Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Pepperjack Heard Round the World - Part 1

A couple weeks ago Wyatt Cenac, the new guy from The Daily Show, visited beautiful South Florida to talk to some old Jewish people about Barack Obama and when he came here he chose an old people's community that is in every single way exactly like where my beloved grandparents Saba and Savta live. You can imagine how funny it was, but if you can't here is the link. Go watch the video, pee your pants, put new pants on and come back. I'll wait. Was that not brilliant? Ok, so now you know what I have to deal with quite frequently living down here. The people in that video are, for all intents and purposes, my grandparents' neighbors.

My grandparents themselves are a little different. They're old Jewish people definitely, but they're foreign and have lived in Europe more than they've ever lived in America. They moved here from Germany about ten years ago. They lived there forever. Before that they lived in Israel. They also lived in New York for a little while when I was growing up, but mostly they're not very Americanized, as evidenced by my Passover posts which you can find in the April archives.

I adore my grandparents. They are the sweetest, most innocent little couple. When you see them they just look like everyone's mental image of the perfect grandparents. My grandfather, Saba, has a white beard and my grandmother, Savta, wears her hair in a bun and she always has an apron on. I have never seen her wear pants not even once in my whole life.

Saba and Savta are my third set of grandparents. I got lucky like that and thankfully all three sets of grandparents were wonderful in their own ways and they're all totally different. Because Saba and Savta live only forty minutes away (happily in their old people's community) I see them more than my other two sets of grandparents, who are sadly now only grandmothers because my other two grandfathers have died.

***And now we will pause for a tangent because this is my blog and I want to go on a tangent.***

As you can see I just used the word DIED in relation to my grandfathers who have in fact, DIED. This may shock some people, but it shouldn't. Let me say it again. My grandfathers are DEAD. Lately I've noticed that people will go to great lengths to avoid saying the words dead or died. Why is this? Why is it impolite to say that someone has died, if they have died? Why is dead a bad thing? I hear people go to great lengths to avoid using these words, instead coming up with euphemisms like "passed", "passed on", "passed away" etc. They say they have "lost" someone. Well, I've got news for you. I have not "lost" my grandfathers. I know exactly where they are. One is in the ground and the other's in an urn on the shelf. People will say anything except that someone has died. They'll say someone has departed, expired, succumbed, lost their battle and all sorts of other things. I personally hate saying expired, because I think of sell-by dates on food. When Bella called to tell me about Pop she said "Pop passed last night" not "Pop died." I wonder why. Are we, as a culture, so afraid or ashamed of death that we can't even say the words associated with it? If one refers to death as "losing a battle" or "succumbing" doesn't that kind of make the person sound like some sort of failure? Death isn't a failure. It's a natural, inevitable part of life that we can't help and people should be able to die with pride and dignity. We don't use euphemisms for birth. We say someone was born, yet we can't say someone has died. I don't know, it's just something I've been thinking about.

***End Tangent**********

So back to the story... Saba and Savta are adorable and wonderful, but they are definitely not without their quirks. Just last week they returned from their annual trip to Europe and Israel, which lasted over a month. This trip will forever be known as "The Summer Saba and Savta Spread the Gospel of Pepperjack to Europe and the Middle East."

And I will tell you all about it later because my cousin Fallon and I are going to Miami this afternoon. I apologize for leaving you hanging, but I gave you all a video and a tangent to think about, so you should be good until tonight.


Anonymous said...

In my line of work I deal with death on a daily basis. My favorite question from clients
"If I die, will ....... happen?"
Um, hate to tell you this, but it isn't a matter of IF it's really a matter of WHEN. Some people do not like facing their (or others') mortality. Other people can handle it.

I LOVE the new guy on the Daily Show. Wyatt Cenac, right? He's freakin hysterical.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I love your writing! Yes - I hate when people say they "lost" someone the most. As if you were negligent, somehow. I lost my husband to whatever. I lost my child. They are not lost! The rest of it are so presumptuous, as well; they "passed" - oh, really? Are you certain of that?

Your blog is my favorite. Joan

Sauntering Soul said...

I've had to write about death way too much on my blog lately. I did say "passed away" once but the rest of the time I said "dead" or "died", etc. And one time I said "drowned". I don't think I've ever thought too in depth about which term I use. I probably will now!

That video is hysterical.

Rockycat said...

When I am grieving, I tend to say that the loved one "passed away." It just seems to cushion the blow a little. After some time has passed and I'm feeling better, I am able to say that they died.

Weird, I know.

~Mad said...

I am so with you on this!

My origins are in the mid-West and my parents always said "died" or "dead." Now, in the Deep South - around here - "they" kind of *whisper* about being cremated as well. Don't know why - just ....well, I can't speak for anyone else. (How was that for a quick back paddle?)

I heard a good one the other day - someone made their "transition" - I had to bite my tongue.

about the video - I don't have sound and will have to look elsewhere - YouTube doesn't have it.

~Mad(elyn)in Alabama

A said...

I say sometimes that I lost my brother, but at least as often I use the word dead or died. I have noticed though, when people refer to the fact that my brother died, they are very careful to sidestep the word dead. Sometimes I want to ask them if they think I won't realize my brother is dead if they don't say it out loud.

Thanks for bringing that up - I always find it interesting, too.

L said...

I'm so irked by that too. When my Grandpa died my dad told me exactly like that, he died. Most of my family says it that way, but we've always been factual people. My aunt likes to say passed on, I think she's trying to be respectful, but I feel like that's beating around the bush.

