A Life of a Foolish Old Man

With this, my 822nd article, I begin volume 16. The previous volume 15 has already gone to the printer for binding and now joins the past 14 volumes. My intended goal was 1000, meaning 178 more articles needed to reach that probably impossible goal. My age is fighting against me and it will obviously win the battle.

I cannot remember where I once heard the expression “ain tipaish kmo tipaish zaken”… there is no fool like an old fool, but it suits me well.

A few minutes ago I was lying on my bed before preparing supper for me and Carmit. When she begins her barking routine I know that she is reminding me to fill her food bowl. Yesterday it was chicken. Tonight it will be fish and vegetables. She never complains about my cooking !

As I lie on the bed next to her, I often sing her a soft Yiddish lullabye that I remembered as a very young child like what seems eons ago.

It is simply unbelievable that I can still sing the melody and the words which I heard as a 5 or 6 year old child, sitting on my beloved grandfather’s lap, his hand stroking my hair while he sang between kisses.

He died 77 years ago but he lives on in my heart, mind and memory. While I sing it softly to my Israeli Canaan dog, Atara Carmit, I glance at my grandfather’s photo hanging in a frame on my bedroom wall and I smile.

My late wife and I both shared one strong connection in common. Both of us idolized our grandfathers. Mine was called zaideh and hers was called saba. Both were religious Jews born in close areas to one another… mine in Russia (present day Belarus) and hers in Poland.

My grandfather’s family arrived in Palestine in 1913 and Rahel’s family arrived in pre-state Israel in 1932.

Rahel disliked Yiddish as what she called the language of persecuted Jews (extremely far from the truth considering that Yiddish literature and its writers were more well-read than Hebrew writers). So in our home, Hebrew was the common language.

When we did not want our children to understand what we were saying, we reverted to simple Yiddish or poor Polish. Hers was better than mine because Polish was spoken by her mother, aunts and uncles, all educated in Warszawa. My parents did not speak Polish but Yiddish on my father’s side and German on my mother’s side. An “intermarriage” between Litvaks and Galizianers. I loved the Litval side best.

It is now more than three years since pancreatic cancer took my darling wife of 56 years away from me. My children are grown. My grandchildren have grown. They treat me with an amazing bountiful love. But it is not…and cannot be… like the love I shared with Rahel.

So lying in bed beside me, Carmit allows me to cuddle her, to pat her, to feed her too many treats, to sing to her, all the while both of us are cherishing our togetherness.

Rahel loved Carmit and she would approve of the attention I give her. She always fed our dogs before we ate our own meals. “Tzar baalei chayim” was her motto. Kindness to animals is a God-given command.

With all the attention we share with one another, my kisses on her cold nose are never reciprocated to one on my hands. Too much , I imagine,to expect for an 86 year foolish old man from a 6 year old dog !

While my present memory often has its lapses, the memories of my early childhood years are as vivid as if it were only today or yesterday.

Often when I walk from my bedroom to the kitchen I forget what I was looking for. Frequently when I am in the supermarket I forget what I came to buy. “Make a written list”, my daughter reminds me.

Easy to say but what if I forget where I put the list???

Ahh… the alleged golden years are becoming rusty. Thank God I can still share them with treasured friends in Rishon Lezion and with my beloved surviving family in Ramat HaSharon. Where would I be without them?

World news and in particular the not-so-happy news in Israel encompasses me for much of a day and with it I do not feel so completely alone. But much of the current Israeli news only adds to my aches and pains !

My strength declines and even walking with a cane does not always prevent me from losing my balance.

Perhaps readers of my age could offer their welcome suggestions of how to live a more fulfilling life as the years pass.

I chastise poor Carmit sometimes. She is a sabra, born in Jerusalem, and I often ask her why she does not bark in Hebrew.

She looks up at me and is probably thinking “ain tipaish kmo tipaish zaken”… ain’t no fool like an old fool.

She is probably right. She’ll get an extra portion of gefilte fish in honor of a shabbat shalom.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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