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December 11, 1987 - Image 130

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

FICTION

PHONE
CALLS

JANICE ROSENBERG

Special to The Jewish News

Art By Tim Mullin

118

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1987

\3›.

6

D

6r. Stem died," my mother tells
me.
As usual, I'm fixing dinner
while we talk, the telephone propped be-
tween my chin and shoulder. I listen,
remembering Dr. Stern wrapped in a bar-
becue apron, grilling hot dogs and ham-
burgers while his kids and my brothers and
I ran through the sprinkler. That wasn't so
long ago, I think, then smile wryly to my-
self — only thirty years or so.
"Dad and I went to the service," she con-
tinues. "It was at Thmple Beth Emet. His
son-in-law did the eulogy. He's a rabbi."
As my mother rambles on, I seek words
of comfort. A few years ago, my response
would have been an easy: "He was pretty
old, wasn't he?" But recently it has oc-
curred to me that my mother and father
are also "pretty old" by most people's
standards.
My father's seventieth birthday party
took place almost four years ago. He's been
a surgeon for nearly forty years and still
operates several times a week. My mother,
who is younger by a few years, does hos-
pital volunteer work. People who meet her
for the first time are disbelieving when
they learn her age. Both of my parents take
part in synagogue activities and go swim-
ming at the YMCA.
Still, they are beginning to lose their
friends, not accidentally or surprisingly,
but, to be blunt, because they are old.
The custom of nearly daily telephone
calls between my mother and me began in
the late sixties when I was married. She

kept me up to date on suburban goings-on
after my husband and I settled in the city.
At first, as I rushed around my tiny kit-
chen cooking dinner after work, the news
was of marriages. "I ran into Judy's
mother today at the supermarket," my
mother might say. "She's marrying a boy
from California."
A few years later, her news told of the
births of children. "Remember my friend
Doris? Her daughter had twins," my
mother would begin. I listened to long tales
of pregnancy and birth, knowing she'd
shared the arrival of my two sons with her
pals and that they'd relayed these tidings
to their children as well. Hearing the
familiar names gave me a feeling of
continuity.
After my tenth high school reunion the
divorce calls started coming. At least once
a month, my mother heard of another dis-
aster. "You mean he just walked out?" I
might ask as I peeled potatoes. The in-
evitability of these partings after the for-
mal weddings and the sweet-natured
babies shocked me. Listening as I set the
table and waited for my husband to come
home, I felt safe knowing that my mother
was doing the same
For a time after the divorces, there was
nothing much to report. A few "kids"
remarried, a few moved out of town. My in-
terests changed gradually from homemak-
ing to writing, but my chats with my
mother over the price of lettuce or the new
curtains for the bedroom retained their
soothing quality.

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