I wanted to make tapenade especially for my son who was joining us for Shabbat last week, along with his family and my father. But I realized I didn’t have one ingredient.
“Do you have any thyme?”, I had asked my sister. She did a double-take, as I did, when I realized what it sounded like.
“Yes, you do!” I answered back to her. For she had been given a glimmer of hope that day, when it looked like the cancer wasn’t spreading. We were all pretty giddy with that bit of news and it felt good to have something to hang our magical thinking on.
But by the next day, it was clear that this was a false reality. I can’t say a false hope, because can hope ever be false. It can be misleading, misguided, misdirected, but not false. She looked really bad and there were additional signs pointing to more trouble.
And we have spent the week in the hospital visiting her. Everything pretty much went haywire with her health, downhill faster than we could have ever imagined (even though we did have to prepare ourselves by imagining). I have been thinking of dozens of metaphors that stand in for how I have felt this week. The first couple of days I felt like Peter, the little Dutch boy, with his finger in the dike, except that it wasn’t just one hole and pretty soon, I felt like I had run out of fingers.
And then I just gave up thinking that I could take care of everybody, because I knew that was a fool’s errand. So I felt like a fool.
And I thought about the image of the Hanukkah light, and light in general. And being light. And how one light can make a difference, but the darkness keeps needing more light. And this darkness feels really dark.
And then yesterday, I felt like a volleyball being thrown around the court, except it was always being thrown into my stomach.
Today, I stayed home. I cleaned the menorahs, including some for our daughters to light. They are on their way to join us. I made the beds, cleaned the house, busy-bodied my way through the day.
I still feel the bruising from yesterday. It just hurts very much.
Tomorrow, if she lasts that long, she will come home. I told my father and a few others that if she dies on my birthday, I will never forgive her.
But it’s not about me.
I’ve been saying that a lot lately. And others have been saying it to me. I realized that all the people who say it are those who know it’s not. The problem is those who don’t and think it isn’t.
Except for my baby sister. It is about her and she really would rather it be about someone else.
Except that she wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what she has.
Oh, she never gave me the thyme. She was going to, and maybe she even told someone to put it in a bag and give it to us when they dropped our father back at our house, but it didn’t happen. And the tapenade was fine without it.
I know it’s a metaphor about something else. But sometimes thyme is just an herb.
Life is about something else.