life in and around NYC is insane

Monday, September 16, 2013

the walk home

I live about half a mile from the synagogue.  On the High Holy Days I usually walk to and from services, not out of religious conviction, but because it's impossible to find a parking space anywhere near the building.


I walk alone these days.  My father can't go anymore, Jen and Becca won't go, and my mother and sisters never went.

Given that the Jewish New year, unlike the secular one, is focused on prayer and introspection, my thoughts as I walk home ...

This year I was thinking about my dad.  Not the wheelchair-bound, dementia-confused man who I see now, but the man who used to sit with me at services and critique the cantor's voice and the rabbi's sermon.  Walking home was a bit of a challenge for him, as that half mile from the synagogue to our house is very hilly.  I'd know he was tired if he'd ask me to pull out my cell phone and have someone pick us up.

He stopped coming with me when the over-packed, superheated sanctuary began to feel claustrophobic and overwhelming.

Yizkor, the memorial service for the dearly departed, is always recited on Yom Kippur.  My mother says Yizkor at home, reading the prayers from a booklet I brought home from the synagogue.  My father used to say it at the synagogue until he stopped going, then he'd read the prayers at home.  This year he couldn't read the prayers, and I'm not even sure he understood that he was supposed to recite the prayers...

Eastern European peasant superstition --  you should not attend Yizkor services in the synagogue if both your parents are still alive, it's like wishing harm on them.  But the rabbi says it's not so, that anyone can come to Yizkor and recite memorial prayers for a relative, for a friend, the for the victims of the Holocaust.

So now I stay for Yizkor, and I act as my father's ambassador, reciting the prayers for my grandparents, for my aunts, for the victims of the Shoah and of 9/11...

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