Tuesday, July 12, 2005

the lemoncake lady

last week was the first yahrzeit for my darling father. it is strange, because that is the marker in jewish tradition of the end of the mourning period, and the full return to life. in contrast to that, i feel like perhaps soon my mourning may really begin. the actual day was friday, and i took advantage of my position at the synagogue by using the drash time to acknowledge daddy. i told them i wanted to tell a story about my father, but that most were not suitable for this particular moment. i decided on the story about the lemoncake lady, which might appear to be about me, or about her; but was really about albert, or perhaps themselves.

i was standing in line outside the chapel after the funeral service. it was a bit like a large party, where all the people i'd known since i was a child were passing before me, and once i'd adjusted my vision for their being taller or shorter, thinner or fatter ... and darkened their hair, i recognised them all. a strange woman stood before me. "it's such a pity your father died," she said, " we were due to study together. never mind," she continued, "i'll have a word with him next week and we'll figure something out." a bit woo-woo, i thought to myself, smiled bravely and on she moved.

in the week that followed, my main memory is just of people all the time. e-mails and letters and flowers arriving constantly, and people everywhere. i drifted in and out, wearing jeans and my a-rod yankees t-shirt. i would go into the front room, talk a little, then return to the couch in daddy's study and go back to sleep. meanwhile, noam was running interference for mummy. so many wanted to visit, it ended up that they had to make appointments, so mummy could have some time to rest.

i am called from my repose. the crazy lady is here - you have to keep her away from mummy. she is in the hall, and has a long, narrow cake tin with her. we take it to the kitchen, and i taste what is in the tin. it will never make it into the public domain. for the next hour we all stop by the kitchen and take just another tiny slice. it doesn't last long. it is the most delicious lemon cake we have ever tasted. later, i decide to call her the lemoncake lady because i don't want to remember her as one of the crazies.

we go into the dining room, and sit away from the others, and she begins to tell me her story. she is very jumpy, and ready to flee at any hint. she is well-groomed, well-spoken, clearly intelligent. she also speaks in a way that one would usually say this person is utterly bonkers. i listen to her story. a lot of it makes sense to me. i begin to think to myself that if i change the literal way she speaks into metaphor, she doesn't sound so mad. i read a book written by the rambam - she sits at a table with him and he talks to her and teaches her. different descriptions of a similar process, perhaps. my family keeps trying to rescue me, and the lemoncake lady twitches in her chair. i tell them i'll be back in a minute, and ask her to continue. it occurs to me that the reason she is here is because daddy listened to her. he took her seriously. it occurs to me that i should do the same. i do.

eventually she does leave. and i want to remember the lemoncake lady, because i want a way to remember how to be with someone where they are, and not always make them have to be where i am.

this is not, of course, exactly how i spoke on shabbat. i did note that this was a way my father continues to be with me and to teach me after his physical death. i did suggest that each of us has stories and people that may do the same for us. nice and rabbinical. and of course, after services, several people asked for the recipe.

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