“I lost the person who could show me what was beautiful”
Ten years later, Rose and Selma would talk about Nathan’s funeral when they sat in the chill kitchen, Rose’s boys asleep, the street sounds muted. They recalled the Rabbi’s words of admonition to the hundred or so people who had gathered deep in Mt. Zion Cemetery. “Don’t take the dreams away from a dreamer, because you will take his very life away, and then he will be empty and vulnerable.” Rose loved to recall the different people who had come to pay their respects, elders in the community that they had lost touch with as the years had passed. Rose’s nostalgic tone drew Selma irresistibly to the memory of her mother standing mute by the grave, frozen, unmoved by the Rabbi’s words and her neighbors’ condolences. Her younger brother, Isisdore Nuchman, a stevedore on the docks, stood beside her, thick and ponderous, as grounded as Nathan had been airy, as private as Nathan had been social. Rabbi Mendelbaum’s elegy echoed in Selma’s ears. What can life be when you lose your dreams, she thought, and she felt a trickle of regret, like a leak in a window jamb, seep into her, cold and wet and before she could resist, she began to cry. The tears felt like great balls in the crevices of her face. I am ugly, she thought distractedly as she blotted at her tears, I am ugly and I lost the person who could show me what was beautiful.