Thursday, February 01, 2007

I Could've Written This...

Several weeks ago my mother passed along an article that she'd cut out from a local, monthly Orthodox Jewish paper. She knew I would appreciate it. She knew that I could sort of relate to it. She knew that she sort of could too.

I'm typing it now for you, simply because... it is beautiful, even if sad.


My dear father, incredibly bright, wise and understanding, is now struggling to recover from an operation just one week ago that removed a large, cancerous tumor from deep inside his brain. If only I had known that I would not be able to communicate with my father after the surgery, I certainly would have made sure to lengthen and deepen our prior phone conversations. Though I made every effort after Rosh Hashanah -- during my short visit to Los Angeles -- to savor the precious moments we shared together, these days it doesn't at all seem like I valued my father's companionship enough.

When we were finally allowed to enter the recovery room after the surgery -- which took almost a day to complete after many more days of preparation, with multiple doctors' appointments, testing of the brain and bodily functions -- my father ever so sweetly apologized to my siblings and me for not being able to remember our names. Though at that time he was still able to recognize us, his voice and behavior stung of change and more change to come. Little did I realize, though, that the loving caresses he gave me on my cheek after I kissed his hand that day would be the last interaction we would share that week. I have replayed that poignant moment countless times in my mind.

The brain, with its storage of memories, identifies our unique selves, our history and our world. When the tumor first made its ugly way into our lives, it gradually took over my father's short-term memory. But we were comforted, knowing that his long-term memory had not been damaged. But now it is different. We are just a bunch of strangers to my father. Even my mother, after 50 years of marriage is painfully unrecognized by her husband.

I cry to Hashem -- I want my father back! The doctors and nurses reassure us that some patients go through this stage after brain surgery, and that some do snap out of it. At least a few days ago we were able to say that my father's behavior was probably due to the medication or the swelling of the brain following surgery. But now that he is off those medications, we can only face the hard facts. We must turn to Hashem, and wait with humility for the outcome.

Let us look at the special people in our lives and appreciate the gift of their presence. It's a gift that comes with no guarantees, a gift which is both given and returned by the swift movement of a secret key, held only by the One Above.

I hope readers could kindly make time to help us shake the heavens, so that Hashem might return to my wonderful father his memory and his health. The name to daven for is Gavriel ben Vilca.