TORN DOWN THE MIDDLE

Music and dance at night in Jerusalem Suq

“We are put on this earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love,” said the poet William Blake.

Sometimes love doesn’t quite feel so sunny.

My mother woke up tired today; at 10 am I found her still in her pajamas. She got dressed, which tired her once again.

“Let’s go to the cheese shop,” I suggested. There’s a café half a block down from where she lives with excellent cheeses, sandwiches, coffee, and salads.

She agreed, put on her lipstick, picked up her cane, and we went out. It was a beautiful sunny day in Jerusalem (the prognosis for the next several days is upper 90s Fahrenheit). We walked carefully down two flights of stairs and then down the half-block of uneven pavement. When we passed a large drop on her right where five steep flights of cobbled steps take you way down to a street below, I put an arm lightly around her shoulder to make sure she didn’t stumble and fall.

At the café we sat outdoors in the shade, drank coffee for me and hot chocolate for her, and shared a piece of cake. A little later my sister arrived, bringing her dog, Piccolo (small like the name but heftier), and as we left she asked me to take him with us back to my mother’s home.

Piccolo is deaf, blind, diabetic, white-muzzled, and his added weight makes him look like a raccoon. My mother was once again tired and I knew she could use support, but Piccolo hung back, unwilling to follow.

“Come on, Piccolo,” I said to him, though he couldn’t hear a thing, “come on,” and pulled on the leash. My mother walked ahead of me, intent on getting home to rest and I worried that I couldn’t both give her an arm and pull up the stubborn little dog.

“Come on, Piccolo,” I pleaded again, yanking the leash, eyeing with concern the big drop of cobbled steps my mother was coming to.

For a moment it all seemed hilarious. I was stretching out one arm ahead of me in the effort to catch up with my mother and make sure she wouldn’t fall, while the other arm was stretched way back because Piccolo wasn’t coming till he was good and ready. Aged dog, aged mother, and me in between, spread-eagled in the air.

Story of my life, I thought to myself. Trying to do the best I can, torn much of the time.

I remember this conversation with Bernie last fall:

Eve in deeply-concerned mode: “Bernie, how do you feel? I can see you cringing as you move your leg.”

“I had a stroke,” says he. “I can feel that I had a stroke.”

Eve in her there-is-an-end-to-suffering mode: “What about the CBD salve I put on your body in the evenings?”

“Doesn’t do much.”

Eve in her here’s-how-to-end-suffering mode: “Will ibuprofen help?”

“I don’t think I need that.”

Eve in her I-never-give-up mode: “What about that special tincture?”

He looked at me and said, “Eve, I’m okay. As long as I can exercise and not get worse, I’m okay. At the end of the year I plan to start running.” He looked at my face and smiled, adding: ”but I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, or if I don’t make it.”

Whew! What a relief.