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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Juggling (as appeared in the Bina)

Yesterday, I learned something new, and it was not pleasant.

It began with a torn shoelace, which meant, of course, that I would have to replace it. I was lucky; I had a pair of spare laces in the closet. But for some strange reason, the new laces did not fit through the holes.  The original laces were rounded while these were not, so I assumed that that must be the problem. I asked one of my grandchildren to run across the street to buy me thin, spaghetti-like, laces that would fit done the holes. Instead, he took the laces that I thought were too big to fit into the holes and, within less than a minute, the laces were threaded through the holes and my shoes were ready to wear.

That’s when it dawned on me. The problem was me, and not the laces.

I know that Parkinson effects fine motor skills, but because the changes are gradual, I didn’t realize just how much. Yes, I make a lot more typing mistakes than I used to, and yes, it takes me longer to get dressed in the morning, but still, the shoelace incident was a not so pleasant revelation.

The day after I discovered the extent of my lack of dexterity I attended my Parkinson rehabilitation group. After we finished doing hand exercises with a special claylike material, Ayala, our wonderful occupational therapist, handed out sewing cards and laces, and instructed us to put the laces through the holes. Almost all of us had difficulty with this task.

Ayala explained that as we grow older, tasks involving fine motor skills become more difficult. That is true for everyone, and even more so for people with Parkinson, as Parkinson speeds up the normal degenerative process, in other words, aging.

All of that is absolutely fascinating, at least on an intellectual level, when the process refers to someone other than myself.  But when it translates into ME losing these capabilities, it’s hit a bit too close to home for comfort. I like myself just the way I am, thank you very much. No changes (at least of those kind), please.

That afternoon I had my semi-annual appointment with the neurologist at Hadassah. Of course he told me that I was doing great, but he also instructed me to graduate from a cane to two walking poles (all the better to walk, my dear), and upped my medicines. And that didn’t sound so great to me.

I work so hard to keep the status quo, but I don’t always succeed. It’s as though I am racing up the down escalator.  

Racing up the down escalator has caused my life to become extraordinarily busy; and sometimes, I feel that it’s a bit too busy for comfort. Tikvah for Parkinson, the organization that I opened to help people with Parkinson in Jerusalem, has grown at a dizzying rate. It seems as though the moment we open a new program, there’s need for another one. And as crazy as this might sound, although I opened these programs so that I could get the therapy I need, instead of participating in the program, I am constantly called out to take care of various emergencies.

It’s really a paradox. I truly and honestly believe that a person with Parkinson must make his health a top priority. And yet, I was so busy helping other people with Parkinson, that I lost my sense of priority. Forgot to take care of myself. I created a whole program to help people with Parkinson, myself included, yet I was rarely able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Did you notice that I wrote the last paragraph in the past sense? That’s because, after my shoelace wakeup call, I decided to become nasty and mean, well, kind of… Chessed needs borders. I am learning to say no, to tell people that they are going to have to wait until I finish what I’m doing before I can speak with them, to carve out time for myself, so that I can continue to be myself. 

We Jewish women are amazing jugglers. We spend our entire life multi-tasking, juggling our responsibilities to our families, to the communities, and to ourselves as we try to keep our priorities straight. And even as the number of flying balls become less, it’ remains an incredible balancing act.

At our Tikvah group, whenever Gili, our physiotherapist, challenges us with a difficult balancing exercise, she says, “You ladies are capable. You’re strong. You have so much hidden strength. I know that you can do it.”


And she’s right. We do, and we can. 

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

Sometimes (or maybe I should say, most of the time) things don’t do the way I expect them to go. And although sometimes (um, well, to be honest it’s not just sometimes…) when that happens, I get upset, or even angry, I’ve learned from experience that I shouldn’t. More often than not, I discover, either immediately or several years down the road, that what I thought was an unpleasant turn of events was, in reality, a surprise gift,

This last Rosh Hashana Hashem presented me with one such surprise gift. It was not one that I would have chosen, and to tell you the truth, it was only thanks to a shiur that I attended erev Yom Tov that I was able to keep reminding myself that if this is what Hashem is sending me, then that is what I need, and that it’s my job to focus on the avoda of Rosh Hashana.  But it wasn’t easy.

