Feed on

Not from one to the other, but both at the same time.

This week has been about Halloween. Which is, almost any way you look at it, a ridiculous holiday. You dress little kids up in costumes, go out door to door, and extort candy from neighbors on threat of vague “tricks”. How did such a thing ever develop?

I honestly don’t know, but with a three-year-old in the house, Halloween is big news around here. Simon’s class talked about it for two full weeks, KIP (Keneseth Israel Preschool) hosted a Halloween parade on Friday morning, and the kids all had parties in their rooms afterwards.

My mom and I spent the Tuesday before the big day bent over my dining room table making Simon’s costume. I settled on Daniel Boone after Simon had no ideas of his own. We pass by a statue of “Danny Boom” pretty regularly, and Simon likes to talk about him. So why ever not? I had a shirt from his Highlander costume of last year, I found a pattern for a faux suede fringed jerkin, and I figured I could always attach fake fur to a real hat to create a passable facsimile of a coon-skin cap.

But Monday night I found myself standing over nine cut-out pattern pieces on my dining room table wondering how I’d ever get them together. Because, ridiculously, I had purchased a pattern when I can only do very simple hand sewing and have never read or even really looked at a pattern before. I figured I could learn as I go or, barring that, simplify into something with fewer pieces if need be. As is frequently the case, my mom rescued me. She looked at the pieces Tuesday morning, looked at me with a bemused expression, looked back at the pieces, and then asked, “Can you find your sewing machine?” That question signaled that I was in way over my head and that the cavalry had arrived.

Meanwhile, out in California, my cousins Arnie and Jane were getting on a plane to Louisville because their father, my Uncle Dave, was in failing health. They expected to stay with me and Matt three nights, then witnessed their dad take a dramatic turn for the worse the same day they arrived and realized in short order that their stay was likely to be sadder, longer, and more profound than they originally planned.

By Wednesday, my uncle had had nothing to eat or drink for over 24 hours and the rabbi had come to help him say the Vidui (Jewish final confession or last rites). Thursday night, as I sat on the couch and struggled to affix craft fur to a hat, Arnie and Jane began an overnight bedside vigil. Friday, as I watched Simon march and strut in the school Halloween parade, my Uncle’s heart rate and breathing were both slowing.  In a bit of truly bizarre symmetry, late that afternoon, about the time I climbed into Simon’s bed to snuggle with him for a few minutes as he awoke from his nap, my Uncle drew his last breath and slipped into an eternal sleep as his children stood around his bed to bid him farewell.

Tomorrow morning, Simon will arrive at Keneseth Israel, a synagogue my uncle’s father (my great-grandfather) helped found, at 9:00 a.m. for preschool. An hour later, my uncle’s funeral will begin in the same building, a place that was his second home for his entire life. At noon, while Simon and the other preschoolers are eating lunch in the small auditorium, half of Jewish Louisville will be gathered in the large auditorium to enjoy honey cake and wine and talk about their Uncle Dave. (Trust me, he was “Uncle Dave”, to just about everyone in these parts, either by blood, marriage, or general association.)

The juxtaposition of the these events—the profundity of children shepherding their parent into death after 100 full years and the profound silliness of preschool Halloween—hasn’t been nearly as jarring as I expected. In a way, in fact, they seem to fit together, with the one reminding you that life’s ultimate goal is to live in the moment and enjoy youth and vigor and even silliness while you can, and the other reminding you that decisions matter, and that if you are lucky and wise you, too, might live to experience a fullness of days. These days were also a potent reminder that the old cannot keep going forever any more than the young can forever stay young.

It is for weeks like this, to partake in silliness and sadness alike, that Matt and I decided to move back home. And it is during weeks like this that our decision seems especially wise.

2 Responses to “The Ridiculous and The Sublime”

  1. Amanda says:

    I’m so sorry about your Uncle Dave, Jessica. Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem b’tokh sha ar aveilei Tzion vYerushalayim

  2. blg says:

    I am so sorry for your loss and that of your family and your community.

    Your realization about this being why you decided to move back home resonates with your previous post about the possibility of Matt getting laid off. You said something about the importance of being *here* together…and that sounded very Louisville to me.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.