Back in my days as an academic dean at a state university in Chicago, it was graduation day, and I was handing out diplomas. Inevitably I didn’t know any of the students. The professors did but not me. So, I would try to invent new ways to say congratulations as each student came forward for a handshake and their diploma. Then, up walked a graduate I actually knew. He was one of our security guards and the campus locksmith. He was also a big man, tall and wide. And like me, he was Jewish. (Although if you’ve been reading these blogs, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m an ethnic Jew who’s Christian (Episcopalian) by religion.)
Anyway, when Marty arrives for his handshake and diploma, I signify the way we Jews often do with each other by using some Yiddish—a term both he and I and most American Jews would understand. “Way to go, Boychik!” I say. This American Yiddish expression is a combination of our word “boy” and the Polish diminutive ending, -chik. It means something like “kiddo.”
The next day, Monday, as I’m walking down the hall toward my office, there’s Marty blocking my way. As he trundles up, he asks, “Reynold, do you believe in an Afterlife?” “For God’s sake,” I reply. “What kind of question is that for 8 o’clock in the morning? “No, I’m serious,” he says. “Please, I’ve really got to know. This is important to me.” “Okay,” I relent. “I DO believe in an Afterlife. Why?”
“Well, when we were lining up yesterday to get our diplomas, I say to my wife, Marilyn, it’s too bad Pop can’t be here to witness this day. He never thought I would make much of myself, let alone graduate from college...” Then Marty looked me straight in the eye and said, “And my Pop always called me ‘Boychik!’
How about you? Do you believe in an Afterlife?
Till next time let’s both keep wising up,