Sunday, May 8, 2016


CALL MOM” said a sign the other day, and something inside me clenched. In my inbox, at work, an e-mail waited from the New York Times: a limited offer to “treat Mom” to a free gift. It’s nothing, I tell myself. A day for advertisers. So I shrug off the sales and the offers, the cards and the flowers. I press delete. Still, I now mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar of grief. Anyone who has experienced a loss must have one of those. There’s August 29th, my mother’s birthday—forever stopped at sixty-four. September 17th, my parents’ anniversary—a day on which I now make a point of calling my father, and we both make a point of talking about anything but. There’s June 6th, the day she was diagnosed—when a cough that she had told us was “annoying” her and a leg that she had been dragging, thinking she must have pulled a muscle, turned out to be symptoms of Stage IV lung cancer. And then there’s October 16th: the day she died, four months and ten days after the diagnosis. The year becomes a landscape filled with little mines.

There’s a word in Hebrew—malkosh—that means “last rain.” It’s a word that only means something in places like Israel, where there’s a clear distinction between winter and the long, dry stretch of summer. It’s a word, too, that can only be applied in retrospect. When it’s raining, you have no way of knowing that the falling drops would be the last ones of the year. But then time goes by, the clouds clear, and you realize that that rain shower was the one.

-- Ruth Margalit