May 9 would have been my dead father's 98th birthday. He has been dead over 9 years, yet he has never been more alive. I always regretted that my mother refused to hold a shiva for him, and I was too disorganized for months to realize that I could have held one myself when I returned to NY. Now it is coming on 10 years and I wonder if Jews hold memorial lunches.
Last night, in the waning hours of his birthday, I had a dream about him. I dreamt I was back in college, with all the excitement that it held, both good and bad. I went to the cafeteria to eat, but I kept dropping food off the tray, not being able to identify food (ahh, the good old days of mystery meat) and not understanding how to line-up in the cafeteria. I couldn't find where the trays were, and I couldn't hold the plates of food. I went back to my room, where I had a loft bed. I saw my roommate moving in. She also had a loftbed, and she just got a new mattress. I was talking to her about how great loft beds were and how comfortable she would be on her new mattress. She seemed nice. Then we decided to go to the local mall. She had a car. It was a beauty. We were in Brooklyn. All of a sudden, I noticed she was just breezing fast through the lights. I asked her to slow down. She ignored me. I begged her to slow down. I told her I was getting sick (usually a great way to get someone to stop being a lead foot). She said she didn't know where she was, she couldn't slow the car down, and said she thinks we are in the "psychiatric section" of Brooklyn. I asked, "What does that mean." It is the part of Brooklyn given over to old long-term abandoned psych facilities. Interestingly enough, that didn't bother me, because I knew no one lived there anymore. All of a sudden, we were able to stop in an old-timey Italian restaurant, one that was spacious on the inside, with checkered table clothes. We ate--of course, she couldn't pay. I paid and we went out to the lobby--my parents were there. (My father, when I was in Binghamton, routinely offered to drive up and take me home on weekends if I wanted--a five hour one-way journey). My mother talked to the roommate, who admitted she was off her psychiatric medication. I could see her more clearly now--a short, stout person talking calmly, bundled up in a wool coat and a knit cap). I started to be afraid--sure, now she would agree to be responsible for her meds, but in a few days, she would be the same way. What if she climbed up in my bed at night and tried to harm me. I would have to make plans to relocate next day, I supposed) I went to the ladies room--I had brown sauce stains around my jaws and cheeks. I started to dab at them, puzzled at how I could get brown food stains when the food had been the typical red sauced meals.
I woke with a sense of longing. And wondering how I could even plan for a memorial--if it is to be--for January in May. This is the decade of not being able to plan. And yet I must plan for a future that I don't see. How much should I expect to pay? Will anyone actually come? I doubt my brother will come. I doubt any of my acquaintances will come--too far, too subway, too post-Covid (I'm thinking of holding it at the shul I belong to in Brooklyn). Even in the planning, it's too much and streaked with disappointment. Like Vladimir and
Estragon, I can't go on. I must go on. It is the human paradox. It is what it is to be a wandering Jew--nice place you got here. Too bad we can't stay.