I try to write a humor column every week, sincerely hoping that anyone who reads it gets at least one chuckle. That’s the goal — just one chuckle. (I would imagine that people who do not like me and read my column give a few eye-rolls, but that is for another time.)
This week’s topic, inspired by true events, might be a little delicate. The shiva house. There is nothing funny about that. Families come together to grieve for the loss of a loved one. Of course, every situation is unique, every situation is sad. I am not minimizing any of that. I write this column because sometimes, when things are very sad, you need to laugh (or drink…). And here we go…
This past week husband #1 and I went to pay a shiva call to a treasured member of the community. It is someone who, though we are not close friends, we feel a special connection to. And because she and I both spend our lives wasting our time on social media, we know what is going on in each other’s lives (or what we post, anyway, because you never really know. Those folks who just got back from Italy could have some major credit card debt. Who knows?) So when we saw that she was sitting shiva, we knew we were going to go. Because you can never do the wrong thing by doing the right thing.
So we walk into the house and we sit down in the second row, because there were a few people in the first row. But as soon as we sat down, the front row popped up, and the woman sitting shiva exclaimed, “But I am not contagious. Really! I am not!” Husband #1 and I looked at each other.
And then the daughter of the woman sitting shiva walked in and said, “Yes, my mom has the flu…I think I am going to put gloves on.” Umm, what to do. This poor woman just lost her brother, but she sounds like she has tuberculosis. I looked at her and said, “Perhaps we should put some yellow caution tape up around your immediate periphery?” She laughed and said, “Oh no, you are going to write a column about this, aren’t you?” “Would you like me to?” I asked…and here we are. The daughter was spraying Lysol, and a whole conversation about the potency of the flu vaccine ensued.
Thank God I haven’t been on the receiving end of a shiva call, but I have had in-depth conversations with people who have, unfortunately, been in that position. The people who are uncomfortable with crowds are equally uncomfortable in a shiva situation, but they have always said that they appreciate a humorous reprieve. That, at times, the conversation comes to a standstill, whether it be because they aren’t familiar with the people visiting them or it has just been a very long day. Husband #1 is much more comfortable paying shiva calls than I am. Many years ago, he saw that a man was sitting shiva in a neighboring community, a man he had been roommates with when he went to Keren B’Yavneh (a school in Israel).
He felt that even though he had not seen this man in a while, he didn’t even question going to pay a shiva call. He got to the house and went in to sit down. He didn’t see his friend, so he assumed that the empty chair was his. Someone came back into the room and sat down in the empty chair. It was not his friend. There was a person blocking husband #1’s view so he looked to the person next to him and whispered, “Where is so-and-so?” The visitor looked at my poor husband #1 and said, “Um, he is sitting right there.” Mr. So-and-So was not my spouse’s roommate from Israel. In fact, Mr. So-and-So was someone who husband #1 had never seen before in his life. As he sat hoping no one would start talking to him, the man in front of him got up to leave and husband #1 stood up behind him and gracefully slipped out of the room.
Does this kind of thing ever happen to anyone else?
The moral of the story is, when in doubt, do the right thing. Sometimes you have to bring Tamiflu with you, and sometimes you should really know who you are going to see.
May 2019 only give us reasons to celebrate….
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck hopes no one thinks this topic was in bad taste. If you do, it was husband #1’s idea…