Elderly men meet in park

Max and Sam discuss coronavirus in the park

“I lost my friend Harry last week, I knew him since college.  They said it was the virus, but I’m not so sure.  He was suffering from congestive heart failure and every few months he had to go to the hospital to get his lungs cleaned out.  This time, they put a tube down his throat and they didn’t even let me visit him in the hospital. He died all alone.  His kids made a small graveside funeral, they wouldn’t let me come. I’m going to miss him.”

By Israel Zwick, May 1, 2020

It’s a beautiful spring morning in early May.  Two friends, Max and Sam, meet in the local park.  They are each about 75 years old.

Max: Sam, it’s so good to see you again, it’s been a long time, over a month.

Sam: I know, the weather in April has been so cold and wet, I couldn’t get out of the house. It feels great to finally have a nice, sunny, warm day.

Max: I didn’t leave the house much either. I played a lot of games of Scrabble with Sylvia. When we got tired of that, we watched the virus news, or an old movie that we never got to see.  Today, you can get 3000 movies on Netflix, not like the old days when there was only one movie on the Late Show.

Sam: So, Let’s sit down and shmooz a little.

Max: Ok, but we have to be two meters apart, so you sit on that bench, and I’ll sit on this bench.

Sam: OK, but you’ll have to talk louder, I can’t hear so well.  They gave me this hearing aid. Very expensive, but it’s worth nothing to me.  I still can’t hear so well. I have to go to the audiologist to get it adjusted but the office is closed.

Max: How am I supposed to talk louder if I’m wearing this mask on my face?

Sam:  So take it off, there’s nobody around anyway, everybody is supposed to stay home.

Max:  I hear that the virus police come around and they can give you a big ticket if you break the rules.  I can’t afford it, my pension went down this month because of the stock market.

Sam: It’s hard for me, too.  Rachel keeps telling me that the food is much more expensive, and she has to pay with the credit card. They also charge for delivery, and you have to tip the boy, he works hard.

Max: It’s almost two months since I’ve been to the synagogue. They closed it after Purim. I’m living in this neighborhood almost 50 years and they never closed the synagogue, not even in the biggest blizzard. There was always a minyan to say Kaddish, now they don’t even let you go to a funeral or shiva. I miss going to the synagogue, seeing my friends, and learning a page of Talmud every day. They say it’s saving lives, but it’s ruining mine.

Sam: Speaking of funerals, I heard that my friend Jack died this morning.

Max: I remember Jack, he was a nice guy, a real mentch.  Was it the virus?

Sam: That’s what they say, but I’m angry with him. I’ve been telling him that he has to watch his weight, but he told me that the doctor gave him a new insulin pump and he can eat whatever he wants.  I’m going to miss him.

Max: I know how you feel.  I lost my friend Harry last week, I knew him since college.  They said it was the virus, but I’m not so sure.  He was suffering from congestive heart failure and every few months he had to go to the hospital to get his lungs cleaned out.  This time, they put a tube down his throat. Nobody could visit him in the hospital and speak with the doctors. He died all alone, without his family.  His kids made a small graveside funeral, they wouldn’t let me come. I’m going to miss him, too.

Sam: How about telling me some good news. There must be something good in your life.  How’s your son the doctor, he must be working hard now.

Max:  I have very good news; his daughter just had a baby boy.  I’m a great-grandfather now.

Sam: Wow! That is great news, Mazal Tov. I’m not even close to that yet, my grandkids are still small. They’re growing up so quickly and I can’t even see them.

Max: But the simcha is bittersweet.  They told me that if it’s a boy, I would be the sandek at the bris.  Now, they don’t even let me come to the bris.  My son the doctor said if somebody coughs on me I could die.  For that I had to send him to medical school, cost me a fortune.

Sam: Enough news.  Let’s do something fun.  Let’s see what’s at the senior center.

Max: What are you talking about, it’s closed.

Sam: So let’s see the latest exhibit at the museum.

Max: The museum has been closed for two months, there’s no new exhibit.

Sam: So let’s go to the botanical gardens, the tulips are gorgeous.  I heard that the sunlight kills the virus, so it should be safe.

Max:  The botanical gardens are also closed, maybe they’ll be open next month for the roses.

Sam: So let’s have a game of chess, this time I’ll beat you.

Max: How can we play chess if we have to be six feet apart and can’t breathe on each other?

Sam: When is all this meshugass going to end? I’m getting sick from it, without having the virus.

Max: Who knows?  Everyday they tell you something else.  The virus is fading away.  No, the virus is coming back stronger.  There’s a new medicine.  No, the medicine is no good, you can die from it.  They’re working on a vaccine, but it will be over a year until it’s ready, if the world survives that long.  B’kitzur, this virus isn’t going away too soon.  Like other infectious diseases, we’re going to have to learn to live with it and manage the disease.

Sam:  I don’t understand this whole thing.  When I was younger, there were always viruses and strep throat.  So you stayed home for a few days, took some medicine, then went back to work.  Last year, I was in the hospital twice with infections.  It wasn’t pleasant, but after a week I was OK, thank God.  I know that one day, I’ll go to the hospital, and I won’t get out, just like my friend Jack.  But I hope that my grandchildren will be able to visit me so I won’t have to die alone.  Jack died alone, I didn’t even say goodbye to him.

Max: You don’t get it, Sam.  The whole reason for this lockdown is so that us old people don’t get sick and fill up all the hospital beds.  They’re trying to protect us, so we can live a long time, then one day you’ll be a great-grandfather just like me. Don’t you see that they’re doing us a favor with all these distancing regulations?

Sam: Max, you were always good at explaining things, must be from all that Talmud that you studied. It was great chatting with you again, but I have to go home now to take my blood pressure and cholesterol medication.  I feel fine, but Rachel makes me take it so I won’t turn her into a widow. She still hopes we will be able to go to the hotel for the next holiday, but the hotel cancelled the program already.  I’ll order food from the synagogue caterer, so she won’t have to cook. The caterer needs some business, too, there are no weddings.   Have a good day Max, and stay healthy, so we can meet again soon for another exciting day in the park.  I have to get a drink now, all this talking gave me a little sore throat and a cough.

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