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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't Make Crumbs

I’m not going to write about the funeral.

I’m going to leave that for my daughter Fudge. She is a great writer and will do the event better justice than I ever could. I will just say that I was very satisfied with the levaya and the cemetery service, and due to emotional, logistical and meteorological circumstances, I am very confident that it was a day that none of the participants will forget. Especially poor Rabbi Weiss, who had to ditch his car somewhere in Bayside and walk home on Friday night.

In fact, I intend to write only two posts about the whole affair. Obviously, becoming an orphan is going to have many profound effects on me over the coming months, and I intend to pepper my observations over this blog, but in between the usual meshugaas that you all know and love.

Shiva has gone well, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve enjoyed it much more than I intended to. I’ve seen friends and relatives that I’ve not seen in many years, and it has been more like a reunion than a mourning.

Don’t make crumbs

This has been the unofficial theme of my time in New York. During the 20 years that I lived with my parents, I was apparently oblivious to many things that outsiders have since pointed out to me. Such as the fact that my mother has an accent. Or that none of my Polish relatives are capable of using apostrophe-s as a possessive. EG: the brother of Rachel instead of Rachel’s brother. Or the auf ruf of Ari instead of Ari’s auf ruf. Or, “How are we related to cousin Henry? He is the grandson of the sister of the grandfather of the mother of my father.”

And of course, I never realized that my mother is constantly saying, “Don’t make crumbs.” Until I heard her complaining about Fudge. “Oh My G-d. That Fudge. Your Daughter™. Does she make crumbs! From the kitchen to the dining room to the living room. Crumbs and crumbs and crumbs. I have to clean up after her. Have you ever seen such a thing? How does a child make so many crumbs.” Maybe I didn’t realize there was anything unusual about this, since, well…I make crumbs. But apparently not as much as Fudge. I don’t think Fudge was aware, when she first started spending Shabboses in Queens, of the ferocious nature of my mother’s need for cleanliness. But I did notice over the week that she seems to say this to everyone. “Take a piece of cake. Don’t make crumbs.” It got to be a little joke between me and my siblings (unfortunately at my Mother’s expense, but only out of love) that we started to chime in too as guests would come over.

But that’s my mother in a nutshell. She desperately wants you to have some cake, but she’s just as desperately concerned about you making crumbs. In trying to find some inner meaning in this…I start to wonder… Is it really possible to have your cake and not make crumbs? Or is it possible to enjoy your cake if you’re always worried about making crumbs?
Maybe it would be better to not worry about the crumbs, but just make more of an effort to clean them up afterwards. You have to enjoy life, yes. But crumbs are inevitable. Mistakes will happen. If you’re not making crumbs, making mistakes, then you’re really not living. So maybe you should make your mistakes, but learn from them, and clean up afterwards.

My father and I, we made some crumbs. But that was not our problem. Everybody makes crumbs. The problem was that neither of us wanted to be the one to clean up the mess. And when we did, it was a little too late.

I want to thank the many people who spent time to wish me condolences and to make this transition easier for me. Thank you to all of you who prayed for my father and made mi shebeirachs for the last few months. It warms my heart, and the hearts of my mother and sisters, to know that people all over the world were concerned about my father during his illness. And thank you to all of you who left your nechamas (condolences) on this blog. I read each of them and found comfort in them.

My extended family has been amazing during this time, from my Mother-in-law who drove me to the airport at 6 am to the in-laws of my sisters who, while not my “blood relatives,” went out of their way to make us comfortable and well-fed and attended all the minyanim in New York. And also my brother and sister-in-law from Monsey who came for funeral and shiva calls.

And while we’re at it, let me thank the men who came out at 6:50 am and at 8 pm so that I could daven and say kaddish for my father. I was especially touched to see the father of my sons’ rebbe attending all the minyanim. What a mentch.

Speaking of mentches, I was wholly impressed by the Rabbis from the Young Israel of Hillcrest, Rabbi Weiss, and from Congregation Eitz Chaim in KGH, Rabbi Rosenberg (who also left a comment on the prior post), for their ehrlichkeit, their menchlichkeit, and their repeated service to my family and to me. I expected to see them at the funeral (and Rabbi Rosenberg spoke beautifully). What I didn’t expect was that they would show up again and again at the house for minyanim and visits. Makes me think there is indeed hope for the future of Modern Orthodoxy. (BTW I apologize to my readers who don’t speak Yeshivish. Maybe somebody can translate all of this in a comment?)

Thanks to all of you bloggers who took time to call or visit. (If I forget someone please do not be insulted; I had all the names on my Pocket PC, but it died in the airport). Thanks to Treppenwitz and Jameel who called from Israel, and Doctor Bean, TorontoPearl and (Ask)Shifra who called from North America.

Thanks also to BloginDM, Shira Salamone, BrooklynWolf, and Nati who took time and went wayyyy out of their ways to come to Queens and make a personal shiva call. It meant more to me than I can possibly express.