Okay, I know that you’re waiting to hear the story, so I won’t continue to keep you in suspense. Every year, my husband travels to Uman for Rosh Hashana, and every year, one of married daughters and I make Yom Tov together. This year, since neither of us were feeling well, I decided to splurge and go with my daughter and her children to a heimishe guest house for Yom Tov. I had heard from people who had been there in previous years that it would be a perfect blend of gashmiyus and ruchniyos: a slow, hertzidig chassidishe davening, lots of heimishe families, and traditional (Ashenazi) food. “You don’t have to bring a thing,” said one women.  “They take care of everything for you.”

I couldn’t wait.
  
The large “Bruchim Haba’im l’nofish Rosh Hashana” sign at the front desk was the first clue that I should expect the unexpected. We were a bit surprised at the very casual dress code – lots of teenage boys in cut-off jeans and thongs, and a number of women were (gasp!) smoking.

The elderly chassidishe couple sitting in the lobby looked as shell shocked as we were. “The hotel rented out all the rooms to two groups,” the man explained. “One’s a mesorti group from Kiryat Gat, the others an organization for divorced women and their children called ‘Em Habanim.’” The man shook his head and added, “I have no idea where I’ll daven.”  

Since davening “nusach Morocco” was not really an option for us, we opted for the Em Habanim minyan, comprised of half a dozen avreichim, a few bar mitzvah bachurim, lots of children, most under the age of ten… and one elderly chassid.

Between mincha and maariv, instead of words of hisorerus, an avreich told the children a simple story, a mashal about our love for Hashem. At first, I found myself bitter and angry. “Will I be spending Yom Tov listening to children’s stories?” But then I decided to stop fighting the inevitable and focus on Rosh Hashana. I was startled to find myself moved to tears. And although the davening was much, much  faster than I would have liked (after all, how long can little children sit?), the cries of these little children, growing up without a father, evoked a depth of emotion that I didn’t know I was capable of.

Throughout both days of Yom Tov, my little granddaughters sat at my side for most of the davening. Every few minutes, one of the madrichot, oblivious to the fact that they were not part of the group, patted them on the head or stroked their cheeks as they handed them a coupon (to be redeemed after Yom Tov for a prize) or a candy for davening nicely. Each time the children yelled “Amen,” or sang one of the traditional Rosh Hashana songs, I had to wipe away the tears.
I admit, this gift wasn’t without its challenges. We ate in the main dining room, together with the group from Kiryat Gat. The atmosphere was very (VERY) different from anything I had ever experienced. And of course the food was far from heimishe. Yes, we had our moments; one night two of the children vomited all over the hotel room. At some meals, we couldn’t take the noise and left after the first course. Sunflower seed shells were EVERYWHERE. By the third day, people were throwing chairs at each other.

But on the other hand (Debbie, remember, focus on the positive…)  I met some incredible women and made some new friends, hopefully for life. I am in awe of their bravery, raising children alone, instilling them with yiras Shemayim while providing them with a stable home. Shabbos, one of the boys celebrated his bar mitzvah. He wanted to make it there because, as he told his mother, “Em Habanim is our family. They’ve been there for us, and now I want to share my simcha with them.” After the davening, the men and children sang and danced as they accompanied the bar mitzvah boy and his radiant mother to the dining room. I understood how the boy felt. It really was one large, warm family.

This morning, one of the women that I met over Yom Tov sent me an email, It said, “When life hands you a script, write a better one.” Rosh Hashana I was handed a script that could have been a disaster. I could have spent the entire Yom Tov ranting at the unfairness of it all. Instead, I decided to rewrite the script, to focus on what I had, not on what was lacking. In doing so, I discovered precious gifts, women who can teach me lessons in courage, and who will hopefully become friends for life.



Our Upgraded Mommy Camp (as appeared in the Bina)


“Look, there’s another one!” My daughter quickly jumped up and threw her shoe at it. But before she could sit down, my daughter-in-law screamed, “Over there! Get it quick!”

It was another cockroach. Yup, a huge, shiny black makak.

Every year I host a “mother-and-daughter retreat” for my daughters, daughters-in-law, and, more recently, married granddaughters. It’s usually an overnight affair, in our house, in which we all sleep (or to be more accurate, don’t sleep) on mattresses spread across the living room floor. This year, I didn’t feel up to hosting so many people, so when I saw an advertisement for an overnight women’s retreat with a full program of top-notch lecturers, I decided to splurge.

