By Yossi Zucker:
In late February 2020, my father suffered a stroke. I immediately started preparing to fly the States. My parents lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, and there were good connections by Air Canada to fly to Indianapolis through Toronto. I left in early March. The world was beginning to react to the corona virus outbreak and when I got to Ben Gurion Airport it was almost empty. My flight was about a third full, and we wore masks. I was able to spend a week with my father before he passed away on Friday morning March 13, 2020. With great difficulty we were able to schedule a funeral for the following Sunday.
During this period the corona outbreak was the main news item, particularly the outbreak in New Rochelle, NY. Things changed very quickly. The entire retirement community went under lockdown and the connected nursing home, where my mother was, went under an even stricter lockdown. Fortunately, we were able to make an exception to have a small reception in my parents’ apartment after the funeral, with social distancing, on a cold March day.
Getting home was more difficult. I had extended my stay by a week. Then I started getting messages from my travel agent that my flight was cancelled and I had to make changes. All the airlines were making changes and cancelling flights. I made a choice knowing that there was no other way to get home and might not be for a period of months. I spent hours on the phone making changes. I left for Israel the morning after the funeral. My thanks to Ken Krupat who helped make contact with people at Air Canada who could actually help.
My flight home was full of returning Israelis. On return I entered a mandatory two-week quarantine. That is how I spent the week of shiva. Lots of phone calls, but no minyan. Soon the whole country was in lock down. My mother passed away 12 days after my father. I was still in quarantine. A second shiva without visitors.
So thus started a whole period of adaptation to a new situation. My store was closed until I discovered that my competitors were open, if only for deliveries. My first day back I took the car, but parking was too expensive and I returned to public transportation. For the most part, the store has remained opened at whatever level conditions permitted.
Bar Mitzvah lessons were another complication. After both shivas, I resumed teaching remotely. Then we entered a period in which we did not know when the ceremony would actually be held. Dates changed, sometimes at the last minute, and often more than once. In most cases, the original torah portion (for Mincha) or haftarah (for Shabbat morning) was kept. Sometimes the congregation met downstairs on Shabbat morning, and the Bar Mitzvah upstairs. Recently I had a Bar Mitzvah that was delayed several weeks because of corona in the family. There is no end in sight for this situation.
I will always associate my parents’ deaths with the beginning of corona. I think the combination has intensified the feeling of a loss of sense of time. I no longer know when something will happen. Events occur later than they should, whether speaking of an “event” or the arrival of a package in the mail. I am even not sure of the seasons. Last fall, even with preparation for the High Holidays and the back-to-school season, I found myself asking what season it was and what comes next.
I do not expect this to change.