Forgive the informal address, but we have been friends for almost sixty years. For purposes of this article, I hope to rename namesless even as I speak for the many thousands like me.
When I first got married, we shared Yomim Tovim with my parents and in-laws for the first few years while the first few children were little and there was space enough for the first few couples on either side. After that, all the adult children vied for the privilege of hosting the parents and those of us who lived close enough to walk over would do so to visit with them.
However, as my own brood of nine got older and married, something went awry. We lived in a very large house in which we converted the attic, basement and two-car garage into space for guests and it was a given that most of our children and their families would join us for Yom Tov. Then, just two years ago, on top of the usual assemblage of regulars, two sets of machatonim came so they could be with the children and grandchildren as well.
Now, Pesach is just a few short weeks away and I am dreading it. For some times, even making Shabbos has been difficult for me and I have been to the doctor numerous time for pain medication. I simply don’t know how to cut the list or even suggest that, perhaps this year, we go to one of them for Pesach – yet, I simply don’t have the strength. Just preparing the Purim seuda for more than thirty-six, including children, grandchildren and great-grands, one set of machatonim and two neighbors, almost put me in bed. And now Pesach?
Rachel, I know you hosted your children and their families until you had your surgery, how did you manage to still do Pesach?
I am not a youngster anymore; I feel every one of my seventy-one years. My arthritis is so severe that sometimes, after a spasm, I cannot unfurl my fingers from the claws they become during an attack. I know you will say “the time has come” or that “it’s long past due” for me to let the young ones do the heavy lifting, shopping, cooking and preparing and that I and my husband sit back and enjoy the grandchildren and great grandchildren. I, too, hear the clock ticking ever louder and do not want to hasten what ultimately is inevitable, but I feel so useless and do not want to be a burden to my family.
So, what’s your advice dear friend? I know you have some.
You could well be any one of my closest friends and what you say has become somewhat epidemic. I too remember those early years with two small children, going from parents to in-laws for Yomim Tovim. We all had smaller families and it made sense. Today, baruch Hashem, our adult children have five, six seven or more kinderlach. Can we honestly expect older parents to be able to continue on making the chagim for such a crowd, well into their seventies? I think you are right in your observations that there is a cut-off for such things and it is not the same for everyone.
Those of us who can no longer expend the energy and strength, but still want our families to be with us for chagim and Shabbosim, have to find alternate ways of achieving this.
Some of the people I know take their entire families away to hotels for Pesach, a huge expense indeed, but as a friend says, “they’ll have less of an inheritance to squabble over after 120 years.” I think she’s on to a good thing there, if all her family is on board, then everyone benefits.
Other couples I know cater meals and hire cleaning help. And then there are those whose adult children help with the preparing, cooking, serving and clean-up so it does not fall on one person alone.
And, of course, there is always the option of going to a different adult child every Yom Tov and enjoying the sensation of being welcomed, wanted, fawned over and served.
Pick any one of the above, but don’t kill yourself trying to do it all, certainly when health and strength do not permit. Forget about the adult children and think of all the nachas you will be forfeiting if you end up sick and disabled, or chas v’shalom, worse!
At the end of the day, we are the ones who have to make the best choices for ourselves and help our children understand that as we get older, they have unique opportunities to mekayim the mitzvos of kibbud av v’eim. And the best way to teach is by example. If we value ourselves, they will value us in return, and relay this message to our children.
For those of you readers who are young, step up and start a new tradition, if it does not already exist, and celebrate the Yomim Tovim, Pesach in particular, in a way that allows your parents to enjoy the nachas.