I was looking forward to a delicious combination of ruchniyus and gashmiyus. And I was not disappointed. The food was delicious and the lectures were both practical and inspirational. That night, after we retired to our hotel rooms, instead of discussing the latest child-raising fad, or the pros and cons of using a microwave, our conversations centered on bringing the concepts discussed at the lectures into our daily lives. I was humbled by my children’s s desire to grow in their Yiddishkeit.
Let me add just one more detail: many of the lecturers talked about how challenges are good for us, as they act as an impetus for growth. Well,we certainly had our share of (minor) challenges that night. The cockroaches; the shower faucet that fell out of the wall the minute the water was turned on, bruising my daughter’s foot; the hotel room door that would not close. Oh, and the bath that was clogged, so that instead of going down, the water went up…and up.

After killing the seventh cockroach, we realized that we were vastly outnumbered and phoned reception to bring in reinforcements. Dudi arrived bearing a huge can of bug spray. He moved furniture, killed cockroaches, and the promised that the hotel would fix the shower and front door the next morning.

“Don’t bother,” we said with a laugh. “We have to return the keys by ten a.m.”

By the time Dudi left, it was after midnight. I tickled my two infant grandchildren, said goodnight to my two daughters, and returned to the adjacent room that I shared with two other daughters. And then we stayed up until close to two in the morning, laughing as we reminisced about the “good old days” when they were growing up (it’s amazing how we view our past with such rose-colored glasses!).

The next morning, I slipped out of the room and sat outside on the grass to daven. When I finished, I quietly opened the already partially opened door (the one that couldn’t close) to see how my two other girls and their two babies were faring.

The room was empty! Even the suitcases were gone. After they were found in the dining room, eating breakfast, my two missing daughters told me that after killing several more cockroaches, they realized they had no choice but to accept the hotel’s offer to move them to a different room without “pets.”

The crazy thing is that despite the cockroaches and the showers that didn’t work, the blister on my foot that made walking difficult, and the colicky baby that had to be held the entire time, we all felt that the getaway was a real success. We had been together for close to two days, spending quality time bonding and creating memories.

I don’t know about you, but my life is extremely busy. Between writing articles, running my organization Tikvah for Parkinson, taking care of the house and spending time with the grandchildren, I often find that I don’t have the time to just sit and talk with the people I love the most. Yes, my kids come for Shabbos, but between the seudos and being busy with the grandchildren, there’s little time for deep, meaningful conversations, the type that comes so much easier when it’s the middle of the night and you’re half asleep!

So take your own family on an upgraded mother-and-daughter camp. If you’re really lucky, you’ll also get to stretch your spiritual muscles with a few cockroaches and blocked drains, creating zany unforgettable memories that will leave you giggling at two o’clock in the morning, as you spend some real quality time bonding with your daughters and granddaughters.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A SUKKAH, LARGE AND SMALL - AS APPEARED IN THE BINAH


We have a most unusual sukkah. Really. When people come to visit and I invite them to have make a “leishev basukkah,” the usual reaction is, “Where is it?”

“Here. You’re in it,” I say with a smile.

“Huh?”

In response to their confusion, I point upwards, toward the ceiling. The sky is visible between the wooden slats.
When we moved into our apartment ten years ago, we moved around a few walls to create an extra bedroom and enclosed the porch. Instead of building a permanent roof over the open section of the porch, the contractor installed a sliding roof, which could be easily removed to create – voila! – a sukkah. And it really is “voila!” Erev Sukkos, my husband removes the false ceiling, slides the roof off, and spreads the slats across the empty space. It takes him less than fifteen minutes.

Our sukkah is tiny. My husband can, and does, sleep in it, but only on a very narrow mattress, otherwise he might just roll out. We can, and do, invite guests – four thin people can fit around the table, and two not-so-thin ones. Because it is so small, I don’t hang decorations on the walls. Every centimeter 
is crucial.  

But our sukkah is kosher. We can make a “leishev basukkah” in it. And that’s the ikar.

Before we moved to our present apartment, we had two fairly large sukkos; one for sleeping and one for eating. Erev Sukkos was chaotic; I ran a marathon between preparing the meals, greeting our guests, taking care of the children and desperately trying to prevent the stray pieces of schach from overtaking our lives. The moment Yom Tov began, I would collapse in exhaustion on the sofa and sleep until it was time to start the seudah.
I loved every moment of it. Yes, physically it was a huge amount of work, but it was also exhilarating. I loved the magical evenings sitting in our sukkah. It was constantly crowded with family and guests, and laughter, and singing and divrei Torah.

 Yes, I loved every moment of it then, and I love every moment of it today. The small, quiet, just-the-two-of-us sukkah with an occasional guest is what I need, and want, now; while the crowded and chaotic sukkah, brimming with family and non-stop company, was what I needed and wanted then.

