Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Aaron's Birthday - 2006

Today is Aaron's birthday. He would have been nineteen this year, so his birthdays on both the Hebrew and English calendars actually coincide today.

The eight months since his passing have been a succession of heart rending firsts for our family. The first Shabbos without him. The first Yom Tov. The first summer vacation, the first Rosh Hashanah, the first Sukkos, the first Chanukah. And now, the first birthday. Each a piercing stab of pain, punctuating our continual state of dull, throbbing ache.

Part of me wants to delve deeper into this misery, expose it in all its rawness, seek the catharsis I have periodically found in relating the story of Aaron's loss. But this feels incorrect. It's not what today has been all about for Aaron and for our family these past nineteen years. And it's certainly not how Aaron would have wanted me to commemorate his birthday!

So today, in honor of the date on which our family was gifted - albeit so very briefly - with this wonderful boy, I will try to focus on the joy that he brought us in the time we had with him, and not on the pain and sorrow of his loss. This post will be for happy memories, Aaron's wit and wisdom, even his practical jokes. No tears allowed, except tears of joy.

In Aaron's absence, I will give myself this present today.

I will start off with just a few of my favorite reminiscences and quotes. Each year on this date, God granting me life, strength, and continued will to blog, I will plan to supplement and re-post this chronicle (and I may even add a few later this day/week as they come to me).

I ask any readers who knew Aaron yourselves, to share, in the comments, whatever recollections you may have as well.

So happy birthday, Aaron! This one's for you. And for me.

1) Aaron was born in the blizzard of '87. Debbie was already eight days overdue, but we saw her OB that morning and were informed that it would still be another day or two. So we went home. And then it started snowing - hard. Every few minutes, either my or Debbie's mother called us and said "don't you think you should go to the hospital already?"

Around one thirty that afternoon, Debbie started having regular labor pains. We called the doctor and told her to meet us in the hospital. We got into the car and began our trek through the winter wasteland. The streets were parking lots; the usual ten-minute trip to the hospital took two hours. Every few minutes, Debbie had another pain and threatened to get out and walk!

Finally, somehow, we made it and even more amazingly, so did Debbie's OB. Aaron was born at 8:23 that evening, in the hospital, weighing in at a whopping nine pounds, six ounces!

2) Aaron was talking in full sentences by the time he was a year old. By about eighteen months, he was inventing new words that he felt were lacking in standard English. One of our favorites was "whizzam". This, of course, was short for "where are they? [them]"

3) Also when Aaron was about 2 or 2-1/2, we were watching a movie that showed a mermaid swimming underwater (probably this one). Aaron's censorious comment was "the lady needs privacy!".

4) We have a tape of Aaron's nursery school graduation. The class was supposed to go through a certain routine, but some of the tots weren't exactly cooperating. At one point the teacher asked, "What special day is this today?", and two kids called out "doody day!". "What do we say to our teacher each morning?" "Good morning, doody!" Aaron was not one of the instigators here, but we have an adorable scene of him giggling along with the chaos.

5) Aaron and Ben slept in bunk beds for a few years; Aaron in the top and Ben in the bottom. Once Aaron was coming down with a stomach bug and started making gagging sounds. Ben looked up to see what the noise was and Aaron puked on his head.

6) One school night when Debbie and I had to be out somewhere we asked Aaron to help Ben with his Hebrew homework. When we got home Aaron told me, with just the hint of a knowing smirk, that Ben was done but I might want to check his homework "just in case". When I looked it over I saw that Aaron has supplied some ludicrous answers that his trusting little bro' had faithfully transcribed. Example:

Q: How did the Levites carry the Ark? A: On a flecky-sheet.

Q: What did the Cohanim wear? A: Cracky-boots.

7) Our cousin used to always give the boys movie memorabilia for Chanukah. One year Shalom got a Luke Skywalker figure, which Aaron desired for his collection of Star Wars characters. He somehow wheedled Shalom into "donating" it to him. A short time later Shalom regretted this decision and Aaron was perfectly willing to let Shalom have it back - for three dollars! Over the next several years (not counting the time it was "lost" for a few months because Shayna had taken it to marry one of her Barbie dolls), this actually re-occurred three or four times - Aaron would coax Shalom into giving the figure to him and then later sell it back to him. Aaron once said he could probably make a good steady living off that action figure.

