| Calligraphy |

The Good Fight

Run for Refuah and Save a Life, the banner reads. Nice. I hover over the Click to Sponsor tab, and my eye catches something else

The next time the good, neighborly women of the Los Angeles Ladies Auxiliary (yes, they willingly call themselves LALA) invite me to a singles’ event, I’m going to get a T-shirt made up beforehand. It’s going to say Just So You Know, My Life is Awesome. And yes, it will be in size XL.

And maybe neon green, just for kicks.

Not that anyone would believe me. Apparently, being an overweight older single doesn’t translate as awesome. The thing is, I don’t actually care. I love my job, my roommate is the sister I never had — okay, I have three sisters, she’s just the sister I actually get along with — and our apartment, with its wood paneled floors, skylights, and island kitchen, is my happy place.

Yeah, ‘cause that will fly at the next 15-year-old cousin’s wedding. I’m kidding, she’s 19, but still. Babies raising babies and all that.

Retail therapy, here I come. Oh, but first, actual therapy.

“It’s not that I feel the need to prove anything to the world,” I explain to Sarah, my wonderful, amazing therapist. “It’s more that I want to punch the next person who tells me that if I lose weight, my prospects will start flooding in. I mean, A, I’m healthy. I asked the doctor. Yeah, I can lose weight if I want, but he said everything is great. And B, why, why, why is getting married contingent on being a size zero? I have an amazing job, I’m smart, funny, talented—”

“Humble,” Sarah chimes in.

See why I love her?

“That too.” I flash my dimples. “So why did Rebbetzin Cohen redt me to the boy working behind the counter in the 7-Eleven on Pico Boulevard? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I explicitly said I’m looking for a half-day learner. And we all know 7-Eleven is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“So you feel that based on the way people perceive you, they’re not hearing you?”


“And do you think they’ll hear you better if they perceive you differently?”

I’m quiet, which is quite rare. “Yeah, I guess so,” I say at last.

“So what are you going to do about it?”

I don’t have an answer.

  

Zara is quiet this time of day. I finger a linen peasant skirt and then skip right to the loose-fitting dresses. Kay, it’d be nice to just pick up a skirt and be able to buy it. But that’s not how Hashem made me, folks. I take a handful of dresses, head to the fitting room, and bump right into my mom.

Oh boy.



“You look so good!”

It’s the tone of surprise that always gets me.

“Thanks, Ma.” I peek at her pile. Yup, linen peasant skirt’s lying right there on top. I’m out.

  

Phone calls soliciting funds are not my favorite. Phone calls soliciting funds when I’m trying to mope on the couch are even worse.

“Hi! Shosh? It’s Leah Klein.”

Leah, my aunt Chavi’s daughter? Cute. An image of a freckled brunette pops into my mind.

“My school will be joining the annual New York Women-Only Run for Refuah Marathon. Would you want to sponsor me?”

Good game plan, kiddo, call the rich older single.

“Sure, Leah. Email me the info, okay?”

She thanks me breathlessly and hangs up. Less than a minute later, my phone pings. Ahh, the enthusiasm of youth.

I click on it lazily, and an image of some very fit frum women punching the air triumphantly fills my screen.


Run for Refuah and Save a Life, the banner reads. Nice. I hover over the Click to Sponsor tab, and my eye catches something else. One tab over. Become a Runner.

I try to remember the last time I ran. I think me and Shloimy Finkelstein from next door were having a race from the driveway to the backyard. I’m pretty sure we were both still in Morah Brachi’s kindergarten, and I’m also pretty sure he won.

I click anyway.

Join the team as a Runner for Refuah!

The run will take place on December 15th, beginning in Staten Island and finishing in Brooklyn.

Get sponsored for the 26.2 miles, and bring awareness to Refuah New York’s special mission. Register below if you would like to stay in the New York Marriott with other runners. Dinner provided, under the auspices of Rav Zelig Leiber.

I close the screen as quickly as possible to ensure that no one sees me looking at something that encourages physical activity for 26.2 miles. I have a reputation to keep up. I’m reaching for the ice cream — low-fat, obviously — when my phone pings.

Hi sweetheart, was great to see you today.

Wanted to run shidduch by you. Mrs. Grant’s son.

Was married to Esther Miller.

Full stop. Nope. Did. Not. Happen. My own mother did not just redt me to a divorced man at the ripe old age of 27.

Rewind, replay, nu-uh.

