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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Don’t Kid Yourself About The Golden Years

Dear Rachel,

I am an elderly, widowed great-grandma who should be proud of at least the latter part of that description. As for elderly, well that’s not exactly our own doing; the length of our years is hardly up to us. Neither do we get to decide which spouse will go before the other.

Actually, motherhood, let alone becoming a bubby and elter-bubby, is also in the hands of Hashem, though it is said that one can change one’s mazel by pushing away a zivug. But that’s a separate issue I don’t care to go into.

The reason I write this letter (that my neighbor’s daughter kindly offered to type on her computer and e-mail to you) is to offer chizuk to childless couples. They should take it from me, a seasoned old lady who has been around the block a few times and knows what she is talking about: motherhood is not all it’s cracked up to be.

You know the saying, that a mother can take care of ten children, but ten children can’t take care of one mother. Well, I didn’t have ten (don’t know how mothers of so many manage to stay sane) but I did do my best and more to raise my less than a handful, who I will admit turned out pretty decent. They are talented, accomplished individuals and are adept at juggling child rearing with successful careers.

So why am I kvetching, you might ask. Because I am very much alone. I am frail and weak and have old-age issues. And I’m lonely. Smiling photographs of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren warm the heart for only so long. I yearn for company, for the smiling faces in person.

Rachel, I would be content with a phone call. I don’t expect to get several a day (wouldn’t have the strength for them) but would settle for each of my grandchildren calling at least once a week, even if it’s only to say, “Hello, Bubby, I’ve been meaning to visit but got busy…will try to see you next week.”

I wish. My children call me daily but are too busy to drop by. As for my einiklach, G-d bless them, if I didn’t have pictures I would forget what they look like. But it wouldn’t really matter, because with the length of time between visits they wouldn’t look the same anymore anyway.

Most of my grandchildren are married with babies of their own. When they were single I got to see them when I would visit my kids for Shabbos or Yom Tov, but as soon as they got married they seemed to forget I exist. I guess they have no time for an old lady like me.

My message to the childless is not to feel bad about not having children. They will be spared the pain of having them yet not having them. And they will be spared worry, lots of it… a mother worries constantly about her children and her children’s children. Believe me, parents suffer many heartaches way before they reach their so-called “golden years.”

No, it is not pleasant to stare at the walls in your home and to share your personal space with a could-care-less caretaker day after dreary day. Every night when I go to sleep I tell the Ribono Shel Olam that I am in His hands and have only Him to depend on. Maybe when I get up there, I will understand things better. The day cannot come soon enough for me.

The Golden Years are not so golden

Dear Golden,

My heart truly aches for you, as well as for all our lonely seniors who feel the pain of loneliness. I am not even going to pretend to understand how you feel, because only someone in your shoes can truly fathom your suffering.

In no way is the following meant to minimize your distress… but consider for a moment the lonesome octogenarian languishing in a nursing home, who is reading this and thinking, “She lives in the comfort of her own home and her children call her every day… I should be so lucky! Mine I hardly hear from, ever since they decided I’d be better off in this place.”

Imagine if you will, the lonely widower who spends his days in an assisted living facility and cannot possibly hope for a visit from his children… because he never had any. He looks on longingly as other seniors excitedly receive a card, a visit or a phone call from their offspring.

Smiling pictures of grandchildren? The childless woman is thinking of how she would give anything for the privilege to arrive at such a stage in life. As she reads your letter, her mind screams, “Lucky lady, don’t allow pride to get in your way! Pick up that phone and call them instead of waiting for them to call you!”

So you see, dear woman, how everything is relative. To you, your cup is half-empty, to another it is half-full, and to a third it is overflowing… though, granted, focusing on the bright side is a tall order for one feeling weak and sickly.

To children and grandchildren who may recognize themselves: You might or might not have good reasons for playing dead to your old bubby. You may indeed consider her a kvetch or even a bore; after all, she doesn’t text, and she unnerves you when she sees right through you. Besides, you really don’t have time for her because there’s so much you need to cram into your day that is never long enough as is.

Well, consider this: One day when she won’t be around anymore you will cringe with regret at not having made the time to allay her loneliness and to wean wisdom from her life experiences. Oh, how you’ll long for the days when you had the opportunity to ask her about her past, her own childhood and growing years, yet blew the chance — to say nothing of having passed up on a grand mitzvah!

How I wished I had my own grandparents to visit, whom my parents would often speak of in wistful tones. A bubby? A zeidy? I only knew of their existence from storybooks and dreams. Hitler made sure they wouldn’t be around to enrich my life.

Enrich yours… before it’s too late.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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