That clip is amazing, I just about died laughing.

Anonymous said...

I don't normally watch the Daily Show..that though was some funny stuff.
My Grandma from Italy ALWAYS wore a dress..and stockings that were rolled at the knee..and black shoes that tied up. She always had a rosary or a prayer book in her hand. HONEST...
I miss her, she's dead. (1980)

Anonymous said...

mad said - try viewing the video in Firefox. A couple months ago I quit being able to view any video in Internet Explorer but I can see them fine with Firefox.

The video was awesome! All my grandparents were dead by the time I was born and I feel like that's one thing I really missed out on. I never had a Granma to bake cookies with or whatever.

I've also noticed how people won't say someone is dead. It's weird. I think it might be because no one wants to accept that people die. When my father-in-law was dying none of his kids except my husband would accept the fact that he wouldn't last much longer. My husband had a good final talk with him. My husband thanked him for being such a great dad and told him not to worry about his wife because my husband would be sure to take care of her. It was something that really helped my husband thru his death.

Mary Patton said...

I find people of faith usually say they passed on, as in moving to the after-life or whatnot. It is more comforting and follows with their beliefs.
People who don't believe in souls are blunt about death being the end of the "journey".

I never thought it peevish when people comfort themselves by fluffing death.
However, that may be me over-compensating because, although I do use died or dead, I sometimes forget to edit and lack tack around sensitive subjects.

kerry said...

Yes, we are ashamed of death. I'm with you- it's natural and inevitable and just say the danged word!

Died died died. I'm glad you have grandparents that are still living and are close.

jenmoon said...

Hear, hear! I loathe "passed away" or "passed." You know what that sounds like, folks? PASSED GAS. Even worse, I had to read Brave New World in school. You do not want to know what goes through my brain when you use that phrase. It is not as prettified as you think it is.

For fuck's sake, it doesn't make it any nicer or any less dead to claim it's something else.

NeekoalinAZ said...

OMG I swear my grandmother and grandfather were in that video, but alas they are dead. I loved them! I was waiting for someone to start throwing things! I will say I am surprised that there wasn't more big sunglasses. All the old Jewish people in Cali wear their sunglasses inside and they are HUGE! Oh that and the women all wear Fuschia, what is with old Jewish ladies and fuschia????

Tink said...

Thank you thank you thank you! I thought something was wrong with me that I always tell people my dad died or is dead. It seems to be shocking to people. I just don't get it. He is DEAD. Dur.

Awesome blog!

Cinderella of the Law Library said...

The link was too funny! And very South Florida! I think those people lived close to me there and I think they went to my Publix...I don't know if you like Chelsea Handler but she does these great interviews with old people from retirement homes on her show sometimes. It reminds me of that. It's always old Jewish people too that she has on (she's also Jewish).

just a kat said...

I grew up in S. Florida and I swear to you, these are the same old people that were there when I grew up!

My favorite: Evelyn "I'm dark skinned, I'm not black, but I'm dark skinned" - with the do, the wrist brace and the shades! Art was hysterical too!!
My first "on my own" house was near Sunrise Lakes (phase 4, mind you) and that was always fun. Dinner at 3? Totally. I once watched a woman put the salt and pepper shakers in her purse, the sugar container (yes, with everything in it), the extra utensils, the extra rolls & butter, the vase (after she dumped the water out), AND the flower. I shit you not.

Your writing totally cracks me up!


Anonymous said...

OMG, that video is hilarious. Do older jewish people really abuse one another like that with their conversations? Or was it because a camera was rolling?

Lulu said...

we use euphemisms for death because we--and by that I mean western society as a whole--is made very uncomfortable by the concept of death. That discomfort has pervaded our language in lots of ways. When my mother bought the farm in 1995, we went to the funeral home to arrange the service,etc, and I was blown away by the level of euphemism: the gravestone is now a memorial: the grave is referred to as the "property": the little sidewalk they put the gravestone on is a "ribbon". It was nuts.

I don't know if this is happening in the States, too, but in Canada, our cemeteries are starting to look more and more like parks. All of the stones have to be flush to the ground, mourners can't plant flowers or leave anything that would keep the lawn mowers from cutting the grass. There's even a cemetery in a nearby city that has a PLAYGROUND in the children's section.

Medical science has distanced us from death, and a whole section of society is doing its damndest to ignore the fact that it happens to us all eventually.

Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with your assessment that saying someone is 'fighting a battle' implies that they lost if they die. I'm a clinical psychology student and as part of a pilot for my dissertation I'm interviewing lymphoma patients about how they feel about the media and others presenting cancer in this way. There have been no other studies on this that were just text analyses of magazines and newspapers. I hope to learn some interesting things.

bluelikethesky said...

I actually lost my mother-in-law at Macy's in Fashion Island while we were in Newport Beach last month. It took about 20 minutes to find her.

Here in the Bible Belt you can only imagine the obits. My fave? "Michael S_ went to be with Jesus at his lakehouse last Saturday." Who knew? That should certainly help property values.

When I wrote my dad's obit. I was very clear. He died.

BluHipo said...

oh, no one uses euphemeisms for being born? well, I can't think of any other than "being brought into this world" but I did know someone who couldn't hear the word "pregnant" (a classmate in high school from a religous nutjob family (no seriously they were nutjobs))
And this classmate didn't like the word "pregnant." It came up in class one day and he raised his hand to object to the term. He suggested "with child" or "expecting" or "in the family way"

When I suggested "knocked up" he had to go have a bit of a lie-down.

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