(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
When my children moved to Lakewood, I experienced twinges of separation that were no doubt a far cry from what my great-great-grandparents must have felt when my great-grandparents emigrated from Europe. Nevertheless, I missed them. Over the years, they have visited me and my wife countless times. And we have spent numerous, delightful Shabbatot and Yomim Tovim with them in Lakewood.
Gradually, I adjusted to the distance between me and my children.
And I have learned that Lakewood is really not that far from Brooklyn, after all. Nevertheless, I began to feel that visits once every five or six weeks were wholly inadequate. My einikloch (grandchildren) were growing up without my playing a significant role in their lives. Sure, they were happy to see me and my wife whenever we showed up bearing gifts. But I was not the hands-on zaidy I wanted to be. Speaking about my dilemma one day to my friend Dovid, I was helped to think “out of the box.”
“Are you kidding?” Dovid asked.
“I couldn’t stand it either. So you know what I did about it? I worked it into my schedule to spend one afternoon and evening a week in Lakewood. My wife says she’s too busy to join me. So I go myself.
I get there in time to see them come off the school bus. I take them for ice cream. I read them stories. I take them for walks. I tell you, Meir, that day has become the highlight of my week!” Well, if Dovid could do it, then I could do it too, I thought. But I couldn’t take a day off from work.
And what would I do all day while my einikloch are in school and playgroup? “Why don’t you open an office in Lakewood?” my daughter suggested.
“That way, you could see clients from Lakewood during the day and have time to spend with the kids in the evening.”
My daughter had a good idea, but it was not as simple as it sounded.
Before I could set up a practice in Lakewood, I would need to get licensed in New Jersey, which proved to be a much more formidable challenge than I thought. The application process was complicated.
I had to sit for a new licensing exam and even get fingerprinted.
But I persevered, and almost two years after my initial application I received my New Jersey license.
It has been over six months now that I have been spending every Monday in Lakewood. And I can truly say that it has been one of the smartest decisions I have ever made. My wife and I look forward to seeing our children and einikloch each week and they look forward to seeing us.
MOST OFTEN, I first see my einikloch when I return from morning prayers, as they are having breakfast.
It is then that they all rush to greet me with the latest news. They show me their new toys, tell me what they are learning in school and excitedly report what major events are coming up “soon.” Each week I get to learn Chumash and Rashi with the oldest. And when we are done, I usually tell him a story about one of his ancestors, trying not to embellish it any more than necessary to captivate his open-eyed, rapt attention.
I also get to listen to the next one practice his kriya (Torah reading).
And I marvel at how much progress he makes from week to week.
Of course a treat when we are done has become de rigueur.
When the days were longer during the summer, I got to push the younger ones on the swings and watch the older ones ride their bikes. And once, I even went for a bike ride together with the oldest, as we rode around the lake... twice! Then, after they’ve all eaten supper and completed their homework, I get to say the Shema with them and then read them each a story...or two. “Sha’al avicha v’yagedcha; z’keinecha v’yomru lach” (Numbers 32:7).
Finally, the maraschino cherry on top of my weekly visits is the opportunity they provide for me to field my eniklach’s questions.
They ask me questions on the weekly Torah portion and questions on halacha. And they also ask me questions that make me marvel at their pristine perspectives as they stretch their minds to understand the complex world around them.
After half a year of weekly trips to Lakewood, I heartily concur with my friend Dovid that these visits are the highlight of my week, too.The author is a noted psychotherapist and family counselor with offices in Boro Park and Lakewood, New Jersey.