What a week. From the pits of despair to the heights of international fame and through it all I am the same humble person. Other than my having to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses to Duane Reade, I’ve hardly changed at all
I mentioned not picking my nephew up at the airport because of Rupert’s brief hospitalization.
My nephew Eric, or Yitzhak as he’s now known, was coming from Israel.
He originally left New York about 40 years ago.
As a college student he went to Europe with a girlfriend. When he decided to go on to Israel, his girlfriend’s parents objected to her going there because it was too dangerous. He went on alone and she stayed in Europe. I think they were supposed to meet again later.
During that separation she died. I don’t remember whether it was food poisoning or a gas leak in her hotel but it was a horrible tragedy.
My sister, Phyllis, called Eric and told him what had happened. Naturally he was devastated. He said he would come right home.
I few days later she received a telegram saying “Return delayed. Letter to follow.”
It seems he decided to stay on and study in Israel. A year or two later his brother went to talk him into coming home and he too decided to stay.
Some of the details of this time are vague to me but this is all how I remember it.
Both boys became Hasidim. Although I grew up in a Jewish home, my mother kept kosher, we followed a Conservative path, but by no means Orthodox, the Hasidim were as strange to us as any foreign religion.
They eventually had arranged but very happy marriages and many children.
My sister Phyllis and her husband Bern finally accepted the situation although it took some doing with the differences between them.
Phyl used to tell the story of walking through a marketplace in Israel with Eric, Yitzhak by then, and when she wanted to stop and buy them some nuts or something he told her not to. In a very serious voice he said they might have worms in them and he’s not allowed to eat worms.
Clearly annoyed she answered “I’m not allowed to eat worms either Eric!”
Although there were some years of separation with me when I decided to marry dave, a non jew, eventually that all passed and we became as close as ever.
Since his mother’s death my home has become his home when he comes to New York
Whenever any of his children come with him they love the fact that I look like their father and we both laugh all the time when we’re together. For that reason I seem very familiar to them as they do to me.
Having him visit is no easy feat. He will only eat Glatt Kosher food. He will not use my silverware or glasses, pots or pans.
Try making a salad with plastic knives.
I look at him sitting across from me and I don’t see the grandfather with a long white beard, dressed in black. I see the sweet boy who always stayed in my apartment when I was single and who went roller skating with me down city streets when we were way too old to do that.
I see how happy he is with his giant loving family and though 40 years ago we would have given anything to bring him home, we would have been wrong.