Amblin' Alameda: Nahkes

Amblin' Alameda: Nahkes

Morton Chalfy

Nakhes (Yiddish – nakh’ es) Pleasure. Especially to a parent from a child.

My children are products of broken homes and the guilt I’ve carried most of my adult life because of that made me sure I’d never experience that feeling of parental pleasure (known in Yiddish as nakhes, the kh representing a throaty guttural). Not that my children aren’t wonderful and not that they haven’t been good people, but guilt is a corrosive emotion and tinges all feelings of pride and pleasure with regret and disappointment in self. Every perceived setback in their lives made me feel more blame-worthy and their triumphs do not assuage the negative cast of my feelings. Until now.

I have just returned from a week long visit to my youngest son and his family that includes the newest addition, just three weeks old, and his two older children. The visit consisted of me playing with the older grandchildren, the ten year old boy and his six year old sister, cooing over the baby, (a gorgeous girl) and staying up late with my son to talk far into the night. In the course of our discussions I brought up my feelings of guilt and remorse for not being able to be with him through his growing up years. In my defense I have to say that I tried mightily to make a home for his mother and sister and him but his mother, a singular and troubled woman, would not abide it.

He listened politely and then waved me off. “I know people think I had a rough childhood,” he said, “but I loved it. I was pretty much on my own all the time and had a great time. I’ve always felt lucky about how things worked out. Still do.”

It’s still hard for me to believe how much relief that gave me. For one thing I’ve always felt he handled his life more level-headedly than I handled mine, that he’s a better father, a good and well balanced person, and has given me grandchildren who love me and cry when I leave and grin when I return. In the face of all this my guilt and anxiety seem petty and self-serving and thankfully diminished to the vanishing point.

Life takes strange turns.

And so to nakhes. In the Jewish tradition nakhes is about the greatest pleasure a person can have in this life and is held in high esteem. Through this boy I didn’t raise (though he says I influenced him greatly and positively in the short times we did spend together in his youth) and his children I have finally felt parental pleasure. Indeed, it has enabled me to feel it for all my children and grandchildren after years of closing myself off from its balm. Not everyone’s life gives them the opportunity for nakhes but for those fortunate enough to feel it life’s meaning becomes clear on a very personal level.