It's been more than a week since Grandma Erika died. I try not to count the days. I may not have seen her every day, but still she was always there. It seems so strange, even now, when I tell myself, logically: it's over. You're not going to see her anymore. I can still feel her though. She'd been so eager to see him go to school, but she didn't make it. Somebody up there messes up the timetable. They don't always make allowances.

He's supposed to be going to school today. Supposed to... The teacher will write "Good Morning First Grade" in block letters on the green board. Markings that won't mean a thing to him. It'll be a while before he can read. His clothes are all laid out. Not since yesterday; since two days ago. His schoolbag too. I didn't sleep all night. My body needed it badly, but I just couldn't. David turned the other way and we both pretended to be sleeping. Finally he got up very quietly, as if to keep from waking me. On tiptoe. He put on his running suit and went out to jog.

The light's slithering over the windowsill like a thief. My body is all cramped from so much tossing in bed. I can hear Talia and him breathing in the children's room. There's an abruptness about the way he turns over. He was very excited yesterday, but he didn't have any trouble falling asleep. He accepts things so naturally. He realizes that he's going to be in school and that it probably won't be easy. I gave him a big hug. Almost the same as I gave Talia four years ago, when I sent her off to school. Almost.

I can hear David running outside. That's how he always is. Whenever he's got something on his mind, he runs. When he's suffering, he runs. When he's scared, he runs. Even the day before our wedding, he went out for a run. He's doing another lap. He won't stop. At the hospital back then, he wouldn't stop either. Like a machine.

They wouldn't let me off the bed, but I did get a peep through the window. The doctor and the nurses were at a loss. They mumbled something. Suddenly, David appeared in the window, as he bolted across the lawn and started to circle the giant building. He looked, at first, like a man possessed, but then he slowed down. I didn't believe he'd come back, but as soon as I spotted his legs through the window again, I knew for sure that my life had changed. Yesterday he told me that he'd stand outside the school gate all day long, and I said: "Not me. I'm staying here."

Their breathing in the nursery is so peaceful. I'll have to wake him up pretty soon, to shake him gently by the shoulder and say: "Get up little boy. It's time. You're going to school."

One of the neighbors came over to me yesterday and asked: "Are you sending that child to school?" Yes Mrs. Baum. I am sending that child to school. His name is Yotam. He's a child with a name. Surprised? all the other names they use I can recite in my sleep: idiot, imbecile, blockhead, slow, moron, dope, nitwit, simpleton... have I forgotten any? Oh yes. There's also the inevitable euphemism: "special child". Human imagination is so creative. It's only the paragons of etiquette who call him "that Child". The word isn't contagious, Mrs. Baum. You can use street language when you talk about him. I don't mind any more. You can point at him and say: "There's Michal mongoloid kid."


All summer long, he struggled with the pencil. He tried wrapping his fingers around it to arrive at a balanced grip. Wanted to control it. It was tough on him and he asked me: "Why do people write with a kind of stick? Why can't they just write the words the way you say them?"

Whenever he wants to concentrate, he starts rocking back and forth at a regular rhythm. He builds up momentum and enters into a mysterious flow, like a ritual gyration, almost praying. It's amazing how he pulls himself inward like some kind of an oriental monk. As he thinks, he musters his entire system, summoning every forgotten cell in his body. I can't help wondering, is this idiocy? Most people I know use barely one quarter of their mental or physical ability. And he, the imbecile, the dimwit, draws on every ounce of his being, making a superhuman effort to advance one more speck.


Nobody has that kind of a gift - to love in the deepest possible way. He offers his soul with such generosity that I feel ashamed. We revel in it, we lap it up - and he never loses any of it. He doesn't know the meaning of hypocrisy or guile. The way he looks at me when I tell someone on the phone that David isn't home, when in fact he's asleep. I blush at Yotam's reproach. As if I'd stolen something. So often we feel as if we've made direct contact with his soul. He must be atoning for our transgressions.

Translation by Miriam Shlesinger

Prof. Miriam Shlesinger was born in the United States, and has been living in Israel since 1964. She completed her B.A. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in musicology and linguistics in 1968, her postgraduate diploma in translation and interpreting at Bar-Ilan University in 1978, her M.A. in the Department of Literary Studies at Tel Aviv University in 1989, and her Ph.D. at Bar-Ilan University in 2000. She is currently chair of the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies at Bar-Ilan University. Prof. Shlesinger is also a practicing translator of plays, novels and short stories from Hebrew into English, as well as a conference interpreter.


Nava and actress Desiree Nosbusch, Vienna 1996

Related items

© All rights reserved to NAVA SEMEL 2017