Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"The kindness of strangers"--on paying a shiva call to Mark/PT and his family

Either my husband punched the wrong address into the search window, or the idiots gave us the wrong travel directions. One way or the other, when we got off the bus in what we thought was the right place and started checking the numbers on the houses, we were dismayed to discover that we were about 50 blocks--or, in plain English, a good hour's walk--from Mark's (blogger PsychoToddler's) mother's house. And the shiva minyan was scheduled to start in 25 minutes. For lack of an alternative, we entered a nearby gas station and called a cab--only to be told that the wait would be about 20 minutes! We headed down the street to the nearest bus stop, figuring that, if the bus came first . . . But the sign said that that bus didn't run on Sundays. So there we were, back at the gas station waiting for that stupid taxi, my husband looking down the street in the wrong direction to see whether there was another bus stop that might be for a different bus, when we heard this voice calling out of the blue, "Are you lost? We can give you a ride. It's a mitzvah." Ladies and gentleman, this is a first, and an ironic one, at that: We got a ride with a pants-wearing woman and her bareheaded husband because they thought we were frum! Out of respect for the Skier family, we were, for lack of a better description, "dressed to pass," my husband in one of his kippot s'rugot ("knitted" [crocheted] yarmulkes/skullcaps) and I in one of my new kisuyei rosh (head-coverings), and the couple in the car took us for Orthodox. As luck--not necessarily good--would have it, they themselves had just paid a shiva call in the same neighborhood last week, and so were able, and kind enough, to drop us off literally in front of Mark's mother's front door.

We got there in the nick of time. In point of fact, time was the big challenge. I didn't even have time to figure out where to put my raincoat before zipping into the kitchen so that the gents out in the living room could davven (pray). (This being an Orthodox home, there was separate seating--or, in this case, standing--for men and women.) And, to top it off, it wasn't quite clear to me what "time" it was--there I stood with the "baby Birnbaum" siddur that I'd brought from home (in case there weren't enough prayer books to go around) turned to Maariv, the Evening Service, when I heard Mark start the service with the word Ashrei. Ashrei?!! Holy Moses, lady, you're in the wrong service! A quick flip back through the pages, and I was in Mincha, the Afternoon Service, where I belonged, before Mark got to Chatzi Kaddish, at least. Much to my amazement, I was actually able to keep up with Mincha, though I can't say the same for Maariv--I just said as much of each brachah as I could manage and then "amen-ed" each of Mark's closing brachot. I figured that the point of a shiva minyan was to get to (Mourner's) Kaddish Yatom in time to respond to the mourners, so that's what I did.

These were certainly not the best circumstances in which to meet Mark's mother and two younger sisters. (To protect their privacy, I hereby dub his sisters F. and R., but those of you who've been reading Mark's blog for a while already know their names, as I did--the only thing Mark had to tell me was which one was which.) Mark's oldest child, "Fudge," still in Stern College across the East River in Manhattan for another few weeks, was there, too, along with her former, and soon to be new, roommate, S. (infamous from Fudge's Thursday-night radio broadcasts on WYUR.com), a very nice young lady.

These were also not the best circumstances in which to hold a reunion, either, but Mark told us that two of his fellow original Shlock Rock band members, Yonah Lloyd (guitarist) and Danny Block (saxophone player), had both paid shiva calls. If I remember correctly, Mark told us that Yonah, who'd already been booked to fly from Israel to the U.S., had come directly from the airport to sit shiva with him and his family. And David Bogner, aka blogger treppenwitz, a former Shlock Rock trombonist, had called from Israel to offer his condolences. Mark's mother and sisters all spoke fondly of the Shlock Rock gang.

Mark showed us family pictures and drawings, and spoke of his father.

Our shiva call, like the Torah, began with kindness and ended with kindness, when yet another stranger, in this case Mark's wife's brother M., gave us a ride to the subway.

According to Mark's wife's Sunday, May 21, 2006 post (see here), Mark will be sitting shiva in Queens until Tuesday evening, then returning to Milwaukee to sit shiva there. If any of you from the New York City area can pay a shiva call, I think that your presence will be most appreciated, as ours was.


Blogger Ezzie said...

Argh. My feed didn't show this post as existing until just now!

I couldn't make it Monday (Serach wasn't feeling well), and today I thought it was too late, as the original post said only until noon. :( I even checked it again.

And it would probably have taken me only about 20 minutes to walk it, too. Very frustrated with myself now, sorry...

Wed May 24, 02:06:00 AM 2006  
Blogger torontopearl said...

It was so nice you made it a point to go to the shiva, and with all the little hurdles in your way.

Living in Toronto, I didn't make the visit, but I did make a phone call to Mark; we spoke for about 5 minutes, and he was pretty touched by the international "support" he's been getting.

We should only meet and speak for simchas.

Wed May 24, 08:43:00 PM 2006  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Thank you for going to such lengths to console me and my family. It was nice to see you again.

We should meet at simchas!

Thu May 25, 11:50:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Torontopearl, we were so glad that we actually managed to get there! It was nice of you to call.

Mark, that's what friends do (though I suppose "lengths" would be a pretty good description :)). We certainly hope to see you under happier circumstances, next time.

Halevai, it should be for simchas, indeed.

Sun May 28, 04:13:00 AM 2006  

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