8) Our shul has an elderly gabbai who came to this country from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and had not had the opportunity for a bar mitzvah at the proper age. So when he turned 83 last year, the shul made him a "thirteen years past seventy" bar mitzvah with all the pomp, including calling him up for an aliyah with "chazzanus", throwing candy bags, the works. When the bags were tossed, Aaron looked and me and said "so what's inside - Ex-Lax?"

9) On Shabbos only, our dogga Sandy gets treated to table scraps. One week Debbie was collecting leavings from our plates and said to Aaron across the table, "I need your bones for the dog". His instant reply was "wouldn't that hurt me?"

10) When the kids got their own email accounts, the address Aaron created for himself was "aar.head".

11) After Aaron's first day of high school we eagerly awaited his return to find out how the day went in this new, very challenging school where he would need to spend 12 hours away from home each day. Finally we saw his bus pull up at the corner. He walked slowly to the house, his face expressionless. When he came within earshot, he asked plaintively "umm... where do we keep the fast-acting poison?" We just broke up laughing.

12) One of Aaron's major talents was writing and directing plays. He started out doing this with his sibs; one of the best was the story of Shayna's birth. He captured my state of "controlled panic" during emergencies perfectly! Later, he would be the main comedy writer for the boys' camp color wars, with his own versions of Celebrity Jeopardy and many others. My favorite was about two people sharing a cab ride, one going to a funeral and one to a wedding, and each thinking the other was going to the same event as himself. If I can find the text for any of these plays on the computer I will post them in the comments.

13) Aaron's high school participated in the Sy Sims Stock Market Challenge (note: first picture on this link is of Aaron!) last year. Their entire team, except for Aaron, lost interest in the contest and quit a week beforehand! Rather than withdraw, Aaron convinced a few of his friends to participate and went to the contest with this "rag-tag team", as he called it. They came in second place, with Aaron personally answering 70-90% of the questions, by various friends' estimates.

He also advised his team to study just the glossary of the voluminous prep book, not the main sections. When his friends wondered, "but how do you know they'll only ask from the glossary?", he replied, with flawless logic, "do you think
they have time to read all this?!"

Added 7:00 pm

14) When Aaron was about 10 months old we tried taking him to a restaurant for the first time. It was a Chinese restaurant that had recently opened in town. Within two minutes Aaron had managed to stick his fat little hand into the dish of hot mustard and put it into his mouth. You could hear the screaming two blocks away. It took us about half an hour to calm him down!

15) Aaron's first vacation was at the age of two, with Debbie and me to Disney World. He was so overstimulated the first night in the motel that we could not get him to sleep. We were in the motel beds and he was in a porta-crib. Every thirty seconds the conversation went like this: "Mommy, what doing?" "I'm just walking." "Where walking?" "To the bathroom. Go to sleep, Aaron". "Daddy, what doing?" "I'm just breathing, Aaron." "Why breathing?" "I don't know why! Go to sleep!!"

16) Aaron used to play outrageous tricks on his younger sibs; I think they were only half fooled but they went along anyway, because he was so convincing. Once he told Shayna that an "earplug" bug might have flown into her ear, and the only remedy was to stand on her head, say "wattle wattle" three times, and then eat some newspaper. Another time when we were at the zoo he told Shalom that this was "loose lion day"; then when he started looking around nevously, Aaron snuck up behind him and said "Roooaar!!" Shalom shrieked and jumped about three feet in the air.


At 1/22/06, 3:09 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

I guessed what the special post would be, but Anne figured out from a Luach for certain.

I didn't really know Aaron from his teens, as I had my family and we didn't have as much contact with each other's children as we had with each other.

But I do remember him from when I was single.

I was privileged to be at both his Pidyon Haben and his Bar Mitzvah.

I remember how Debbie'd bathe him on top of the kitchen table in your apartment. She'd lightly tap her forehead and say "Oh how handsome" and Aaron would imitate her.

I remember the kid who couldn't walk because his legs were too skinny for his upper body.

I remember the child who asked for "blue soda" when he wanted cola, anticipating Pepsi's failure about a decade later.

I'm sorry I didn't get to see a bit more closely the young man he had become.

