For the past two years, Passover has—well—passed over us. In 2020, my husband Larry and I had a seder for two, a quiet affair to say the least. In 2021, thanks to Zoom, we were at least able to share a Haggadah and the holiday with members of our synagogue.
Now we are back in the game. Our first night will not be that much different, in that our congregation has opted for a Zoom service for hopefully the last time. But on the second night, we will drive to Sarasota, where we will share a table with two of my siblings and their spouses. How lovely it will be to sip wine and eat matzah and charotzes with family!
And, as always, I am entering this holiday with the same feeling of gratitude I have managed to maintain since COVID closed down our world. True, Larry and I have missed much—especially a year away from our children and their families. We spent two years avoiding crowds, passing up on movies and plays, getting our boosters and wearing masks. But I feel that the worst parts of this pandemic have passed over us. It is as if our doorposts were marked with a blessing that prevented illness and sadness from touching so many that we love.
We may not have suffered all the effects of this scourge, but we have unfortunately not escaped from another inevitable issue: aging! In a recent article in the New Yorker, David Kemp suggests that his newly formed US Citizens for Age Forgiveness demand an “executive order that will decree the last two years do not count towards the age of an American.”
Of course, Kemp’s essay is tongue in cheek, but I agree. Any setbacks that were caused by almost two years of hunkering down should somehow be erased, given back to us as a gift from God. This is especially true regarding what Larry has affectionally called “Lifetime Achievement Awards,” all those hopefully bearable “inconveniences” that are a result of surviving into our 60s and 70s.
First example: cataracts. I cannot turn around without bumping into someone who is in some stage of this common eye surgery. Conversations revolve around which doctor to use, which lens to be implanted (there seems to be a range from a no-frills basic version to the top-of-the line deluxe version); which drops therapy is used, how long between eye one and eye two; and how long one can return to normal life. We have come to accept the fact that people are walking around with one lens popped out of their glasses.
Unlike other surgeries, there is a definite benefit. After years of dealing with glasses and contact lenses, we baby boomers are looking at the world through our own eyes. My own journey to cataract surgery goes back almost twenty years ago when I spoke to my eye doctor about getting laser surgery to repair my severe myopia. He suggested I wait. “Most people of a certain age [he kindly avoided the word ‘old’] require cataract surgery,” he told me. “I can almost promise you will get the vision you want without the expense if you just wait it out.” He was correct. I patiently waited until my cataracts, first imperceptible, then ripening, then, in my mid 60s, ready to fix. My glasses went to the Lion’s Club, and my contact lenses and all the required accessories went into the trash. It took me months to break myself of the habit of reaching for my glasses the minute I woke up. To this day, if I feel something in my eye, my first thought is that something is lurking under my contacts.
Because I had been wearing contacts since I was in my 20s, my appearance didn’t change after surgery. Larry, however, had been wearing glasses for over 30 years until his recent surgery. I am still getting used to the “bare nakedness” of my un-bespectacled mate. So is my granddaughter, who burst into tears when she saw her Zayde for the first time without his usually dark frames. My sister-in-law was actually grateful that she still needs to wear glasses after cataract surgery. “I like myself better with glasses,” she told me. “They hide the lines.” (She doesn’t have wrinkles!)
Eyes are not the only body part that falls under the “Lifetime Achievement Award” category. Many of our teeth, which at one point held under the strain of hard candy and even carrots, seem to be crumbling, resulting in crowns, implants, and bridges. Hips, shoulders, and knees are being replaced at an alarming rate. Some of us have so many fake parts we rival Lee Majors’ Bionic Man!
Unfortunately, the standard devices do not imbue their owners with any super power, including super hearing. As a matter of fact, based on the number of ads for hearing aids found in AARP magazine, the inability to pick up normal conversations is one of the most prevalent signs of our aging bodies. Both Larry and I are on the cusp of needing some help. We no longer can have a conversation when we are in two different rooms. Heck, we have problems hearing each other when we are sitting next to each other on the couch doing crossword puzzles.
“What did you get for 41 across?” Larry recently asked me.
“Heeded,” I answered.
“Needed? It doesn’t fit. 33 down is OGH.”
“I said, ‘Heeded.’”
“No! Heeded. H as in Harry!”
“As in ‘Larry?”
No wonder it is taking us longer to do these puzzles
A friend’s pilates instructor had a different, but still flattering, spin on those of . She regards us as “classic cars,” older, still viable, very much appreciated, even if we are restored.
Unfortunately, Lifetime Achievement Awards often come in more serious forms. Cancers. Heart problems. Diabetes. Cognitive issues. Family and friends are dealing with many of these issues, a result of living a long life or of just plain bad luck.
A recent broadcast on NPR stated that with key COVID metrics trending rapidly downward, the pandemic’s third spring is already looking very different. Passover 5782 will hopefully usher in a time of hope that COVID-19—if not conquered but at least controlled. I also wish that this be a time of a “refuah shlema,” a complete, speedy healing for those suffering from all those lifetime achievement awards: And as we gather at our more crowded Seder table, let us add Rabbi Naomi Allen’s pandemic-inspired prayer, “On this Passover Night/We pray to you, God/Let it Pass Over us/Hear us God/Heal us God. Amen.”