Saturday, October 15, 2005
Spring Chickens

My grandparents are pretty old. Grandma is 88 (I think) and Pop-Pop is 93. I can't help but jump when the phone rings late at night, or on shabbos or yom tov. I always think it's gonna be "The Call."

A lot of their friends die. One day they were playing cards with somebody, and the very next day the guy died. That FREAKED my grandparents out! I read an article once about how the psychology of gay people had changed. Everybody was dying of AIDS, and their culture had become one of death and mourning. I think that can be applied to old people, too. Old people die fairly regularly. As a community, they have to integrate death into their lives and psyches.

They make jokes about it. "We don't buy green bananas," they'll say. It happens to be that their respective burial plots are right across the road from each other, next to their original spouses. Grandma says "You know, my Sid will let me visit Pop-Pop from time to time. But your grandmother will never let him go. He'll have to lie to her and tell her he's going to play cards or something so he can come visit me."

When I call them, they both get on the phone at once. They listen in from different rooms. When I first started to do taharas, I told them.

GRANDMA: You do what?
ME: Taharas. Prepare bodies, for kosher burials.
GRANDPARENTS: ...silence...
GRANDMA: You touch them?
ME: Yeah, but I wear gloves. Two pairs.
GRANDMA: I'm not shaking your hand.
ME: Okay, I won't shake yours either.

So they can joke about death, but the reality is harder to deal with. Yesterday, I made my erev shabbos phone call. Grandma was out, so I talked to Pop-Pop.

POP-POP: We had somebody over to break-fast on Yom Kippur. He's pretty upset, his lady friend is in the hospital.
ME: His lady friend?
POP-POP: Yeah, they've been going together for 12 years.
ME: "Going together?"
POP-POP: Old people don't get married, they just live together.
ME: (startled) Hoo Ha! They LIVE together? That's pretty crazy. Do you guys throw keg parties when your parents go out of town, too?
POP-POP: (laughter) She only has one lung, and she had pneumonia. She was in the ICU for 3 weeks, they didn't think she was going to make it.
ME: Whoa.
POP-POP: So we did our mitzvah by having him over.

So there you go. Illness, hospitals, death, losing friends. It's all there, all the time. I hope Moshiach comes soon to change their reality. Mine too.


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