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My Inheritance

My Inheritance

I didn’t see my recently deceased father in a dream. I got a Word file instead.

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Since he died, I’ve been hoping to see him in a dream. I’ve been praying for it; to see my father walk, and talk, and laugh. I want him to tell me that it was all worth it, his pain, our pain, his 25-year-long illness, for what awaited him up there. Maybe we would even get a chance to talk, maybe he would answer all of the monologues and letters that I’ve said to him and sent to him since his power of speech was all but taken away. I have so much to tell you, he said, a sentence that took him almost an hour to get out, a year before he died. So much I wish I could tell you.

I wish he could tell me.

But I didn’t get a dream. I got a Microsoft Word file instead.

Every Shabbos after I light the candles and before I kiss my children and sink into the couch, I try to think of something new to be thankful for. My eyes still closed, my children so close I can hear them breathe, I thank God for my new dryer, the neighbor that helped me out when I needed a hand, my husband taking the kids out for an hour, for the existence of the amazing bean which turns into coffee.

The week after my father died, I stood before the candles and my heart was full. I had never expected the time that I had with him; for 10 years, my heart was in my throat when the telephone rang at an off hour, (How strange, to simply say, as I do now, I wonder who is calling at this hour.) and I always thought I would be rushing home to a funeral. Instead, I had almost a week at his side, and I was still at his side when his heart finally stopped.

My gratitude was without the words to frame it, and I cried and cried in front of the candles. I kissed my children and we all cuddled on the couch together. A sort of weary, watery, peace folded over us all.

This lasted 10 minutes.

As my mother says, kids will be kids, and kids will be doubly kids after a special Erev Shabbos treat. Peace slipped through my fingers like water through a sieve.

My father is dead and I am 6,000 miles away from anyone who understands me.

Things happened. Life happened. And the fine edge of gratitude that had so overwhelmed me that first week had soured. The next week I had one of those Fridays. Nothing happened, really. The baby pulled the tablecloth off and has not yet mastered the trick of leaving the dishes on when he does that. The girls were not getting along, and I got mad instead of calm. I miscalculated candle lighting and raced out of the shower with a minute to spare. I said the blessing while stopping a fight with one arm and holding a cranky baby with the other and closed my eyes.

I am so grateful for…

For?

My father is dead and I am 6,000 miles away from anyone who can understand how I feel about that, and the kids never stop fighting and I’m the worst mother in the world. I have nothing to be grateful for.

I came up with garlic. For flavoring salads and stir fries. Defeated, I sat on the couch and blindly watched the girls skirmishing over a ribbon.

After Shabbos, my sister told me that she had found something on my father’s computer. “I had to study for a final so I was sort of procrastinating.”

“Cleaned your room and baked cookies? That’s what I always—“

“Totally, yeah, and then searched through old documents on Abba’s computer. And I found this file. It’s called My Thoughts, and it was last updated in 2002, so that’s when he could still sit in a wheelchair and use the computer with that magnifying glass. He could still move a finger, Ima says. And he used it to write this.”

She forwarded the file to me, and I tasted ashes as I waited for my ancient computer to show the results to me on the screen. I remembered the dirt piling on my father’s coffin, how I started to scream, “No! Abba! Abba!” How my brother and mother hugged me and blocked the sight of the disappearing wooden box. Who moves so far from family? Why am I living here?

My Thoughts file found, announced my prehistoric computer triumphantly. Do you want to save or open?

I stabbed at save, and waited another eternity. My computer groaned and gasped, overwhelmed. The baby woke up, and I went to feed him. When I came back, the file was open and the computer was purring, pleased with itself.

I want to thank God for all the good that He has given me.

That was the first line. I pictured my father lifted up his numb fingers and placing them heavily on the keyboard, pressing the wrong keys and fixing typos over and over, squinting at the blurry results through the magnifying glass placed over the screen until he got that sentence out.

I want to thank God for all the good that He has given me.

How could he have seen the good through his half-blinded eyes?

Related Article: My Father's Smile

My Favorite Things

Children can answer our deepest questions. They are our microcosms, our fun-house mirrors, throwing back at us our own image in a different size and shape.

