My Story, Yours Too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sounds of Silence ~ Part II, Dedicated to Mom with thanks to Simon and Garfunkel

Continued from last post.

And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more.
The loud chatter and laughter continued, as I withdrew further from the table that had once been ours. Mom used to put all sorts of dishes on that table. Truth is, she was not a very good cook. We usually had to fend for ourselves, with Swanson’s TV dinners, Hamburger Helper, and all sorts of ready-made products that we zapped in the microwave. Back then, the microwave was the latest and greatest invention.

Occasionally, Mom graced the table with delicious homemade dishes, like her hearty meatballs in juicy tomato sauce, accompanied by spicy rice. Those meatballs were my favorite. I wish I had Mom's recipe. Other times, we lit the Shabbat and Hanukah candles at the table, took in the glorious lights, and sang a few songs - though none of us could sing. Those were special times. The table held a fragile, tenacious love that was ours.

This gathering changed everything.

People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs that voices never share And no one dare Disturb the sound of silence.
And the people bowed and prayed To the neon god they made. "We’re back with the cups," Uncle Leo heroically announced. I said nothing. The guests were relieved and expressed their gratitude. They didn’t miss a beat, continuing to munch while holding their cups out for re-fills. Their eyes didn't leave the food.

Meanwhile, I remembered Thanksgiving and Passover meals. Our family and Aunt Esther’s gathered season after season, for predictably adequate meals that tasted divine: the appetizer was one half of a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry in the center; cheesy green beans and mushrooms; green salad with mom’s homemade dressing -I loved watching and smelling Mom press the garlic for the dressing; a 12 pound turkey that was always a bit dry; stove top stuffing (everybody's favorite); and a lemon Jell-O mixed with lots of cool-whip in the shape of a star of David. I wish I still had that Jell-O mold.

The intruders would surely have scoffed at those meals, but they meant family. I always ate as much of it as I could.

"Fools" said I, "You do not know Silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you, Take my arms that I might reach to you."
Mrs. Goldberg interrupted my memories: “Robyn, just remember, tragedy brings a family together.”

You're full of shit, I thought, and walked away.

I desperately needed a hug. Nobody got it. Nobody gave it.

But my words like silent raindrops fell, And echoed In the wells of silence
I somehow found myself in the family room. Dad and I were the only ones there. He sat on the black sofa, resigned, exhausted, in utter shock and despair. With all of the sarcasm and of his depleted being, he muttered, “It’s just like a party here, isn’t it, Robyn? Bring out the dancing girls!”

Alas, I was not the only one who wanted them out. I was not the only one who wanted to see a sparsely covered kitchen table, with a few of Mom’s special dishes, or with the festive Shabbat or Hanukah candle lights, or with nothing at all. I was not the only one who would have preferred coming home from mom’s funeral to the lonely emptiness and quiet that was now ours and ours alone.

And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming. And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls And tenement halls."

Dad and I sat in shared silence.

And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.

In blessed memory of my Mom, Edith Engel, 6/27/36-3/20/85.

Informational Note: In the Jewish faith, it is customary to bring food to the bereaved, especially immediately after the funeral.


  1. I was thinking this is where this might be heading, but had no clue who the end character would be. Very nice Robyn.

  2. That didn't come out quite right. I meant, I knew it was "dedicated" to your Mom, but not that it was going to actually be her, that passed. I think I said that the way I meant to. I never know anymore.

  3. Holy Cow! You got there faster than I could even try to correct that!

  4. :) I've been tweaking little typos, going back and forth. No worries. I get what you meant, and I appreciate that YOU were so quick to comment.
    Have a good night.

  5. Wow. Incredibly moving. Very sad but beautifully written piece.

  6. Your mother was so young when she died. And that was a very emotive piece of writing. x

  7. Robyn thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. This has particular resonance for me at the moment because my mother is so ill.

  8. I thought I knew where this was going yesterday, but hoped I was wrong. I am sorry for your loss, some things stay just as potent as the day they happen. I am writing a tribute for my father to be posted in April, if I can finish it, you have inspired me. Bear hugs and big thanks for the touching words. As always you have moved me.

  9. A lovely tribute to your mom....

  10. Thanks so much, all. It's a little scary for me to post a dark piece like this, so your feedback means a lot. (There's one related poem to come, then I'm back to humor).
    Hugs back to you,

  11. For sure there wasn't an O Henry ending... sorry!
    I'm sorry, too, that "celebrations f life" aren't necessarily a celebration for all of those who love the one whose life is being celebrated. Some things just never fade enough.

    Now, go enjoy the Oh Henry bar.

  12. Robyn how very beautiful this is. I swear, your talent shines with these lyrical story things. I have never seen anything like this, can you somehow turn this into a book somehow? Too awesome not to share w/the masses.

    PS I think it's hilarious how you said you go back and fix typos, I totally do this!! I wonder if all of us bloggers do? Ha ha!

  13. That Incredible. Sad. But so well-written. It shocks. I loved how you told this story Robyn.

  14. Of course all of us bloggers go back and fix typos... sometimes weeks later [I have personal experience with that one].

  15. Hey, are meatballs kosher? I think that's the typo. Haha. I'm always correcting and reposting. It's an occupational hazard,

  16. Thanks, friends, for validating that I'm not the only neurotic one to keep editing the typos.

    IT, thanks. True that this party was for the 'guests' and not my family. Oh Henry, where art thou?

    Ally, thank you kindly. That means a lot, especially coming from you and given that I do entertain such fantasies (of publishing a book, that is).

    Thank you, sweet Sarah.

    CB, nope, those meatballs weren't kosher. That's why they tasted so good.

    TS, Tina, BB, IS, Kitty - thank you, thank you. It means a lot!


  17. What a beautiful tribute, Robyn. And I love the use of this song interspersed with your story. Very well done!

  18. Great post! Beautiful words and sentiments and perfectly suited to the song.

  19. That was beautifully written and so touching.... You are a wonderful writer Robyn! I'd read that book!

  20. Thank you, Tgoette, Ca88, and ABAO!xoRobyn