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  • Paul Beckman


My Cousin Reba’s mother and dog both died in October of last year. The dog went first (he was seventeen). Her mother, just a few weeks shy of eighty. One death had nothing to do with the other. At the evening Shiva call people sat around talking and eating after saying Kaddish and the conversation got around to whether or not Reba was going to replace her dead dog with a new one. Her three children listened without giving their opinions.

Reba surprised everyone by saying that she was more interested in replacing her mother than her dog. “I won’t miss the dog but will miss talking to my mother and I’m planning to go to the Jewish old age homes in the area and interview for a substitute. The major criteria being a woman with no family or with family that never visits or calls. I'd prefer someone who gives advice, comments on my weight and clothes and always says what's on her mind," Reba said. "If she's a complainer that'll be even better," she added. “I want someone as much like Mom as possible.”

The assembled thought Reba was kidding and when she left the living room the Rabbi took the opportunity to tell the friends and family that she was in a state of what's called Shiva Shock. "I've seen this before," he said. "Believe me. It's not that uncommon," he said, stroking his beard attempting to appear worldly and wise. He actually looked neither.

That made her kids feel better until the following month when they all got together at Reba's house for a Sunday dinner and were introduced to Ida, who was a resident of the New Haven Jewish Home for the Aged. During dinner she complained to Reba that the soup was too salty and the brisket just a little bit tough and asked her to please turn up the heat.

Reba, with a satisfied look on her face, told her kids that Ida was the latest in a series from the “homes” that she’d had over as a tryout.

After dinner Reba’s two sons went off to a party and her daughter drove Ida home. On the ride Ida said, "You should get your mother a dog—nothing too big, but a nice dog for companionship—maybe a poodle. I used to have a poodle so that would be nice and she could bring her when she comes to visit me. And you have a pretty face," she said to Reba's daughter, "But a little lipstick wouldn’t hurt."

—Paul Beckman

#PaulBeckman #shortstory #aging

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