My [Papa’s] watch

My eyes are always drawn to the cover graphic atop my blog. It’s a photo of my Papa, who died nearly three years ago, on vacation in Costa Rica the year before his death. Papa never went anywhere without that camera of his.

Previous to Papa’s death, I never thought much about mourning, but in the aftermath I certainly did.

Disconcertingly out of sync, perceptions jumbled, receptors misfiring, I remain immediately near but never fully within the self I’d always known, receiving on an unfamiliar, piercing wavelength.

Slowly, slowly, I have come to understand
this: My pulse has been attuned to loss.

-Me, ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ #47, June 23, 2019

It wasn’t only in my writing and my prayers that first year that I explored my reaction to the loss of my father; it was also in comparison to other mourners, including my Mama and my brother Eli. Before Papa’s death, it had never occurred to me that everybody mourns in their own way – because, simply, I’d never reflected upon it.


Mementos v. Remembrances

One of the way in which I found myself mourning was in wearing Papa’s watch, caps, yarmulke, and shirts. My sentimentality surprised me; Mama and Eli did not seem to desire to possess physical objects that had once belonged to Papa, but I did.

I wear my father’s cap; my father’s yarmulke; my father’s watch; his house shoes.

-Me, ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ #15, Nov. 11, 2018

In any case, previous to Papa’s death, I hadn’t worn a watch for years, as I could simply check my cell phone when necessary; but wearing a watch was something that I had always strongly associated with Papa. I remember him asking me why I did not have a watch and whether I might want to have one on multiple occasions throughout my childhood. He was never without his watch and was always nonplussed at my lack of desire to wear one.

Thus, when I flew home to the USA for his funeral, Papa’s watch was one of the first things that I appropriated for myself. I started wearing it all the time.

Unfortunately, the face of the watch became warped from an unexpected electric shock, and then it cracked when my then-4½-year-old accidentally dropped it. Despite the cost, this led me to order a new watch from the same series. However, when the lovely new watch arrived, I couldn’t bring myself to actually wear it because it wasn’t Papa’s, and I didn’t want the face to get scratched.

However, I also found myself wearing Papa’s watch less and less often. It had never felt entirely comfortable on my wrist, probably because Papa’s wrists were thicker than mine, and he had sized it for himself. Also, the blemished face of the watch annoyed me. While I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the watch, I also gradually stopped wearing it.

My new watch also needed to be adjusted to my wrist size, but for a long time after it arrived in the mail, I didn’t want to bother with it. Surprised, I realized that I didn’t want to wear any watch other than Papa’s. So the brand new watch, which I had selected for myself, and which suited my taste, sat in its box on the bookshelf for many months.

And then – last week – I suddenly knew that I wanted to wear my watch. I can’t explain what changed in me, but something felt different. Something was different. I wanted to wear my new watch.

After many months of ambivalence and even attempting to put my new watch out of my mind at times, I had it resized for my wrist and put it on… and… it felt very, very right to me. The new watch was lighter than Papa’s watch, which felt better, and it fit my wrist, just as it was supposed to. I haven’t been wearing it all the time, but often enough, and I find that it does bring back memories of Papa, which comfort me. It’s not a memento… but it is a remembrance.

I don’t miss Papa more, and I don’t miss him less. I don’t even know if I miss him differently than I did one year ago or more. Honestly, I have no idea what is going on inside my heart. I don’t think Papa’s absence hurts me less than it once did… but… for reasons that I can’t comprehend, and for the very first time since Papa died in July 2018, I find myself wanting to wear a watch of my own – which never belonged to him.

Jagged, or: Tender

‘Edges and Fringes’ – a d’Verse poetics prompt

(best viewed on a horizontal screen)

Papa,
can you
visit us
from the unknowable beyond
to hearten us, for we miss
you
so
and grief’s jagged edges cut us
even as the edges of mortal life are
clear
to us
remaining, as we do, on this side
living; broken; aching
Boy,
hear me
in dreams
I call
you
every night, all night
tenderly, I watch over you
With love
glowing
and reaching out to inspire you
from beyond the very fringes
of life
to believe…

The prompt

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘Edges and Fringes’ prompt.

