Man Plans and God Laughs?
by David Fishback, brother of JFGH resident, Lewis
There is an old Yiddish saying that goes, “Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht”: Man plans and God laughs.
My parents planned for a family. I was born in 1947. My brother Lewis was born 3-1/2 years later. But not as they had planned. An oxygen deficiency at birth left him mentally disabled.
Well, God may laugh at our plans, but that does not stop us from readjusting and making new plans to fit new realities. I was brought up to understand that someday I would shoulder the responsibility for Lewis’ care. Because my mother Hilda, who passed away a year ago at the age of 95, was so dedicated and vibrant for so long, we had many years to accomplish that transition.
So our family planned, and God did not laugh.
And sometimes a community, through hard work and dedication, acts in what we like to see as the most Godly of ways. My mother joined with so many other wonderful parents to found the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes. And as a rehabilitation professional, Hilda served JFGH in many capacities. Lewis has been a resident of the Rubin Home since its founding in 1991. There, he has had as good a life as possible, with the stability provided by the excellent staff and his housemates (most of whom have also lived there since the beginning).
So JFGH planned, and God did not laugh.
Lewis is an enigma. He is without speech, so it is hard to know how much he understands. When our father died in 1993, and our mother died nearly 22 years later, he seemed to understand death, but I really don’t know how much. Thankfully, those deaths did not put him into an emotional tailspin, which I had feared might happen. Perhaps the fact that he saw them in their physical declines enabled him to understand what was coming. It was a blessing that we were able to bring him for a family dinner at Landow House shortly before my mom’s last illness. Lewis and my mom held hands through dinner. But I don’t know how much he really understood. Again, he is an enigma.
But we tried to plan, and, it seems, God did not laugh.
Lewis has a precise memory. When he is focused on something the way he believes it should be, he is relentless in making sure that it follows his plan. He is extremely protective of his housemates. Lewis is into structure and routine. When I visit him at Rubin, or when he comes to our house, we always go for a walk after eating, weather permitting. At our house, after dinner, we sit together and watch television. It is a routine he seems to enjoy. It is hard to really interact with Lewis, but he seems comfortable in our routines.
So I do not have the kind of heart-warming interactions that many JFGH siblings have with their brothers or sisters. My wife Bobbi cheerfully makes wonderful meals when Lewis comes to our house, and is always supportive. As are my two adult sons and their spouses. Our two-year old granddaughter recently met Lewis. I have no doubt that as she grows older, she will also feel the love for and commitment to Lewis that the rest of us feel.
By providing a safe, secure home for Lewis, JFGH has made all of this possible.
We have all planned, and God has not laughed at us.
If you have a sibling story you’d like to share, please email BShapiro@jfgh.org.