The pale wintry sun descends and I recite my everyday afternoon prayer. Watching me, my eight year old grandson moves to sit on my knee. “What are you praying for, Saba?”
The enquiry jolts me to consciousness. If he’s asking, what’s your purpose in praying? – it’s a good question.
I fancy he’s asking, what are you praying for – in particular?
Still a good question.
He sits on my knee, this fleaweight who holds me captive. He forces me to interrogate the ritualized murmurings that issue half-bid, half-conscious. I translate for him:
The eyes of all look to You for good news,
And You give them their bread in good time.
You open up Your hand – here I open my closed hand, enacting the gifting of food –
And You satisfy the want of all that lives
I want the child to share my sense of wonder, of providence, however unevenly it might fall.
Grandson takes my face in his hands, brings his face close. Closer. His lips touch mine. He holds my face a little longer.
I contemplate Dickenson’s telegrammatic:
Prayer is the little implement
Through which Men reach
Where Presence—is denied them.
They fling their Speech
By means of it—in God’s Ear—
Grandson is in no rush to return to Lego and the other urgencies of his life. He sits while I entertain Tennyson:
More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
What does Saba pray for? He prays because he can, because he needs to.
Another kiss and grandson descends. Thank you Saba.
I am left to wonder whether a grandchild might be the answer to the prayer I sent to God’s Ear and never knew it.
Hi Howard, Nice piece. I also never told you how much I enjoyed your book about your Dad, especially the part about being on the boat and listening to Verdi. I reach out for another reason too… my oldest son Danny and his wife Aliza are moving to Melbourne in October. He is doing a 2 year postdoc in water economics at Monash; Aliza is a physical therapist. They are not frum but glad they are Jewish. They are both great athletes and like to cycle.
So Nancy and I will be visiting I am sure and we hope to renew our acquaintance. I am glad you have continued to write and also enjoy your grandchildren. I remember the 8 year old when maybe he was a bun in the oven! I wish you and Annette (is that right?) a shana tova and a really sweet and joyous year. I remember my visits to your home and the Carlbach minyan with great fondness. Best regards, David