Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Holding On to What We Let Go Of --David Kalish

Here is an excerpt from the life, and the new novel, by David Kalish  a new friend in Upstate New York. This true story gives you a taste of his wonderful novel called "The Opposite of Everything". You will want to read the whole book. Take a read:

Twelve years ago I pressed my six-month old daughter to my chest and waded waist-deep through a lukewarm pool of water. “How many seconds again?” I asked the two rabbis, who stood poolside next to my wife.
“Three seconds,” the reform rabbi said, touching his stopwatch.
“God willing,” the conservative rabbi added.
I nodded nervously. For that’s how long I had to submerge Sophie — completely let her go. Like God commanded Adam and Eve to go from the Garden of Eden. Like Moses beseeched Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” Perhaps I could write my own bible chapter. For I was on chemotherapy at the time, pale and bald as a cue ball. A part of me hoped that giving my daughter a ritual mikvah do more than make her Jewish. It would help me let go too. Of my past. Of my fears for the future.

The rabbis checked their stopwatches. A hush rose in the tiled room. As my wife anxiously watched, I released Sophie into the pool. She sank, her tiny arms seeming to wave goodbye. A shadow slipped over me. I thought of my diagnosis of medullary thyroid cancer several years earlier. My first marriage crumbled under the pressure of sickness, a wife who couldn’t cope. And now the pale helpless face of my daughter, the fruit of my second marriage, stared up at me through the water.
By some automatic reflex my hands scooped her up, clamping her to my chest. Amid the din of her screams, the rabbis shook their heads. Not enough time had passed.
I thought of my own clock speeding toward an end point. The folly of giving my daughter a ritual mikvah when I might not be around for her Bat Mitzvah. But something inside me grew solid as the Ten Commandments. I’d finish this thing if it was the last I did. Sophie’s screams softened to whimpers. I dropped her back in.

She was a fast learner. Her wriggling fingers cut back up through the surface, grabbing my arms. The rabbis again checked their stopwatch, shaking their heads.
Questioning the existence of God, I dropped her a third time. I moved backward two steps — out of her reach.
I remembered gasping for breath myself a few years earlier, waking up from eight hours of neck surgery. A nurse administered too much morphine, causing my lungs, weakened by anesthesia, to collapse. A medical team rushed in; I dimly overheard the surgeon mention “tracheotomy.” Fearing a blowhole in my neck, I managed with the doctor’s help to start breathing again.
The memory faded; I snapped to attention and saw Sophie sinking like a doll, slipping into shadows.
I plucked her up and held her dripping body to mine. Cah! She spit up. Cah! Water drooled from the side of her mouth. Cah!  She smiled, not seeming at all upset.
The rabbis beamed. “Three seconds,” the first one said. “Maybe four.”
“For both of you,” the other said.
The rabbis said a prayer, adding a few sentences. When you save another life, it is as if you save your own. This is the essence of Judaism. But Sophie wasn’t listening. Tired from all the excitement, she slept in my wife’s arms. I closed my eyes. If my story ended with this kid asleep, face scrunched against my wife’s milk-swollen bosom, I was cool with that. If the story ended here, that would be enough.
But in fact, this isn’t how things end. Since that day twelve years ago, I went on to try a new drug, with fewer side effects, that today holds my cancer at bay. Sophie has her Bat Mitzvah this coming May, and we live in a spacious house in upstate New York. Summers, we sow seeds in a little garden plot, weed tomato plants, and set down aluminum pie plates filled with beer to drown the slugs. Each morning I walk my two small dogs unleashed, like my thoughts, through a nearby forest. My novel was  published this year. I’m just getting started.
Editor’s Note: David Kalish is the author of the new comedic novel The Opposite of Everythingwhich inspired this essay and is a finalist in the Somerset Fiction Awards. For more info: www.davidkalishwriter.com, or on Amazon.com.

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