I throw the ice cream across the coffee table. It slides right over the edge and spills all over my pretty wooden floors.

Staring at the slowly growing puddle, I fight down rising nausea. Flicking open my screen, I click back onto the Run for Refuah site, and before I can change my mind, I select the Become a Runner tab. And just like that, I’m running for Refuah.

  

I’m pretty sure Ma doesn’t believe me, but at this point, I’m beyond caring. The marathon is taking place two months after Succos; I figure I’ll head down to Aunt Chavi’s for Yom Tov — such a shame I’ll miss out on Succos with my younger siblings and their spouses and babies — and then stay for the next two months to, uh, practice? Rehearse? Train? Whatever the word is when you teach yourself how to run. Because that’s what I’ll be doing. Sorry, can’t go out with Mrs. Grant’s son, Ma. Got a marathon to run.

Thank G-d I’m indispensable to my job and have around 60 sick and vacation days just waiting for me to cash ‘em in. Although I was kind of hoping to spend them on a trip to Israel. Or Cancun. Running a marathon and freezing in New York was never on my bucket list. Or, you know, in my nightmares.

But first: the perfect workout wardrobe. Now we’re talking my language.

  

The thing about the Yamim Noraim as an older single is that most of the Yom Tov, I’m as dry as a sandbox. I say the words, I klap al cheit and sway along with the niggunim. But inside, all I can think is: Not another year of stupid suggestions, please G-d, no. And then Nei’lah comes, and I begin to panic. And when everyone breaks out in a triumphant rendition of L’shanah haba’ah Birushalayim, that’s when I finally cry. Half because the pain that I push down every day has finally bubbled out and half because I’m afraid that I’ve just wasted the most important day of the year. Either way, I’m relieved to be back in the mundane, eating sourdough rolls spread with cream cheese and packing while Ruti, my roommate, keeps up a running commentary of all the amazing things I need to do in New York.

“Oh, gosh, is it going to be freezing?” I wonder aloud.

Ruti checks her weather app. “Cold compared to L.A., but not freezing.”

Uch. “What if I have Seasonal Affective Disorder?”

Ruti pokes me. “And what if you’re just plain SAD?”

Nice, Ruti, really nice.

I take her favorite Hard Tail cardigan and stuff it into my suitcase, as payback. We’re both singing along with Mordechai Shapiro when my phone rings.

“Hi, Ma, a gut yahr,” I say magnanimously.

“A gut yahr, sweetheart.” Ma clears her throat. “Shosh, Zeidy’s not doing well.”

I’m so out of the family loop, it takes me a minute to comprehend what Ma has just said. Zeidy, big, tall, strong Zeidy, is not doing well? And as the oldest grandchild, why do I not know about this?

“What does that mean? I thought he’s past the pneumonia.”

Ma clears her throat again. “We’re not really sure. It might be a lingering infection. Chavi went to visit erev yuntiff, and he was… in bed.”

I try to think if I’ve ever seen Zeidy in bed. I draw a blank. “Did he go to shul?”


I freeze. Zeidy is the rav of a small shul geared to professionals; every doctor, lawyer, and accountant within five blocks of his big Brooklyn house attends. That shul is his baby, his love. When Bubby was nifteres, ten years ago, he was back the day after shivah, more bent and aged than he’d been seven days before, but there.

“Ma! I don’t understand.” I hear a shuffling and it takes me a minute to realize Ma is crying.

“Neither do I, Shosh.”

  

So apparently, my marathon training session is the perfect opportunity for me to become Zeidy’s aide. Not that I mind, I’m not the actual worst person in the world, just you know, overweight and single and the perfect choice to spy on Zeidy and report back to the family WhatsApp. Yay me. The thing about my grandfather is that I’m kind of scared of him. He has the sharpest tongue of anyone I know, he has never minced words about anything, ever, and in a very intimidating way, he’s a legend in his own time. He’s a dayan, and people reference cases he’s handled all the time. In school, the teachers in Bais Yaakov were fond of telling the class that “Shoshana Levin’s grandfather is Rabbi Yitzchak Parnes.”

They would then proceed to ask me a question that I usually did not have the answer to, and thus preserve my unbroken track record of disappointing the people around me.

Chavi is waiting for me at Arrivals, which is really sweet considering I can count on one hand how many occasions I’ve actually spent time with her. Los Angeles isn’t that far away from Brooklyn, but visits have been scarce.

