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May 14, 2004

Talking Yiddish

Dora is 89, with limited sight and mobility and failing memory. She is alert enough to be bored, but cannot entertain herself, as she cannot read, no longer enjoys television, which is hard for her to understand, and finds it difficult to follow quick conversations. This makes her totally dependent on others for stimulation. Above all, she is preoccupied with Mayer not being here and repeats the same questions: Where is he? When is he coming back? What is he doing? It is difficult for her to generate conversation unless we can strike the right topic and she is in a good frame of mind and even then it is hard to sustain. She is somewhat responsive to hearing someone read.
The great discovery today was her reaction to a conversation in Yiddish. In an effort to find a way to pass the time together--her days are very long and when she is bored her solution is to sleep--I cast about for topics of conversation, without success. Then, I thought, here is a chance to speak Yiddish, something I would relish. To my delight, she did not resist, not in the least. So, we watched the evening news on t.v. and I explained in Yiddish what was happening in Iraq. There is no Yiddish dictionary in the house so I asked her for the words that I could not remember or did not know--words for torture, prisoners, beheading. Sure enough she either came up with the word right off the bat or scoured her memory for it. I had not seen her so intellectually engaged in a very long time. I know that anything emotionally compelling has a better chance of capturing her interest and holding her attention, so the news, however disturbing, had the advantage of a strong, clear, vivid story. From here on in, it's Yiddish!
We went tonight to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with Marv, Shawna, Joe and Anne Jacob. I think Dora enjoyed the outing and so did I.

Posted by BKG at May 14, 2004 12:03 AM


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