Dad’s world is closing in. He can understand some things. But, he no longer tries to understand the intricacies of his care, his insurance, etc. He refers any material matters to his children. I think that is freeing for him, even as it is an admission — a resignation — that he can’t navigate the bigger world anymore. We are here to catch him before he falls.
But at my son’s Bar Mitzvah, when he slowly came to the Bimah and — relying decades’ old some-kind-of-muscle memory — chanted the prayers before my son read Torah, I imagined that Dad understood that his grandson was being called to Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Linking the past with the present. From generation to generation.
My son did a magnificent job, by all accounts (including mine).
Dad was in and out of reality during the day. He enjoyed dancing at the reception, as always, cutting up the floor.
But did he understand what happened? Did he understand that his grandson accepted his birthright to become a Bar Mitzvah? To hold the Torah and read from it?
In my mind, I said, “Of course, Dad knew!”
But I had no idea.
Then my son said to me, days later, “Grandpa didn’t understand what happened at my Bar Mitzvah, did he?”
“Dude, I think he did, in moments, but I am not sure that he always understood.”
Silence. Resolution. Generational connection lost. I could feel it in my son’s look and posture. I felt a desperation to keep the connection alive.
Today, I asked his health aide (who was with him at the Bar Mitzvah), “Tell me for real, FOR REAL, did Dad understand what was happening at the Bar Mitzvah?”
“Well, this week, he told the visiting nurse how his grandson read from Torah so beautifully!! Some days the light is on and others he is a little in the dark. But he knew it then and sometimes he knows it now.”
And that is all I need. I hope it is enough for my son.