She looks just like Ma — thin, pretty, much younger than her years. I hate her. I’m kidding, she’s wonderful and it’s so good to see her. She surprises me with a giant hug, and I can’t help it, I hug her back.

“Oh, Shosh, it’s amazing that you’re here. You look wonderful.” Considering my face has deep creases from the magazine I slept on for most of the flight, I’m going to assume “wonderful” means something else in New York.

I follow her out to the car as she schmoozes about how excited everyone is that I’m here and how much fun it’s going to be. “And Leah is over the moon that you’re running the marathon. You can imagine what it is for a 14-year-old that her older, sophisticated cousin is doing something with her.”

I smile with my mouth, try to look less murderous than I feel, and then feign sleep on the car ride to the Klein residence.

“Shosh? We’re here.”

I crack open one eye and peer at a small red brick house that looks identical to the ones on either side of it. I am so going to end up in the wrong house at least once.

Dinner at the Kleins’ is actually really nice, and I’m genuinely enjoying myself, when Leah asks what my running record is. “Eh?” I say eloquently, spooning quinoa onto my plate. I have a feeling the dish is a nod to my L.A. roots, and I appreciate it.

“Your record! How many miles per hour and all that?”

Leah is looking at me with wide-eyed wonder, so I inform her, as gently as I can, that my running record is however fast I ran when a bee decided it had a personal vendetta against me this past summer and actually chased me indoors.

  

I go to visit Zeidy on Erev Succos. Hank opens the door for me and stands aside silently, so I kind of have to turn sideways and slide my way in. An auspicious beginning to my visit. The house is still, and although it’s been six years since my last visit, everything looks exactly the same. Paneled wooden walls, thick pink carpeting, cream colored Victorian couches with candy-wrapper pillows. That’s what we used to call the oblong throw pillows Bubby had all over. Bubby… she’s so close here, I can see her, feel her, hear her. The way she clapped her hands with excitement or called out for Zeidy from the other room to “come hear what Shosh is saying!” She was such a lady, regal in ways I’ll never be. And she loved me, her first grandchild, in a special way. I always knew that. I miss that.

I run a finger over the doily under the long-corded telephone and duck into the side room where Zeidy is sleeping these days. I look back at the stairs for a moment, the long carpeted staircase that Zeidy and Bubby would slowly ascend every evening, together, so in sync. That’s what I want. A partner, someone to share my journey with. My life is awesome, it’s true, but I want a family so badly that for a moment I can’t breathe. Or maybe it’s the dust. It’s here, in the room, in great swirling cylinders, twirling in sunbeams. I’m about to ask Hank about it when I see Zeidy. I take a step back.

That’s not Zeidy. Zeidy is big, strong, tanned. Zeidy fills a room with his presence; there’s a sense of heightened vigilance around him, like the animal kingdom accepting the lion as sovereign and standing to attention.

But this Zeidy is just lying there, old. Old, as if Zeidy is someone who ages, who changes, who withers. I blink and look away, then look back. His hand, always thick-knuckled and strong, lies like marble against his blanket. The knuckles are still thick but they protrude outward. Wrong, it’s all wrong.

Hank clears his throat, jolting me. I move woodenly until I’m at Zeidy’s bedside. A bowl of congealed oatmeal lies there unappetizingly, a glass of water with a straw next to it. A straw. I try to imagine Zeidy drinking with a straw but I’m a CPA, imagination isn’t really my strong suit. I sit on the brown leather armchair — as kids, we called it the throne — and, leaning forward, I grasp his hand. It’s surprisingly warm but dry, like all the moisture, all the life, has been sucked out.

“Zeidy,” I say loudly, clearly.


“Zeidy?” He doesn’t move; his face is set — short white beard, heavy eyebrows, straight nose. Zeidy. But not.

I stay awhile longer, holding his hand, squeezing it in a way I would once never have dared to do and only get up to leave when Uncle Dani and Aunt Rachel show up wheeling suitcases, and I realize that I’ll need to run a few reds to get back to Chavi in time to do my makeup before yuntiff.

“Bye, Zeidy,” I whisper. “I’ll be back on Chol Hamoed, okay?”

I’m not positive, but I think he squeezes back.

  

I enjoy the first days of Yom Tov, really. Well, as much as I can considering Chavi has tried setting me up with every eligible bachelor this side of the ocean. I explain to her that I need to focus on my running record and don’t have the headspace for shidduchim right now. She’s not fooled for a second, but she lets it go, for now at least.

