Remembering and Acting: Rosh Hashanah 5775

Remembering and Acting
Rosh Hashanah Day 2 – 5775
Congregation Dorshei Emet
Rabbi Julia Appel

I am squinting at a small square photograph. In it, my Bubbie wears tall hair and a long polyester dress, orange and green paisley, fabulous glasses. Her sister Rita stands next to her, taller hair, similar dress and pattern, from when Rita worked in accounting at the dress company. They are smiling at the camera. It’s a party. My mother is off at to the side, her long dark blond hair pulled back at the nape of her neck, mid-conversation. This one will go in one of the square silver frames I bought yesterday. I think it will make Bubbie smile.

My mother and aunt have gone through Bubbie’s photo albums to divide them up. Bubbie doesn’t look at her albums anymore. We’ve just moved her to the memory unit of the retirement community where she’s lived the last first years. She began forgetting where her room was in assisted living, and sometimes whether she’s showered that day.

The room is nice enough, but it is definitely just a room, not an apartment or suite, as her two previous rooms had been. She asked my mother soon after moving whether she was on a cruise and when she was coming home, which I thought was pretty insightful. There are some photographs up – mostly of her great-grandchildren, my generation’s children, plus her wedding photograph, and a painting I had made for her when I was 14.

So I’m standing at my parents’ dining room table, in the condo they bought once they’d sold out house, making several photo collages of old photos of my Bubbie, her clear cursive on the back. Winter, 1945, cousin Irene. Barbara, 1967.

She is losing her most recent memory, but her older memories are still intact, for now. I want her to look around her room and see people she recognizes. I want her to see her life and remember, who she is, that she had joy, that people love her. I give a special frame to an enlargement of a photo of her and my grandfather, kissing in their kitchen. He died a few months after I was born. In the photo, Bubbie is, impossibly, younger than my mother is now. Continue reading