As my eyes frantically scanned the rebbe’s desk for a box of tissues, I couldn’t help but laugh inwardly at myself at the fact that I couldn’t hold it together for a five-minute conversation about my son at parent–teacher conferences.
I think the part that really got to me was that I was expecting to hear, “He’s really trying to behave and I’m giving him room to be himself because of what he’s been through …” But instead I heard, “Your Dovid and Nison could not be more different — as boys, let alone as brothers. But they are equally great boys, great students, and great friends to the peers in their classes. Be so proud at the people they’re becoming.”
The only regret I had was that Moshe wasn’t there in person to hear this positive report about his son.
I previously never attended parent–teacher conferences. Never had to—Moshe had it covered.
In fact, that was his response to basically anything I didn’t really want to do.
“Malks, I got it. You can stay home; I’ll do it this year.”
And the year after. And the year after that.
Our boys are good kids. I always knew this and I never took it for granted, and I always did give all the credit to Moshe because I was a mouthy child, so I couldn’t really be responsible for my kids’ overall goodness.
A favorite memory was Moshe coming into the house after conferences and feigning such disappointment in one of our sons about a teacher’s negative reports.
There would be much objection from said kid and eventually Moshe would give up the act and tell each child how proud he was of him for being such a good example of what a ben Torah should be. If one of our boys wasn’t doing well academically but the teacher couldn’t stress enough how beautiful his middos were, all was OK. That was a priority in Moshe’s book, above all else. Being a good person and there for others was all that mattered.
I took a deep breath and willed the tears in my eyes not to spill over while the rebbe spoke so beautifully about Nison.
And I spoke to Moshe the way I do throughout the day sometimes when I’m having a problem or, better yet, when there’s something he has to hear. And this was something worth hearing.
How his boys, despite all the challenges that life has thrown their way in their young lives, remain steadfastly beautiful, wholesome, wonderful children. How they wake up in the morning in good moods and take on the day, every day. They don’t question G-d and His ways or speak of the injustice that they’ve had to go through.
They’ve been able to hold on to their innocence and still love what life has to offer every day. They speak of their father with only the fondest memories, and when I have a hard day, like the one I’m having today, I feel really lucky that I’ve got kids like mine to lift me up, when all I want is to put my head down and cry about the things that have gone wrong.
She wouldn’t speak until my eyes focused on hers. I really didn’t want to meet her gaze but I knew that if I didn’t, we’d be sitting there until I did.
“You know, you don’t have to be strong every day,” she whispered.
I laughed it off. But really I felt like exhaling and letting it all go. Letting this iron will of mine melt a bit so I could just relax and realize that it’s OK for me to be weak sometimes. I know I don’t need to meet each person’s glance at me with a 100-watt smile. They’ll understand if today I just don’t have the energy.
So today I cried.
I cried for the life I had that I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have.
I cried for the things that went wrong today, having no desire to turn to anyone besides Moshe.
I cried for my kids who won’t know what they’re missing when their father isn’t by their side for their important life moments.
I cried because sometimes that’s all I can do.
But when the kids bound into the front door at the end of the day and I’m lucky enough to see those smiles and hear the guesses on what dinner is?
I smile right back.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Over the last few months, 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.