Before starting high school (or “seminar,” as it’s known in Israel) I take each of my granddaughters shopping for a new grown-up school bag, followed by a tall ice cream sundae (with lots of whipped cream!) in Geulah.  Eight years ago, when I took my oldest granddaughter shopping for her schoolbag, I really enjoyed the shopping part (of course I enjoyed the ice cream part as well). We walked up and down the streets of Geulah, comparing bags and prices, looking for the best deal. This summer, however, as I stood crushed into a tiny corner of a crowded shop, watching my granddaughter, together with half a dozen other teenagers, agonize over which bag was the perfect one, my only thought was, “How much longer will it take?” (At the cash register, the shopkeeper quipped, “Finding a shidduch is nothing compared to finding the right bag).
That is part of the challenge of my stage of life. Of course I really wanted to enjoy some quality time (and an ice cream) with this granddaughter. It was pure nachas to share her excitement as she stepped into young adulthood, as symbolized by the purchase of a schoolbag suitable for a young lady, rather than a school child. And it goes without saying that spending time with family is top priority. But at the same time, I crave the safe haven and quiet of my own daled amos. I need my “tiny sukkah” every day of the year.
A lot of construction is going on in our building right now. Two families are renovating their apartments, and another two families are building large sukkah porches off their living rooms. A couple of people in the building suggested that we also add a sukkah porch.

But I don’t want to.

And the reason is simple.

I like our little sukkah. No, to be more accurate, I’d say that I love our little sukkah. It’s small and cozy, which means that we can’t have a lot of company. And that’s perfect for me and my family, now, at this stage of my life.  



CURVED BALLS, AS APPEARED IN THE BINAH

Last night, I returned home from a four-day trip to Switzerland. No, I wasn’t climbing the Alps (although someday I hope to). Rather, I had been invited to lecture to the chashuve women of Zurich. What did I talk about? Well, I’ll start off with a story I told the women, something that happened to me some twenty years ago, when I was visiting my sister in St Louis, Missouri. 

One afternoon, while my sister was busy at the bank, I popped into the neighboring music store to shop for a keyboard. But after having lived in Israel for several decades, I erroneously assumed that since the Hebrew word for keyboard is organit, in English it must be an organ.

The moment I entered the store, the salesman broke into a huge smile. "Sister," he said. "I'm so honored that you have come to visit. How can I help you?"

Sister? Whose sister? It took me a few seconds before I realized what he meant. I was wearing a navy-blue pinstriped skirt with a matching navy-blue pinstriped vest, a white blouse and a dark blue snood; he automatically assumed that I was a member of a convent.

I decided to set him straight. "No, no," I said with a smile. "I'm just a regular lady, and I'm interested in purchasing an organ for my children."

The salesman smiled and bowed his head. “We are all your beloved children."

"Tell me, sister," he continued, his smile growing wider by the second. "Where do you live?"

"Jerusalem," I unthinkingly replied.

"Jerusalem! The holy city of Jerusalem!" he enthused, stressing the word Hholy. Waxing poetic, he continued, "So you want to buy an organ for your beloved children in the holy city Jerusalem. How beautiful!"

I felt faint.

"Sister," he asked. "How many children are there?"

I was afraid to state the number. It might confirm his suspicions.

The conversation was becoming more and more ludicrous. Whatever I said, he interpreted incorrectly. He had put me in a box, and I couldn’t get out.

Finally, my real sister arrived. I exclaimed, “Oh, my sister is here,” and made a beeline to the door. As we drove away, I told her of my adventure, and of course we giggled all the way home, like real sisters do.

Memorable story. But what’s the point?

As I explained to the women of Zurich, the salesman saw me as a nun and no matter how hard I tried to tell him that I wasn’t, he interpreted my explanations according to his assumptions.

We are all like the effusive salesman. We put our family, friends and acquaintances into neat cubby holes, make assumptions about them, and then act toward them according to those assumptions

I once read a story about a teacher who at the beginning of the school year was accidentally given a glowing report about one particular student, when, in fact, this student was barely able to keep up with the rest of the class. Since the teacher assumed that the student he was gifted, rather than barely educable, she had high expectations for him. He lived up to her expectations and became one of the top students in the class.

But the truth is, not only do we make assumptions about others, we also make assumptions about ourselves. We limit ourselves, view ourselves according to the boxes we’ve created for ourselves, and as a result, we often don’t actualize our own potential.