I go to visit Zeidy Chol Hamoed morning. Not much has changed, including the dust, except that his eyes are open. I approach his bed gingerly and perch on the throne. “Zeidy? It’s me, Shosh. From California. I came to visit.”

He doesn’t say anything, but his hand twitches. I smile at him, and beg myself, beg myself not to cry. “I’m so happy to see you,” I say in a horrible cheerful voice. “My family sends their love, they all want you to get better, Zeidy.”

His hand twitches again. So I take it in my own, the warm, dry skin so near, so welcome. And he squeezes my hand.

So he had squeezed it Erev Yom Tov! That’s amazing! Then I catch myself. I’m excited that Zeidy squeezed my hand. Zeidy, who would go walking every day in a giant two-mile arc, because he said fresh air and vitamin D were all the medications he needed. Zeidy, who kayaked and hiked and went apple picking. Zeidy who gave four shiurim every Shabbos and flew to Mexico for a geirus right before Covid broke out. I look at the bed, at the thin face, and I can’t help myself. I squeeze back.

I ask Hank to follow me out so we can speak.

“What’s up with the dust, Hank? I can actually see the particles, and my allergies aren’t thrilled.”

“The rabbi doesn’t want me to open the window.” He looks at me steadily, challenging me to argue. But Zeidy’s always had the last word.

“Okay,” I say at last, “can you at least dust in there?”

“I’m paid to watch the rabbi, not dust. But yeah, I’ll try.”

Yikes, I’m overstepping as usual. “Thanks, Hank.”

I walk out, feeling accomplished. Because you know, less dust equals Zeidy regaining strength. Totally.

Day one of marathon training. I wait until the Klein household has dispersed back into their post-yuntiff schedules, no need for awkward questions, and admire my workout ensemble in the mirror. Bad idea… aaaaand we’re going running!

The Brooklyn air is crisp and sharp, the park is nearly empty, and it’s the perfect day for beginnings. I start off at a brisk walk, feeling refreshed and energized. I smile at two girls who are obviously skipping school and stop to pet a fluffy Labradoodle. After 20 feet, I decide to kick it up a notch. I begin jogging, and it takes around three minutes for me to die. My lungs are burning, I can’t breathe, and sweat is spilling out in tidal waves. I hack my way over to a side bench and collapse on it, coughing and gasping.

A coiffed young woman, sheitel gleaming, no doubt six years my junior, one thin hand resting delicately on her Bugaboo, stops by my bench and bends down. “Are you all right?” she asks in a low voice. “Is there anyone I can call?”    I stare at her and swipe the sweat out of my eyes with one shaking hand. “Oh, I’m great, thanks,” I warble. And because she’s still looking at me, I get to my feet and hobble back to the Kleins, very much wishing I was anywhere but here, silently blaming anyone I can for my current sorry situation.

Zeidy is sitting up by the time I ease myself gently into the throne later that day. His eyes are open, and I know he sees me, but that’s all. At least the room is dust free. “Zeidy?” I whisper. “Zeidy, I tried to run today.”

He makes a motion with his hand, I grasp his fingers, caress the knotted knuckles.

“I signed up for a marathon. Ridiculous, I know, me, running. Twenty-six point two miles, can you believe it?”

I suddenly imagine him sitting upright, pulling his hand from my grasp, and saying in his Zeidy voice, “Very nice, I must get to a din Torah.”

He’s still sitting here, but I loosen my grip all the same.

“Did you ever run, Zeidy? I know you’ve kayaked and hiked. Is that the same as running?”

Silence. “Zeidy, everyone’s worried about you. We need you to get better, okay? We need you.”

He squeezes my hand, and suddenly, I’m blinking back tears. He’s reassuring me.

Oh gosh. No crying. Not here.

“Excuse me,” I whisper and flee to the kitchen. Hank is sitting at the round table, leaning back in his chair in a way that would have Bubby in hysterics, and watching something on his phone.

“So quick?” he says, eyebrows raised.

“Hank, what happened to him? You don’t know this, but my grandfather… that’s not him.”

I grab a tissue and mop my eyes, hands trembling. “He’s a fighter, my Zeidy. He never gives up.”

Hank looks at me, pity in his dark eyes. “Maybe he is tired of fighting, Shush.”

Shush, my mother would like that.

Tired of fighting. I stumble back, raising a hand in actual protest. “No. He can’t be.”

But Hank has already reinserted his AirPods.

