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My Father’s Orange (cont’d)

(continued from June 17)

3. Metaphoric meaning-

Getting back to the “peel off”, this contest was not as simple as you might imagine. For Dad and for me, the orange could very well be a metaphor for life itself.

As a newly blind youngster, trying to discriminate between the textures of peel and fruit while preserving the integrity of the orange peel — all with the clock tick-tick-ticking—was definitely challenging for me. After all, I was weaving together my tiny strands of identity and the overpowering cords of blindness and fear, schoolwork and friends; and hoping to come out with something unique and valuable.

And it wasn’t easy for my Dad either, having only one “normal”hand.

Growing up,however, “disability” was simply not part of my family’s everyday life and lingo. I knew that each of us mattered, and that we each had something worthwhile to contribute. We have always joked and made fun, and all were expected to do our best at school and at home.

So how could I ever think of my Dad as disabled?

I knew he could do anything– carry me on his shoulders, make chili or macaroni and cheese from scratch, use screwdrivers hammers, drills or table saws;fix a motor, hang shelves, paint and paper my bedroom, grow the prettiest flowers and the yummiest tomatos. Only as my world expanded did the complexity of his challenges become apparent to me.

You see, my Dad was already a young man when he lost full function of his right hand because of a gasoline fire. And while his classmates and buddies went off to WWII, he spent a year in the hospital waging a very personal battle of his own.

My Dad was fighting to preserve the integrity of who he was.

And, Baruch HaShem, he did it. He eventually trained his left hand to assume the dominant role, accepted a job in a local foundry, and married my mother. He supported us very nicely as a salesman, always ready to meet new people, and to extend a hand—albeit a left hand—in greeting.

Dad remains my champion and my role model, and just peeling an orange reminds me that Life’s sweetness has not come easily to either of us.

4. Secret meaning-

There is no telling what an orange will mean to me in the years to come. Perhaps it will be the means of transmitting some trace of my father’s character or influence to my children’s children. Perhaps the “peel off” will find new meanings I can’t even imagine.

All I know is that As I write this, my Dad is nearing his eighty-eighth birthday. He and Mom have moved into a condominium a few doors away from my sister; and living 2000 miles to the west, I remain his biggest fan. He has fewer flowers to tend, but stays busy with home projects like painting walls and hanging shelves. And even though the tomatos may be store bought these days, my Dad’s hugs are as strong as ever.

Yes, an orange holds many meanings for me. It is the gift of toughness and flexibility, of pith and sweetness. It is a little girl’s adoration and a parent’s steadfast love. It is a timeless connection that transcends physical distance and disability,shifts in perspective and religion.

Mostly it is my father’s voice saying simply:

“Well, it’s time for me to peel my orange.”

My Father’s Orange

I phoned my Dad yesterday to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. We shared pleasantries about the weather, about my kids, about our mutual frustrations with “smart” technology.

We spoke of love for one another; and he said that he and Mom have always been proud of me.

But do you know what touched me most profoundly?

It was when he said:

“Well, it’s time for me to peel my orange”.


Yes, my Dad and I both love eating oranges. And the more I think about it, the more I realize the layers of meaning that orange holds for me.

1. There is the plain meaning-

When I was a kid, my Dad and I challenged each other to a kind of “peel off”. Which of us could peel an orange quickest while keeping the peel intact?

With the spirit of good-natured competitors, we passed the championship back and forth, back and forth.

The great “peel off” was a playful tug-of-war; and as I grew older, it also reminded me that teenage angst wasn’t all I felt toward my Dad.

2. Associated meaning-

I can’t help connecting my father’s orange with the orange that Jewish feminists place beside the other symbolic items on a Seder plate these days. Their orange is meant to bring women’s voices into the Passover story, to recognize the meaningful work both men and women have undertaken in the timeless pursuit of human liberation.

The home I grew up in was filled with female voices—my mother’s, my two older sisters’s, my own–

And our voices were strengthened by the gender equality that permeated the atmosphere. Oh, sure, my brother finally made his appearance among us. He was the one tasked with mowing the lawn while we worked the kitchen—but it all just seemed like work to me.

And I must say, finding the orange among the other items—shank bone, matzah, cheroset, horse radish, and parsley—feels to me as validating as a loving embrace. Just imagine, treasure from my childhood has found its place among the artifacts of Jewish tradition.

3. Metaphoric meaning-

Getting back to the “peel off”, this contest was not as simple as you might imagine. For Dad and for me, the orange could have been a metaphor for life itself.

(To be continued…)

On The Ball

Oh my, oh my!

It has been a very long time since my last entry in this little blog. I’d like to say it is because I’ve been so busy.

*Yismehu’s website has been rebuilt and readied for launch during the last 7 weeks.

*The Kaddish Challenge just came to a close — with my students bravely (and quite competently) leading the Kaddish Sheleim during the first Erev Shabbot service in May.

*And after all, our son is getting married in August.

But the real reason is…yoga.

Remember my first entry; all about wanting to learn, wanting to stretch, blah-blah-blah?

**my characteristic bird-squawking hand gestures**

Well nobody ever mentions the pain, do they?

Or maybe they do…in that lingo-specific code talk…

like the chiropractor I went to a few years ago.

She did her magic. The back pain — which had tearfully seized me one morning after years of choosing to sleep on the floor –faded away, sure. But after that first session while I was feeling so fluid and perky, she had said: “Later you’ll feel like you’ve had a really good workout.”

Just like that. No dastardly tone. No ominous mood music. Nothing to clue me in as to what was coming.

And I in my innocence, blithely unaware and lovingly sheltered from the world of active folk, smiled sweetly and went home.

An hour later I crawled into the bed I had recently adopted, feeling as if I had the flu. And when I awoke, I was innocent no more.

So yes, I have put away the idea of actually practicing yoga. My meditative moments now find me sitting, bouncing and even stretching my so-called muscles on my yoga ball. It’s a much more playful and far less structured approach to stretching.

Well that’s what I think today, anyway.


One thing you should know about me: I’m always up for learning something new.

So when my 24 year old daughter suggested that I try the yoga routine she’s been using for the last few weeks, I thought “why not?” After all, adding mindful movement to my day along with a bit of stretching couldn’t hurt…

And even while CC was patiently demonstrating the positions, with the kind of hands-on teaching this blind Mom needs, my pounding heart was thumping out “good for you, good for you.”

Sure, she told me she had been a bit stiff after her first session, but I walk regularly, don’t I?

Our first session went fairly well. Afterward my wobbly legs carried me to the dinner table, and a few hours later I sank into my comfy bed feeling pleased and satisfied with myself because I had started something new—and hey, it’s good for me!

Then morning arrived; and as I rolled off the mattress and into a standing position, I heard the battle cry—or rather, I felt it. My thigh muscles declared quite emphatically that I had not only offended them, they were not going to stand for it–or let me stand for it either. They squawked at me all the way down the hall, through the house, and by the time I was descending the shallow deck steps so that my guidedog Ari could access the yard…they were screaming at me.

That was two days ago.

The protest has quieted somewhat; but tomorrow is another day…another day of mindful movement and stretching… and stretching.