In Hebrew, rather than saying goodbye, it is customary to use the phrase L’hitraot which means – see you again. I love the optimism of that term and the implication that no matter what the circumstance when parting, we will reunite soon. The reality might be a bit more complex in a Covid world. I am sitting down to write this with less than 24 hours until my flight and I am cognizant that seeing those I have been saying L’hitraot to these past few days has a longer horizon than I prefer.
No goodbye was more emotional and heart wrenching than the one I had with my father yesterday. My Abba is the single greatest influence in my life. I assure you he would have preferred to share that impact on me with my mom who I mentioned in an earlier post passed away when I was fourteen. Instead he has had to be both a mother and a father to me for forty three of my fifty seven years. It is difficult enough to fill the parental role you are naturally given, taking on a second more difficult one is Herculean. I didn’t always make it easy for him and frankly he too had the hiccups of on the job training along the way but as I told him before we parted, I have had much joy in my life and chief among that is being his son.
Abba has a wickedly sharp sense of humor and having read previous posts in this series cautioned me not to write about him as if he had one foot in the next world, so I am not going to prematurely eulogize him. Besides, he is the eternal optimist and Covid permitting he’s planning on visiting Israel in April after yet another great grandchild is born, he has fourteen so far (I’m pretty sure someone will check my math and correct me soon).
As a mechanech, a Jewish educator, I had to share him over the years with thousands of other children but that always seemed natural. I’m going to miss the physical accessibility to him but technology allows me to still seek his advice 24/6 even if I only get to see the bottom of his face on our video chats. He’s not completely technologically challenged but he needs improvement on his camera placement. The departure yesterday was filled with tears and one highly regulated, gloved embrace. My father likes to often chide me saying that I have more mazal than saychel – more luck than brains. But in one thing I reverse the beration on him; his wife. I leave him in great hands. Their marriage would have been unlikely at earlier stages in their lives but God knows what She’s doing and put them together at just the right time. It was definitely not goodbye to either of them but L’hitraot.
I leave behind a brother, sister and their respective spouses who have played a plethora of roles in my life in addition to being siblings. I am indebted to them in so many ways and though I am leaving the country I am not abandoning my responsibilities to them. While I am cognizant that I have been a good brother to them as well (and their kids’ hands down favorite uncle) they were there for me when I was most vulnerable. Leaving them does not come easily.
Growing up I shared a room with another brother who moved to Israel some forty years ago. Despite the physical distance we remain close. Now we will be physically close once again and my mission is to torture him with the same ferocity he did me. The impact of this move on his life and his kids is not lost on me. He and his children celebrated countless holidays over the years without aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents. That’s going to change now. I am looking forward to that.
As I get older I have come to recognize more and more that true friends will always be just that. Our closeness varies depending on the circumstances in our lives but the connection never fades. I had a few tear filled L’hitraots these past weeks with some dear friends but I refuse to believe that anything more than an ocean separates us.
Now I need to get down to tachlis – reality! I’ve got a couple of bags to weigh then load in my brother’s car. There are still some last minute technical things I have to deal with. Then I have to steel my nerves for what I am sure will be an experience with Israeli bureaucracy that would try those with saintly patience. Well, patience is a virtue I lack, that’s why I suppose, God created pharmaceutical products.
In Hebrew we bless those embarking on a new journey to go me’chayil l’chayil – from strength to strength. There are times in life when events dictate to you like Covid is doing now. I am doing all that’s in my strength to take back some of that control and narrative. The next journey begins coincidentally on my wife and my 34th wedding anniversary. So for now, L’hitraot.