‘Celebrating’ My Son’s Birthday
Well, I’m not really celebrating. It’s not like we’re eating cake and giving presents. The adjectives ‘observing’ or ‘acknowledging’ would be more appropriate. For the past few weeks, I was unsure of how I wanted to observe Jacob’s birthday. In some ways, I was dreading the day which used to be a happy one. Our family would get together and have dinner, followed by a yummy ice cream cake with candles. The number of candles we would put on Jacob’s cake would total his age plus an extra one for good luck. And Jacob would be so happy. He really loved being with his family. When the boys got older and his brothers lived in different parts of the country, we were not always together for birthdays. Nonetheless, they would call him and wish him a happy birthday. Jacob appreciated those phone calls so much. Now, all those things are only memories.
Let’s Get the Family Together
There were a lot of interactions between Jacob and his brothers that I was unaware of. And there was also so much that I just don’t remember. I figured that since birthdays were always a time for the whole family, I should include Jacob’s older brothers, Joseph and Adam, in this birthday too. I asked them to think of what they remembered about growing up with Jacob and to share those memories on a family FaceTime.
Going Down Memory Lane
They Never Hit Each Other, Did They?
When they were small, they would tease each other a lot, but I don’t recall them ever hitting each other. Turns out I was clueless. Adam said that they did indeed hit one another but never in anger. The hitting started when the wrestling got out of hand. They just did it when I wasn’t looking.
Big Brother To the Rescue
When Jacob was small, he did something wrong and was being punished by being sent to his room. (I don’t remember what he did.) He wasn’t to get any dessert that evening either. The rest of the family were eating cupcakes when Jacob came out of his room and said in his loud, young squeaky voice, “Joseph gave me a cupcake!”. (Joseph is the oldest.) Immediately big brother jumped up from his seat, said “No!”, and ushered Jacob back to his room. A short time later, Jacob reappeared, with Joseph right over his shoulder, and said in his same loud, squeaky voice, “Joseph did not give me a cupcake!”. “And my parents fell for it.”, says Adam.
So Many Broken Windows
Then there was the wrestling and horsing around that boys do. (Maybe girls do it too?) Over the years we had several broken windows and I never knew how one particular window got broken til now. Adam fondly recalls that he and Jacob were goofing off. Jacob was sitting on a ledge near the window. Adam pushed him off the ledge and his butt went right through the window up to the top of his legs. Adam pulled him back through the window leaving behind a circular hole in the glass. (Pardon the pun.)
Tug-Of-War With Little Brother
For a long time, Adam was bigger than Jacob so he would win the many tug-of-war games they played. They slept in bunk beds and Adam was in the upper bunk during one of their games. Well at some point, Jacob got bigger and managed to pull Adam out of his bunk onto the floor. Adam stopped wrestling with Jacob after that.
As teens, they played video games together. Joseph and Adam have fond memories of playing Super Smash Brothers, Halo, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, and Starcraft with Jacob. They would be a team in multiplayer games.
On Shabbat they couldn’t play video games but had lots of fun nonetheless. They would play with other kids in the neighborhood. When we walked to and from shul, Adam would make up role playing stories where Jacob would choose a character and play through quests. I thought that was so sweet of Adam to entertain his younger brother on the walk. They would play board games together. They particularly enjoyed Risk 2210 A.D, a space age version of the regular Risk. They changed some of the rules so the game ended up taking hours to finish. And of course there was a lot of yelling making sure everyone was playing ‘fair’.
Jacob and His Grandpa
This is one anecdote I particularly remember. When Jacob was in high school, my father became ill and moved in with us. Once, when the school day ended early, I said to my dad let’s go and eat lunch at the restaurant and then pick up Jacob. Unfortunately, my dad needed a lot of help doing just about anything and was also incontinent, wearing those adult diapers. After we left the restaurant, my dad tells me he has a ‘problem’. He needed to get to a bathroom and change the diaper. We drove to the school and I said to Jacob, please help Grandpa. Jacob took him to the bathroom and took care of him without a word of complaint.
At home, the bedrooms were upstairs except for a guest room on the main floor near the kitchen. My dad was unable to climb stairs so he slept in the guest room. We were concerned that if he woke up in the middle of the night and needed anything we wouldn’t be able to hear him, so Jacob slept downstairs on the couch to be outside of Grandpa’s room so he could hear if he needed help. Jacob really loved his grandpa. When my dad was in the hospital right before he passed away, I phoned the boys and told them to come see their grandfather. I remember the tears in Jacob’s eyes as he sat next to his grandpa’s hospital bed.
As A Brother-In-Law and Uncle
The day after Adam got married, both sides of the family sat around the dining room table and talked about what this special occasion meant to everyone. Jacob said he thought it was wonderful that we can now be a part of such a large beautiful family. To this day, Adam’s mother-in-law fondly remembers what Jacob said.
Adam’s toddler son, Ovadia, has Down’s syndrome and he was happy that Jacob was a very good uncle. Jacob loved holding Ovadia and talking to him. Ovadia seemed to like him too. Jacob also loved his two nieces from his brother Joseph. He would always ask how they were doing and wanted to see new pictures of them.
I once said to my daughter-in-law that I’m so sad that their children, being so young, will not remember their Uncle Jacob. She replied that on some level, the children will remember him. Jacob held them and played with them. Those memories will stay with them and become part of their personalities. I thought it was a beautiful insight.
Happy Birthday Jacob
And ‘Thank you’ G-d for putting him into this world and for allowing my husband and I to raise him and have him with us for twenty four years. He was a wonderful son, a good brother, and loving uncle.
I think that seeing the whole family together reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ was the best birthday present we could give to Jacob. I know it made him very happy.