At the Nursing Home
Until it was renovated into fancy condos, I would go once a month to a nursing home on 5th Street to conduct a short Sabbath service for the Jewish residents, at least the ones I could persuade to attend. Challah bread and grape juice were my top offers, but I also told them there'll be singing and camaraderie. I have been known to stand in front of Lucie and beg her to come. It's not that she will participate, but she's sentient. On a good day I get half a dozen, several of whom are wheeled in, asleep.
One woman I'd never seen before asked me to take her home to live with me. When I declined, she said what was I doing there, then? Not helping.
I told her I had a 4th-floor walkup, and she said, "oh" and quit badgering me.
Sidney clutches my hand and can barely be pried loose. Irving looks down my shirt, almost vestigially.
Only Louise won't miss services. Louise is the mayor of the nursing home. She's got the perfect personality for this kind of place. She's friendly to everybody without assuming she's your new best friend. She stays awake and always tells me I have a beautiful voice. She means it but mostly means thank you for coming.
I always ask about upcoming holidays. What happens on Passover (which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt)?
"The oil burned for eight days," Louise says. (That was Hanukkah.)
"You've got the eight days right," I said. "What do we eat?"