It’s been almost half a year since you left your loved ones here and rejoined your Creator in heaven. Half a year and I haven’t mourned you properly. Half a year and I haven’t really processed what it means that you’re gone. You see Zayda, I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately.
Almost a week before you died, Mom called me to let me know that you were dying. The doctors didn’t know exactly how much time you had left, but they gave it a maximum of two weeks or so. I wanted to get on a plane and fly the 12 hours so I could see you one last time, but I also knew that there was a time coming up when my family would need me more, so I played a dangerous game – waiting for the doctors to give you a 48 hour window, so I could be there both to say goodbye to you and to comfort my mom and Bubby. That week was one of the most miserable weeks I’d ever experienced up until then. I’d never lost a relative before. I didn’t know what it would be like. I didn’t know if I would miss my chance to talk to you one last time face-to-face. I didn’t know if I could make it on time. The worrying made me feel sick. I filled my days memorizing flight schedules, always waiting with a packed suitcase so I could leave at a moment’s notice.
On Wednesday afternoon I got a phone call from Mom: The doctors give you a maximum of two days to live. This was it – the time I had been awaiting all week. I repacked my suitcase and went online to price out the cheapest ticket. The pressure from the last few days had built up to a nauseating climax. I felt sick to my stomach. I was losing my grandfather.
By the evening I was ready to go… minus the plane tickets. I had found the next flight I could make, plugged in my passport and personal information, and the computer was telling me that my booking was a click away from completion. All I had to do was submit my payment information. I couldn’t do it. I called Mom and tearfully told her why I wouldn’t be able to make it to say goodbye to you, attend your funeral, or support the family during shiva:
“Mommy, I’m pregnant.”
Maybe under normal circumstances I’d have known about it earlier in the week. Maybe I’d have seen the nausea for was it really was. Instead, I attributed it to the prospect of losing you. I had only taken a home-pregnancy test that very morning. I hadn’t yet done the blood tests to confirm, I hadn’t yet found a doctor I liked, and I certainly didn’t know the first thing about pregnancy. All I knew is that an hour earlier I had vomited for the first time this pregnancy, and feeling the way I was feeling, I could not fathom spending 12 hours trapped in an aluminum tin, hurtling through the air. Additionally, the last thing I wanted was to be a burden on my family during their time of mourning. If I flew in, I’d have to suck it up and support them, and I didn’t think myself capable of doing that. And so I tearfully closed the window. There would be no saying goodbye to you, seeing you one last time, thanking you for the wonderful memories and support you’ve shown me, or telling you that I love you.
A few hours later, you passed away. Mom didn’t have a chance to tell you that I was pregnant, but I like to think that you knew anyway – that once I spoke the words out loud, they traveled through space to your subconscious. And maybe that’s why you let go. You knew that there was going to be a Jewish continuation of your lineage, that life was continuing in this endless circle.
My first trimester was miserable, but I kept telling myself that you were up in heaven watching over me. That whatever G-d had in store for me, everything would turn out alright because you were being my advocate. That you would make sure nothing happened to this little fetus – your future great-grandchild. Even when I was in so much pain and discomfort and sure that something must be wrong, or when I was so miserable I just wanted all of this to end, I felt you there encouraging me on.
I miss you Zayda. People might not see it on the surface, but you influenced and shaped my life in so many ways that are precious to me. I credit you with bestowing in me a love for nature. You took me to The Island when I was 9 years old, and you invited me back each summer thereafter. Together we’d sit and watch the sunsets and the ocean waves for hours on end, never for a moment getting bored. As a therapist you always wanted to help people, but you always viewed yourself as a hidden artist. Your love for art may not have been passed on to me, but your artistic senses certainly did, in addition to your love of beauty and your need to capture it visually. You bought me my first 35mm camera when I was just a kid. A few years later you bought me a more advanced one. It became apparent that I loved photography, and you were always there to nurture that love. You bought me my first digital point-and-shoot camera when I first came to Israel, and then you bought me my dSLR when I registered for a photography course in college. Every time I showed you a photograph that I was particularly proud of, you’d respond with your lazy, “Hmmm… That’s pretty.” And every time I came to visit you in America, you’d ask me if I’d taken any more pretty pictures lately.
I miss the fun times we had together when I was younger. I miss going swimming with you and Bubby each time I came for a visit. I miss the Pesach seders that you “led.” I miss watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune with you at dinner-time. I miss the way you cheated at Scrabble (“Archichoke?” Really?). I miss your endless clutter (yeah, I inherited that gene too), and your countless pockets that were always overflowing with junk, which you had sewn into everything. I miss the lazy/casual way you’d say, “Hmmmm,” in response to anything. I miss the way you’d stand out everywhere you went because of your long, white beard, and how you’d always make such interesting friends because of it. I miss sitting on your lap as a little girl, braiding your beard like a troll doll’s (your beard took so much abuse from me).
I miss you, and I’m sorry that your great-grandchild won’t ever know you. I know you’d have had a great time together, especially because you loved kids so much. (Non-Jewish kids in your neighborhood always thought you were Santa because of your beard, and rather than let them down, you got in the habit of walking around with candy in your pockets to give out any time a kid ran over to you.)
I’m sorry I haven’t been more present in your life these last few years. It’s hard when you live halfway around the world.
I’m sorry I didn’t send you more artwork and photos of pretty things for you to “Hmmmm” at.
I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Thank you for watching over us these last few months, helping us get through the worst of this pregnancy unscathed.
I love you Zayda, and I miss you terribly.
You will always be in my heart.
Anna (AKA: Kitty)