Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Phone Call

The following post might bother some people, because they might suddenly have a different impression of me.

What can I say?

I'm me. And I do what I have to do. I did what I felt I had to do. Wanted to do.

And this blog is my confessional box, and this post is serving as my confession.

Last Friday night, we made early Shabbos -- our shul davens early, and my husband came home early. We sang "Shalom Aleichem" and my husband had just finished singing "Aishet Chayil." I told him that although we always made kiddush and bentched while growing up, we didn't do Aishet Chayil and not even Shalom Aleichem. We had a step in Orthodoxy but most of the time I guess we were in Conservative Judaism.

Just after I made this statement, the telephone rang. Nobody of real importance to us calls us on Shabbos because people who know us know we're observant and wouldn't answer, but my husband looked over at the call display and saw my parents' name and phone number and announced it with a questioning tone to his voice.

We'd both spoken to my parents before Shabbos and they would not use the phone, (times have changed in their household) and especially not to call us...unless it was an emergency.

When Pesach rolled around, my husband had decided to forward our home phone calls to his cell phone, so as not be bothered by ringing house lines on Yom Tov or Shabbos. But we'd told my mother if there was ever an issue, to call my cell phone number (I rarely get calls on it anyhow)and I'd leave it on over Shabbos and Yom Tov. I'd hoped that phone would never ring at those times...

But my husband hadn't forwarded the house calls to his cell this Shabbos, and now on the landline was my parents' phone number facing us. And why on the landline and not on my cell phone?

I asked, "What do I do?"

I was told to answer it, and I heard a distressed and panicked voice when I picked up the receiver: "WE'RE GOING TO NY GENERAL. HE'S HAD A STROKE AND A SEIZURE!"

Oh. My. G-d.

You cannot imagine what went through my head at that moment. I didn't know what to do. What to say.

I tried to shut my mind down. And I held myself in check as my husband made kiddush, blessed my youngest son (my other two were staying with friends over Shabbos), washed and made ha-motzei. I allowed myself to eat some fish and soup...and then I said: "I HAVE TO GO THERE!"

I knew it was not right to break Shabbos -- by answering the phone and by going to the hospital -- but this time I thought it was the end. A year ago, March, I was called and told my father had been rushed to emergency, and when I got there, he was in a catatonic-looking state. They'd thought he'd suffered a massive stroke, and there were no reactions, just a waxy look to his face, staring at nothingness. At that time he spent 3 1/2 weeks in hospital. Just two months ago, he came home from spending 3 months in hospital.

I silently asked Hashem to forgive me, and my husband gave me a Tehillim. I panicked and said: "I don't even know what I'd read in it." (sad, but true. My father reads Tehillim daily, and has for years, and his daughter doesn't even know where to find her way in it, ie. what to read when.) But I thought I needed something/anything to hang on to.

I rushed off....

When I got to the hospital emergency area, my father was lying on the gurney he'd been brought in on, oxygen mask on, but he was cognizant. He was talking through the mask, telling my brother -- whose Shabbos had also been "disturbed" -- to go home. And my mother said a few times, "I shouldn't have called you."

Yes, you should have, Mom. Nobody deserves to face these trials on their own. This is my father, you are my mother, and we are a family.

To make a long story short-- my father probably did not suffer a stroke, although even the paramedics had first thought he did, as did the attending emergency room doctor. But he did have a very lengthy seizure, as he sat in his chair at the dining room table, prepared to bentsch. The after-effects of a seizure often mimic strokes: tiredness, general weakness, slurred speech, confusion, etc.

My father was in the hospital, admitted in the early hours of Shabbos morning, and poked, prodded, tested, X-rayed, questioned over the course of the next few days. Thank G-d he didn't suffer any more seizures, nor did that "grand mal" one have truly lingering effects. His medications have been reassessed, and he was given his walking papers. I'd love to be able to add: "and a clean bill of health" but we know that's not the case.

He was released today, Yom Yerushalayim, a celebration for Jews the world over, and a celebratory day for us.

My Shabbos could have turned out so very differently. I have a very vivid imagination, and I can also be very realistic. I thank G-d that my father is still among the living.

It pains me to know that perhaps I was selfish last Shabbos. I needed to answer the phone. I needed to go to the hospital. I needed to know exactly what had landed my father in an ambulance and emergency room, and see him for myself. I made the judgment call that it was okay to break Shabbos at a time like this; I deemed it an offshoot of Pikuach Nefesh. G-d forbid anything should happen to my father in the next several hours, my mother would need me.

As I traveled to and from the hospital, I felt guilty. There are people so much more religious and pious than I am, and I figured that they would not take it upon themselves to do what I had done and was doing. I wondered about a friend whose child was incredibly sick for lengthy periods of time and eventually succumbed to an early, untimely death. Had he ever broken Shabbos because he felt it to be a dire, critical situation at the time?

And you shouldn't know, but just a week earlier, someone I know lost her mother Shabbos morning. Her mother passed away in her house. The daughter was there with her brothers...and apparently did not do anything until after Shabbos was out, ie. calling the authorities and chevra kaddisha. Halachically, was this correct? She is very frum, and I know she was in limbo, not yet formally deemed in avelut, and it was Shabbos. But should she have and could she have broken Shabbos to make the necessary phone calls? (any knowledgeable people out there with the answer?)

But as I traveled, I thought of these people who honored Shabbos above all else. Perhaps in my case, it was the continued honor of Kibbud Av v'Em (Honor Thy Father and Mother) that was foremost. That has sustained me throughout my life and has been at the helm of the house I grew up in...along with Shmirat ha-Lashon. (guarding of the tongue against lashon hara/bad talk/gossip.)

Last Friday night, close to midnight, my father and mother urged me to go home. My father's words to me were: "Have a good Shabbos."

And on Motzei Shabbos, I was able to speak to him on the phone, and my father's words to me were: "Have a happy Mother's Day."

Dad, each week that you're "here," I can have a good Shabbos, and each day that you're "here" is a wonderful Mother's Day for me.

We should wish each other a Good Shabbos each week, and may you be around to wish me many more happy Mother's Days!

Music to My Ears

This is an interior of a music box, the Swiss movement, so to speak.

This is more or less what my music box looks like on the outside.

I often get flashbacks... and sometimes not even by association. Sometimes I get random flashbacks. Just. Like. That.

And I had one before.

I suddenly recalled when I was about 12 years old and being in Switzerland with my mother, traveling for two to three weeks to large cities, to small cities and to mountain towns. And on that visit, I was told that I could buy a music box.

And so began my hunt for the perfect music box. The perfect song. The perfect price range.

I lifted the lids of oh so many boxes that cost a certain number of acceptable Swiss francs. I heard Brahms Lullaby, Love Story, Fur Elise, Edelweiss -- over and over again.

Yes, they were lovely songs to hear a music box emit, but what did I settle on?

"Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" -- the tune from OKLAHOMA.

I guess even my twelve-year-old self recognized even then that Broadway showtunes rang supreme.