Yesterday my brother Jeff and I were talking about my Aunt Irene’s estate. As the executrix or administratrix, we have had to deal with lots of things about the graves. You never think about the plants on the grave or having the headstone (Aunt Peppy always called it a tombstone) carved. When Mom died we found an engraver who was fast, and made it uncomplicated. One, two, three and it was done. Not so with Aunties' grave. She died a year ago and the grave remains uncarved. When Lovey and Suzie went to say Kaddish (the prayer said when someone dies over every relatives grave) they found that the dirt in front of it was still piled up. Disgraceful. The yearly travel to all the distant graves has been a thing that all the aunts did, but now it's only the two cousins. And we are all grateful that someone still does it.
One of the things I always loved about my family is that they were able to find humor in everything, especially death. When mom died and she was on Bainbridge Island, off Seattle. The funeral parlor had to take a ferry to pick her up. This made it necessary to sit with her body until they arrived. What do you do when you’re sitting with the body that is no longer your mother? You talk about all the hilarious things she and her sisters did as we were growing up. Like the time Stevie and I took a $50 bill out of Aunt Sophie’s purse to buy camping equipment. We thought she wouldn’t notice. This was $50 in 1952. We were six and always in trouble. It was as if we were sharing the stories with mom, and we knew she was enjoying them with us.
Anyway, at some point in the history of the family, my dad had to have his leg amputated. The doctor who did the surgery was an idiot, and told us that it didn’t matter because he didn’t ambulate anywhere. We explained to the insensitive fool that he might not walk but he balanced on both of his legs. We knew he needed the surgery but we hated the doctors indifference.
We never thought too much about it until we had a discussion about burials. We had asked mom to think of a site that was not in the middle of nowhere Long Island. She agreed and immediately did exactly what we asked her not to do. In the Jewish religion, the whole body needs to be buried together, and she had buried my dad’s leg in the cemetery about which we objected. This meant that they would both spend eternity on Long Island. When we asked her why she decided to do that, she said that we would never visit them anyway. This was not true. We do schlepp all the way out there whenever we can. Usually on the way to the airport.
You may ask why am I writing this on a festive holiday. Well, if you worried about the pandemic, and are inordinately careful, it’s not that festive. People are forming pods, which means that you get to see the people in your pod, but no one else unless you are going food shopping. Some people are calling this period of time the “new normal,” but I’m not, because there is nothing normal about it. The question is, will things ever be the same again? Will we be able to walk down the street without a mask? Will we be able to hug the people we love? Will offices, restaurants and small businesses even survive? No one has any idea. We know that things will certainly not ever be the same, but I’m not ready to call anything, until theaters open, normal. We're just sayin'.... Iris