By Clive Aaron Gill
I lived alone in a small apartment in Long Beach, California, after my husband of fifty years died. Ahava, my niece, her husband, Eli, and their three young children visited me for three days, and I welcomed their company.
On Friday, Ahava invited me to join them at a nearby Jewish temple for the Sabbath evening services. I thanked her but refused because I needed time to rest my tired body.
On the Sabbath, Ahava and her family routinely did not work or turn on devices that used electricity or gas. Before sunset, she lit two tall, white candles, recited a blessing, then walked to the temple with Eli and their children, all looking good in formal clothes.
On their return, Eli blessed the three children and gave thanks for the wine and fresh challah, braided bread sprinkled with poppy seeds. We sat at the dining table covered by my finest linen and ate kosher food prepared with my arthritic hands; spring salad, patties of gefilte fish with horseradish on the side, chicken soup with matzo balls, roasted chicken, pickled dill cucumbers, and crunchy potato latkes with applesauce. They loved my food, and I enjoyed watching them eat with good appetites.
After dinner, I cleaned the dishes, my rounded back aching from osteoporosis, feeling resentful that they could not help me during their day of rest.
The following morning, after a breakfast of cereal, scrambled eggs, bagels, lox and cream cheese, and fruit blintzes, Eli, Ahava and their children strolled to the temple. On their return, we ate leftovers from the previous night. I washed the dishes, my irritation growing while they read and played games.
At dinner time, I served brisket and a noodle casserole. For dessert, they ate coffee cake with raisins, chocolate and nuts. I stopped myself from telling my niece about my frustration with doing all the work.
Before they returned to their home in San Diego on Saturday evening, Eli recited the travelers’ prayer and thanked me for my hospitality. The family climbed into their white SUV and Eli drove away fast, the children waving from the side windows.
As the vehicle receded and turned a corner, I pushed out my breath in a whoosh, tears of relief blurring my vision.
Forty stories by Clive Aaron Gill have appeared in literary journals and in “People of Few Words Anthology.” He tells his stories at public and private gatherings. Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Diego.