- About a Kaddish
On the day my Moishe died, we called Eddy. How come Eddy? Well, that’s a long story.
Eddy was only seven when he came to live with us in Brooklyn. He’s my sister Esther’s boy. She and Harry ran a chicken farm out in Jersey and there was no Jewish school for Eddy there. It wasn’t easy for them to send their little boy away, but Esther and Harry were willing to make the sacrifice so that Eddy would learn some Yiddishkeit. Eddy, a year younger than my boy Ben, moved into his cousin’s room and became what you’d call his sidekick. Well, maybe not exactly a sidekick. More like something to kick around.
My son Benjamin was, in today’s terms, a hyperactive child. He was a big boy with dark bushy hair, a walk that bounced and a voice that boomed. Believe me, I had my hands full. He was a real mazzik, a trouble-maker if you ever saw one. Couldn’t sit still for a minute. Maybe I’m just partial, but you could just melt, looking into those huge brown eyes, so full of life and open to the world. He loved to kick a ball around with the other kids. When there was no ball, may God forgive him, he would kick Eddy.
Surprisingly, Eddy didn’t seem to mind. Or if he did, he kept it to himself. He was a small, bony child. Ate like a bird. I used to push food at him: one more spoon of chicken soup? A nice piece of kugel? He had a cleft-chin and a face like a puppet. I know I [End Page 127] shouldn’t talk like this, but looking at Eddy, you could imagine a ventriloquist pulling the strings to open and close his mouth. He had thin lips, with vertical creases on either side, as if marking where his jaw should drop when he was ready to speak. Most of the time though, Eddy didn’t talk. He just tagged along after Ben.
Both boys attended Herzl Jewish Day School. As you can imagine, Benjamin wasn’t the perfect student. He was bright, for sure, but his teachers complained about his behavior. Not that he was disrespectful. He just had trouble sitting still. Another problem was hygiene. For this, on his report card, he always got a U: unsatisfactory. Every morning, with a washrag and soap, I made him scrub. But by the time he came home, he looked like he had rolled around in a mud bath. How he got so filthy, I never knew.
Eddy was a grade behind Ben. He didn’t have trouble keeping clean like his cousin, but he had trouble in school for a different reason. He couldn’t concentrate. His teachers called him a dreamer. They complained he always managed to open his book to the correct place for silent reading, but then, he never turned a page. His mind was off somewhere else, far away from the classroom. But he didn’t disturb. It was easy for his teachers to ignore him.
After school, I always made sure Ben did his homework. And Eddy too. But when I looked to see, Ben would be writing and sometimes reading, but Eddy, no. He just sat dreaming. A page in his book, he never turned. “Eddy,” I’d say. “Why you aren’t working?” “I am working, Aunt Molly,” he’d say. So what could I do? Such a sweet boy, he was. Just not one for the books.
When the boys reached high school, Benjamin began to change. My Moishe, his father, also noticed. All of a sudden, the boy took care with his appearance. Showered every day, combed his bushy hair, rubbed in that greasy stuff. Whispered on the phone about girls to his friends. And not just this. Now his teachers had good things to say: Ben was concentrating in class, preparing well for exams, aiming for the highest grades.
Eddy, meanwhile, stayed the same: a dreamer. With Benjamin busy studying for college entrance exams, you’d think Eddy would...