Carl Reiner was part of my family. He just never knew it.
Every week my father and I made sure to turn on the TV in time to catch Dick Van Dyke’s signature vaudevillian flip over the Petrie household’s ottoman. My father laughed uproariously at this every single time! How I loved that, and how I loved laughing along with him.
I felt such a pang of loss when I read of Reiner’s death. But his NPR obituary included this joke, which soothed that pang a bit. It brought the laughter that Reiner was so skilled at evoking. He told it during an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
“Hey Jerry,” Reiner called. “You know the difference between a Jew and a Frenchman? A Frenchman leaves without saying goodbye. A Jew says goodbye and never leaves.”
Carl, you don’t know you were a part of my family, but I want to tell you that I’ll miss you. If my father were still alive, he’d miss you, too. Your death at age 98 isn’t a shock. But it comes in the midst of times of major challenge and loss. It reminds me of other losses. It’s one more thing to cope with. Ah, well. Change and loss are part of life. I’m thankful for all that you brought to the world. I’ll be watching your shows and movies in the weeks ahead, laughing — and maybe crying a little, too.
And I’ll wonder about that quote – that you did almost everything that you wanted to do. If I could, I’d ask you about that “almost.” What did you wish you had done that would have let you say, “I’ve done everything I wanted to do?”
I’ll be thinking about that for my own life. Have I done everything I wanted to do?
I’ll close with this – a video of you and your friend Mel Brooks doing your 2000 year old man sketch. It’s one of my favorites.