Saturday, December 15, 2012

Light all the candles (8th Night of Hanukkah)

menorah on 6th night

It is the 8th night of Hanukkah tonight, and so we're done. Hanukkah came early this year, putting us at a bit of a disconnect with the rest of the country. We'll be well all done before the Christmas frenzy is in full bore. But so it goes some years.

Last year Christmas Eve was the 5th night of Hanukkah, the holidays overlapping nicely. Next year, thanks to simultaneous oddities of the standard western and Hebrew calendars, Hanukkah will actually cross paths with Thanksgiving, beginning the night before!

I'm still weaving in and out of my seasonal ennui, some days lighter, others darker.  Holidays are always about family, family, family and I am missing some members of mine. This week the universe conspired to remind me of my father constantly, now gone nearly three years.

I sat down to get a cup of coffee in the middle of the day on Wednesday and gather my thoughts, when I noticed the man seated next to me in the cafe, heartily enjoying a bowl of potato leak soup, one of my father's favorites. I just had to get a some myself, the silent tears dripping off my face and dropping into the bowl rendering it a bit on the salty side. Just how Dad liked it.

I was thinking about the last months of my father's life, how even up until the very bitter end, when he was barely eating anything, becoming more of a skeleton day by day, I could still often get a little soup into him, if nothing else.

Nabeyake udon or vichyssoise, pasta fagioli or avgolemono, clam chowder or chicken noodle, goulash or gazpacho; the man loved soup. And every time I make some, I conjure Dad up, if just for a little while.

And then on Thursday night, my husband and I got to spend some time with dear friends who are a generation older than we are (but young, so young in spirit and full of life).  I love them to pieces and we had a wonderful dinner and lively conversation and I enjoyed every minute of it while simultaneously feeling so sad that my father is gone and my mother fading fast. And there was our friend Al (OK, I'll name drop: Al Jaffe) a year older than my mother, but still working, still living completely independently (yes, it probably helps that his lovely wife Joyce is a decade younger, but still, that makes her no spring chicken herself).


OK, this post was supposed to be going up yesterday, on & about the 7th night. I had written this much by Thursday and was going to finish Friday. But then I came home from my intense all day appointment in Brooklyn (the impartial hearing concerning Jacob's schooling) having been pretty much in a bubble all day, to find the news... the school shooting... all anyone can talk about, think about. And I froze.

How can I write about a cheerful holiday, about missing my father who got to live a long, fulfilling  life and become really, really old before he died, in the wake of this immense and senseless tragedy, in the wake of twenty dead children? And yet, there were my thoughts, up until Friday evening.

And so I am walking around dazed and shell shocked today; doing what I have to do, boys to basketball, lighting the final menorah, feeding everybody and washing up the boys weekly five loads of laundry. Because life, for the living keeps going on.

I cannot write about Newtown yet. I don't know if I ever will. There is no sense to be made of it. And, for once, I truly have no words. Except to say that we need vastly better mental health services in America, and with less stigma attached to getting them when we need them.

And so I'll end here, rather abruptly perhaps, because there is no way to stitch this into a smooth and seamless post. There was regular life, skipping, trudging, shuffling along. And then... the thousand ton boulder dropped into the middle of it. And aftermath. There's always aftermath.


To conclude: last year I shared the Maccabeats & Matisyahu's wonderful Hanukkah song with you, this year I'm sharing a new song from Matisyahu... and hoping everyone had as happy a Hanukkah as possible, in spite of all the insanity and tragedy in the world.


  1. Love and hugs. It's definitely a time to hold each other tight.

  2. I think your post depicted the abruptness of this tragedy perfectly. One minute we're doing what we do everyday, and then...everything is suddenly different.

  3. I keep switching back to normal life and then am jolted by the shock of Newtown. I think of the families then hug my girl, even if I'd been yelling at her the moment before for something trivial.


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