Thursday, September 1, 2011
Writer's Workshop: What I Remember
I can remember the outside of her building, but not the lobby or the hallway.
I can remember what it felt like walking into her apartment, but don't actually have pictures of the inside. The only ones that exist are filed away in my mind.
I can even remember the smells. Chicken soup on the stove. Probably my dad's, but she prepared it as if it were her own.
I remember tootsie rolls. In her purse. Always.
I can remember the days she would sit on the couch. At my parents' house. My house. Teaching me the Yiddish words for the parts of my face.
Eyes. Mouth ... mouth. Why can't I remember the word for mouth?
Her smile. Eyes sparkling. Cheekbones high. I have them, too. My father's. His mother's. I don't see them on my daughter, but my niece carries them well. They live on.
Her perfectly kept hair. Her kerchief. Several. I still have some.
And then, when she no longer remembered.
I can see her crunched up in her apartment. Fighting. Battling. Behind a door? In the bathroom? I can't place her. I know it happened. I feel like I was there. I believe it. And yet ...
We moved her to a home. The most difficult experience our family had weathered. She walked at first. We walked the halls with her. Keeping her mobile. Her strength unwavering. She never let go of our hands.
We sang. In whispers. So as not to disturb the other residents.
** Side note: omg, I was trying to find some Yiddish spelling and I found one song, in complete written Yiddish lyric and translation. I am sitting here holding my breath as tears fill my eyes. **
When she could no longer walk, we pushed her wheelchair around the nursing home hallways.
Still singing. Or my father would push as we held her hands. My brother and I. Or my mother and I. G-d, she held on so tightly. Even when her body refused to allow us to know that she recognized us. Even on those days when her eyes betrayed what we knew was there. Her hands. Her grasp. The grip she held on us proved the rest of her wrong. She knew us. She held onto us with all her might. Those last years. So so many years. She fought and held on. We went every weekend. My father nearly every night. He'd swing home and pick me up to bring me with him. I needed to be there, too.
Amazingly enough, in all that she could not remember, she knew the words to the songs of her childhood. Of her life. She knew the Pledge. Yes, seriously.
I miss her terribly. And I think about her often. There is so much more to her story that I haven't even touched on here. How she traveled from Israel with her husband and two children - by boat - to the United States. With a stop in Italy (Italy!) for a few months. All after living in Germany and having her son (my father) there. There is so much more to say. So much I don't even know. I just know I miss her. And that my daughter will always know she carries her name - - her middle name is after my grandmother. My Bubby.
And I'll forever think of her when I say the words: "I pledge allegiance, to the flag ..." because this was her America. Her words. To become a citizen of one of the greatest countries on earth. And this month I need to remind myself of that. And I think of her. And I remember.