Jewish Home

When I got home, exhaustion overwhelmed me. Outside I went, on the terrace, one that overlooks where I had just been. It was all too much. I tilted back in my wheelchair and took in the first truly warm and sunny day of this, our springtime. And I tried to tune into my brief morning visit to San Francisco’s Jewish Home. An old friend, a long-retired editor and columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, is staying there. But actually to put a finer point on it, is dying there. I brought him some bread pudding from the egregiously fine Destination Bakery on my street. And I tried to bring him some timely news from the arts world, once his journalistic beat. But he could barely talk. And I was prepared for this reality. So I cut my anecdote short, reminded him to eat the bread pudding and hit the transit road. Well, not quite. I talked to his carer waiting outside the room. Yes, she confirmed, he was having a sleepy morning. And soon I was too.

What’s so exhausting? Well, probably anything that churns up deep emotions. For it is so easy to see myself in the same situation. Withering…my friend is alarmingly thin…and too exhausted to notice. Or to care. Fading away, quite literally. My friend, once tall and sort of dashing, is collapsing, almost completely confined to bed. And that’s how it is. Nearing the end.

Which, logically, we all do. But something in me refuses to accept this, the inevitable course of things. I am not ready for it now. But I may not be ready for it ever, which doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re late for your appointment in Samarra, does it? As long as you keep it. Which, by all accounts, is not optional.

So when others are keeping their appointments, wise people make it a point to turn up too. Just for support. Theirs and ours. Meanwhile, the beat goes on. Amazon has just delivered my latest shipment of organic calcium and vitamin D3. This shows my commitment to immortality. My bones will live forever, their mineral content being so high and all.

Thing about my friend, he is not dying alone. I’m not sure what’s so Jewish about the Jewish Home. The Jewish-Filipino Home would be much more accurate. And more to the point, he’s got people like me visiting. A nurse…and in this case, clearly a Jewish one…noted me heading for my friend’s room. Are you ex-Chronicle, she asked. Sure, I lied. Doubtless this will stand me in good stead, should I ever need to be in good standing. Which I don’t. Neither is my friend. Standing days are over, which is almost true for me. Rolling days are not. And I must admit that after the short bus ride to and from the Jewish Home, I am more grateful for those I have.

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