At a polyfiber-swathed table, in the once la-di-da dining room of a still pricey home for old Jews, my best friend’s father Lou is sing sing singing out loud, to the Hebrew songs in his head. His meal-time gal-pal Ethel signals for him to keep it down, but Lou’s on a roll, frankly doesn’t give a damn and lets it rip; and that’s when she turns to me, this elegant, fierce, old femme, and lets me know, in no uncertain terms, that during the war, she saw her mother and three younger sisters murdered, in front of her eyes, in ice-cold blood.
Lou hits a high note.
Ethel grimaces, unfurling the pain in her arthritic fingers and drops the other bomb: right after they were shot, she was forced down on her knees, to rip into the earth with her nails, and buried their bodies with her fifteen year-old hands.
A wail ricochets off the walls of the cavernous room. It’s the table-hopping Rabbi X, bussed in for shabbos. He’s praying, hard and fast, on behalf of the ancient couple at the table to our right, as the hovering husband shouts, take the pills! at his sick, demented wife. The rabbi shuts his eyes, rocking back and forth, fuzzy, hipster beard dusting lunch crumbs off his white shirt, crying out to his god for help. No way in hell he can stump for the senior souls in this room, by himself.
I see yellow stars. The shiny beads embroidered on to Ethel’s sweater wink. I look up into her uncomprehending eyes and feel the lifelong torture and deep loneliness of her story. The writer in me goes wild with the need to know more, because having grown up in a holocaust culture, that’s the way I cope. I ask, how did you survive?
I am stronger than most men, she says.
Lou’s song trails into another. The mind dances, the spirit is game.
Ethel’s whip-smart, hilarious daughter Henja shows up at our round table, wondering what she missed. Lou stops singing and smiles. His daughter Naomi, caregiver Polly, Ethel and I look at each other and laugh.
I am Stronger than Most Men is Part 2 of SENIOR HIGH – a series I am developing about some awesome seniors and the people who love them. I hope you fall in love and tell your friends. Meet Lou is Part 1. Click here for the whole series. Much more to come. Stay tuned for Part 3!
Help me invite a senior pal for lunch! No amount is too little, no amount is too much.
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Ethel & Lou are chilling with some very fine company at this week’s Five Star Great Blog Roundup, brought to you by the unstoppable Elan Morgan at Schmutzie.com. Check it out right here, talent abounds!
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