The passage of time is something we all measure in a variety of ways. For most, we recognize the flight of days with calendars, birthdays, graduations and assorted milestones along the way. As we age, we glimpse a wrinkle or two, perhaps a gray hair and the occasional "Oy" as we wince with a new geriatric pain. Of course, there are the bureaucratic reminders in our approaching twilight, provided by government agencies, letting us know that we are eligible for some nice entitlements as we shuffle toward the sunset. And then, there are the unseen, unexpected jolting reminders of our dotage.
This past week I had the opportunity to be with a few hundred colleagues at a rabbinic seminar in Washington D.C. sponsored by AIPAC. It was the usual logistical masterpiece, superbly organized by a host of professionals who guided us through the maze of the Hyatt Grand Regency. Every program began punctually, with a soft, five-minute warning ping for those presenting. The topics all dealt with Israel and Zionism. The past. The present. The future. But, despite the headlines, an ascendant Iran, an emboldened Hezbollah and a tunnel digging Hamas, there was pretty good news about quiet alliances and growing cooperation with many of the Sunni, Arab states. A lot was crammed into the 24-hour conference and though exhausted by day’s end, we perked up, listening, bleary eyed, but mesmerized, to the final lecturer who rattled off stunning information in the most entertaining fashion. ‘"Who is this guy?" I wondered as I consulted the program. His name was vaguely familiar.
When he finished his presentation, I made my way to the podium, introduced myself and asked the young scholar if his father’s name was Eddie. Surprised by the unusual question, he replied somewhat intrigued, "Yes." I then felt very old. I continued, "Well, I babysat your father many years ago in New Jersey. Your grandmother paid me fifty cents an hour but sweetened the deal with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to guarantee my weekly availability." He laughed. We exchanged stories for a few minutes. Swapped business cards and he promised to give my love to his grandparents who are now in their nineties. This unexpected journey home was more than half a century old but I still smell the cookies.