When my parents spent winters in Florida, I occasionally represented them at their friends’ funerals in Cleveland.
I didn’t like the work. My mother would call from Boca Raton and say, “Edith was such a good friends of ours. Please go, son.”
But I went. The hardest part was walking from my car to the shiva house. I pictured a bereaved relative opening the door and saying, “Who are you? Have you no decency? We don’t want any!”
That never happened. I mingled with mourners. I was often the youngest non-relative there. Occasionally the rabbi would recognize me . . . “You have such a Stratton punim.” I looked like my mom or dad. Take your pick.
I eavesdropped. That was the action. An old woman said, “When I feel sick, I want to die. Then I get better and want to live.”
“Let me tell you something, deary,” another woman said. “They don’t ask when you want to die.”
My Cleveland Heights friends didn’t talk like that. They talked about marathons, 10Ks and Tommy’s milk shakes. A rabbi talked to me about the Cleveland Browns. Rabbis are into sports now, but a generation ago it wasn’t that common.
A food broker said, “I sell Heinen’s.”
Heinen’s didn’t interest me — not until at least fifteen years later.
I spent about twenty minutes per shiva call. The mourners were always appreciative.
My parents made me do it.
While shiva repping, I met a California man who produced Joel Grey’s shows for 27 years. I said, “I’ll send you my band’s CD and you can show it to Joel. No, on second thought, I won’t send it, because Joel might sue me for ripping off Mickey Katz tunes.”
“Don’t worry,” the producer said. “Lebedeff’s people tried to hit Joel up for royalties on ‘Romania, Romania’ for years. No luck.”
Yiddishe Cup plays 7 p.m. tomorrow (Thurs. Aug. 9) at Cain Park, Alma Theater, Cleveland Hts. We’re doing a tribute to Mickey Katz.
A documentary filmmaker from D.C. plans to be there. You might wind up in the movie.
Tickets are $20-22 in advance and $23-25 manana. Discounts for seniors and students. www.cainpark.com and 216-371-3000.