I also had the pleasure of seeing some dear old friends, my old college roommate Ed, whom Doctor Bean so reminds me of, and ex-Kabbalah keyboardist Brian Gelfand, an amazingly talented musician who lost his own father many years ago. Also Gary Wallin, Danny Block, and Yonah from my old band Shlock Rock (Yonah coming straight from the airport after having flown in to make the shiva call from Israel). And although I know it must have been very painful for Lenny to miss the funeral (he had just returned to the Holy Land), he did the next best thing by sending his mother, Mrs. Solomon, who not only made it to the levaya, but came to pay a separate shiva call as well. The woman is a tzadeikes and a gomelet chessed of the highest degree, she should live long and be healthy. You can clearly see where Lenny gets his mandate to spread yiddishkeit from.

And while I’m talking about Lenny, I have to mention that he lost his father a few years back, and since then I don’t believe he has ever missed a minyan. He has inspired me greatly by his example.

Most of all I want to thank my daughter Perel (Fudge). She was there for the funeral and for Shabbos, and although she had finals at Stern she came back and forth on the bus to sit with me. She was a comfort to me beyond all words. She is beautiful, funny, intelligent and talented, and I don’t know what I ever did to merit such a wonderful daughter. There, I’m getting all farklempt now.


cruisin-mom said...

P.T.: what a beautiful, honest, and moving description. Thank you for sharing that with all of us.

Jack's Shack said...

Well said.

happyduck1979 said...

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet. I have not read in a while and I am sorry this is late in comming. May his passing into eternal life be a yeshua for all of us.

kasamba said...

May your beautiful family be a source of great comfort and nachas to you and may you all spend many happy moments together eating cake and making lots and lots of crumbs in good health.

essie said...

Very beautiful post.

If you’re not making crumbs, making mistakes, then you’re really not living.
Very well said...I agree

Ezzie said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. I'm so sorry I couldn't make it, especially considering just how close I live. Forgive me.

A number of Stern girls ate here on Shabbos, and somehow mentioned your daughter. They had extremely high regard for her as well - you have every right to be farklempt.

torontopearl said...

Hey, Mark,
We're all still here for you...as long-distance support and friends, and also to remind you, "DON'T MAKE CRUMBS."
Be well.

P.S. Your daughter is a special young lady, who takes after her special parents. Don't ever forget that!

Stacey said...

Beautiful post. Beautiful family.

parcequilfaut said...

I just got back online after being out of town.

My condolences, PT, Fudge and the PT family.

Shifra said...

Excellent post.
Do you and I have the same mother?

My father has taken to eating his crumbly snacks over the sink when my mom is not at home to hide the "evidence."

When my brother or I visit with our children my mother runs around with a teeny wisk brook and a little dustpan sweeping up all the offending particles. Rice + Toddlers = Motherly meltdown.

Shifra said...

Oh that would be a broom and not a brook.

PsychoToddler said...


Shifra said...


Nati said...

Glad to see that you're back. May your beautiful family serve as a continuous nechama to one another.

Neil said...

With all the love you received from your parents -- and the fact that you're still connected to them in so many ways -- I doubt you will ever really feel like a "an orphan."

Ayelet said...

You think you're farklempt? I'm a mess.

Reading the crumbs story made me think of the time my Israeli aunt came to visit us in New York. She pointed out to my mom that the way we (the kids) ate cake or cookies was rather peculiar. The three of us would crowd around the trash can so as not to make crumbs (being far to lazy to actually just get a plate or napkin to eat over!). I guess we just assumed that was our only other option.

I, too, was sorry I couldn't make it to pay a shiva call (I'll admit, I really wanted to meet you in person). Maybe we'll meet one day - only for simchas!

Kiwi the Geek said...

I agree that living requires making crumbs. I'm sorry to hear that the cleanup didn't work so well with your dad. I do hope everything was tidy in the end...

PsychoToddler said...

Neil: I thought hard about the use of the term orphan. According to Jewish law, someone who loses one parent is considered an orphan.

I really feel like I have crossed some kind of threshold. I'm not the same person I was last week.

I sympathized with you when you lost your father last year. But now I think I can understand you.

Nati: I went back and found your comment on my post about Jaworzno. I wish you would have taken the opportunity to talk to my mother about it when you were over. We should meet at simchas.

Nati said...

You are completely right. That same thought occurred to me the other day too - I definitely should have jumped in and established that connection in a clearer way. As you said, we should meet at simchas.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Beautiful thank you for the inspirational words.

Mirty said...

Beautiful post. As I'm sort of a "Have some cake. Don't make crumbes" person myself, I'll keep in mind the inevitability of crumbs. "Have cake. Make crumbs. We'll clean it up later."

Jewish Sexpert said...

I am sorry for your loss. May you only know simkha in the future.