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My grandparents recently died, and their apartment is now sitting unoccupied, still full of family heirlooms and old photos until we get around to dealing with it, which is not our highest priority right now.
The issue is that one cousin has been using the space as her personal event venue, even during the pandemic, hosting parties and big meals there. She keeps saying she doesn’t really drink and there won’t be any damage, but the pictures on Facebook include people posing with the books and art still in the apartment, plus plenty of booze — while she may not be drinking, her guests are.
Even if nothing gets damaged, it feels disrespectful (especially mid-pandemic). But I guess the apartment isn’t being used otherwise, her state is open and I don’t think anyone in the family has been dreaming about inheriting the old china. Do I just need to get over myself?
— Dazed and Confused
I’m trying to think of a polite way to say WTF???!
Please tell your cousin that the party is over. I’m not sure what the difference is between her drinking or all of her friends drinking (in a pandemic! When we are meant to be 6 feet apart! And outdoors!), but either way, it is unkosher, disrespectful and out of line for her to be carrying on this way. Chutzpah overdrive. Not to mention, dangerous — if any state is completely “open”, I would refer all party-goers to the most recent data from the CDC about trends in COVID-19 cases. It’s not a pretty picture.
Now, in terms of you saying something to her or “getting over yourself,” just imagine if you will, your grandparents’ couch soaked in beer or some of those irreplaceable photos dipped in salsa. If you don’t say something, this is exactly what you can expect. The fact that your cousin is posting evidence online proves that she has no concept of how irresponsible her behavior is; she should at least have the sense to hide her activities from any family member who doesn’t want to scroll by a drunk stranger posing with great aunt Fayge’s portrait.
You can also play a little game called WWBS — What Would Bubbe Say?
Just imagine your grandmother actually witnessing this madness. I know mine would have some choice words for this cousin of yours. Maybe your Bubbe was more of a silent sufferer, or she loved throwing keggers in her apartment (is there such a Bubbe? In that case, I could understand you staying quiet until now) but no Jewish grandmother I know would feel neutral about someone else using her space without permission.
That being said, don’t come down too hard on your cousin. We all process grief differently; maybe yours is coming out in the form of righteous anger, and maybe hers is expressed through, um, sharing her loved ones’ space with others.
Still, this cousin has no right taking over the family’s sacred space as her private sorority house. Even if it is a fitting tribute to Bubbe’s memory to party hard, each member of the family has their own attachments to the space. And decisions at this point are more about the surviving family’s feelings than about the deceased’s. Your cousin is a member of that family, but only one, and this should be a joint decision. I can’t imagine you’re the only one upset.
So Dazed, I say ask your cousin to get out of there today, before you and the ghosts of your grandparents show up to the next soiree and shut it down.
Abby Sher is a writer living in Maplewood, New Jersey. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our grandparents died and my cousin is partying