“I am afraid that the future of this family, its survival in this harsh, treacherous land, cannot be entrusted into the hands of someone who, until now, has never been out and about. Never explored a new path. Never been tested by the elements.”
I hate him for what he has just said, because I know, deep in my heart, that there is truth in it.
“In all things,” he goes on, “Yankle follows his mother. So you tell me: how can a follower become a leader?”
I have to swallow that, too—but feel it is unfair. Whatever. Why should I even bother with his stupid riddles? My character, I figure, is entirely the old man’s fault! He was the one to name me Yankle, which in Hebrew means ‘a follower,’ for no better reason than the fact I was born second, a split second after my twin brother. How can you blame me for that?
Whatever! I hate that name. Hate my identity. I hate me. Hate my father for naming me—naming me for my weakness, right there at birth.
Now, all of a sudden, he wants me to change? A little too late for that!
“May God help me,” he whispers. “May He help us all, if I choose wrong!”
Oh, God again! I hate him for his faith, hate him for his doubts, too.
I note the slightly labored breath with which he utters his words. “I have come to the conclusion,” he says, “based on many, many years of experience, that I can expect with perfect certainty, that my advice will be utterly and immediately ignored.”
Amen to that, I say to myself. But at the same time, I can sense that my fury is waning, that it has left me already. And listening to him, listening to how he inhales and exhales with such difficulty, I start to feel sorry for him.
Despite his weakness, his voice rises, for a moment, to a boom. “I am the son of Abraham. It was for a life of sacrifice that I was chosen. You can take it from me: beware, my son! Being the favorite son is as much of a curse as being the one rejected.”
From then on I find myself leaning closer and closer, just so I can hear him. My Esav arm hangs on my Yankle frame just as heavily as before—but somehow I am no longer split between my parts. A great sense of loss comes over me, body and soul, entire.
Without even looking at the entrance to the tent, without even touching the cold surface of the hourglass, I know: it is nearly empty. The sand is running out. For us, there is no more time. He will never realize who it was standing there by his bedside, overcome and awash with tears.
Yankle in A Favorite Son
"She opens the old story to be instead a lively psychological study of family and of greed and longing for paternal love and more. It works spectacularly well."
-Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Reviewer