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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Bubby’s Defenders

Dear Rachel,

After reading the comments regarding the great-grandma’s “not-so-illustrious golden years” (Chronicles, Oct. 18), I feel I must weigh in with my own personal viewpoint. And I mean that literally – for you see, I am the neighbor who helped the elderly almanah with her letter (Chronicles, Oct. 4).

Please allow me to first address your original response. You cited the probable reactions of seniors languishing in nursing homes who never hear from their children, or the childless who you imagine would consider themselves lucky to be in this lady’s shoes. As accurate as your hypothesis may be, in reality it does nothing to diminish this woman’s pain.

Some of the well-intentioned readers who subsequently commented fail to appreciate the utter despair and hopelessness of this elderly widow who suffers from the ravages of old age, among a host of other health issues. She is grateful for her sound mind, but the frustration of her physical incapacitation can be emotionally draining. Relying on others for even the most mundane of chores is particularly hard for the independent-minded type.

Yes, her children call her daily, and she has often expressed her gratitude for their caring, even admitting there is not much more they can do for her. But there are still all those hours of the day and night when frustration and loneliness eat at her.

Anyone who would meet this woman would instantly recognize her elegant bearing (despite her now-stooped posture) and her intelligence. Yes, she is bitter at times, but that’s understandable considering her circumstances and the infrequent calls and visits she receives, especially from her own grandchildren. I’m sure they are very busy with their own lives, but aren’t we all? And while everyone seems to be running around seeking to do chesed for all sorts of organizations, the opportunity that is within reach in one’s own backyard is too often sadly ignored.

My message to those who are blessed with the ability to move freely about and are not reliant on anyone else for their basic needs – yet find it easy to tell this poor woman to get over it: Pray to Hashem to give you strength in your old age and to keep you healthy and sound in body and mind.

A concerned neighbor

Dear Concerned,

Kudos to you for taking the time to look in on your elderly neighbor and offering her succor in her time of need. Of course you are both profiting – she from your kindness, and you from performing it.

Dear Rachel,

Regarding the letter signed, “The Golden Years are Not So Golden,” my first reaction, like others in the follow-up column, was that this lady is bitter, possibly depressed, and therefore seemingly quite unlikable. So it’s no wonder she is not getting the attention and love she desires. I can well imagine myself wanting to avoid such a family member.

However, this past Friday afternoon found me impatiently standing on line at the post office. Everyone knows to avoid the post office on Friday afternoons; it is known for its long lines, but this week I had no choice.

A sweet old lady in front of me was clutching just one small stamped envelope, a response card. She beamed with pride as she showed it to me, marveling at the beautiful return stamp. The stamp was purple and was custom designed to say “Bat Mitzvah” and she proudly told me that the stamp on the invitation had a picture of the bat mitzvah girl, her granddaughter.

Before long it was her turn to go to the window. In a dignified manner she proclaimed to the postmaster that she brought the letter to the window to make sure it gets on the first truck out so that hers could be the first response her granddaughter receives. As soon as he reassured her, she left.

Upon reflecting on the responses to your earlier article and pondering over the incident at the post office, I couldn’t help but wonder about this upcoming bat mitzvah celebration.

Will Bubby be relishing and delighting in her granddaughter’s simcha? Will she get to dance with her? Will her family fuss over her and give her loving attention? Or will she be placed at a table away from the noise and forgotten about?

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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