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EAT MY CHILD, EAT

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					                              EAT MY CHILD, EAT
                                   Serge Liberman

When Mother, my mother, for so many years would say, “Sergie, eat, take another piece
of chicken, cucumber, cantaloupe, cake” as, even more recently, she would say to my
own children, “Dvora, Jonathan, Noemi, eat,” was she perhaps all this time really saying,
“Take, my child. Let me give. Flesh of my flesh, I want to give, and then give more, and
then still more, for, would you but take, no end is there to the source of my wish to give,”
the food pressed upon me being a surrogate for nourishment, for health, for life itself that,
having given me, she would sustain through the most tangible, demonstrable and
practical of lifelines?
Perhaps the shortages experienced in homeless Russian exile during the war, the loss,
through disease, malnutrition and cold of one child and the near-loss of her second, and
to this day her last, ingrained in her an ineradicable strain of over-weaning protectiveness
and solicitude for her offspring. Perhaps there was something of the tribal and the
atavistic in all this, though such, given the evidence, is not the preserve of the Jewish
mother alone, however subject to vaudevillian burlesque, caricature and mindless
mockery she has in some quarters become.
That love underlay it all could not be discounted, though when it came to Mother, my
mother, there was more, much more - the selflessness, the disregard of her own welfare
when that of her family was as much as touched, the dedication to work and provision
that rose above mere ethic to reach the realm of commandment, and courtesy, hospitality,
charitableness in word as in deed, and the readiness to tolerate, accept, forgive and give
the benefit of any doubt. If any legacy there was that she could pass on, it lay in this - in
the example of her nature, in the rightness of her priorities and values, and in the conduct
of her very life that rendered her more than mere mother, more than mere Jewish mother,
but most honour-meriting among unstinting, dutiful, concerned, giving and unsung
human beings: in the words of Proverbs, a woman of worth whose price was above
rubies, one whom it had taken her son, to his shame, forty years and more to fully
acknowledge and appreciate.
And now in her twilight - in the twilight of years as also of mind when forgetfulness
expands as awareness recedes - she lives in one long sustained aloneness not mitigated by
visits either by myself or the dwindled few who still remain of a coterie that have
vanished one by one variously to a garden cemetery, or to homes for the aged, or
becoming themselves too ill or staggery to visit, or too deaf for contact by phone. All of
this leading to an attrition of companionship that would once have seen her, as if by
sleight-of-hand, produce biscuits, chocolates, fruit and cups of tea out of the ether, an
attrition that has increasingly left her with long disoriented unvisited days of physical,
mental, emotional, spiritual and world weariness that her pacemaker virtually alone
thwarts the consummation of her wish, repeated to all who will listen, to be with Father
again, himself now six years gone.
And so goes on, each day etched from the same invariable template, for long periods
confining herself to the living-room couch, quieting as well as she can with assorted
anodynes the debilitating sometimes relentless pains in a badly deteriorated neck, holding
on to chair, table and wall at every aberration of her capricious blood pressure, and
repeating as one would an entrenched mantra, “I have had enough. Enough already. Why
am I being so punished with years I don’t want?” To this point has Mother, my mother,
come.
And recalling that hers had once been a family of nine - with parents, brothers, sisters,
and then many cousins, uncles, aunts, and a daughter besides - I curse the history that so
orphaned her of all these, of everyone to the last. I curse the history that, not to mince
words, crapped on her generation, cursing it, cursing it, cursing it, over and again. But to
what end? To what effect, when I remain impotent before its racking effects upon her
soul and upon mine as well through the legacy I have inherited from her; and when
repeatedly I grieve over the tragedy that tells of a spirited and visionary youth in Warsaw
uprooted to an antipodean Melbourne displacement there to end in a final sorry and
solitary decline; and when, unable to do much else other than to protect her from injury,
self-neglect or other mishap, I grieve too, even if still prematurely, over the reality that
must soon take away, knowing that there will be no redemptive this-worldly nor any
other recompense to be had, nor any grand illumination, nor god, or other faith to bring
her the peace she so desperately craves only that which, shrouded in darkness, muteness,
immobility, and oblivion eternal, one balks at giving it its name. The mother had so
constantly loved the child, but, weep for her as he may, the child will never be able
adequately to repay that love. Not for want of will, but for lack of a matching capacity
within himself to contain even a part of her unbounded fullness of it. But there is a prayer
that he offers to bridge the shortfall - a variant Kaddish he already tendered elsewhere in
writing about his father - tendered in the hope that maybe, just maybe, good men will
hear it and reinforce at every turn the value of human sanctity that would honour more
than diminish, that would enhance rather than subvert, and preserve rather than destroy
human life, human worth, human gifts and human aspiration:
Magnified and sanctified be Man’s great Name in the world wherein Man may create his
own life in accord with his earthly will.
In the name of her who has always been one to give, the son in his turn takes it upon
himself to pass it on to all humanity as his mother’s greatest, profoundest, and most
abiding gift.

				
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