Dear Anonymous
Absence and Presence: Tetzaveh and Shabbat Zachor 5783 / 2023

Year one


"What did we even do for Purim last year?" I wonder aloud to a friend. It's disconcerting. Purim happens every year. Surely last year I must have celebrated it in some way! But I can't remember a thing. It's as though Purim has been wiped off of my mental map. What could we have done?

"Weren't you in shiva?" he asks, and the memory stops me in my tracks. Of course. That's why I can't remember last Purim: I didn't have one. On Purim I was in the midst of the week of shiva. I was new to being wholly parentless. Talk about topsy-turvy: my world was completely upside-down. 

Dad died on the 6th of Adar II (the second Adar that happens in a leap year), right before Purim. As it happens, Mom also died during a Jewish leap year, on the 21st of Adar I. This year's a "normal" one, not a leap year, which makes their yahrzeits feel... not normal, because they've switched places.

On the Gregorian calendar, Mom died in February and Dad died in March. Jewishly, their yahrzeits now orbit around each other. Hers comes first during leap years, which fits the way we experienced it. His will come first during non-leap years. Like this one we're in now. No wonder I feel scrambled.

Dear Dad: what a year it's been. A few days ago I visited your kever. I pressed my palm to the earth and cried. Look how tall your grandson's gotten, I said, as though you can see him more clearly when we're there. I do feel a certain closeness to you and Mom when I'm there, walking where you walked.

One of the things I brought home with me after you died was a silver gragger, engraved from Mom to you and dated January 1, 2000. I wish I could ask y'all about it now. Why a gragger? Why New Year's Day? What was the story? I dreamed of you the other night, but my questions have no answers.