Monday, March 4, 2013


Shiva, in the Jewish tradition, is a period of seven days, in which people mourn for their loved ones' deaths. In this period of seven days, a week basically, all of the family gathers in the house of the dead, and mourn. And sit. And mourn. And talk about their beloved. And mourn. Relatives and friends come, too, usually carrying food, because the family shouldn't be bothered with cooking and hosting all the people there, when they literally can barely handle themselves.
When I was four or five years old, we went on a trip to Paris and Euro Disney, from my dad's 44th birthday, and my brother's 13th, which they always celebrate very closely, because they are two days apart. Two days, 31 years, and ideals and ideals apart. In that period of time in my life, or rather  in their lives, they went head to head a lot. They bickered on a daily basis, and they casually would fight real bad, slamming doors, yelling at each other, insulting each other and all. Thank God, past my brother's rebellious years, all this stopped, and they love each other infinitely.
One day, during that same trip, my father and brother started fighting another one of those serious fights. I barely remember a thing, but I do remember yelling in the middle of the street. My brother, being the idiot he was, ran away from us. My mother, being the caring mother she is, ran after him. My father, being the idiot, the stubborn idiot he was, resulted to grunting and smoking (God bless him he's been smoking-free for a year). Me, being the four year old girl I was, and my sister, being the ten year old girl she was, sat in a bus station, watched the sun turn to rain, crying hysterically, because our brother might be gone for good this time. Again, I barely remember any of it at all, but I do remember the bus station was right next to a florist, and the florist saw we were crying, and I remember him in an apron, coming out to hand us a flower to cheer us up.
An hour goes by and my mother can't find my brother, until she sees him, hiding behind a bush in the park she's been raiding for an hour, and watching her look for him like a little bastard. She comes to him, almost crying (that woman has the strength of a pack of wolves), trying to explain to him that he should com. He doesn't come. Trying to tell him he isn't a French citizen, and the police will find him and take him away. He doesn't come. Trying to remind him he doesn't even speak French. He does not come.
Nevertheless, my mother is not one to give up (reminds me of someone......(me maybe?)). She comes back and grabs me. She takes me to him. I don't remember any of this at all. I tell him that we need him, that I need him. I tell him that we love him. That I love him. I cry. And then he hugs me. And he finally comes.
Ever since that day I know that he and I have special connection with my brother. My sister has always had it easier with my father, but with me and my brother, especially when we were younger, he would expect the world from us. He'd be really hard on us. He would be on my sister, too, hadn't he noticed that she doesn't take his crap much. I love my father infinitely, don't get me wrong. He's the best father I could have ever asked for. We have grown to know each other, and to respect each other more since we both did a little bit of growing up separately, but me and my brother always had to protect each other from his sudden bursts, and help the other one not take it to heart. Even with the nine years separating us, we'd still fend for each other all the time.
On Saturday, only two days ago, at around four in the afternoon, my mother got a call from my brother. My brother was crying to her, and I could hear it from the other room. When she hung up she told me and my father that were home, that my brother's girlfriend's father has died.
My brother and his girlfriend had been together for four years, now. Her father is relatively very old, because he's much older than her mother, and because it isn't his first marriage. He's been sick for many years with all sorts of things that come with age, and was getting better the past month, and my brother got to hang out with him a lot, got very attached to him. He was getting better, until he wasn't getting better anymore, and then he wasn't anymore.
I can't stand seeing any person cry in my presence, so when it was him, I basically broke down. I knew I shouldn't go see him right away, because he was crying, and I would start crying, and it wouldn't help him at all, and all I wanted was to  help him, to drench the pain away from him.
The man used to be Jewish, so his sister, who's the only sibling he had that is still alive, wanted to mourn him the way she knows. The family respected it fully, and they sat, after the burial on Sunday, in his house, and started the Shiva.
After talking to him yesterday, when I realized he's not crying anymore, at least not out loud, I decided to come to the Shiva today. When my parents went, my mother bearing tons of food, and my father trying his best to be supportive, I knew I had to  be there.
Walking into the house I realized just how much my brother needs me. His girlfriend's family is crazy. Not that they are bad people, on contrary, they are really great people, but they are as complicated as it gets. She, being 26 years old, had a brother who's 55 year's old. Each one of her parents has been married at least once before and they had kids. So on one side sits his sister, a religious Jewish woman that's very old, right next to her sits one of his children, a 55 year old gay man with his partner. Then the wife's friend, her best friend, who's been known to be controlling of  the couple's life, being a part of every decision making process in the house. And she, she is telling the wife she's not dealing with the death of her husband properly, and I am thinking, WOMAN! HER HUSBAND DIED TWO DAYS AGO, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST LAY DOWN THE JUDGEMENT?!
And then in the other side of the room, where we were sitting, my brother and his girlfriend were sitting, and their eyes hollow. I imagine the Shiva really did help some of the people. Some people, like the wife, talked so much that they didn't have time to think of the dead. Some people, like his son, were listening so hard to the noise in the background, they didn't have any time to think of any of it at all. But some, like my brother and his girlfriend, just needed to mourn in silence, alone.
And I ached. I ached really bad, because I know my brother. I know him. He is strong. He is fierce. He is amazingly capable of anything. But he is also a sensitive guy. A guy that gets attached very easily, and loves many people. He appreciates their kindness, wisdom, and respect.
So when he hugged me, and was hanging onto me as if in need for physical support, so weak he couldn't handle himself alone, I wanted to break down, curl up and cry. But I knew I couldn't, not there. I had no right to break down in front of his wife that's been holding in the tears since the moment he got sick. I don't get to cry in front of his children, I simply don't. So I hold it in. Even when I can't look him in the eyes too long 'cause they've been red and puffy from crying and sleep deprivation, even when he has to run around, exhausted, to host the people coming in by the hour, even when he talks on the phone and his voice cracks. I have to hold it in when his girlfriend's eyes are just as vacant, and even when they both try to force smiles on their faces, but it doesn't reach their eyes, even when I notice that his girlfriend, the most high-maintenance girl I know, was in no make-up for the first time since I first got to know her, holding onto her knees hugging them close to her, curling up into a ball, wanting to disappear. I don't break when I say goodbye to her mother and she's tearing up, whispering "thank you" words for my mom for bringing my brother into their lives. I don't even break down when he hugs me goodbye and hangs onto me and my father as if he's holding onto dear life. But the moment we're out the door, I burst into tears.
So here's the reason why I had trouble writing the past few days, but I had to get this off my chest.
Here's a song that's been getting me through the pain a little.  

"Woe in my head, my soul, my memory, my loving home, my family. I know they'll come for me if I need, if I need, for I see the love in you. It feeds me, it feeds me."

XOXO Roni J.

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