Day Two of Marathon Training is even worse. I only make it ten feet before my lungs turn to fire. I really might die. I half walk, half drag myself another 20 feet and then collapse against a water fountain. Oh, if only all those people who’ve judged me all my life could see me now… the gloating would be out of control.

Because let’s face it. I’m almost 28, overweight, single, signed up for a 26.2 mile run when I can’t run a block, and staying in the home of a 14-year-old cousin who will probably get married before me, plus I have done nothing to make Zeidy any better; all I’ve been doing is seeking comfort from him. And maybe this is it. Maybe I will forever be single and out of shape, and maybe Zeidy, too, will never come back from this. Maybe he’ll lie there until he withers away into nothing, like floating dust particles in a sunbeam. And maybe I will, too.

With that thought train, it’s time for Google. “How to train for a marathon if you hate running and your lungs feel like they’re underwater.”

TMI? Too bad. Ah, an article called “Couch to Marathon” by one Thomas Watson. Now we’re talking.

I read on for Sir Thomas’s words of wisdom.


Walk / Run Workouts

These exercises are designed to get you used to running continuously, by mixing up walking and running.

For example, the very first workout is 10 x 2 min walk, 1 min run.

This means you walk for 2 minutes, then run at a comfortable pace for 1 min.

Repeat this 10 times — in total it should take you 30 minutes.

Now this sounds doable. Get my lungs to stop feeling like I’m hanging out on the bottom of the ocean. That’s really the main hurdle. I don’t mind a little sweat, I just need to build endurance if I’m going to make it two blocks, let alone 26.2 miles.

But before all of that, I need to help Leah with her math homework. Apparently being a big-shot CPA means I’m really good at math. Which, you know, I am. We sit at the dining room table, a bowl of popcorn — low-fat snacking — and a jug of Diet Snapple keeping us company.

“I hate math,” Leah gripes, slamming her textbook down on the table.

I look at her — pretty, thin, well-dressed — and think, who cares?

I would’ve killed to have her peckel in high school. Then I remind myself that I’m twice her age and should thus be thinking more maturely. “That’s rough,” I say quietly.

She looks at me, assesses my sincerity. “Yeah. Grades are important to my parents,” she mumbles.

And just like that, I see her. I see someone who wants something, wants to achieve something, if not for her sake, then for the sake of those around her. And I think about how that attitude doesn’t get you very far in life. Like running a marathon for all the wrong reasons.

“Lay. It’s good that you’re trying to make your parents happy. But there are other benefits to doing well at math.”

I look around the room and, inspired, pull over my Chanel bag and wink. “Like getting a high-paying job as a CPA.”

Leah sighs. “I looove that bag.”

I run my finger over the clasp. “Mhhhm, it’s my favorite. But listen, all I’m saying is math skills take you far. Maybe try to learn the math for yourself, not just for your mom.”

Leah looks even more helpless than before. “Yeah, but how?”

Oh, right. “Well, that’s what I’m here for.”

I flip open the super fancy textbook and then shut it again. “Also, Lay, you know who is really amazing at math?”

Lay looks at me, mildly interested. “Who?”

I swallow. “Zeidy.”


“Yup. He uses it when being a dayan, when being a mashgiach. He uses it” — my voice drops to a whisper — “all the time.”

  

Okay, Step One: Get the Right Gear. Check.

Step Two: Stay Motivated. Aaaamen.

Step Three: Cross Train and Rest for Injury Prevention. I first need to do cross-training, who knew? So that’s where we’re at.

But first, some introspection. I’m many things — just ask my mother — but hypocrite is not one of them. So I spend one evening researching Refuah New York. They’re an incredible organization, designed to help those who can’t help themselves, and I’m honored to be running for them. Then I research the benefits of running, especially on someone who, ah, is not small. I visited my doctor back in L.A., and he even performed a stress test to make sure I could dive right into my training. Ha. But yes, all the Google article writers agree: Running is good for both body and soul. And so I begin Week Two with a better attitude, more stamina, and much more to lose, because now, I’m invested for my sake, not just to rub it in the faces of those who doubt me.

I start with my ten minute walk/run, manage not to die, and then sign up for an aerobics class located on the other side of Brooklyn — no need to run into Chavi and her super fit friends. I remind myself that bushah mechaperes, and I don’t even pull a muscle. Okay, and it was fine, I mean, I didn’t enjoy it or anything, but it was pretty relaxing.

I don’t tell Zeidy about aerobics — know your audience — but I tell him I decided to first incorporate exercise before running.

