The Mending Word

The Mending Word – Part 3

Writings shared from third session. Prompt: Say Their Name

Yehudis Chava by soul
Judith Eve by law
You had blue eyes
With grayish tones
That were darker blue around the iris
and a nose that pinched at the end
You would dye your hair red
And keep it shoulder length
(When you still had hair)
Under your wig
Which you kept glamorous
Washed and set often
Light brown waves
With bangs
I resented 
for covering your face
You had weekday glasses
And special occasion glasses
but god, forgive me 
I don’t remember those as well
Were they purple?
Were they gold?
You had skin that was soft
And smooth
And always smelled delicious
You had lines on your neck
That you were insecure about
But I loved my mommy’s neck lines
And look for them in my own
I used to memorize every inch of your face 
When I knew I had to
When time was running out
I thought I’d burn holes into your face
With how fiercely I gazed at it
But two years later
 I still remember every pore, every curve, every hair
You used to have me tweeze your hairs
Our ritual we took very seriously
Your nails I would paint
My hair you would braid
I remember every outfit
every shoe
every tichel
Your favorite nail color: Big Apple Red by Essie
Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip
Favorite movie: Gone with the Wind
Favorite quote from that movie: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”
(Though you’d say darn instead)
You pronounced soda as sodar
Idea as idear
You loved freshly squeezed orange juice, sometimes blended with ice
You loved cake. Cheesecake. Shlishkes. Blintzes
The foods you grew up and then raised us with
You loved tv shows. This is Us. ER was your favorite
When I was a kid, we’d watch it all together on Thursday nights 
with the smell of chicken soup cooking for Shabbos in the background
You loved gossip but you hated fighting 
You never held a grudge, but you had a devilish grin reserved just for instigating.
You loved getting free tote bags and blankets from Victoria Secret
Even if you had to spend more than they were worth to redeem them
You loved shopping
For wallets, purses, shoes, clothes, makeup,
But mainly gifts. For your kids, your grandkids
My mom would quite literally give the food off her plate.
My mother had a laugh that was breathless.
My mother had a hoarse voice, after 40 years of teaching
she must have lost it somewhere along the way
Though it was quiet, she always had what to say.
My mother’s quote was “think good and it will be good”
My mother slept with a nightlight
My mother loved bakeries
My mother loved baking
We were never allowed in her kitchen until she got sick
My mother’s handwriting was illegible and recognizable
She said it was because she was a “doctor’s daughter”
My mother called her father daddy
And her mother mommy
And she loved them both 
My mother cleaned like no one else
She unpacked immediately after arriving from a trip
She’d never dare go to sleep with a dirty floor 
and would often be found at 2 am cleaning the house 
My mom loved reading magazines, even though she’d fall asleep right away
Be careful if you tried to take it from her
Or she’d wake up claiming “I was reading that”
My mother would snuggle with me every night
Sometimes she’d have to kick me out of her bed for keeping her awake
And making her laugh
My mother loved the students she taught like they were her own
My mother was quirky
My mother was truly optimistic. Positive. Faithful.
My mother loved to travel, loved coming home more
Countless texts reading “It’s good to be home!”
I find myself trying to remember more
But I block myself
Because it’s the details that hurt the most
But it’s also the details that keep you alive
I remember the password to your Gmail account
Which still exists
Even though you don’t
Tell me how that makes sense?
I remember your smell; I pray that never leaves
Because I can’t write that down for safekeeping
I remember your voice. Your laugh, your hugs, your advice, your faith, your fingers. Your hands.
I remember your hands more than I know my own.
Sometimes when I’m alone
And it’s quiet
I whisper into the air
I repeat it, a little louder, more urgent
It’s always a question
Never an answer
Maybe I do it to remind me
To remind the universe
You did exist
Maybe it’s to remember a word once so natural 
Now a forgotten language on my tongue
My father’s name was Aron Yoel.

Loud. Bold. Impatient.
Cold, but soft.
