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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Echoes of the past

Until dementia robbed him of his memories, each Passover, just before we would sit down to begin the Seder, my father would mention his mother. She died a few years before my parents married, I think it was 1955 or 1956. She died the day before Passover, and each year my father would say "She died, and we went home and made a Seder." My father would talk about that traumatic Passover until he was well into his 80's.

So this was our first Passover since my father died. The Haggadahs we use have a simplified service, all in English, with portions of the text designated to be read by the "leader", a "participant" or "assembled". We've been using this version since the 1960's, the books are falling apart, with generations of wine stains and matzo crumbs amid the pages.

So we designated my daughter Becca to lead us, but in my head I heard my father's voice. My father's voice, not as he was in the final years of his life, but clear and strong, the way he read those words all those years as a father and grandfather.

His voice, clear and strong, echoing in my head.

So Becca began the service, our new normal.

And when it came time for my sister Honey to read, she couldn't. She burst into tears.

And when she regained her composure, she said "I hear Daddy's voice in my head."

I guess we all did.

And then later ...

There's a psalm we read at the end of the Seder. Our translation reads "I am Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bands."

Every year, my father was tired by the time we read the psalm. And the portions to be read by the leader are printed in light blue ink, the distinguish the leader!s text from the rest.

One year, he misread that line as "Thou hast loosed my hands." And we all laughed.

He made the same error the next year. And the next. It became a running joke. Sometimes he said "bands", but with a special emphasis -- a smug "I got it right this time." So every year we'd be thinking: Would he say 'hands" or "bands"?

So Becca was leading, and we got to the psalm. And she read, without thinking, "Thou hast loosed my hands."

L'dor vador. From generation to generation.

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