Editor’s Note: Judith Wolf Mandell is a freelance writer in Nashville. Her children’s book, Sammy’s Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It, will be published in early 2016. This essay Copyright © 2015 Judith Wolf Mandell.
A honey-globbed crunchy apple, promising a sweet new year. A pomegranate with seeds as plentiful as our good deeds in the coming year. These are the signature fruits of the High Holidays. This year, my spiritual produce is: green bananas. Yes, the very same as in the joke about the guy who says “I’m so old I don’t buy green bananas.”
In my mid-70s, I’m not that old, really. But “mortality math” pervades my thoughts, increasingly and inescapably. Still swooning over the recent Bat Mitzvah of the oldest of four grand-daughters, I pray I’ll be here still for the seven years until the last of three more b’nai mitzvot. And what about their graduations? And dare I hope to see my grand-daughters under the chuppah?
My greediness — to super-size the number of simchas I’ll live long enough to celebrate — I can deal with. More and more, I hear myself say “Allevi” (“God willing”). It’s a miracle word that soothes, puts the number of my days in safekeeping with the Eternal One.
Still, as the Yizkor service calls me to remember those who have died, it reminds me that I, too, will die. Pardon, please, my harsh use of “die.” “Pass away,” the usual euphemism, dodges the core of my anguish. The fact is: my days are finite. At some point, having run out of time on earth, I will be the late Judith Wolf Mandell; I will be “of blessed memory.”
That is unfathomable. At this point in my (hopefully sacred) aging, I can find no miracle word to make my mortality less grievous. I understand death in the abstract, accept it even when it robs me of loved ones. But apply that inevitability to me? I can’t: I’m adrift and agog, clutching my green bananas.
What now? Bananas ripen, and time passes. There’s life to be cherished, lived to its fullest.
We have an old digital clock-radio in our bedroom. The clock function is broken: seconds whiz by in a blur. On the other side of the bed is a normal digital clock. I get to choose which clock to pay attention to. Stand rooted in front of the zoom-clock, stunned at the speed of time? Maybe for a nano-second. Much better to focus on the normal-time clock, choosing to make the best use of my energies in the minutes and hours of each day.
Possibly, savor a banana split.