By Malkie Hirsch
She got married before me and had her first child before me; basically, she didn’t fight the adulting portion of life like I did. In fact, the only thing I did first, before her, was be born.
I wasn’t too thrilled about the birthing order, either. And although she was technically #3 in the order of us siblings, she was always the most responsible one, always the one given $10 and a toddler and told to vanish for the day. She’d spend the money sensibly on said toddler and always miraculously came back with a happy child at the end of the day.
Maybe I should’ve been annoyed that they asked her instead of me, but I wanted no part of that typical oldest-child responsibility—the kind of behavior that would force me to actually do things for my younger siblings (no thanks!) and be selfless, be an example, be better, show them how it’s done. Sounds terrible, right? But Dini? Dini was made for that role.
Dini was the oldest middle child you ever did see. She kept her room tidy and flipped out when I’d sit on her bed after she pulled her sheets tightly because then I’d leave my imprint and she’d have to remake her bed, smoothing the middle and tightening the corners like she was doing a stint at an army base.
She was G.O. president, happily making posters and singing songs and dancing dances while I’d sit in the back of the class, trying to do anything but call attention to myself, busily etching Metallica lyrics into my loose leaf instead of taking notes on the class being given.
She was tucked in, pressed, ironed, and neat whereas my clothes usually looked like I found them on the bottom of my closet in a wrinkled heap. Correction: that’s where the clothes were indeed found. Keeping clothes folded or hanging on hangers was way too arduous a task for a busy teenager sulking in her room about nothing too important.
Dini was born with a high-pitched voice and was always small in stature. We had to convince the cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond that the stuff we were buying in the store was for her wedding registry. I rolled my eyes behind her as we walked out, even though I was happy that she met that cute peppy guy who grew up on a farm and that she wouldn’t have to date for years on end like I did.
But I was still pretty mean at times because I was the oldest and I was stuck. I met Moshe and married him exactly a year after Dini got married, and for the most part, our relationship was based over a phone, FaceTime, or text, save for family occasions and the like.
We weren’t especially close but we felt warmly toward one another, and we had each other’s backs. In fact, I remember changing her son’s diaper once when I was pregnant and going through terrible morning sickness. If that’s not love, tell me what is.
A lot of the time after Moshe passed away suddenly is hazy, and understandably so. But the one thing I know for sure is that Dini showed up, big-time, and that she never called attention to the tremendous efforts she put forth after his passing.
The love and devotion she directed towards me and my kids could be felt from her home in Chestnut Ridge. She’s the one who’d arrange for people to sleep at my house for months after Moshe passed because she knew I was too afraid to be alone.
She’s the one who found the baby nurse to come with me to the Pesach program three weeks after his death so I could sit in a corner somewhere and stare into space. She figured out what I needed when I was still too much in shock to know yet myself.
And she just kept doing it—quietly, without any fanfare or need for recognition.
She’d move into my house with her six kids for Shabbos, and it was a good thing they’re small, because I’m pretty sure she and her husband would sleep with three kids in each twin bed. (I mean, they’re really tiny.)
Before Moshe’s passing, we spent a whopping one Shabbos at her home in the years she lived there. Since that time, I’ve been there for the major yomim tovim and some Shabbosos.
She goes about taking care of things for us—consistently, discreetly, and modestly. At this point, she assumes we’ll be with her for the holidays and makes sure she gets every imaginable yogurt and cereal on the market to make my kids happy.
Sometimes, if she can find a ride, she’ll invite my kids to her house to give me a break, because she has a tremendous sense of empathy for my life as a single parent.
She prepared a lavish yom tov feast for me, my kids, my parents, and my brother, yet would proudly point out a salad dressing I made or a brownie I baked, because in addition to being the oldest middle-child sister, she’s also my personal cheerleader.
She’s this way to our parents, too—always welcoming and respectful.
She’s this way with her friends, partaking in weight loss competitions even though she’s petite and can’t lose more than a few pounds. She’ll never win “the biggest loser,” but she’ll always join in and cheer on the others who are trying to improve their health a bit.
She’s small and understated, but scrappy and capable, and she’ll defend her own with everything she has. She’s my “refuah lifnei ha’makkah” and my caretaker. And a huge part of it is the way she does it, how she can be a giver without ever making me feel like a taker. She makes it feel natural and dignified.
She might have been born four years after me (even though I’ve technically gifted her with the title “oldest,” no backsies) and we might not always see eye to eye, but the love she has for me and my family overrides whatever differences we’ve had in our personalities and our lives.
One of the many unexpected lessons I’ve learned over the past two years is seeing the strengths of others from a different vantage point.
For a long time, Dini was simply my sister and we loved each other. But we were different; we lived in different communities and had different personalities, abilities, and positions in the family.
The way she has stepped up her sister game in response to our circumstances has been inspiring and heartwarming. It’s the kind of love and kindness you never forget.
It’s the kind of support I hope my children will show one another throughout their lives, hopefully for simchas.
I know that one of the reasons I can continue to get up every day and keep moving forward is because she believes in me and is really always there.
We love you, Dini️. Thank you for everything you do for us.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of just 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.