Sometimes, we need a real life challenge to break out of our box, to discover hidden potential that we never even dreamed that we had within us. I know women in my age group, juggling work and family while devotedly taking care of sick parents. Suddenly they discover hidden reservoirs of patience and organizational skills that, had they seen them in others, would have left them awestruck.

Our neshamah is well aware that the nisyonos we are given are for our benefit. According to Rabbeinu Bechaya, before we were born, our neshamos accepted all our future challenges willingly, knowing that we would need them to attain our full potential. But it is up to us to find a way to turn our challenges into vehicles of growth.

Okay, that was the gist of my talk to the ladies of Zurich, and, I’ll admit, it sounds great on paper, but it’s really not simple. As most of my readers know, I was diagnosed with Parkinson disease several years ago. But what many of you don’t know is that it took a year of my husband telling me, “I think you should see a doctor who specializes in Parkinson,” before I was actually capable of going to see a doctor and receive a diagnosis. But once I was able to accept the challenge, it forced me (and still forces me) to stretch my spiritual muscles, and discover kochos that I never knew I had.

I am not alone in this journey of self-discovery. So many friends in my age group are finding themselves in new situations. Some are care givers, and some are being cared for. Some are leaving communities where they lived for decades, to live closer to their children. Some are facing the financial challenge of living on a small pension, while at the same time trying to discover who they REALLY are, now that they are not working full time. As one friend wryly noted, “Just when you think you have life all worked out, you’re thrown a curve ball and see you still have a lot to learn.”

  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Yes, we can - as appeared in the Binah


The entire family was rushing frantically to finish getting dressed and close the suitcases. The van was scheduled to arrive in less than 15 minutes, the kugel still had to be removed from the oven and put in some type of a container, and the baby’s diaper had to be changed – again.

In the midst of what can only be described as a whirlwind of activity, my 10-year-old granddaughter Fraidy (not her real name) sat on the sofa, looking miserable and doing nothing. My daughter noticed some funny-looking spots on Fraidy’s face. A closer look revealed that the spots were also spots on her arms, and her legs, and, well, everywhere. And they looked like (drumroll) CHICKEN POX!

My daughter called the car service and asked them to come later. Then she called the doctor. As expected, the receptionist told her that there were no appointments available. “The doctor will try to fit you between the other patients,” she said. “But you’ll have to have patience. It might be a very long wait.”

But this was not an ordinary Erev Shabbos. My granddaughter, sister of the “poxing” (how’s that for a new word?) 10-year-old was getting married on Sunday, so this Shabbos was her chassan’s aufruf. If the as-yet-unidentified spots really were what my daughter thought they were, then (OH NO!) a lot of well thought-out plans would have to be changed. Quickly.

My daughter explained the situation to the receptionist. The receptionist giggled at the absurdity of chicken pox erev aufruf and told her that she would get her in immediately.

My daughter’s diagnosis was correct. Fraidy really did have chicken pox. Which is how I ended up having, in addition to my granddaughter, the Kallah, chicken-poxing Fraidy and her mother for Shabbos.

Several times during that Shabbos (as well as throughout the hectic few weeks prior to the wedding), my daughter asked me, “You know, Mom, I really don’t understand how you did it. How did you manage to take care of all the details involved in making a wedding and setting up a new apartment without family to help you?”

Truth is, I don’t know. It was hard, really hard, especially since all my Israeli neighbors had large, extended families, but somehow, we — by that, I mean all of us Americans who were living in Israel without our families — managed. And I’m glad that today, my offspring don’t have to go through what we went through.

I’m glad that my children have it easier than I did, but at the same time, I know that overcoming those challenges built me as a person. It strengthened my spiritual muscles — bitachon, emunah, being happy with what I have.

Every Monday night, I attend a middos workshop in my neighborhood. (Well, I TRY to go every Monday night, but I’m not always successful.) It’s a great group of women, from newly married to great grandmothers, yet, despite the vast age difference, we share a common denominator: we love to laugh and to talk, and we are serious about our self-growth. The women are hysterically funny as they honestly talk about their challenges, and triumphs. It seems that that no matter what middah we are working on, the path to attain it includes a realization that whatever we are going through is exactly what we need for our optimal growth. In other words, what we have, is exactly what we need.

