Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Av 5763 - July 31, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Passing Her Up
by Rifca Goldberg

They were so cute together. She sat there on the couch, smiling so widely, so broadly... so happily!

And him -- all I could see were his little feet sticking out near her skirt, his small hands peeking out near her waist.

"Me baby!" Tzvia, age 5, squealed with delight.

I heard Eli's high pitched three-year-old voice come from behind her. "I'm the Tatty."

My two little children. So sweet. So, so sweet.

But the expression `bittersweet' comes from this type of sweetness. The knowing of what will be.

Not knowing how.

Not knowing when.

But knowing, none-the-less.

And even more bitter -- knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nothing at all.

Tzvia, so large for her age, sitting on Eli's lap. Eli, so small for his age, but of course, he was the Tatty. And Tzvia -- the baby. And me, knowing that Tzvia would always be the baby. Knowing that as close as these two were right now in their camaraderie, the day would come when he would pass her up. I didn't know if he would physically, but intellectually, mentally, developmentally... I knew and I felt a tremor go down my spine.

The two of them played together daily, grew, were happy. I would smile, watching their mutual love.

The changes began small. He, catching ideas and concepts, next to her confused looks. His abilities developing -- able to peel carrots for me, set up my candles for Shabbos, build a high tower out of Lego while she... she fumbled, and fumbled some more.

Tzvia's speech never really got past the `me baby' stage while Eli began speaking more correctly, more naturally, `like all the other kids'. Tzvia didn't and never would.

He would giggle at her mistakes. A normal four, and then five- year-old response. Obviously, she was just playing around with the words to make him laugh...

One day a helicopter flew above our building and out over the mountains.

"Heptor!' Tzvia said, pointing. I could see that she wanted Eli to enjoy it. Her usual -- getting the most from others' pleasure.

But this time, his cute little giggle over her verbal mistake wasn't a giggle. Nor was it cute.

It was recognition.

"Heptor?" he guffawed. "Heptor? Heptor?" He whooped and slapped his knee, a superior look in his eyes.

Even with Tzvia's limited understanding, she knew what a taunt was. The look on her face was the look of one betrayed. Betrayal mingled with deep confusion.

I felt such an enormous pain go down the center of my being.

"She only gives!' I wanted to shout through my muteness. "It's not right! How can you, her brother, or anyone, look down at her? Laugh at her? She only gives! She gives, and gives, and gives -- how can this be happening?"

There was no one to fault. She was who she was. He was acting like a normal six-year-old.

I knew it was going to come at some point. I had dreaded it and here it was. And there was nothing I could do. Absolutely nothing that I could do... but hurt.

Yet time passes. Six-year-olds turn seven, and these become eight-year-olds. One day, when Eli was nine and his younger brother, Meir, was five, they decided to have a `help clean the house' campaign.

The house was a disaster. I had had the flu for the past five days. Barely able to sit up on the couch, I was deeply touched by the gesture. It meant a lot to me.

Eli called out, "Come on, everyone! We're giving points for each thing you help with! Every toy picked up is a point! Every dish put in the sink is a point!'

The three-year-old twins went running excitedly. Even the one- year-old picked up a paper from the floor and toddled over to hand it to Eli.

"Terrific!" Eli and Meir said simultaneously while they, themselves, cleared off the table.

Each item put away helped me to feel so much better and I appreciated each of these little neshomas so much.

Tziva stood, looking around, not quite sure what to do. At 12 years old, she looked as beautiful as she always looked. She also looked as out of sorts as she always did.

Then I heard Eli whisper to Meir, "Let's give Tzvia ten points for each thing she does, since it's so much harder for her."

Meir nodded, walked over to Tzvia, and said gently, "Tzvia, there's a toy. Go pick it up."

She smiled and did as she was told.

"Great, Tzvia! You get ten points!"

Tzvia grinned. She was so proud of herself.

And I, I was speechless. These two beautiful Jewish boys who were never directly told of Tzvia's retardation, who only saw her as their big sister... they had developed such a deep sense of compassion all on their own!

How? I wondered.

At that point, I didn't care about the house being clean or not. At that point, I didn't care who did what. All I could do was feel overwhelmed with gratitude but this time, the feeling going right down my spine had no pain. No pain at all.


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