Hineni

Elisabeth is as formidable as always, sharp in assessing my conditions, sharp in knowing my heart before I dare speak. I ran late for our dinner, held back by work, and I arrived to find that mushroom risotto, just as I like it, was being brought out. The staff at the restaurant were perfect, coming to assist us without interrupting us, perfect just as everything Elisabeth organizes tends to be. We speak awkwardly about my work, and the conversation tapers off, because my work these days is an awkward subject.

Rachel is on the verge of womanhood. I was taken aback today by her changed body, the changes in her manner of walking and speaking, the distinctions now drawn in the manner of interacting with men and women. She had been a little girl sitting on my lap, programming in LOGO with me. She had been a little girl laughing when Sibelius had chased her around the magnolia trees. It will take me some time to recalibrate, to get used to the changes, to learn to speak with and love the woman she is growing up into. I had been discussing with her grandmother, about my neck pain caused by bad sleeping habits, and Elisabeth had suggested body pillows. Then her grandchild had stepped into the conversation, with tinkling laughter, commenting that I might prefer a man as a pillow. The sudden and unexpected comment had thrown us all off for a few moments.

I can’t wait to see her on the other side of puberty. I can’t wait to befriend and love the woman she becomes. Yet, I am sad too. She had been young and safe in her family’s bosom, beloved and cared for. Now she will see the world, be discriminated against, and any of her achievements will be spoken of in terms meaningless (a woman architect, a woman surgeon – the gender will become the focus of attention whenever people speak of what she chooses to do).  She is very tender-hearted, open in expressing her love and emotions. What will it do to her when someone less open, less expressive, less honest crosses her path? Outside the safety of the known, of her family, there are men and women broken and deceitful, mistrusting, emotionally imbalanced, and willing to hurt rather than to risk being hurt. There can be only two outcomes: you either become one of them, or you walk  about softly sad for the rest of your days, carrying in you a profound grief that some flatter by calling it wisdom or maturity.

Leonard Cohen has a new song, for a love that never came. Sibelius and I discuss it briefly today, and the phone connection fades for a moment as he crosses the Charles River, and I ask him if he was still there, to which he replies Hineni.

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