By Lenny Ackerman
The last several weeks have been scheduled with lunches and dinners for end-of-season goodbyes. The “season” in Palm Beach is from October to May, at which time everyone goes their separate ways for the summer and early fall. These goodbye get-togethers are both merry and bittersweet. One however, was a purely solemn gathering. A goodbye of a different kind, it was the funeral for the father of a good friend, a quiet refrain amid the more boisterous events this time of year. The service, an Orthodox program, included the deceased’s grandsons, whose heartfelt letters to their beloved grandfather summoned memories of my parents, who died some years ago. It was a reminder to visit the cemetery where they are buried in Rochester, which I have not done since pre-Covid days.
The goodbye dinner last night was a mostly happy occasion, with fond farewells to friends scattering to the north, to Europe and out west. Our talk turned serious at times, discussing the war in Ukraine, which led to a conversation about ancestry. So many of us have parents or grandparents from Ukraine, myself included, who emigrated to the U.S. during previous periods of turmoil. The war and refugee catastrophe in Ukraine calls to mind the historical tragedies of the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe and the inability of Jewish refugees to escapthe brutality of the invaders. Those of us who are first generation Americans are fortunate indeed for our parents having left before the Holocaust. This morning I found myself on Google reading about the shtetl life from which my own parents fled prior to World War II. How wrenching their goodbyes must have been, to leave extended family and community behind forever.
Though our group of friends will be separated for a few months, at my age—82—this is merely a short interval—and a considerable amount of living time. A lot can occur in five months, especially in the age of Covid. When I looked around the table last night, a lingering bit of melancholy from the funeral cast a shadow on my thoughts. The New Year’s Rosh Hashanah pronouncement “Who shall live and who shall die in the New Year” crossed my mind. So too as we pass through life, the days are few and time, like the late evening breeze, brings with it the clouds of past, present and future. But there is sun in between, when all is well, and we sit down again for an evening meal with dear friends.