It is perhaps not strange how much I thought of my parents during the last months before I was ordained. My father died just before I entered the program, my mom while I was in it. I know my Mom was proud, and I think my Dad would have been too. I once came home from college and asked if I could use the car. My dad said no. When I asked why, he said because I had not cut my hair. “What does the length of my hair have to do with driving the car?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said. I waited, so he added, “you don’t want to cut your hair, I don’t want to give you the car.” So I cut my hair. I think he would have been proud enough that he would have forgiven me for not cutting it during the whole first year of the pandemic. At least I did not have to drive anywhere.
My grandfather was from Russia. He was educated in Russia, in Europe and when he arrived here, at Cooper Union College in NYC. He managed to keep our last name when all his relatives came over from the old country and became Weiners.
He stayed alive well past his expiration date, just to see my wedding. We had a special relationship. In this wedding picture, he is the person sitting in the first row, all the way on the left, playing with his hearing aid. I’m not sure if he was turning it up or down. This was the last picture taken of him. There is a great story there. It is also posted under Stories I Tell.
I met Dolly when I worked at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life. It turns out that we actually had crossed paths years before, and had some common friends. She was 94 years old, and sharp as a tack.
When the pandemic hit, I continued to support her as best I could by phone. I think, like a lot of nursing home residents, being limited to a small room, with her meals delivered, no personal interactions, no activities, nothing to keep her going, just wore her down. She died before I got to see her again. We had talked about her watching my ordination. I will like to imagine she did, from wherever she was.
The completion of my studies, and my ordination took place during various degrees of isolation because of the pandemic. I will forever remember that we lost many people to this pandemic, like Dolly, whose deaths were not counted as COVID deaths, and whose deaths pointed out the inequities of health care treatment in this country.