Monday, October 30, 2006

Comforting ...

Should it happen to befall us to see our children in pain, the frightening dilemma of how best to cope with that horrendous reality challenges and exhausts our parental reserves of common faith and shared strength all too quickly.

Notwithstanding the wellness of their marriages, parents can manage such a burden effectively by remaining exclusively focused on the well-being of their child while permitting the intrusion of no other issues.

Words oftentimes do not convey the depth of our feelings in every instance.

Nothing quite as empathic as a tender hug is as capable of transforming pain and suffering into a shared experience-and thereby making even the most painful of moments a bit more bearable.

The Accident …

Several weeks after nearly suffering a fatal traffic accident, Ben began to suffer severe shortness of breath, walking difficulty and chest pain.

The surgeon diagnosed Ben with pneumonia and advised us that she had no other choice but to recommend immediate lung surgery.

Her recommendation coincided with the time in my marriage to Ben’s mom after we had sunk to our lowest depth ever-having virtually no contact with each other for several months. Though we continued to live together under the same roof, the surgeon’s diagnosis and recommendation served to exascerbate an already dire situation.

Ben's mom used to say she no longer recognized me as the same man whom she had known. Had you seen my appearance at the time, you might have concurred with the reasons for which she felt the way she did.

Thinking it would be possible and appropriate to accelerate the pace of my religious growth by a mere change in my appearance, I dressed myself in the “uniform” of some, but not all, observant men, which included: a dark suit, white shirt, tie, kippah
[1] and black fedora.

All this while I was struggling simultaneously to adopt the stringencies of a kosher lifestyle.

I failed in the end.

Mr. Parker, Z’L.

Choosing to ignore an admonition given to me by a dear friend that I was spending too much time in the synagogue rather than at home with my family, I refused to heed his advice-no matter that it had come from an older and wiser man.

In recalling my special friend
[2] who among many acts of friendship took the time to teach me the fundamentals of “siddur, tallis and tefillin,”[3] I am most grateful to him for having shown me the path he thought best though I chose not to take it at the time

Mr. Irwin Parker, Issur ben Avrum, emigrated to America after the second world war in the early 1950s. Though he survived Mauthausen,
[4] his family did not, but a handful of souls among the incalculable “kedoshim”.[5]

Beginning his life over again once settled here in America, Mr. Parker soon remarried and raised a second family. A tougher yet kinder and gentler soul I don’t think I had ever met.
An Unbridgeable Distance

Standing by his bedside where he lay recovering after his surgery, Ben's mom and I bore witness to his wrenching pain. Although he fought back mightily, his cries were heart piercing.

"Ben ... be strong, son! Even stronger!" I implored.

How awkward it felt saying these words to Ben as if he were not already doing precisely that!

How awful it is to see one's child in pain!

Ben’s mom left the room. I found her in the family waiting lounge just steps away. Quietly weeping, she stood by the window just staring out. I wanted very much to comfort her, but I dare not! I did not think she would have wanted me to touch her, to hug her! As she often said back then, I was no longer the same man whom she had once known and loved.

So there we were, the two of us, Ben's mom and dad, not ten feet away from each other, but it might well have been hundreds of miles … tragically unable to offer each other even the slightest comfort for our son’s suffering, our suffering-common but not shared!

[1] skullcap worn by observant Jewish men.
[2] Mr. Parker bore an uncanny resemblance to my maternal grandfather, Harry Austin.
[3] Prayer book, prayer shawl and phylacteries
[4] Nazi concntration camp located in Austria.
[5] Holy martyrs

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