Sunday, July 21, 2019

A MENSCH FOR A SON

My birthday is a few weeks away and I hadn't been reflecting on it much, because I have so many other family members and friends whose birthdays are coming up. Being in the greeting card business, I'm conscious that I want to send them all cards--on time--but that I have been sending out belated cards way more often than I'd like.  I guess it's a case of the cobbler's children going without shoes.
One of my daughters lives about half an hour away, and she generally makes sure that she is here on days that are important to me, especially my husband's and my anniversary, the day of his death, and also my birthday. Since she usually comes with some or all of her six children in tow, even the sad days are happier than they might have been.  And I will never forget that the last time I had a birthday when my husband was alive, he could no longer drive and  he told my daughter that he was worried about getting me a present when he couldn't go out and buy one for me. She found a beautiful bracelet in my favorite colors and got it for him to give me, and each time I wear it I remember his thoughtfulness and her kindness.  
And it was more successful than a gift he gave me for my birthday when our children were small.  My birthday was a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave on vacation, and I had told him that I would like a particular game so we could bring it with us and play it as a family on our vacation.  Sometimes I gave him hints, but this time I was pretty specific, I thought.  My birthday rolled around, and the package from him was the right size, so I was excited about opening it--until I tore off the wrapping paper and discovered...a bathroom scale. I must have looked stunned because he immediately said, "You said we needed a new bathroom scale!" I had, but it was at the same time when I was telling him to put things on the list for the department store. He said he knew he shouldn't have gone to Price Club at the last minute for my gift.  And of course giving a bathroom scale to a woman who was always watching her weight might have been practical but wasn't taken as complimentary--even though he didn't think I needed to lose weight. He did buy the game a few days later, and we took it on vacation, though it wasn't the smash hit with the kids that I thought it would be. 
He did have some real home runs with gifts he bought me, like the Christmas when I opened his present to find a Thomas Kincade painting and I burst into tears. I had never thought of asking for a gift that I assumed was too expensive. It was so beautiful that I hung it in the living room and for years I would sit in there and eat my lunch and work on my poetry, feeling the sunshine that poured in through the window as if it were his love wrapped around me.
After he died, I stopped expecting much on special days. Christmas was about the grandchildren and my birthday seemed like most other days. Last year, though, my daughter was here with her children to help me celebrate during the day.  After she went home, my son, who was 25 then, texted me to say that a friend of his, whom I know fairly well, was coming over to wish me a happy birthday.  When he arrived, he had brought a delicious sushi dinner and we had dinner together.  My son knew I was going to have to eat dinner alone on my birthday and asked his friend to surprise me by having dinner with me. It was such a thoughtful thing to do since my son lives in LA and couldn't be here himself.
When I posted this in my Mission Accomplished program, Deborah Hurwitz, our coach, commented, "You have a mensch for a son!" I knew it was a compliment, but I had to look up what mensch meant: "a person of integrity and honor." According to Leo Rosten, it's "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character." Yes, he is.







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