On a recent mission to get rid of some junk that had been accumulating, I came across three projects that my children wrote about interviews they had conducted with their grandparents. I reread them, this time more carefully than the first. I laughed and cried, learned new things and had many questions. But, of course, it was too late to get any answers.
I am so grateful to the schools that developed these Jewish ancestry projects. At least I have these bits and pieces of information. At least my children, and now my grandchildren, have these memories and experiences. But it is not really enough, as there are so many questions and no one left to ask.
I do not know my mom’s nickname, when my parents went on their first date or how on earth my Orthodox grandfather, the great Rabbi Joshua Baumol, author of Emek Halakha, a two-volume book of Jewish law, allowed my father to go dancing with my mother. How did my Hungarian mother end up with a Galitzianer rabbi’s son, anyway?
I remember much of my wonderful early years in my grandparents’ homes, but there is so much more I want to know. And perhaps even more frustrating, there is so much I want to tell my own parents. I know they were proud of me – the daughter who went to university and got a doctorate. But I never told them how much they taught me. I never had the opportunity. In truth, I never took the time. Now it’s too late.
I was fortunate, in that, before my father died, I wrote to him to tell him how much I loved him and that I was proud to be his daughter. Before my mom died, I also had the opportunity to talk with her and tell her that I love her. But it was not enough. It’s never enough.
This feeling that it’s too late permeates my thinking lately. So much has happened that I have not fully grasped. There is so much that I will never be able to see or accomplish. I know it is a factor of my age and my situation. Life does not stretch out in front of me endlessly.
I appreciate that my columns have been somewhat dark as of late. I prefer to think of these pieces as thoughtful reflections on fitting life questions. The feeling that it is too late is a wake-up call for us all. It serves to challenge us, so that we are aware of the passage of time; so that we can confront those events and relationships we wish to recognize or prolong.
I thus want to publicly tell my children how proud I am of them. They redeem life for me. I’d also like to inform some of my friends that they have eased my life over the past few years. I don’t think I could have made it through the stresses and strains without them. I have learned so much from all of them.
Recently, a dear friend of mine died. (Does it upset you that I used the word “died”? I know many people use the euphemism “passed away.” But I dislike understatements and avoidances. We all must face death. It actually is a part of life. If we refuse to acknowledge this reality, we just end up wasting time.)
I wanted to tell him how much his friendship meant to me. He taught me to use humour, good will and generosity. We teased each other and argued and laughed. I will miss all that. It is too late to tell him. But I did get the chance to tell him at the very end that I loved him, and I thank God that it was not too late for that.