Monday, March 20, 2006

Memories of my uncle

My father's older brother has died at age 97. It was no surprise to anyone, as lately he has been at death's door so often they gave him his own key.

He was an old reprobate, who, as my father says, broke every rule twice. He did exactly as he pleased for most of his life, until he became too feeble.

He and my father were religious skeptics, to say the least, although their father was a rabbi. So I was surprised when my cousin (his daughter) called to ask if she could distribute his ashes on a Saturday. In my father's family I am considered the expert on things Judaic, I guess because there are rumors that I fast on Yom Kippur.

I didn't think he would have cared, but she told me that he would not let her get married on a Saturday. The family decided to scatter the ashes on Sunday morning and sit shiva lite on Sunday. It's funny how remnants of religous practice and belief cling to people. Or how people cling to them. My father once complained that everyone in his senior housing development was Christian and Republican.

The real religion in that family is leftyism, Jewish style. As Christians believe in the Virgin Birth, so they believe that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent and Alger Hiss was framed. George W Bush is a devil in this cosmogeny, and FDR is their Mohammed. They have no interest in the actual facts of the case, any case, but believe with the guilelessness of children. And so it is in the whole family, root and branch, except me. All dues-paying members of the ACLU, except I don't think they send a check to the organization, except rarely.

I have to stress that the members of my family are really nice, good, intelligent people. But religion is religion. Faith to them is the evidence of things unseen. This secular faith doesn't prevent them from having all their offspring bar or bat mitzvah. My sister-in-law, on her deathbed, made her husband promise that he would have their son bar mitzvahed. She was as big a skeptic as the rest of them.

There is also an occasional Seder when all the family can get together, but they don't bother not to eat bread during Passover.

And people think the Orthodox are wacky.

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