Sources of Joy: Mom’s 75th Birthday weekend approaches.

On Thursday evening, Dunreith, Aidan and I will board a plane headed to Boston for the weekend.

We’re going there to celebrate Mom’s 75th birthday.

The festivities will take place at two different events.

On Saturday, we’ll gather with family to honor Mom’s occasion and to mark our cousin Jenny Krancer turning 45.

And on Sunday, we’ll have about 30 to 35 folks over to Mom’s apartment at the Brook House to mark the big day.

It’s a milestone that I feel blessed to attend.

There’s been a number of times along the way that I hadn’t been sure that Mom would make it this far.

The first and most obvious time was in February 1986, when the car my father was driving skidded into oncoming traffic on a snowy New Hampshire Road.

The car in the other lane had a snow plough.

Mom’s side bore the brunt.

Over time, I’ve come to learn and to appreciate the quirky circumstances that lead our lives in one direction or another.

During our recent trip to Germany, I thought for the first time in a concerted way about the non-Jewish doctor who had removed Dad’s appendix when he was less than 5 years old.

My grandfather Max, a World War I veteran, had taken his ailing son around the town where our family had lived for close to 150 years.

None would operate on a Jewish child.

Eventually, though, a doctor willing to perform the surgery was found. He did it on my great-grandfather Joseph’s kitchen table.

Without that doctor, many things would not have happened.

Dad would likely not have survived to leave the country, let alone make it through the war.

His parents would have suffered an indescribable blow.

He would not have met Mom.

Mike, Jon and I might never have been born.

You get the idea.

I think about Mom’s accident in a similar way.

The only reason the paramedics who found her gave her as much as a 1 percent chance of living was that they were already out on the road and heard the accident when it happened.

Had they not gotten there, Mom would have died.

She would never have met my wife and son.

Jon would not have had a mother to see him graduate from high school and college and emerge into a world-class photographer.

Mike would not have had a mother to hold onto him as she walked down the uneven grassy path to meet Annie, the woman with whom he would pledge to live his life.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people would not have been inspired by Mom’s recovery and moved by her insights.

But, most fortunately, the doctor did perform the surgery on Dad, and he survived.

The paramedics found Mom, and she did, too.

More and more in life, I find myself seeking to live in the present.

But not only there.

Ever mindful of life’s fragility and what so easily could not have been, inexpressably grateful for the gift of what Mom’s cousin Gary called a gift of life twice given, I find myself living between the memories of past experiences shared and the anticipation of future dreams and aspirations.

More and more  I see each moment is a chance to weave the latest strand in the tapestries that are our lives.

Tomorrow afternoon will be a big one.

I better start packing.

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One response to “Sources of Joy: Mom’s 75th Birthday weekend approaches.

  1. Alice Lowenstein

    Jeff, Every day I am aware that 2 strangers gave me life again. The more I live, the more aware of all the gifts I’ve received from strangers, so that I can live. For me the question always is, what gift can I give so another can live. Is there something I can give that will help another person know how much she or her matters? Have I learned anything from staying alive that may help someone else?

    When I studied dance from outstanding dancers, or acting from an outstanding actress, or music from a concert pianist, all of them told me how necessary it was for me to honor my talent. If they were here now, they would tell me to honor what I’ve learned, to make sure that I share what I’ve learned so others do not have to suffer the way i did to learn it.

    You explained to me years ago after the accident about how all of us were interconnected. How you saw the man I currently loved in a different way from how I saw him. But you would treat him with respect because he was making me happy. You went to Durban, South Africa as an exchange teacher. I had been helping a young man who came from Durban.

    Before you left, his mother called me up. She told me I did not have to worry. Because I had taken care of her son, because I had helped her son, she would take care of you. I had no idea how worried I was or how relieved I was that you had a loving mother in the new world you were going to. I realized the only people we can help personally are those who come into our lives.

    All of them have mother and fathers and siblings and cousins etc. The more I want the best for my sons, the more I need to give to others. The more I give, the more my gifts come back. As I have gotten older, as the beautiful babies you and your brothers were have become men, I realize that all children matter to me. Are we in the world nurturing every single child so s/he can grow up to become the best s/he can be. Actually are we making it safe enough for each child to grow up healthy and fit?

    After the accident, when my soul was still flying around God’s world, I felt the starving Ethiopian mother’s pain when her breasts had no milk and her son was dying. I felt the pain of the tortured. I even felt the pain of the torturer knowing what he was doing. All pain in the world is my pain. I cannot be fully joyful and happy unless everyone else is safe and happy.

    I also thought that a mother gave everything to her child. I never imagined how much a child could give his mother. Or how much larger the gift is when all three sons work together to give their mother honor, love and a celebration.

    Every day you would tell me that it is my day. Every day it has taken time for me to learn what it means to have a day. I am thankful I am here. I am thankful I will be able to share what I learned at the party. I will be able to sing my gratitude.

    Love,
    Mom

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