Friday, July 26, 2013

My Father's Daughter

I was giving my niece a family history lesson as I scrambled her breakfast eggs. "Then Babi"—Ma to me—"was named after her grandmother, Miriam*, who survived the war, and had died right before she was born." 

"Sure!" She said, nodding her head. "That's the name I gave in school." 

"What do you mean?" I turned around, the silicone spatula held aloft. 

"You know, the tehillim list, for the sick people and the ones who are single. I told my morah: Lea bas Miriam."

A chill touched the back of my neck, raising hairs. "My name . . . is on a tehillim list?" I managed to ask in a rather strangled voice. 


I blankly turned back to the sizzling frying pan.

Sometimes people ask me what my "full" name is, and I frankly provide it: Lea bas Chaim. "No, no," they smile, gently correcting me. "What is your mother's name?" The mother's name, the parent that is invoked in times of tragedy, with the hope of inspiring divine compassion through a reminder of a maternal devotion.

When it comes to illness, there isn't much that can be said. To be in it's grip leaves one helpless, terrified, as the world shrinks to only this concern that now controls one's life. To quote Muriel Barbery in The Elegance of the Hedgehog
. . . Lucien was very sick. We did not yet know when his death would come, but we were bound by the certainty of its imminence, bound to the dread inside, bound to each other by invisible ties. When illness enters a home, not only does it take hold of the body; it also weaves a dark web between hearts, a web where hope is trapped. Like a spider's thread drawn ever tighter around out projects, making it impossible to breathe, with each passing day the illness was overwhelming our life. When I came in from running chores outside, it was like entering a dark cellar where I was constantly cold, with a chill that nothing could remedy . . .
I have a frantic gratitude for health, the blissful freedom it provides, and no amount of thanks can adequately reflect the gift it is. 

Therefore, whenever someone equates my single state to that of the pervading horror of disease, I am offended, not for myself, but on behalf of the sick.  

My cousin had been dealing with cancer, and she had said once: "People have told me that being sick is 'like moving.' I can tell them it is nothing like . . . moving."

It's just not tactful to the ill to equate the single state to that of disease. Being unwell is not remotely similar to being unwed, I have to say. Sure, it's not always pleasant, but I'm not exactly going to compare my whiny ("I have no hubby!") situation to that of facing one's mortality.

When it comes to disease, there isn't much another can do to help, beyond offering the choleh to make dinner for the family, to assist with carpool, or to stop by for a hopefully distracting visit. But when it comes to singles, even if one doesn't know of anyone to set them up with, there are a number of options before we get to tehillim list. 

Keep eyes scoured at occasions, rhapsodize about a single's wonderful qualities to all and sundry, ask people if they know of anyone for a certain someone. I know of a number of matches that were made based on just that. 

As for the tehillim list, I shall, with all respect, kindly eschew its public services. 

*Parents' names have been changed in an attempt to shield the last shreds of privacy.                


Sun Inside Rain said...

Lol, they're saying tehillim for you in school? That's hysterical! When I was in school we only said tehillim for sick people. The fact that they now added single people to the tehillim list is proof that the panic about the shidduch crisis has had far-reaching effects and not in a good way.

Yocheved said...

Children are wiser than we think. Perhaps to her, the absence of a father figure feels like an illness in the house. That's something you two could sit down and talk about.

Princess Lea said...

SIR: I know, right? Can you imagine equating singledome with disease? Crisis my foot!

Yocheved: My niece is not lacking in father-figures, like her own father (who is my brother). She doesn't live with me, she lives with her parents. She was visiting over a weekend, and her father was in shul when this conversation was taking place. How many father-figures does a child need, exactly?

Chances are, her morah told her class to submit names of single people that they know. She wouldn't have come up with an idea like that on her own.