Monday, May 08, 2006

Lessons Learned Late ...

It hurts me terribly much that I will not see Ben become a fully mature adult and father. He was still so young when catastrophe suddenly turned our world upside down, and our lives-as we had once lived them, would never again be the same.

I often wonder:

Do parents ever stop worrying about their children? Does there ever come a time when we let go of the worriment? I've done my best. Now's time for them to leave the nest and fly on their own!'

Our Jewish commitment to our children’s future and to that of our children’s children has ever remained a cornerstone of our home that houses our fundamental beliefs and traditions.

What should one do when the premature death of a child deprives us of the chance to forge that one critical link in the chain? What happens to the love that a parent saved exclusively for that child? It is not as if it dries up with the passage of time!

After Ben's death, I intensified my demonstrable love for my other children because I feared the realization of even the remotest possibility that-with so much of my time and energy focused on the tragedy of Ben’s death-even my unconditional love for them would not be
sufficient enough to keep them close. I was not only grieving the loss of Ben but the dreaded
distance that I feared might come between me and my other two children due, in part, to my divorce from their mother and my stubborn adherence to an orthodoxy that honestly was not working for me.

Kimberly’s Wisdom and Memories of
Pesach Past …

I recall a story from my family’s Passover history I shall never forget. Looking back with the clarity of vision only the hindsight of maturation offers, I can see now what I could not have then.

My daughter Kimberly angrily rebuked me citing my zealous pursuit of ritual correctness which, in fact, had not only not enhanced Passover, but succeeded only in spoiling it for her.

By way of background, an almost “kafkaesque” disputation had arisen between her mom and me over a can of “treif”[1] chicken broth! Merely a manifestation of my futile efforts to “kasher”[2] our kitchen to which Kimberly’s mother was totally opposed, I succeeded but only in isolating myself to an even greater extent from within my own family. None of my three children or their mother showed any interest whatever in leading an observant Jewish lifestyle.

Several years later while we were staying at my mother’s house together in St. Louis to celebrate Thanksgiving, Kimberly tearfully explained to me how it was that my manner of dress and overall appearance embarrassed her.

“Why wasn’t I the same dad who used to sing silly songs as she pranced up and down our driveway dressed in her ballet tutu?”

As my loving and caring daughter whose love I would never sacrifice, Kimberly’s impact on me has been without equal. In having helped me to better appreciate the role that moderation plays in matters of religious observance in a family like mine, Kimberly showed me that I was free to choose a path of religious observance, but one that would both include and accommodate my family in general and my children in particular. In effect, it would serve as a blueprint for an approach to Jewish observance moderate in tone and geared to the occasional need for situational compromise.

My mother best summed it all up in a note she wrote that I have kept of all places in my daily prayer book:

"Dear Alan ... remember ... family first!"

[1] non-kosher
[2] to make kosher

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