Zaideh died when I was only eight years old. How do I remember every single one of the songs which he sang…lullabies, folk-songs and holiday songs.?
Zaideh died in 1941 but I cannot let his melodies die. I am the last surviving member of my family who knew him. But his melodies have passed along to my children who sing them loudly at the Passover seder table and in front of the kindled Chanukah lights.
Perhaps I was four or five years old. Zaideh sat me on his lap, one arm around my small waist and another stroking the blond curls on my head. And he began to sing a Yiddish melody which he had created just for me. Can you hear him? I’ll tell him to sing louder so that you can hear and enjoy.
“Hop, Hop. Hop. A gezunten kop. A gezunten kop ein wieder a gezunt auf allen glieder. A genzunten kop……….” Please join with me in the final words… “Hop, Hop , Hop.” Thank you. I can hear you.
Zaideh wished good health and blessings upon my head and to all the bones in my body.
You must think I am mad. Now almost eighty years later, I am still haunted by zaideh’s voice and words.
If so, it is all due only to the burning love we had for one another. Zaideh’s son, my father, once explained to me that his father had thirteen grandchildren but I was the one he most loved. How then, could I ever have let the words he sang to me die when he died?
I will cry loudly, tears falling. when I light the yahrzeit (memorial) candle for him on the 21st of the month of Shevat (this year on Sunday, 16 March). I am the sole survivor of Zaideh’s grandchildren. Who will light the candles, who will sing his songs, when I no longer walk the earth?
Will zaideh die a second time when I die? I take sweet solace knowing that his voice and melodies will be heard on Pesach and Chanukah. The Maoz Tzur and the Had Gadya will be heard through the voices of my three children and hopefully through the voices of their children.
Long dead is the singer but his songs are still sung.
I am a prisoner to my sentiments. I treasure the memories. I remember every hug and every kiss. And I weep many tears that I cannot experience them physically.
Although my Rahel died four years ago she lives on within me and within my three children and three grandchildren.
At our Shabbat and holiday table, her seat remains empty. At her place is her framed photo..the last photo taken during the terrible illness which took her life away from us. And next to her photo are live plants, symbols of life growing.
After I have finished birkat ha mazon and sang the last words of Yom Zeh Mechubad, I pick up the framed picture, I kiss it, I wish her a Shabbat shalom.. a sabbath of peace and of rest… and I cry…..and I cry.
My younger daughter chastises me every Shabbat. “Ima would not want you to cry on shabbat”.
But I cannot restrain the tears from falling. She and zaideh were the two greatest loves in my life. My life is one of tortured memory without being able to hold them, to kiss them and to tell them how much I love them.
I am reminded by sympathetic friends that life must go on. It is not within our powers to prevent it.
Rahel did not sing any particular melodies to me. Her melodies were transformed into her beautiful words of love. I don’t remember any of Zaideh’s words. He left me his songs and melodies in their place.
But every night of our fifty-six years together, Rahel would repeat the same words:
“Laila tov. Chalomot n’eimim. Chalomot paz. Ani ohevet otcha”… Good night. Pleasant dreams. Golden dreams. I love you”.
I regret that I cannot set her words to music.
Today, I received a wonderful gift from reader and fellow writer Shira Pasternak in Jerusalem. She informed me that today I was selected as #1 most popular writer for an earlier article “Miracle on Dan Bus #4” which has been read, I am told, by almost 200,000 readers.
The sentiment has overwhelmed me and when I read Shira’s message I wept tears of joy. I tried to reprint her message, unsuccessfully, to frame for my surviving family. At least I was #1 in something good in my 87 years of life. No Nobel Prize but many Noble friends.
And as 87 will be in a few short weeks, I consider Shira’s kind words as an early birthday present.
Now… if only zaideh could hug me and cover my head and cheeks with his wet kisses and with another round of “Hop, Hop, Hop”, it would be an extra-special birthday gift.
But I guess I’ll have to sing his lullaby to myself.