But I did enjoy seeing you in Shul with your three boys and looked forward to the time when, I too, would be accompanied by my grown boys.

At 1/22/06, 4:49 PM, Blogger Elie said...

David: Thanks for the good memories and the smiles.

I hadn't thought about "blue soda" in a long time! At that age, "blue" was Aaron's word for "dark", so by "blue soda" he meant cola, as opposed to seltzer. Not that he got it very often.

You are too modest to mention, so I will, that you were a great help with baby Aaron whenever you'd visit for Shabbos. You also babysitted on a couple of dateless Saturday nights, and even changed his diapers once or twice. How many bachelors are that evolved?

The kids and I thought of a few more stories which I'll post tonight, God willing.

At 1/22/06, 5:50 PM, Blogger SS said...

Elie, what a lovely and "upbeat" post. It must have been both difficult and fun to write... bittersweet, I guess they would say. These stories certainly did bring a few smiles to my mouth. Happy Birthday! (By the way, it's really cool that not only do the Hebrew and English come out on the same day, but it is actually the same date - 22 Tevet/January!)

At 1/22/06, 5:55 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

What great stories. Wonderful.

At 1/22/06, 7:37 PM, Blogger Elie said...

I just added three more stories.

- Elie

At 1/22/06, 9:16 PM, Blogger momof4 said...

These are beautiful. I'm so moved by these happy memories you have of Aaron's life. Thank you for sharing them with us.

At 1/22/06, 10:33 PM, Blogger Minor Fast Days said...

This is the first time I'm coming to your blog. I am so sorry about your son and I found "Aaron's Birthday" post a simply beautiful and spiritual remembrance of your son.

At 1/23/06, 3:07 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...


As always this is a beautiful post. I am sorry not to have met Aaron but I feel like I have an inkling of who he was. You and Debbie raised a real mensch.

At 1/23/06, 6:33 AM, Blogger westbankmama said...

Your son was born on the day we got married - your difficult trek to the hospital matched my then-to-be husband's trek to the wedding hall.

We were probably under the chuppah when Aaron was born.

I hope these good memories help you deal with your loss.

Kol tuv.

At 1/23/06, 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sitting here at work snacking on some applesauce. I cam very close to blowing it out of my mouth when I read, "Good morning doody."

This will crack me up for some time.

DG's former roommate

At 1/23/06, 11:38 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

Great stories...Hope they are a comfort to you and your family. Thank you for sharing.

At 1/23/06, 6:50 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

My wife and I both really enjoyed! :)

At 1/23/06, 7:54 PM, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"aar.head" :)

May your memories of Aaron continue to be a source of blessing to you and your family.

At 1/24/06, 2:41 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Thank you for your kind words before.
This morning, my mother reminded me of another story. You and Debbie had come to Baltimore for a wedding and Aaron had gone to a babysitter. The babysitter was so impressed at how Aaron, then 2, was talking in full sentences.
I actually remember another story a few months earlier. I believe that it was erev Rosh Hashanna 1988. You Debbie and Aaron had come to Baltimore for Yom Tov. We got together at the Carvels store. You gave Aaron a cone. After giving the ice cream sufficient time to melt a little, he bit off the bottom of the cone.

At 1/24/06, 11:41 PM, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Reb Elie,

I especially enjoyed your telling of how Aaron Z'L puked on Ben's head! :) Made me laugh rather loudly! Many thanks!

I remain,

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

At 1/25/06, 8:38 AM, Anonymous Elie's Kid Sister said...

>Aaron used to play outrageous >tricks on his younger sibs

He must have been genetically predisposed to that!!!

-Elie's Kid Sister

At 1/25/06, 9:18 PM, Anonymous Yaakov said...

You were here when I first read these, so I just looked up and said "oh, Ben, yuck -- did he really puke on your head?"

The tape (4) is a shoo-in for America's funniest home videos, along with a certain scene from your younger sister's wedding.

And as far as the genetic predisposition for playing tricks on younger siblings that she speculates upon above, I think this is a somewhat universal trait... either that, or we were somehow related before I married into the family!

At 1/26/06, 6:13 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

A very upbeat post, good for you!

I'm going to try that "loose lion day" on my kids next time we go to the zoo!
Gotta give 'em something to talk about about in therapy.


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