A few days before, I had taught my daughters the song My Favorite Things. They thought that I made it up. I did not discourage this idea. They made me sing it over and over with all the stanzas until they knew all the words, too.

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad!

I thought it was time for A Lesson for Life.

"You can sing this song when you're feeling sad! You can just close your eyes and think of all the things that you love, all the things that make you feel happy and safe. All the things that you are grateful for."

Libby had a dentist appointment the next day. I thought it was providential.

The next day in the dentist chair, her eyes were bugging out of her head and full of unshed tears. I held her hand gently and started singing, "Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels, doorbells and—"

She shot up, pushed the dentist's hands out of her mouth. The tears spilled down her cheeks. "Don't sing that!" she yelled. "Don't sing that song!"

We made a Thanksgiving dinner the following Friday night just for fun; the butcher had a sale on Turkeys. I looked around the table and thought about what a hard year it's been so far. And also what a wonderful year, and when things were hard, how my friends pitched in and helped. I felt an unexpected wave of happiness right there over my turkey and green beans.

This is it. Knowing that there is bad and there is good and usually both at the same time. And knowing that there are people who love you who will help you through the bad and eat turkey with you through the good.

And knowing that it is all good.

It wasn't until after everyone left that I realized I'd forgotten to serve the cranberry sauce.

"The cranberry sauce!" I wailed to my husband. "How could I have forgotten to serve that? It's one of my favorite things with turkey!"

Simi’s ears perked up at the phrase my favorite things. "You love it like you love girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes?"

Libby said, "And snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes?"

"Hey," I said, because I am petty, "When you were at the dentist—“

But they were already twirling around the living room. "Silver-white winters that melt into spring, these are a few of my favorite things!"

I read my father’s inheritance to me almost daily.

How the bad moments melt into good! So much just in this room, I thought as my candles’ flames flickered. And to thank God every week – every day, every moment – for my tempestuous dancing butterflies is to thank God for something new, because every second, they are renewed. Every second, they are made over fresh again for me.

It is always and all good. I am so grateful.

I read my father’s inheritance to me almost daily.

I want to thank God for all the good that He has given me.

I’d like to thank God for giving me these tribulations, so that I can have a great reward waiting for me in the World to Come.

I want to thank God for giving me this house, next door to a shul and a yeshiva, and with a ramp.

A rich man is one who is happy with his lot.

Looking for the kindness in the “bad"…if I wouldn't be in my wheelchair, I wouldn’t study my Mishnah.

I keep saying to myself that “Mitzvah Gedolah Lehios B’simcha Tamid” (to rejoice always is very meritorious).

Everything is for the best.

I’d like to thank God for Yoni and for my 10 healthy kids.

I want to quote Christopher Reeves, “I am not my body, I am not my body.”

The first time I read it, I wanted there to be more. I read the lines over and over again. I sent my sister an email. “Is this it?” I asked her. “Is there any more?”

But I know it is enough. I know it is more than enough; it is everything.

A version of this article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.

Published: February 25, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 20

(20) Anonymous, March 11, 2012 6:07 AM

thanks

It is good to be reminded...I too, thank G-d for all that He has given me....Thanks Dina

(19) Anonymous, March 9, 2012 6:42 AM

So Beautiful

thanks for sharing...

(18) plagiarism checker, March 9, 2012 6:40 AM

Thanks FOR SHARING....

THANSK...I LIKE THIS POST

(17) Michael/Chicago, March 4, 2012 5:49 AM

Dina, May your blessed/beloved memory of your Father shine upon us all. His world were of a modest-humble man. I wish more men people had his words. G-d bless his children who can tell others his words.

(16) Yossi, March 4, 2012 1:39 AM

it is so hard

I used to be frum.I was doing everything I could in my frumy life, but something was still missing, something very important. Now I can see. Hashem was missing. Your father was pure human, through whom Hashem was talking to you and only to you. Not through a Humash or any other very deep book, but through the loving eyes and open heart. This is a blessing. All my mitzvot and learning worth nothing compare to the words: I want to thank God for all the good that He has given me.

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