Our mission was to spark on one of these paths, and I primarily found my way along the 1st and 3rd paths:

  1. Write a poem using the word edge;
  2. Write a poem that keeps Millikin’s question in mind:
    • What is the word, the line, that cuts, that can show that edge?
  3. Write a poem using the word fringe;
  4. Write a poem from the fringe, however you define it.

What we take with us when we die

Since my return to blogging in April 2020, following my year of mourning for Papa, I have searched for interesting and likeminded blogs with themes similar to my Skeptic’s Kaddish.

Just recently I was very gratified to come across a blog by Amanda Achtman called ‘Dying to Meet You’, in which she has taken to blogging daily in 2021 about death from an interfaith Christian-Jewish perspective.

The short video below is one that I found through Amanda’s blog. I was already familiar with this Jewish folktale, but I consider it a powerfully poignant and important lesson and often reflect upon it, for it applies to all of humankind. I’m very thankful to be able to share it with all of you here, on The Skeptic’s Kaddish:


Transcription

Edward Reichman was an Israeli billionaire and philanthropist who died a few years ago. When he passed away, he left a great fortune worth billions of dollars.

He left his family with two wills and instructions that one be opened immediately after his death and the other be opened 30 days after his death.

Among his requests in the first will was that he asked that he be buried with a specific pair of socks that he owned. However, despite the family’s best efforts, the burial organizers refused to let Mr. Reichman be buried with his socks on, as it was against Jewish law – one may not be buried with any item of clothing.

The family argued that Mr. Reichman was a very learned, religious person, and that he must have had a good reason for wanting to do this; however, as the rabbi explained to the family, “Although your father left that request when he was in this world, now that he is in the World of Truth, he surely understands that it is in his best interests to be buried without his socks.”

So – he was buried without his socks.

30 days later, the family opened the second will that allotted his wealth. In the letter, it read: “My dear children, by now you must have buried me without my socks. I wanted you to understand that a man can have 1 billion dollars in this world, but in the end, he can’t even take with him his favorite pair of socks!”

What really matters in life is not how much money you have in your pocket, nor how successful you are, but rather the good you can bring to this world; that is all you can really take with you, and that is all that will really live on.

Twitter poetry 2021: Week 7

My blogger-poet-friend Ingrid inspired me to create a Twitter account and start writing #APoemADay, which I began on January 1, 2021.

I do think think that I’m growing as a result of this challenge, but part of the challenge is the repetitive the repetitive the repetitive nature of the daily goal that Ingrid and I have set for ourselves. I think we’re both getting a bit weary of this, but so far we’re both still in the race!

I’m not sure if I will stick to the following or not (probably not), but it has struck me that writing haikus might be an easy[er] way of keeping pace in this marathon. Also, since I’ve started writing haikus with “Magnetic Poetry”, I’ve been including them on my Twitter account too. Anyway…

Below is my 7th week of Twitter poems:

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,
David

Twitter poetry 2021: Week 6

My blogger-poet-friend Ingrid inspired me to create a Twitter account and start writing #APoemADay, which I began on January 1, 2021.

Honestly, despite my intention last week, I didn’t particularly work on including more adjectives in my poems this week. In fact, if anything, I feel that I’ve hit a rough patch with my Twitter poetry – it’s becoming difficult to motivate myself to write these daily little poems at all.

This week, two of my Twitter poems were directly copied from this blog, and I have already scheduled another poem from my blog to be posted next week. Technically, there’s nothing “wrong” with that because all of my poems are my originals, and I am keeping up with my “daily” commitment, but when I first created this Twitter account, my intention had been to write entirely unique poems for my Twitter account ~ and I’ve failed at that.

Below is my 6th week of Twitter poems:

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,
David