Sunday, January 4, 2009

Seven (or 61) plentiful years

Before I leave for Miami to board the ship I have a lot of business to take care of. Between the hustle and bustle of the holidays, closing up shop at work, and packing for a four month voyage, I've been on the go every single day. (I am by no means complaining, by the way. I love that my time has been consumed preparing for this voyage.)

2009 has arrived and we've hit the ground running.

Sadly, as the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, my best friend's grandmother (affectionately known as "Bubby") died. So she and her family put the cork back on the champagne bottle and began the New Year with tears instead of cheers. As Dara and her parents drove cross-town through New York City fireworks were going off. Dara, reminiscing about Bubby's personality, laughed as a tear rolled down her cheek, and said "it wouldn't be like her to go out without a bang!"

My own grandma (whom I've referenced before- the one with all the sayings) would refer to Bubby as a "spit-fire", an affectionate term for someone who fights for what she believes and stands her ground until the bitter end. She is not "meek and meely mouthed", as my grandmother would call the opposite of a spit-fire.

Dara gave a beautiful eulogy about the debates she would have with Bubby and about Bubby's concern for everyone's physical well-being in the streets, on the subways, and just about anywhere else. {The paragraph below was borrowed from Dara's blog}:
During the recent years, Bubby was in a wheelchair and loved to make that clear every step, or push, of the way. She liked to scream and yell that everything is in the way, everyone put everything in the way on purpose, please please please get that chair/umbrella/string on the floor out of the way, and she doesn't want to be a burden, and how are we ever going to get her into the car with all the dangerous oncoming traffic, and DON'T GO IN THE STREET!, and GET OUT OF THE STREET!, and don't step on the cellar sidewalk doors because you'll get electricuted- don't you read the paper?!

Today was Bubby's funeral. My second funeral in the past month. My Aunt Theresa's Italian funeral was different from Bubby's Jewish funeral, but they each have some major things in common: they are a gathering of loved ones, they are a sharing of wonderful memories of a beautiful soul, and they are feasts.

Family members give eulogies praising and admiring the deceased. Perhaps Dara's grandfather (affectionately known as Zayda)'s speech said it best. He referred to Gen 41:29 Behold, there are coming seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt.

Mr. Finkel explained that there is a famous Hebrew saying that refers to this verse. Everyone gets seven good and plentiful years. As he explained this, he became choked up, and through tears he told the congregation "Well somehow I lucked out and got 61 good years." 61 years of marriage between Fyvush and Gertrude Finkel. They met on the subway in 1946.

Mr. Finkel also spoke about his wife's devotion to the synagogue. One time he made a phone call to his wife from Los Angeles. You see, Dara's grandfather is an actor and he was away from home. He had landed his first television role and he told his wife "You better tell the synagogue we're not sitting in the 'cheap seats' anymore! You call the Rabbi, you tell him we're famous now. So move us up to the front!" So from there on out Mr. and Mrs. Finkel sat up front.

We all got a chuckle out of this anecdote.

Throughout the time I've been best friends with Dara, I have been to dinner with she and her grandparents several times. I didn't make it to the 61st anniversary dinner on March 19, 2008, but I stole this directly from Dara's blog on that date:

Well, we get to the Deli, get her in, and guess what? There's nowhere to sit. The place is as cramped as a Lower East Side tenement building in 1915.

So anyway, we wait in a small waiting area, not exactly big enough for the wheelchair and right in front of a downward flight of stairs. Wonderful. Now we listen to "don't put me near the stairs, I'll fall down!" Those stairs were so narrow and had so much crap in front of them that even if she wanted me to push her down them, I couldn't.

Because this place is so popular, at least with the Jews and Jew lovers, there are a few people waiting to be seated next to us. As always, people start recognizing my grandfather.....
"You look so familiar.....are you in movies? No, you were on that show....Boston Legal, right?! You're that funny guy!" {Try Boston Public, lady.} As many of you know, my grandfather lives for being recognized and is pleased with this googly eyed lady's inquiry. So, he proceedes to chat with her and those around them.


So, we continue to eat our pastrami, brisket, and perogies glutenously, people continue to recognize Zayda, and I try not to flip out about everyone smacking into my chair everytime they walk by while I'm in mid bite. Then another genius comes over to me now. "Is this your grandfather? Oh, I just adore him, my husband thinks he's the most talented actor there ever was, and bla bla bla bla bla bla........." So I look at her and say, "Why don't you just tell him, he's sitting right here to my left!" Did she think it would make my dinner that much more delicious to have someone interupt it to talk about someone other than myself?

On goes dinner, and it's time for coffee and cake. The waiter comes out with two slices of chocolate babka each with a candle in it (are candles appropriate on anniversaries?) and we all smile and thank the waiter. And here it comes.....in full bodied voice and vibrato, my Zayda sings "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MEEEEE! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MEEEEEEEEEEEE! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY DEAR TRUDYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The entire restaurant applauds and congratulates. I sit with my face in my hands- in hysterics.

This is the perfect illustration of Dara's family. I loved spending the day with them reminiscing about Bubby. At the end of the day, I leaned over to hug Mr. Finkel and say goodbye before I went home.

Mr Finkel!? MISTER Finkel? That makes me sound old! Why do you call me that?

So I asked for a Take Two.

Goodnight, Zayda.

That's better, he said. Much better.

1 comment:

Buddy said...

I remember that guy from Boston Public. Didn't know you knew him.