When we brought our son home, he was nameless.
Untimely ripped from my sweet wife’s womb, my wife feeling the pain of them stuffing her back together, screaming to take him away so he would not hear her cries, me calling for relief, the doctors shooting her with a dirty cocktail of narcotics and benzos and disassociates, the three days in the cell of the hospital were dark for her, and we–not having a name when we went in, two weeks early–did not have a name coming out.
Little and precious he rested on my chest, ventral to ventral, joy and love and happiness flooding my brain like no drug I have ever taken–little and precious, having to call him something, I called him Squirrel, and it was enough, enough for a day, enough for another, enough for one more after that–nameless, but loved. My boy. My son. My love.
He was born on a Friday, at 10 or so AM (all Caesareans are born in those golden hours between a doctor’s arrival and a doctor’s lunch), and we came home on a Monday, me trembling, sitting in the back, next to our boy, Margaux driving, still on a mild opiate–a coward I was, failing her, but maybe I’ve held her up in other ways, maybe–
Anyway, Lady Digression, we came home on a Monday, and we planned to circumcise him on Friday, and the Ritual Cutter, he asked us for a name, and then he asked us again, and Wednesday came around, and I said to my sweetheart, I said to my love–
“Margaux, we have to name him.”
And my mother watched him, while we sat upstairs and tried to name our newborn child. And we compared our lists–names like Wyatt and Ezekiel and Jed–but nothing was working, so I said, well, how about meaning? Perhaps we can find a name in some meaning?
And I had been reading the weekly Torah portion since my father died, and the weekly portion for the Sabbath that the boy was born into was Jethro, named for Moses father-in-law, who, after the Exodus, came with Moses’ wife and children and found Moses in the desert with all the Children of Israel. And when Jethro arrives in the camp, Moses leaves his tent, and bows and does homage to his father-in-law, and Moses’ brother, Aaron, bows and does the same, and the entire nation, they come, and they do the same–not knowing who Jethro was, but knowing that if the Redeemer would honor such a man, well, such was a man who must be honored–
And I picture Jethro, seeing the stranger shepherd who had come from foreign lands and married his daughter, gave him grandsons, now at the head of a nation–
And then Moses tells Jethro of all that had happened, of the Plagues, and the Exodus, and the Sea that Split, and Jethro said, Yours, Yours is a Great God, the Greatest God, and Jethro went with them on, onwards to the Mountain.
So I tell my love this story, and she says, Ok, let’s name him Jethro, and I say, No, not Jethro–
And my father died the day before Pentecost, the day that commemorates the Revelation on the Mountain, and Squirrel, Squirrel was conceived on Pentecost, in the house of my father’s spirit, and would not have been conceived except that my days of mourning and withdrawal from my love were shortened because of the joy of the Festival, the commandment to take joy in the Festival, even in our sadness and our grief–
And after my father died, I prayed most days, most mornings, I could not go to the House of Assembly and say the Kaddish with the Ten, but I could pray, and I could say psalms, and there is one psalm, Psalm 30, and it says, You turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed Me with Joy–and I would say that Psalm near everyday, and think of how, even while my father slept his dreamless endless sleep in the bosom of the Earth, my son was growing, sleeping his dreamless sleep in the ocean of my true love’s womb–and I thought–Oh, World, Oh, Universe, Oh, Time, You have Turned my Mourning into Dancing, You Have Removed my Sackcloth and Clothed me with Joy–
But back to the story, me, and her, me, telling her again, the story of the Mountain, of how the Sages say that every Jewish soul was present at Sinai, every Jewish soul that ever was and ever will be, those born to the faith and those who come to it, like my father, and if this was true, it would mean that I was there, and she was there, and our son was there, and my father was there, and her mother was there, all of us, all of us together at the Mountain, there, to experience the Revelation–the Undeniable Revelation–
But what were the names of these souls who stood there, at the foot of the mountain–I wanted to name him for them, not Moses, standing apart, at the top, not Joshua, halfway up, not Aaron, watching the people nervously below–not them, but the people, those who witnessed–
And I thought back to a lesson my friend George passed to me that he had learned from a professor at Penn, Will Harris, that the New Testament was simply the Old Testament told again, but whereas the Old Testament was the story of a nation, the New Testament reflected that same story through the story of an individual–and if the Passion and Easter was the Exodus, then the Pentecost, well that was the Pentecost, the Risen Son appearing to the Apostles forty-nine days later–
Who among them, who among them was a witness to revelation–
Thomas the Doubter.
And the lightbox in my pocket told me that Thomas meant twin, and some said that he was Jesus’ Twin, and I smiled to think it, twelve apostles, two who looked the same, who are they, that’s Jesus, and his Twin Brother, and Thomas, when the reports first came that Jesus had risen and was not dead, he denied it, he said, I will not believe, not till I put my hands in his wounds–and if Thomas was his brother, well, then I can understand that–Don’t tell me, Thomas says, Don’t Tell, Me who Loved him more than Anyone, Don’t Tell He’s Not Dead, and then, then, Jesus came, and said, Oh Thomas, Oh Thomas, Touch My Wounds–and Thomas said, No, That’s Ok, I believe.
And Jesus said “Blessed is Thomas, who sees and believes, and blessed are those who have not seen and still believes.”
And my wife and I, we were doubters, skeptics both, skeptics of everything, skeptical of God, skeptical of love, skeptical that this world, this hard hard world, has any comfort in it–but our boy, our boy before us, our love that made him, our love for each other, our love for our dead parents–such love–we cannot doubt it. We cannot doubt it anymore.
I see my father in my dreams. I often remember to hug him. When I wake, I see my son, and hold him as often as I can.
Thomas the Doubter. Who Believes What Cannot Be Denied.