The challenges I face are the ones I need to grow and strengthen my spiritual muscles. When I was marrying off my children, I needed the challenge of living in Israel sans mishpachah for my personal development, and my daughter needed the challenge of chicken pox erev chasunah for her personal development. And yes, I survived my challenge, and even came out stronger for it, and my daughter survived hers. My granddaughter got married (yes! MAZEL TOV!), and if it wasn’t for the wedding pictures (a 10-year-old with premature acne!), the story would most probably have been forgotten by the last sheva brachos.

Last Shabbos, when I was walking home with a couple of friends from my Shabbos shiur, one of the ladies shared a “bubby story.” “Bubby,” her 6-year-old grandson had said, “you’re so lucky. You’re so old that you don’t have a yetzer hara anymore.” Although he was right on one account (no, not that his bubby is old, but that she is one very lucky woman), he didn’t realize that no matter how old a person may be, he still has plenty of challenges. We all have a yetzer hara, and we all have work to do. We all have it within ourselves to use those challenges as stepping stones to growth.


We can do it. Yes, we can.   

Savor the Moment - as appeared in the Binah




A few days ago, I was rushing out the door, late for an appointment, when my cellphone rang. It was an old (both literally and figuratively) friend.

“I really don’t have time to talk now,” I said as I tried (without success) to fly down the stairs. “Can it wait until the afternoon?”

“Debbie, this is really, really important.”

“Okay, shoot.” I really was in a rush, and I did have a lot to do, but a friend is a friend, so I stopped to give her my full attention.

“How did you manage to lose the weight? Tell me what exercise to do. No matter how hard I try, I can’t manage to get it off. Tell me your secret!” she begged. I could hear the urgency in her voice.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But since I really was in a rush, I didn’t even bother trying to be diplomatic. “At this point in my life, I couldn’t care less about my weight. I’m just doing what I need to do to stay healthy.”

Later that evening, thinking back to that short conversation, it suddenly dawned on me: I had spent the last I don’t even know how many years of my life worrying about my weight, and trying desperately to attain the perfect weight (and secretly wishing that the clock would turn back a few centuries, and fat would once again become fashionable), while at the same time feeling like a failure at my inability to do so. But now, and I have no idea when or how it happened, my entire outlook has changed.

Yes, of course, I know that it’s important to look mechubadik, and I take care to dress in a becoming manner, but as far as I know, a perfect weight has never been a prerequisite for being a true bas Yisrael. In other words, I’ve stopped trying to be something I’m not. I don’t feel like a failure for not accomplishing the impossible and am (finally) happy in my own skin.

I wonder if this change of how I view myself is a result of growing older, a realization that the outer trappings are temporary (yes, we all know that, but that knowledge becomes much more real with the march of time), and that it just doesn’t pay to waste so much energy trying to do something that I can’t. 
Twenty years ago (yup, it was after the wedding of one of my sons, and his oldest is now nineteen) I wrote an article that appeared in Horizons, one of the first English-language magazines for the religious public, about how each of my many wrinkles has its own story. One was earned for the many nights I sat on the porch, wrapped in a multitude of heavy quilts, trying to help an asthmatic child breathe; another, for the moments of dread until I finally succeeded in accounting for all my family members after each bus bomb.
I laughingly commented that perhaps I should call myself a summer chicken, since spring has already passed. Today, I marvel at how I wrote that when, in fact, I was really so young.

But then again, age is relative; when I was a teenager, I viewed anyone over forty as being very old, and of course my grandchildren think I must be at least a hundred, or even, as I overheard one whisper to her sister, “Bubby must be at least a thousand years old.”   

Last week, I gave a talk at one of the seminaries in London. One of the girls asked me how I manage to stay so positive while living with a degenerative, incurable condition. I responded that every person has challenges. It just so happens that people are aware of this particular challenge because Binah requested that I do not use a pseudonym when I wrote my “Living with Parkinson's” series. Although we cannot choose our challenges, we can choose how we decide to face them, what we do with them. That’s our nisayon in life.

When I told my husband about the girl’s question, he commented that for a young person on the threshold of life, my challenge sounds horrific. But part of being older is the realization that life itself is a “degenerative, incurable condition”! Few of us escape the infirmities associated with old age, and all of us eventually succumb.

Or as my friend Tova who lives in a nursing home often points out when she hears the other women bemoan their fate, “What did they think? That they’ll stay young forever?” 

So I’ll enjoy the freedom of not being young, of not having to worry about the far-from-perfect figure, or what people think of me. Instead, I’ll rejoice in every moment, savor the simple things in life and count my (many) blessings.

Ice cream, anyone?