Sunday, July 13, 2003

GRANDMA: Today I visited my grandmother in her nursing home. "Bubby," which is the Yiddish affectionate for grandma, turned 93 this Friday past, and is still as sharp as a razor. My Bubby is an incredible woman. She came to America alone and single in the 1930's, survived the depression and a world war, worked as a laborer in the garment industry, raised money for war bonds and gave generously to that cause out of her meager salary, volunteered as an air raid warden in the 50's, raised a daughter (my mom) and remains a modest, caring and maternal figure to my family. In short, she is like everyone else's amazing grandmother, which is to say that she makes our generation look spoiled and unaccomplished by comparison. Why do I mention this? Not to crow about my devotion to my grandmother, which I beg of you dear reader(s) not to compliment me on. But to discuss an idea that's been fomenting in the back of my head for some time now. I visit my grandmother because -in addition to feeling an immense sense of gratitude for all that she has accomplished in her 93 years- I truly enjoy -and, frankly require- her company. Bubby gives me sage advice and tells me stories about her life and her past that are as much a part of me as if they had originated within my person. Looking around, though, I see a great many men and women like my grandmother -some old, some not so much so- who require companionship and the respect and gratitude of those who came after them and do not receive what they deserve. WHY IS THAT? The local church groups or Jewish outreach and "Bikur Cholim" squads, while admirable, are an inadequate substitute for what these people really deserve. To that end I propose the following:
The notion of civil service as a noble pursuit is well formed in our heads, especially after 9/11. Why shouldn't civil or volunteer service to the elderly have the same exalted status? After all, aren't we just returning the favor to those whose lives were spent enhancing our own? Now I'm not saying everyone should run out and visit a nursing home tomorrow, but if we all took stock of our time and what we value as important, shouldn't we all come to the realization that we should set aside some time in our lives to devote to this issue in much the same way many of us volunteer to be emergency medical workers, firemen or auxiliary police for a few years out of our lives?

As it is said when discussing an intractable talmudic conundrum "Tzorech Iyun," literally: requires more scrutiny. This issue will not go away and must be addressed. Your constructive comments are appreciated.

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