Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5766 - February 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

In the End

by Sara Gutfreund

What he missed in the end were the little things. He missed the soft echo of her white slippers on the black-and-white tiled floor, and the way she stood at the kitchen window in the early morning light. He remembers how her white lace kerchief seemed to turn yellow as the sunlight streamed through the colored glass.

He missed the way her eyes would crinkle when she laughed, and how she would push her glasses onto her forehead when she was stuck on a word in the crossword puzzle. He missed the way she would always rush up hills as he strolled behind her. She always said if you want to make it up you have to run. He remembers now that he always thought that he would go first. It didn't seem possible that he would be left behind.

And through the endless nights, he found himself remembering odd pieces of their life. Sometimes there was no order to the memories, like a film strip that stopped and started without warning. There she was holding their first baby on a bench in the Bronx. She was staring straight into the camera despite the glare of the sun, and her half smile was both shy and radiant.

And there she is by the white, picket fence, holding a toddler's hand and picking a pale, pink rose. You can't see her face in that memory, but you can see the outline of her hand against the flower and the slight arching of her neck as she looks down at her child.

And there they are on their fifteenth anniversary in the deli on the corner. She orders a celery soda and a hot pastrami sandwich. He orders a roast beef on rye. They sit in companionable silence punctuated by bits of conversation about their home. Should they buy a new couch? Is he also worried about Moshe? She pushes a small, blue box across the wooden table. He opens it to find a soft, leather wallet, and he holds it with a shadow of guilt falling across his face. He has forgotten to buy her a present. She takes a sip of her celery soda, and looks up at him with forgiving eyes.

The next memory races across the years as they stand at their oldest daughter's chuppah. Her dress is a golden yellow, the color of daffodils. There are traces of wrinkles across her cheeks, but she looks so young that he wonders if the memory is true after all. Were they that young at Shuli's wedding? Under the white tallis that ripples in the wind they look at each other, and for a moment, their eyes lock in bewilderment. Wasn't it just yesterday that they stood beneath their own chuppah? It couldn't have been that long ago that he stared through the glass at the hospital nursery looking at Shuli's impossibly perfect face. Where did the years go?

And then a bitter memory arises. She is growing weaker by the day. He is losing her, and he is angry. The rage fills him with confusion. Why is he angry? He begins to find it hard to look her in the eye. He feels like she is abandoning him. Soon the house will be filled with empty spaces. He never imagined that emptiness could speak with such an overpoweringly powerful voice. The space yawns wider between them. She never speaks of her illness, never mentions death. Until her last day, she pretends that she isn't saying good- bye.

In the end, he regrets the little things. He regrets the time that he spent arguing with her over a light fixture. It is too expensive, he had said so long ago in a nameless, formless store that teeters on the edge of his memory. Why didn't he just buy the light fixture? He used to be proud of his stubborn streak, but now it all seems so silly to him. There were so many pointless arguments that led them nowhere.

Has she forgiven him where she is now? In the end, he regrets the smiles he didn't use. He notices that his voice is softer now, more patient. He regrets that he couldn't find that softness when he was a young husband and father. Then he had needed it desperately. Now he finds that he is silent anyway. He regrets the hours that he stayed later at work. He regrets the gold locket that he said he would fix. It sits upon their dresser, and its useless brokenness accuses him. He didn't know that in the end they would run out of time. He didn't know that a day would come when he wouldn't have a second chance.

In the end, he held onto the little things. He clung to his familiar routines as he walked slowly through the grocery store picking the same items that they had been using for years. He clung to tattered notes and worn out hats. He clung to sleep so that he could see her in his dreams.

In the end, he hears echoes of ordinary sounds. The clinking of glasses. The far-off cry of a waking baby. The ringing of the telephone. The soft click of a light going out. The eerie howl of a dying wind. The slam of a door. And the far- off whistle of a departing train.

In the end, he will also leave. She is waiting for him.


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