Piercing blue eyes not even the body could kill. His eyes were as clear as day the last I spoke with him. Searching. Yearning. Never giving up.
His tone was all encompassing, there was nowhere to escape or hide from it. His daily needs took over my life. I hated it. I hated him too, at times.
So why do I feel so empty now? Looking for directions. 
Why am I so scared of changing, having to look out for myself, no directions or instructions to be given. It’s all I’ve ever known.
He had a long white beard. 
He scared me as a child. My mother was the soft one, he was the hard one. Awe-inspiring. 
He had a big belly, that shrunk when his soul did. But small legs. 
He was a favorite sibling. The funny uncle. The caring cousin. He was so many things, to so many people. He was mine. 
My father. Does he still belong to me if he no longer exists?
His faith never wavered. Not once. Not even on the deathbed. His fear and love of God saw him through to the end. Stubborn he was. Fierce.
He was 70 years old for one month and two days before he passed. He didn’t think he would make it to then. 
He said funny things. He didn’t care about what people thought or said about him. He never did. No matter how embarrassing. He was never embarrassed. Ever. 
How foolish we were, always embarrassed by him. His body rots now in dirt. Who is talking about embarrassment? 
The lessons he has taught me, only far too late.
Or is it? I am still young. 
Yoel. He loved to read. Five books at a time will do it. I don’t think I ever saw him read one start to finish. They were always open on the table, spread out, one on top of the other, fighting to hold their spot.
He loved airplanes and history. He knew all the presidents lives and their biographies. 
He loved vanilla soft serve ice cream, sugar free.
A cappuccino at the end of a meal with two splenda, not more or less.
Although sometimes I snuck in only one and didn’t tell him. 
He had a very simple palate. Happy with what he had. Everything was the best.
He had the best dinners. His eyes shone with joy from good home-cooked meals.
He hated shopping, he had the same shirts from 20 years ago. 
He used to wait in the car while my mom did all the house shopping. He read the newspaper, listened to the radio, looked at his watch. 
He was obsessed with time. With his watch. He never stopped wearing it in the hospital. He never stopped checking it. The nurses always wondered what he was checking for. Where did he have to go? 
His days revolved around the hours of prayer. Morning ones, afternoon, and evening. Everything revolved around his prayer time. 
He had eleven children. A beautiful wife. He loved her more than anything. His one and only partner, forever. When she died, he died too. What was left of him I couldn’t recognize. I feared to see. He had one foot out the door the minute she was buried. I think, his children were the only reason he held out long enough.
He was fearful of doctors. He hated needles. He mistrusted hospitals.
Rightfully so. He died from an infection due to negligence. Among other things.
He loved sugar. Cake, cookies, treats. Even smelling them, if he couldn’t taste them. He loved really heimish food. Food that made me queasy just pronouncing. His greatest enjoyment. 
Gala. Ptchya. 
He liked warm cardigans. But the sleeves had to be loose enough so that he could wrap his tefillin around it when he prayed. Later days, he walked around in his pajamas often. He hated getting dressed.
He hated staying home all day. He hated the snow, for the ice it would turn into after, and the chances of him falling, which meant he wouldn’t  be able to leave. 
There was a time he smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day, give or take. 
After the first heart attack, it was “puffing” he claimed.
Of the many, some of his favorite movies
Pretty Woman, White Chicks, and Trading Places. We even bought the last one on Amazon so we could watch it whenever he’d like. But he said he’d only watch it with me anyhow. 
He didn’t know how to work the smart TV.
But he also loved watching TV together. And movies.
He’d let me pick it out, anything I’d want, and then hed complain the whole time that it was stupid, what was I making him watch. But he kept doing it all the same. It was his favorite way to spend quality time. He would clear the bed for me, making space in his own personal hell, for me to sit next to him. And we’d barely talk through the whole film. Not many words were spoken. But it was the safest place in time that I know I’ll never get back. 
He wore suspenders to keep his pants up.
