Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Erev Thanksgiving

It is the day before Thanksgiving, gunmetal grey, chilly, harbinger of winter.

Though I haven't called to check up on her, Middle Babe should be en route to her 8:20 Acela from Baltimore's Penn Station and Little Babe left 10 minutes ago for his half-day at school.

This year -- with Big Babe in Berlin and HOBB in the Holy Land, it is the three of us for the holiday, plus FOBB and MOBB -- Father and Mother of Bungalow Babe. Whether our Thanksgiving feast will be at their home in Great Neck, a local restaurant or the hospital is up for grabs. Yesterday, FOBB underwent surgery for kidney stones and had an overnight stay in the hospital. While he was in good spirits when I left him at midnight, the doctor will determine whether he can go home today.

Though my dad is itching to get out of the hospital, Thanksgiving will be wherever he and my mom are. In my childhood home, Thanksgiving was celebrated with enthusiasm and great emotion. My dad recited the special Hallel prayer. It was, and still is, considered a Yom Tov of sorts.

Among the recent extremist developments in Jewish life, the one that has bothered me no end is the decision not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because somehow it is "goyish" and in conflict with Judaism.

This notion -- small-minded, based in ignorance and generally silly -- is especially galling because America, of all countries, has been especially hospitable to the Jews. The very notion of giving thanks draws on Jewish tradition, obviously, and there is no denominational claim on gratitude.

"Thank God," my father sighed last night when the Percoset began to take effect. He sat in the straight-backed chair in his paisley hospital gown, looking somehow regal, reminiscent of the pulpit rabbi he had been. We had been talking for hours and I was reminded of the silver lining of these hospital stays and visits -- the extra time we take with friends and loved ones in the aftermath of surgery or illness. Some of my sweetest memories of being with my parents have taken place in hospital rooms; some of our deepest conversations have occured during these times. As the eldest daughter, it is my privilege and honor to be with them in this way.

The hour approached midnight and my father looked concerned for my trip homeward. Though it had taken me two hours to get to the hospital because of the holiday traffic out to Long Island, I knew my trip back to Manhattan would be a breeze, likely under half an hour. I asked my father if I could help him to bed and he dismissed the notion; he was now doing just fine.

I love you so much, he said to me as I kissed him on his forehead.

I love you back, Aba, I said, tears of gratitude springing to my eyes for my father, our conversation, the memories we share, this moment, this good recovery, Thanksgiving looming.

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