identity of the Master of the Universe!

Though uncertain about the reason(s) for which God chose the firstborn of Egypt, it is clear that He did so with purpose- for what does He do without ... ? Perhaps the demonstration that He could take certain lives with "surgical precision" rather than indiscriminately slaying everyone ... would be the final proof to Pharoah that he was like anyone else, merely 'basar v' dam', flesh and blood! Was his son not smitten too?

Our first-born possesses a unique quality that distinguishes him from his siblings. While there must have been some Egyptian families with one child only, the inference that there were typically others seems clear by the use of the adjective "first", an ordinal number denoting rank of birth. The second child, the third ... were not slain!

Our first-born child arrives at a time in our lives when we are still young (er) ourselves, nearer the point in time when we were once the "children" of parents. Our “bechor”[3] is often born to us in our youth. Should that child die before we do, it is as if a part of ourselves dies too ... the remnant of our youth, our own childhood.

[1] Story of the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt

[2] the slaying of the first born

[3] first-born child

Monday, April 10, 2006

'Bedikas chametz' in My Memories of Ben

Reflections often lead to self-doubt ... self-doubt may lead one to guilt; all the 'might have beens' plague me at times, refusing simply to leave me alone.

'I did my job and I did it well' ... I often tell myself though there are things I would have tried to do differently.

I still struggle with my role in Ben's life even after five years since his passing, and I suspect I will always remain very close to these ruminations ... I guess it to be my own compromise with having to 'move on', as it were, with my life but never forgetting the life that was once Ben's ... my own 'basar v' dam', my own flesh and blood.

There are some inherent problems however ...

As Ben's dad, I typically blurred the line between my parental obligation to care for my son and his evolving self-reliance.

'Ben, I made many mistakes ... though my intent was good, I failed you often!'

On the other hand, this may describe a fairly common parental predicament.

Parenting a healthy child is by its very nature fraught with difficulties. Chronic illness exacerbates the inherent difficulty. My principle worriment during all those years was his diabetes, and whether that terrifying and often subtle but always persistent reality would ever allow him to live life well as a self-sustaining adult.

'Ben, who'd be there for you in the middle of the night if and when you became hypoglycemic? Could you have lived on your own even with well-regulated blood sugars?'

Ben often struggled with and rebelled against good diabetes management and suffered from a long history of hypoglycemic seizures especially in the early morning hours.

Ben, you often spoke of Daniel as a roommate and though fabulous friend he was ... could I realistically count on him or anyone else to be there in my place?

Very understandably, Ben often spoke of his desire to have his own apartment. Nothing scared me more! Just maybe Ben was scared too ...

How I still wish to this day that it could have been so easy!

All I ever wanted for Ben was normalcy, only that life's bitter side leave him alone, that it let him be!

It never did.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Five Years Ago

When I look back down the road this year on the fifth anniversary of Ben’s death,
I wonder if I will still be able to glimpse his countenance from a distance of 1,825 days.

Remembering is difficult when we have forgotten where we last saw the notepad.

(This may explain the reason for which our offices are so cluttered by the collections of sticky notes that festoon our computer monitors.)

Ben was no different in this respect than anyone else.

Although he might not have understood his own nature, which meant living for the moment, he was nevertheless a remarkable person of the "present tense whose wristwatch" read:

“is” rather than either
“was” or “will be”.

Something about this fifth anniversary seems to have triggered a “melancholia” that I feel ... perhaps best explained by the arrival of the yahrzeit[1] notices from the funeral home, my shul and the “chevra kadisha”[2]-reminders of feelings which become more acute as another anniversary approaches of that

dreadful day.

For the first time, I have chosen to remain unshaven during the whole of this bitter month as a visible reminder of the difficulty of this time of year as if to magnify the sadness I feel ...

not so much that I am getting older,

but that Ben isn’t.

He remains forever young.

[1] The observance of the anniversary of a death.
[2] Jewish Sacred Society