He had a blue coat that he loved, I bought it with him. He loved the secret pockets. He was so excited to show my mother. He didn’t get to wear it for many years. My brother wears it now with pride.
Our favorite dish was this chinese one we used to share. When I was young, we would eat it together at our very own table, separate from the rest of the many children.
He had his own business. Salesmen that adored him. Workers that looked up to him.
He left a legacy behind.
He loved to spoil me. He bought me special cheesecake for weekends and chocolate donuts during the weekdays. When he was sick, he had someone else buy it for me. Even I got older, I never had the heart to tell him I didn’t really like it. So he never stopped.
And each time he got so excited. 
He thought college was a waste of time, and never failed to let me know. 
But he paid for it nonetheless.
And told me he was proud of me when I graduated.
He was an immigrant and came with nothing. And yet he built a life. A successful one. A large and loving family. A kind and caring community.
My father, my strong supporter, my best friend.
He was taken at 70 years old, only one month and two days into the name. 
He was covered with a sheet, in a hospital bed, but of his choosing.
His last action. He chose where to spend his end. But his name still lives on, in a beautiful baby boy, only a few months old, with a strong name to live up.
Aron Yoel. November 7th, 2021.
Brilliant light, and warmth.
I smell sugar and sweet,
Freshly baked challah
Soft chocolate and cinnamon babka.
She loved baking.
An open home to all. There was never an invite that got a no. Except when she was very sick.
She had this brown leather armchair. Worn out from the time spent on it. I would have loved to take it, if I had the room.
She would start friday night with a magazine and fall asleep mere minutes later, her mouth open and the blanket tucked to her chin. My father loved to poke fun at her for that.
“Look, mommy’s mouth is open,” he would chuckle. It was the most amusing thing to him. And endearing. His love for her.
She made the best chicken soup that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t replicate. Although I have skipped many root vegetables out of laziness. She, was never lazy.
She was a beloved school teacher. She treated her students like her own children. They loved her just the same. My sister tells me of the last few days before she died. When she realized, holding the bag of get well letters to her chest, that they didn’t know she wasn’t coming back.
Her pain was palpable. As innocent as her desire to live.
She had really cozy pajamas. She bought me matching sets. 
She routinely caught up on all her TV shows. Some of them, I can’t help but hate, for I know she’ll never know the ending.
She had the softest skin, and the warmest, strongest hugs.
She used to pay my hair and scratch my back.
We would lay in bed on friday nights together for hours, snuggling. All was right in the world.
In my world. I’ll never stop crying for those.
She was fierce and brave. Protective of her kids, and her husband. 
She was happy with her lot and always praised God for her blessings.
She fought breast cancer, and won, until years later, it crawled back, inching its way into her bones, until it spread like fire. But she never stopped believing. She didn’t close her eyes for two days so she could keep on living.
She loved to play piano, and was very talented at it.
She toured Europe with a guitar on her back. She had many friends and close relationships.
Her children all felt their own relationship with hers was the strongest. I don’t know how she achieved that. Maybe, a combination of endless love and patience.
She liked to read james patterson books, thrillers.
And Jodi Picoult.
The People and US magazines. Both of which, my father, though always complaining, never missed a weekend to buy them for her.
“Aron, did you get my papers?”
He hid them in her drawers. Top one, to the left.
Or on top of the fridge. It was a race to who can get them first. But the latter had to give the second magazine to my mom first. Of course, she decided before any of us.
She hated change. Her weekly dinners were delicious, yet consistent. She’d laugh when I tried new things. But then again, she died in her own bed of 46 years, in the home she first moved into with her husband, in her soft pajamas, with her nails painted red, wrapped in her very own linen, she was lowered to the floor, and soon, carried out of her home. 
Her time was cut short at 65.
Or did she complete her life’s mission
With her final breaths,
Her final requests,
Her faith, never wavering
Her love, never lessening
She let out a final gasp
And then, she left.
Yehudis Chava. Purim. March 9, 2020. 
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