A Letter to My Parents from a Woman Approaching Seventy

by Charlene Wexler

I understand now: Why you
Wanted to tell me stories about your youth and my ancestors. I only wish I had listened and asked you more questions.
Repeated the same stories over and over. My friends hold up their fingers to let me know how many times I've told them the same story. Sometimes they run out of fingers.
Said, “Don't try to take my car away. I only drive on roads I know.” My own eyes and reflexes have slowed down, but I have no problem driving on the roads that I know.
Read the obituaries in the newspaper, and took a comforting breath when you found no one you knew.
Kept so much stuff. You should see my garage and basement today.

I understand now: Why you
And your friend sat in the back seat while the two men sat in the front seat.
Talked so much about your aches and pains, and how much your medicine cost.
Dropped things and your hands trembled. My friends now call me "Shaky."
Talked about people and places that haven't existed for years. Singers like Al Jolson; places like Fidelman's in South Haven, Michigan; or restaurants like Ashkenaz. I reminisce about Elvis Presley, the Nippersink resort, and   the Rascal House deli.
Refused to learn how to use the VCR. You wouldn't believe the electronics I have to try to work today.

I understand now: Why you
Hated to go out in the ice and snow. Broken toes and broken ribs heal much more slowly when you are older.
Forgot names, and mixed up places.
Almost burned down the house while cooking. I just don't bother cooking any longer.
Dressed with care but by the end of the day your clothes had a few food stains.

I understand now: Why you
Couldn't keep up with my pace when we walked.
Tired so after playing with your grandchildren, even though you loved being with them.
Sometimes forgot why you went into a room.
Had so much time, after spending a lifetime of being busy and always in a hurry.
No longer criticized me when I made a mistake.

I understand now: Why you
Constantly told me that you loved me.
Let me win at Kalookie.
Said, "Don't buy me gifts, just be sure to remember me with a call, a card, and a hug.”
Just smiled when I disregarded experience and acted like I knew better than you did.
Said, "Keep things in perspective. Know the difference between a slight problem and real trouble."
Believed that the important things in life are love, health, friendship, and respect--not money and power.

I understand now: Why you quoted the old Jewish saying: “Man plans, and God laughs!”