News After the Jewish New Year
I mailed my former therapist a Rosh Hashana card but never expected a reply. My heart leaped when I received one. When I opened the letter, I saw that it was from her husband, not her. My brilliant, quick-witted, huge-hearted therapist had Alzheimer’s. Her memory was so sharp that she never took notes during sessions yet could remember every detail. Now her mind failed her. I read the last line in her husband’s card a hundred times: “I think I have some sense of how important you were to one another.” — Idit Klein
The Best Part of Waking Up
I pull Rick close, luxuriating in his warmth, trying not to wake him. Thirty years ago, after AIDS took my first partner, waking up was the worst part of my day: As I came to consciousness, the pain of his absence would be piercing. So, now, I savor mornings with my husband. I look across at Rick’s silhouette against the brightening sky, listen to the “poof, poof, poof” of his cartoon-character snore. I squeeze him tight, planting little kisses on the back of his neck. He eventually stirs and I whisper, “I’ll make the coffee.” — Stan Engelsen
Do You Feel Beautiful?
“Am I beautiful now, Mama?” asks my 4-year-old after getting dressed for school. Most days, she demands dresses that go down to her toes, satin gloves and a silver plastic crown. “Does this dress make you feel beautiful?” I ask in response. She nods, then turns a similar question to me, “Do you feel beautiful, Mama?” I resist the impulse to say “No,” thinking of my gorgeous mother bemoaning her crooked nose, full thighs, irascible gray temples. “Yes,” I lie, trying to break the curse, to imbue her with the confidence I lost long ago. — Lauren Tanabe
“Do not propose,” I told Tony for years. We met around the time my panic attacks began in my early 20s. “Pace yourself, Jess,” he would reply. I blamed my anxiety, how it made me say “I can’t” so many times in life that I never thought I’d walk down an aisle to say “I do.” But eight years after we met, I found myself on a lavender-lined path, linking arms with my parents and focusing on Tony’s voice in my head: “Pace yourself, Jess.” Tony stood with open arms, waiting at the end, which was really a new beginning. — Jessica Keith