When Bobby's father died it was my job to take him to the river. I was an APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE SPECIALIST. I worked closely with the mentally retarded men and women under my care, formed relationships with them, and entered data about their progression in the proper book. Bobby's goals were (1) to adaptively response to feelings of anger; and (2) extinguish urinating in the hamper.
He was doing well with both when a staff member accidentally told him his father had passed away. It was not the fault of the staff member, who was unaware of the family's request to not tell Bobby about the death. They felt Bobby was not in a good place to handle it, and assured us that they would in fact tell him when THE TIME WAS RIGHT.
He locked himself in his room for three days before I walked him down to the Harlem River, where I told Bobby he could say goodbye to his father (in fact, his cremated remains were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean; the father was a fisherman as well as an alcoholic; or so I am told; I never met him).
"My father's in the water?"
I explained to Bobby what it meant to be cremated, and how his father wanted to go back to the sea with the fish he spent his life catching. I asked him if he wanted to say goodbye.
The team agreed that Bobby, whose IQ measured a developmental delay approximating the intelligence of a six-year-old, depended HEAVILY ON RITUAL to mark transition. He particularly loved church on Sundays, and looking at comics of Superman.
In Jerusalem, centered underneath the Temple Mount in a place called the Holy of Holies, lies the Foundation Stone. It is the rock from which God pulled out the world. Adam, whose name means "earth" and "made", was formed from the Foundation Stone. Abraham was to sacrifice his son there, and later, a piece was broken off to form the Ten Commandments.
The only time the stone was moved was when God lifted it and let the waters come out to flood the world and drown everyone but those on board Noah's ark.
There had been a misunderstanding.
"My father! Where are you! MY FATHER!"
People on the platform were moving away from Bobby, who was shouting himself hoarse into the river. He looked at me.
"Why won't he come?"
I was in a precarious situation. Bobby's grieving process, and his belief system, was his own, and far be it from to tell him how to communicate with the deceased fisherman. On the other hand, I had failed to make clear something ESSENTIAL ABOUT THE SITUATION, and was concerned that Bobby may jump into the river to find his father. So I compromised with a suggestion.
"Why don't you talk to him like you do in church?"
"Oh my father my father help us my father my superman it's me Bobby please my father my father help me superman it's it's me it's Bobby..."
Bobby prayed aloud for thirty minutes. The sun was caught and reflected back from the river. A small boat full of passengers touring the island of Manhattan slowly drifted by.
"I see him!"
There were an unusual number of seagulls in the sky that day, I remember.
"Look! You see!"
Had he jumped in, it would have been very difficult to explain the situation to the team.
"Ah my father... I knew you would come!"
He waved at his father in the water. The boat full of passengers, delighted, waved back.
"See! I knew he would come."
In Israel I visited the graves of Holocaust victims buried near King David's tomb. His son, Solomon, finished building the temple there in 950 BCE. David could not, because "his hands were blooded". The temple would house the Foundation Stone.
An early Christian source noting Jewish attachment to the rock may be found in the Bordeaux Pilgrim, written between 333-334 CE, which describes a “…perforated stone to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart.”
According to Islamic tradition, angels visited the Foundation Stone two thousand years before Adam was created. They believe it is here that the angel of the trumpet, Israfil, will BLOW THE LAST HORN when Resurrection Day arrives.
Bobby and I took the longer way home, up Bailey Avenue, which was littered with trash from the highway.
You're my friend, right?
"Of course I am, Bobby."
You take care of me, okay?
"Don't worry about it Bobby. You're a good guy."
"I'm a good guy."
After that I stopped logging in data for Bobby, and all my other residents. Then I quit the agency and left social services for good. Upon my father's advice, I spent some time in Israel, and when I came back he asked me what I planned to do next. I didn't know, though I am glad he asked.