I stretch out on my back inside the narrow tube of the MRI and pray.
I close my eyes so I can’t see the small space that feels like a coffin.
I try not to think about death but about life and how much I want to live.
I imagine the tumor inside my head the size of a walnut or maybe an almond hoping it’s gotten smaller, the size of a peanut, say, since last year.
I sing Hebrew prayers while the MRI screeches and screams in my ears and the earplugs don’t really help but I try to ignore the noise and think about what really matters.
What do I think about? Life, love, kindness, generosity, compassion, and how I hope I can live a long life, if God wills it, and bring more beauty into the world.
I don’t fall asleep (it’s too noisy) so I wait for the end and hope for a good report. It’s not until later in the doctor’s office that I learn the news: the tumor has shrunken from last year, thank God, and I can wait another year before returning for another test.
Thank God, thank God! The tumor is smaller, and I’m exhausted, as if I just left temple after a day of fasting and prayer.
— My Grandfather’s Apple Strudel
I never saw my grandfather make the apple strudel that melted in our mouths on Rosh Hashanah.
I never saw him mix the batter or roll the dough so thin it was like rice paper wrapped around the apple filling.
I never saw him create the delicious dessert because he refused to show me or share his recipe.
It was as if he was afraid I’d become a baker like him instead of becoming a lawyer, a banker, or a doctor.
In America you could become whoever you wanted to become, and he wanted me to become something else, not a baker.
Leave behind the trades of the Old World, I can hear him say. Make money like mud, be an American.
But who will make the strudel, Grandpa? Who will bake the bread and rolls and cakes that nourish and sweeten our lives?
Someone else, not you.
What will happen to all your recipes?
Nu? What happens to everything else? They’ll disappear.
And then? All that we’ll have left to remember the taste of your strudel will be the words of this poem.