LONG AFTER MY parents stopped using their portable dishwasher as a dishwasher, Dad and I used the wood top surface as a drop point for Dad to read my high school writing assignments. Dad worked in the post office in downtown Binghamton—a small city in Upstate New York’s snow belt.Dad would clock out from the PO at 11 PM and his headlights would illuminate the driveway and garage door at 11:10 PM. I would always make sure that my compositions awaited Dad’s arrival. If the composition was an essay contest entry, Dad wrote notes of encouragement like, “reads like a winner.” He never wrote editorial critiques, although I would likely have accepted them. With a high school education, Dad’s vocabulary still far surpasses that of his college graduate daughters. Dad deftly uses words like “soporific.” He did so this past year while on a respirator in the ICU.
When Jlife recently started publishing my articles, I sent Dad photocopies. Over the years, I sent Dad entire issues of the trade magazine for which I wrote and served on the editorial review board. I attached notes like, “I can’t mail you a dishwasher.” Using his post office references, Dad told me on FaceTime, “You’d have to add more stamps.”
I’m a believer in Hakarat haTov—recalling with appreciation the good people have done for me while they are still able to perceive my appreciation. I frequently use our Facetime sessions to tell Dad how much I recall our family road trips. We were not flyers in those years, and my sister and I performed the highway chorus from the back seat, never being told by either parent to shut it down.
I’m writing on the subject of my Dad because we just came through Yom Kippur. I said the Yizkor memorial prayer for my mother of blessed memory along with two of my grandparents and a great aunt for all of whom Dad had recited Yizkor over the years. Dad (yibadel l’chayim—May he be distinguished for life) came through a big health crisis this past Spring (see respirator, above). I am grateful that we were able to Facetime the day after Yom Kippur. Dad was pleased that I recited Yizkor for his parents and aunt.
I recently asked Dad—absent the dishwasher—for a suggestion of topic. He thought I should write about nursing homes. Dad, who proudly shares his birthday—month, day, and year, with actress Betty White, lives in a Jewish nursing home in the Northeast. It is a wonderful place where Dad receives top-quality medical, psychological, social and spiritual care. They even support Dad’s regular FaceTiming with his nudnik (pest) California daughter. The staff often joins Dad on our calls because they recognize me from my visits. On one such visit, Dad beat me in Scrabble with “equinox” on a triple-word score. It was a defeat I will always cherish.
I regularly thank the nurses, the caregivers, the receptionists the physical and speech therapists, and the social worker. It takes a beautiful, generous soul to work day and night with the aged and the infirm.
Hakarat haTov. I appreciate and I say so.
Ellen Fischer, a retired fraud investigator, is married to Rabbi Dov Fischer.