Dear Mom and Dad,
This is the first year since you left us that we haven’t visited. Just like you did Dad, after Mom died before you, we always went with a shmata, something to clean the stone, the matseva, that black granite that is so impractical in Herzliya which has enough sand to be a desert, and a bottle of clean water, some rocks which were always hard to find unless you were willing to settle for chips of stones from construction sites, and a Siddur so we could recite El Mole Rachamim, and, illegally according to halacha, Mourners Kaddish.
The rocks were so you would know we were there. Dad, you were never a worrier so I didn’t think you’d notice that there were no rocks this New Year, but Mom, I’m sure you would be concerned. Where were we? Like when any of us used to come home late from school. This would be for you, Mom, a real where are they moment. There was just no way to reach you, to tell you we’ll be there as soon as possible, whenever that may be.
And, of course, we never whispered our stories of the year, who got married (Yoni and his beautiful bride Nina), who’s in dental school (finally working on keeping alive the tradition of family dentists with Ma’ayan, our first woman dentist to be), who’s heading for the IDF, (Aaron) and all the other stories, including about our beautiful baby boys, (Noam and Itai), your great-great grandsons. Each of them have stories as do their cousins and siblings and parents and we would have shared them with you, in person. But, this year we just couldn’t. You won’t believe this but we haven’t been in Israel since January. You won’t believe what has happened to our lives. I don’t believe it myself.
Could you imagine a pandemic? In Israel. In America. In the world. If it sounds like a bad movie or trashy piece of fiction, you’d be right. Except it isn’t. It just sounds like it. Mom, you couldn’t go to your beloved Broadway shows or listen to opera on your radio. Dad, you couldn’t take the family for a ride and out to lunch. Oh, and your card games, your family poker Sundays, gone if not forgotten. You couldn’t get together with the whole family. Indoors. Never!
You’d have a whole collection of masks that you’d wear whenever you were outdoors. You just wouldn’t go indoors unless everyone there lived with you. So, your sisters, brothers, children, couldn’t see you unless you sat outside on the driveway. There’s a new concept called social distancing. I know. You can’t believe it but those little critters, the pandemic’s viruses which are called corona, are in the air and you shouldn’t be near people, and if you are, it should be at least six feet of distance between you and you can’t see the damned things. Cursed corona. Or should I say curse corona!
Going to the supermarket was an activity of a previous life. Now orders are placed online (I’m not going to be able to explain that but it’s similar to calling the market like you used to do Mom, with Joe’s on Clinton Place) and home delivered. Only the brave would go to the market and shop for themselves these days, especially if you were old like we are. Yes. That’s a big surprise isn’t it. Your children are now old. How did that happen?
There are no more movies and hardly any restaurants, especially indoor restaurants, and schools like Sammy and Stella’s are attended at home on a device called a computer. Shopping for clothes is done on the same computer. You see a picture of what you want and you order it and then it’s delivered to your home. So, there are always packages piling up because careful people don’t want to take the packages in the house until they’ve had a chance to air out.
Of course the virus is very lethal and there’s lots to worry about. Liat is a nurse and it’s scary to work in a hospital these days. I know she doesn’t worry but I do!
Flying on an airplane is pretty risky too. You can catch this virus very easily and you never know who’s spreading it since some people don’t have symptoms and when they breathe out or cough or sneeze you can very easily catch it. Being on an airplane, is pretty tense. We, your frequent fliers, with millions of miles of trips to wonderful places behind us, have not been on a plane since that last time in Israel in January.
I’m sure you remember Donald Trump. You should know he’s not nearly as rich as you thought he was. Here’s something else you won’t believe: he’s the president of the United States. He’s doing a really bad bad bad job of it and, here in America, already 210,000 people are dead and about 1,000 more die each day. It’ll be worse in winter when we can’t social distance as readily. We are hoping that he won’t be elected again. NO. We are praying!
And in Israel, things are pretty somber too. There are quarantines and many people are ignoring them and spreading the virus around. The government seems impotent and it’s a scary place these days. A country like Israel has survived endless wars and attacks but could be brought down by a stupid invisible bug? Doesn’t make sense but it’s true.
One thing is good! Our phones let us see the people we are speaking to! Remember when that seemed like science fiction. It’s not anymore. So, your other daughter, Janet, the one in Israel, speaks to me every day and I can see her perfectly and hear her clearly. Much better than the aerogrammes she used to send you in the 60’s and which you longed for. Remember? They would arrive two weeks after they had been written. I know she has been to visit you, and her beloved Zeev who is resting near you. So, as incredible as my report is, Janet is there to fill in all the dots and keep you informed. This is hardly the world you left. I hope and pray that that world will come back. Soon!
We miss you both so much. Please rest in peace and remember all the good years and good times in the world that is no more. We hope to see you soon in Herzliya, to clean the stone again and share our stories.
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.