Tonight, the second night of Chanukah is the night my parents used to celebrate their anniversary.
I miss them.
I miss my father’s reticence. I miss my mother’s loudness. In so many ways they were mismatched. My dad liked to stay at home, was content to read, to listen to Yiddish radio, to write long ambering airmail letters to his parents, who ironically, lived here. My mother liked to be surrounded by people, by her girlfriends, as she called them. She liked to go out, to see new things. She liked to gossip about celebrities, to laugh loudly and to use foul language. (Gosh, she sounds just like me).
Most of the time they made it work.
My parents left their own families behind in Argentina to look for a different life in America. I think they understood our desire to move. What I didn’t know was how familiar they must have been with the pain.
I guess when you decide to move far away when you’re younger, say in your twenties, you don’t think much about your parent’s aging. I didn’t move to Israel in my twenties, I moved here in my forties. My parents were already dealing with some health issues when we left. Still, I thought I knew what I was in for.
And yet, as in so many things we experience in this lifetime, you can know something in your head, but you really know nothing until you live it.
All of life’s universal experiences boil down to my own.
The distance. The phone calls. The questions. The wondering. The guilt.
You’re just not there. Until you are, if you are, always wondering if it’s enough, knowing that it never could be.
You do alot of negotiating with yourself when they live so far away. Calculating time and distance and money. You think about your spouse and your kids and your job. Sometimes it boils down to a spur of the moment decision to drop everything and go. And sometimes it’s a decision not to.
My father died as he lived, quietly, and with dignity. I was proud and happy that I was able to be with him at that last moment. It was one of the saddest, difficult and most poignant moments of my life.
I wasn’t there when my mother died, and in essence it was by choice. I knew I couldn’t bare to see my loud, vibrant mother so….reduced. I allowed myself to let my siblings carry that burden without me. I carry my own, different burden here.
I have no regrets about moving here. It’s my destiny, a destiny of my own volition and creation. I’m pretty sure my parents understood that. When I moved to Israel, I knew what I was in for.
I just didn’t realize how soon it would happen.