Sometimes you have those "Kodak Moments" and you have to grasp them in your memory just because you don't have a camera in hand. Today I witnessed one of those moments.
I haven't talked about my father very much since he came home from hospital. In a way, there's too much to say about him, and in other ways there's not enough to say. Progress has been very slow and there have been some setbacks, too. Let me put it to you this way: it is not easy on him, it is not easy at all on my mother. And it is not easy for his children to see the diminishment in capabilities and cognition. It seems as if the decline is faster than it was before, and no doubt it is, brought on by such stark medical traumas to his body and his mind.
The memory falters rather frequently, even in the midst of normal conversations. Weakness permeates his bones and his person. "What is happening to me?" has been a popular refrain, my mother tells me. And I've been witness to "Ich hab nisht kein koyach mer." (I no longer have any strength.) It doesn't help that my father, and mother, are battling very bad upper respiratory viruses/flus right now, either.
But every day is a new day. And every day that my father wakes up, is able to daven and say "Thank G-d," is a true gift -- for him and for us.
Today I saw a bit of my "old father." Not the old, old man he's suddenly become, regardless of his advanced years, but my father "of old."
We were talking about his hometown, Tarnogrod, and I was telling him that I'd been contacted by someone from JewishGen, who informed me that marriage/death/birth records from certain pre-World War 2 years were now available...for a fee. I also told him that I'd been on the official gov't site for the town and saw a photo of a large synagogue that was now a library. (see top right photo in official town link)
He began to tell me the history of the town, who founded it and when, and suddenly he started saying something in Polish. Although I don't speak or understand the language at all, I could tell that he was reciting something like a poem. He had regained a twinkle in his eye -- which I really have not seen in WEEKS!!!!!!!!! And he had a smile, or rather more of a slanted grin...almost like a "cat who ate the canary" look on his face as he recited. He was showing off! My father was showing off something he remembered from the past, from a long-ago past. And when he finished his recitation, he said to my mother and I, "I learned that in grade three." Imagine, sometimes he doesn't know what day of the week it is, and doesn't know the month we're in, but he happily and proudly recited something he'd learned all those years ago -- and we're talking close to eighty years ago!
For that sparkle in his eyes, I wish I'd had a camera.
For that lopsided grin and that look he threw my mother and I, as in "See...my memory works just fine," I wish I'd had a camera.
For a glimpse at the schoolboy in him reciting an ancient Polish historical poem, I wish I'd had a camera.
No, I didn't have a camera, but those moments will no doubt linger in my heart.