empty Slice of Life

Hunger At My Door

I don’t recall exactly how old I was when “the man in the car” showed up on our street, but I was...

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I work as a social worker with mentally ill clients, most of whom have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  They live independently in apartments in the community and are able to come and go as they please.  They work, go to appointments, run errands, and shop in the supermarket just like everyone else. I coordinate their medical and psychiatric care, their employment and leisure activities, and whatever else happens to be going on in their lives.  Our staff often functions as their friends, therapists, and caretakers.  Some of them have no family, so we fill that role for them as well. We try to give them the best care possible, but many things (really all things, as we’ve learned this year) are not in our control. 

Life is busy. Very busy. It’s for this reason that I find myself multitasking on a constant basis. When I do housework, I often wear a knapsack on my back, so that while I am cooking and cleaning, I’m also carrying weights and strengthening my bones. My family used to give me the, “How did you get like that” look, but I never cared.  When I do my daily power walk, I can never just walk; I also have to dispose of my recyclables and run into the makolet for that one little thing. Of course, I walk out with bags of groceries, but that’s okay.  I just put them on my back and hope for even stronger bones. I do all this while coordinating my schedule, planning my articles and menus, and catching up with my friends on the phone. By now, my friends would probably find it strange to have a conversation with me without the noise of buses thundering in the background.  Most of the time, things work out and I accomplish at least most of what I set out to do on my walks. But sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and end up messing myself up.

Since the last lockdown in Israel was lifted, there appeared to be a sense of relief and complacency that permeated the country.  The corona numbers were significantly lower. Malls, schools, businesses, museums, hair salons, zoos, nature reserves, national parks, and memorial sites reopened.  People were permitted to visit in each other’s homes. Travel was permitted, and there was even a “Green Island” program that allowed Israelis to travel to Eilat or the Dead Sea resort area after showing negative results for a corona test performed within the prior 72 hours. That is not to say that things had returned to normal and that the corona period was behind us. It was just a teeny taste of normalcy, a sneak preview of good things to come in the not so distant future. I could practically smell the tantalizing aroma of the cappuccino that I would soon be drinking with my husband at an outdoor (or even indoor) cafe. I could see myself at my favorite shiur - not on Zoom, but live! I began to give thought as to what should be our next travel destination and conjured up images in my mind of the beautiful scenery that we would witness. I could almost hear the force of the powerful waterfall that would most certainly be part of the landscape.

I’ve been back to visit my hometown of Kew Gardens Hills many times since we made aliyah over 22 years ago. Once my mother passed away, my anchor to the neighborhood was gone, but nonetheless, I continue to gravitate towards the community every time I travel to the US.  But on each trip, the area feels increasingly less familiar.  I used to walk down the street and see many familiar faces.  Now I recognize fewer and fewer faces.  While there are some stores on Main Street that have withstood the test of time, so many have come and gone.  And of those that remain, many have been updated and renovated to the point that they barely resemble what they once were.  And what on earth happened to the library?  Once I actually walked right by my house, not recognizing that it was the home I grew up in.  It took a moment to register, due to the fence that was built around the property.  But with all the changes, big and small, there were some things I could always count on to remain stable.  I could depend on the fact that if I walked up 70th Road past YCQ, the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills would be standing prominently at the top of the road.  And if I continued a bit further, I would reach the home of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Schonfeld. No matter how different the neighborhood began to feel, seeing the shul and the Schonfeld residence made me feel like I was back home. There was no need to go inside the shul (although sometimes I did), as the memories would immediately begin to surface.  I could hear Rabbi Schonfeld’s clear voice speaking at the pulpit, giving over his thoughts about the Parshah or the situation in Israel.  I could hear him loudly singing Mipi Keil at the outdoor hakafos on Simchas Torah. 

Our niece got engaged right around the time of the Bar Mitzvah of our oldest son.  As a soon-to-be member of the family, her choson came to wish us a Mazel Tov.  Approximately four months later, her choson’s niece became a Bat Mitzvah.  After attending both simchas, the young couple began to conceive an idea.  They thought to themselves:  Bar Mitzvah.  Bat Mitzvah.  Hmmm.  Wouldn’t it be funny if these two teens marry each other one day?  They considered the thought and then safely tucked away their secret brainchild for later use.

My family has, baruch Hashem, been thoroughly enjoying the newest member of our family immensely.  My baby grandson (along with his wonderful parents) has spent many shabbosim at our home.  He has come for visits, parties, Melaveh Malkas, and many delightful occasions. We, too, have visited him on his own turf.  Last week my son called and asked if we would mind watching him one day this week.  Such a funny question!  Was he joking?  Let me think a minute.  Is there anything else I would rather do these days than watch my delicious grandson?  Hmmm. I’m trying but, no, I can’t think of anything.  Of course, we’ll watch him