When An Old Friend Returns, Pays Respects, Then Disappears Forever in Their Grief
A close family friend went into hiding when his wife died. He then unexpectedly showed up to my dad’s funeral before vanishing for good.
Mr. P. was close with my family. His wife was my mother’s best friend. The neighborhood feared Mrs. P. She was boisterous, unfortunately obese, and held no sway for fools.
No insult intended, she used to say, “I know how to push my weight around.”
If you found yourself on Mrs. P.’s notorious “shit list,” you were a goner.
Mr. P., on the other hand, weighed 98 pounds, never fluctuated (we tested this) and stood nearly six-feet tall. The contrast between the two was a whole other visual.
Cultures clashed and for several complex reasons that Italian family, with two daughters, and the Jews on my side, three sons included, became inseparable.
My mother has never been a shirking wallflower either. They immediately hit it off.
And they were a fiery combination.
As for my dad and Mr. P., same thing.
There was real love among us all.
The two families were inseparable.
Mrs. P. died in her early 50s. She suffered a series of weight-related ailments, and passed away all too quickly. My entire family attended her funeral; Mr. P. was inconsolable.
At this point we had moved back to Brooklyn. Mr. P. lived upstate, around the corner from our old home.
As the days and weeks went on, despite numerous phone calls to check on his well-being, and the well-being of his two daughters, we did not receive any return calls. Not a one.
Word from the neighborhood was Mr. P. had become reclusive after his wife died.
As years passed, we always discussed the couple … and always wondered how Mr. P. was doing.
And then my dad died. Nearly a decade ago.
And Mr. P. surprised everyone by appearing first at the chapel, then the cemetery.
My mom broke into tears were she saw him. The years had not been kind. Lost was the familiar twinkle in his eye, and a white beard was down to his chest.
He was barely recognizable. Mr. P. approached my mom — I was standing feet away with tears in my eyes — and he broke down in sobs.
They embraced for probably a minute, when my mother wiped his eyes.
He cried through the ensuing service.
As we headed out to the cemetery, he asked if he could be a pallbearer.
Following the burial, most of the mourners returned to my brother’s house in New Jersey for the Jewish shiva call, a tradition of mourning the dead over a period of seven days.
We were not religious, and so my dad’s shiva call was a celebration of his life. Traditional in many of these gatherings is a large assortment of food, and doors open for mourners to come and go as they please.
Mr. P. did not show up to the shiva call, which we accepted as he was overwhelmed during the funeral. But it was so great for us all to see him, and we were so moved when he discussed his love for my dad and “the Eisenbergs” in general, and he promised he would “try” to keep in touch.
We never heard from him again.
As before, our calls to check up on him went unheeded.
Mr. P., if perchance you come across this article, I want you to know this:
The Eisenbergs love you. You were a mensch for showing up at my dad’s funeral. Your words of love and praise were taken in the spirit intended, and my dad would have been touched.
I sincerely hope you’re well, and you can certainly reach out at anytime.
The point, I guess, of this piece is this: Always respect one’s grieving process. And if one day an old friend returns — if only for scant moments — to pay respects to someone you loved, it means that person made a big difference in their life.
Thank you for reading.
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