Sabbath

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.

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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.

12 thoughts on “Sabbath”

  1. I could relate to the story in that I often am in the role of “hostess” to a family visit that leaves me exhausted and angry for the lack of help of consideration. As I read this, I thought, “Why doesn’t she ask for their help?” But then I realized that I should ask myself the same question. This will make me think next time I am feeling like a put-upon hostess!

  2. Nice relatable piece. I’m going to jump to the other side of the comments. My Auntie said, “I appreciate your offer but please just visit with the others while I clean up.”

  3. I agree with the dichotomy of loving our family, yet feeling exhausted as an older parent when we must entertain them. I read an article recently on people who felt that grandparents shouldn’t be paid to watch their grandchildren, that they should feel blessed for the privilege of spending time with them. My husband and I give 40 hours a week for free, saving our daughter thousands of dollars every year on childcare. We take him places, cook his favorite foods, teach him things like carpentry and how to garden. Our daughter gets upset when we won’t watch our grandson overnight so she can have a “night off,” not understanding that we need our time off, too. She had a choice to have a child, and needs to accept the obligation and responsibility that comes with being a parent. When your body doesn’t have the energy to act as if you were twenty or thirty years younger, you have to take care of yourself because no one else will. Now I get that saying about how great it is to have grandchildren because you can give them back!

  4. I have come to appreciate the honesty in which Clive Gill presents his stories. He has a profound skill in presenting life lessons. In Sabbath, he has written about a culture that embraces family with joy and love, making it even harder to speak the truth when it is justified. Ahava’s Aunt begins her hosting duties with good spirit and love. Unfortunately, Ahava and her family do not honor her aunt’s need for help nor does her Aunt ask for it. This story is a reminder of how the younger generation should help the older generation without being asked.
    Beautifully written with rich detail.

  5. This is a poignant tale of the wish to spend time with family and how exhausting it can be. So emotionally satisfying. A beautifully written, relatable piece.

  6. Yes, that is how moms (and motherly figures) often feel. Nice picture of the foods and feelings that wind their way through family homes.

  7. Just read the sabbath story and have to say I feel quite the same after my children make their holiday visits home. While I relish their arrival, the sounds of their voices and their energy in the air, when departure time comes, I’m exhausted from constant commotion, cooking, serving, cleaning up after everyone. Those tears of sadness in my eyes accompany a sigh of relief. Whew, until next time.

  8. An honest look at family dynamics, especially in these days of new family dynamics. I can identify in what it’s like to entertain–the exhausting nature of it, and the way it often doesn’t come at a good time emotionally. Great work, Clive Gill, putting this simple story together in such a symbolic way. It definitely resonates.

  9. This is truly a human story, one we can all relate to. Especially those of us who are elderly and want to open our homes and hearts to those we love, but find it physically challenging. Well done, Clive Aaron Gill.

  10. Being in my late 70s, I know how she feels. Lovely to see family, but a relief when they leave. This is a lovely gentle human story.

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