“Zeidy, I’m tutoring Chavi’s Leah in math. I told her you’re the real math genius in the family.”

Zeidy makes a hand gesture; Hank hands him a glass of water… and Zeidy takes it from him.

I look at Hank wide-eyed. “What? When?”

Hank shrugs. “Yesterday, on the Sabbath. The strong antibiotics are working.”

“Zeidy?” I lean forward and he lifts a hand to touch my cheek. That’s it, just a dry, hot touch.

“Maybe he is not done fighting,” Hank says, and I’m crying now and it’s not just the aerobics exhaustion. Suddenly, I’m davening. For the first time since Motzaei Yom Kippur, I try to connect, to rise above my daily grind and bring meaning to my life.

Please bring Zeidy back, Hashem. Please. Please. Please.

That’s all my tired, wrung-out soul can manage. But it’s a start.

  

So maybe I am a hypocrite. Or just exhausted to the point of stupidity, but I realize I’ve been asking Zeidy to get better for everyone else. Exactly what I’ve been preaching to Leah not to do, what I’ve been working on myself. And then I go ahead and tell Zeidy he has to get well again because we all need him. What about him? He needs to get better for himself, not for anyone else. Because he’s a person who values life. Maybe I need to remind him of that, remind him that he’s a fighter. Maybe that’s why I endured temporary insanity and volunteered to run a marathon. So I can fight, too.

I feel Bubby so clearly today. I stop by the kitchen and stare at the fridge. Pictures of my siblings and cousins adorn it, frozen in a time warp that ended ten years ago. Zeidy doesn’t update fridge pictures, but he has also never taken any of them down. I spy a picture of little Shosh, curls shining, eyes gleaming with confidence and assuredness, secure in Bubby’s arm, face tilted toward Bubby and Zeidy, dimples flashing. I remember her. I remember what it was like to be so certain life would be beautiful.

I’d lost that. I’d stopped believing.

I step into the side room — the window is open.

Zeidy is propped up, there’s color in his cheeks. His hand rests limply on a Gemara. The sefer is closed. Zeidy doesn’t move.

I come closer and lightly touch the sefer.

“Zeidy, how are you?” He nods slightly, and my heart skips a beat.

“Zeidy, I hope you get well. I hope you get strong. And we all love you so much.”

Again, a nod.

“Zeidy.” I stop, look at him. I’m still intimidated, scared to sound patronizing, scared he’ll put me in my place, tell me to stop overstepping. But he just looks at me. “Zeidy, there’s so many things you love to do. Learn Torah and go to shul. Be a dayan and a mohel, kayak the Yarden and hike trails. Birdwatching and sunbathing and cooking.”

I don’t know when I started crying for a change, but I ignore it. I keep going, trying to see Zeidy’s face through the deluge. “Reading science journals and woodworking, swimming, conference calls with the cousins, and visiting Eretz Yisrael. Zeidy, you’re young, and life is beautiful.”

I take a deep breath. “Please get well, Zeidy. For your sake.”

  

After two months of cross-training, aerobics classes, and constant jogging through the rain, heat, cold, and sun, I’ve lost weight. But I can honestly say that wasn’t the point. The point was to do something for myself. Well, not at first. At first my point was to escape. But now, I enjoy my runs. Okay, not the part where I’m running. That’s still torture, just less painful. But afterward, when I’m riding on adrenaline and endorphins, and I actually feel like reaching out and connecting with the world around me.

Leah and I have a weekly study/ice cream session, and Chavi found out about my aerobics classes and immediately signed up. I hate her. Nope, still kidding.

At the rate I’m running, by the time Marathon Day rolls around, it will take me about three days to finish the marathon. But that’s fine.

Zeidy smiles when I walk in. He’s still not speaking, something about weak mouth muscles, but he knows who I am.

I take his hand naturally, comfortably.

“Zeidy, it’s a week to the marathon. I’m not sure I can really do it, but I’m going to try.”

Zeidy gives a weak nod. He approves of this. “I learned from you, Zeidy. You don’t give up. Even when—”

I swallow, compose myself. “Even when you get too tired to fight. You still push on. I was tired, Zeidy.”

I was. Tired of being perceived as one thing, tired of being judged, of being the target of assumptions.

Zeidy opens his mouth. I lean forward eagerly, but no sound comes out. But that’s okay, I know he’ll try again. And I’ll be right here listening when he’s ready. 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 878)

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