On Succos, we gather our crops, reflect on our harvest. In life, we gather our experiences, appreciate what we’ve gained
There’s Simon and Susan and Morris and me. Siblings. Misfits in a world where families comprised one father, one mother, and two children. But we were one father who’d lost his precious wife, one grandmother who’d lost her beloved daughter, and four children, all mocked at school as odd. So we stuck together.
Our memories are intertwined: bike rides through the streets, fishing for tadpoles, Sunday car rides on which Dad would claim to be lost, vacations on which we tramped through rain-swept hills and explored rock pools.
Time wove divergent paths for each of us. We drifted apart, four siblings leading four very different lifestyles.
I have chasunahs overflowing with bochurim, grandsons who look like angelic girls, and a whole tribe of grandchildren of every age. We live overlooking the hills where Avraham Avinu walked. Shabbos is an oasis of peace in our busy week.
I’ve always been closest to Simon. While he wasn’t religious, our families would spend the chagim together. His wife would sometimes join me to make biscuits and challah for Shabbos. Before coronavirus, he’d begun to go shul on Shabbos, reveling in the atmosphere and the new ideas he heard.
Sue met her Irish husband in university. She boasts of grandchildren who dance the jig and speak Gaelic as their mother tongue. She organizes egg hunts when we celebrate Pesach and lights candles on trees while we light our menorahs. She has the green, white, and black Palestinian flag in her heart. When she learned that we planned on making aliyah, she protested vociferously — how could you live in a country that oppresses minorities? — until we pointed out that her friends had almost killed our granddaughters.
Morris lives in the middle of the country, in poor health, divorced from his wife and his two girls. Alone, so very alone. He is, he tells me, an atheist, but I wonder. Two weeks ago, he pulled out my father’s tallis, which he keeps in a drawer next to his bed, and draped it round his shoulders.
When the pandemic began, mortality was staring us in the face. It was Morris’s idea, this Zoom meeting, just the four of us.
Every Sunday we meet and talk — four isolated siblings, each leading a vastly different life, each trying to rebuild a relationship that had crumbled years ago.
It was hard, at first, to open our hearts to each other, to revisit times that were filled with pain. But in the process, we discovered each other anew. We’ve delved deep into our childhood, finding hidden memories that made us both laugh and cry. We’ve managed to forge a bond that is now unbreakable — a bond filled with love and respect. A bond of caring and true empathy. Finally, we can enjoy being together, sharing our lives with each other.
And I know that up Above, our precious dad is laughing and cheering and saying, “Keep it up. I love you all!”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)
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