He’s the man of a thousand Oys.
Oy when he sits. Oy when he rises.
Even every time his failing body succeeds.
Congestive heart failure is the official diagnosis,
cutting off blood circulation, closing down lungs,
increasing unwanted fluids. Outta da way, he growls,
too softly to scare. He drives the walker
with uncharacteristic speed towards the bathroom.
Again. Another endless wait for his return
to the comfort, security, of the downy sofa. He
plops down; another Oy. Unwillingly, he dozes off,
legs involuntarily jerk upwards, a coda to his thoughts.
A born storyteller, his nodding travels are no less
complex, creating plots, subplots for his favorite TV
comedy; crossing Canada with an accordion on his
back, remembrance of years selling them to Germans,
Poles, Slavs in his hometown; working the mustard
concession at ballparks until he runs out of sources.
No luck, even now, he cries. His head drops again, chin
on chest, fading to black once more. Slowly, he lifts up
his head and says, You think it’s easy to dream?”
Remembering Her Father’s Birthday
Bon vivant he was, always holding a big cigar;
A raconteur with no small inventory of Yiddish
jokes; a twinkle for beautiful women, a fine
appreciation for art; art everywhere. His daughter
draws her legs up onto the bed like a teenager
ready for an hours-long phone call; opens the box
to finger the gold wristwatch softened to a rosy
patina after years of stillness on velvet. Her father’s
watch. She caresses the still-crisp linen handkerchief
that always peeked out of his suit pocket like
a capuchin nun against a tweedy sky. She jiggles
cufflinks and shirt studs in her hand like winning
dice thrown in the floating gaming rooms, one
constant in her hometown during the good years,
yet especially in the bad. Slowly, she drops everything
back into the box except the watch which she scales
up her forearm until it stops rolling down to her
narrow wrist. She walks toward her vanity table,
powders her nose, dabs on Fire and Ice, then enters
kitchen to set the table. Tonight it will be the pretty
plates, candles, cloth napkins, Glancing at the watch
every few steps, she recalls one of her father’s
old jokes. Laughs. Yes, a joke for his birthday. She’ll
tell it to the girls tonight. A good joke.
Father would love that more than cake.
One Hand on the Wheel
There he is, on the front lawn, wearing a straw-visored cap,
matching red and white shirt jacket, and swim trunks that
never saw the deep end (childhood trauma, don’t ask.) His
snow-white, well-formed legs, a vivid contrast to the arms:
white right arm on his hip, playful, posing; dark brown left
arm holding his sunglasses accenting a punch line, POV.
His face, neck, and left arm, “brown as a berry” as if he
were Mediterranean rather than a descendent of Ukrainians
grateful to arrive in a coal mining town in the land of the free
far far away from the Cossacks. He joins the U.S. Army, as
a concerned Jew and as a grateful American, hugging his bride
with a deep strength of love. Those arms returned to the embraces
of his wife, two t daughters, and his own music store where
those arms moved, shelved inventory, tallied accounts, held
newspapers, books, books, books to quench the thirst to know.
The hands typed his own summing up, his goodbyes, received
with laughter, tears. The arms of those who remain dig into
dirt left by the machine, pour the soft dirt gently onto the casket,
pass shovel down the line of all those gathered to say we will
remember who guided us from here to there with one hand
on the wheel, one arm bent outward from the car window
soaking up the sun.
Souvenirs my WWII soldier dad brought home: a gold miniature tea cup for my first birthday; an oil painting of roses that could be found anywhere, a tiny Belgian bronze pisher that still amuses. On top of the rosewood Chinese credenza, photos in frames elegant and 99cent store specials protecting a rare glimpse of all four of us, captured by Aunt Rose’s decades-old Brownie, onto black-and-white prints crisp as a tuxedo; a soft grey photo of my parents at a B’nai Brith dinner smiling, expectant; me hunched over my tricycle, determined to win the race; a photo collage of my sister and me, making nice. My mother’s fountain pen, teeth marks on the top; her silver, slightly bent silver thimble, molded to her finger, burnished to a soft patina. My bat mitzvah scrapbook, the diplomas and mortarboard tassels, those travel tschotskes! These clues to my life, unwanted by kin (no kinder), will they end up splayed on a thrift store shelf, bought by strangers to amuse, or “repurpose”? I pray these tokens live on like spilled glitter, a ubiquitous iridescence scattered on everyone, on every damn thing, every where.
Zachor: Remember; don’t forget me; often said as a plea, sans guilt.
Tschotskes: Anything from snow globes to porcelain figurines; usually dustable.
DIANA ROSEN is an essayist, poet, and flash writer with credits in online and print journals published in the U.K., Australia, Canada, India, and the U.S. including Tiferet Journal,The Reform Jewish Quarterly, The Jewish Writing Project, The Jewish Literary Journal, Rattle, and Poetry Super Highway. She is a content contributor to websites on tea and organic foods and the author of 13 nonfiction books. Her first full-length poetry book, “High Stakes & Expectations,” will be published this fall by tinypublishing.com. You can read more of her work here.