Archive for October, 2009


Saturday, October 31st, 2009

NOTE: Back in ‘79 I was quoting Phillie pitcher Tug McGraw. He’s gone now, but I’ve got his country western son on my ipod. I’m not certain that’s progress.

       I think Ill take a moment, celebrate my age
       The ending of an era — the turning of a page
       Now its time to focus in on where I go from here
       Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

It was fall of ’59, and I turned ten in a world where all my heroes wore cleats. From Colavito in the summer to The Great Number 32 in the fall. Little League had me catching for Hollywood in the 9-10 minors. My first game was at McFarland Field. There were weeds along the baselines as we played in the midst of new housing at Anderson and Trebisky—the part of South Euclid where Jews rarely tread. Naïve me—I ASKED to be the catcher. What did I know? My only image of the position was the Indian’s Russ Nixon. On TV that was where the action was. Wrong! Still, I beat out an older Andy Press, hit for power, and had the opportunity—all night— to roll in dirt for errant pitches. And I got to wear a cup! My Mom sat and my Dad stood smoking…each game.
A year later, at 10, I was drafted to the “Majors” by the White Sox. The little fish in a big pond. Two innings/one swing/and out. I was happy to sit as big 12- year olds like Johnny Capretta and Terry Chambers pitched us to a title. Even got a hit in the World Series at Brainard Park when my errant bunt popped over the oncoming third baseman for a first inning double. (They were getting my at bat out of the way early). But, hey, Max Mitchell came to watch! He saw. And beaming, I could finally “feel a part of.” It had been a hitless regular season. Now, though, atop the bag, my life was everything I could have hoped for.
At 20 I was sure I’d arrived. Woody’s Buckeyes were the “Team Of The Century,” and wearing contacts, driving High Street in a new blue Mustang convertible, I had the world by the _____. I stood confidently on the precipice of a good life.

       Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
       Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
       Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
       And Ill do it better in my next thirty years

Adulthood wasn’t all I thought it would be. But, then, perhaps I didn’t think.  Fell in love. Got engaged, a degree, an Honorable Discharge. Married. Career. Kids.  Life. And then, after all that ….adolescence.

Did things right and things wrong. Perhaps we all do. My Dad, they told me, was my great enabler. ‘Twas true. He taught me everything about life except how to live without him. Still, even today, he remains a barometer for common sense…and honor. I am my father’s son—still learning life’s lessons.
There are times of happiness and some less so…and yet, I am often joyous and always content. Today I remain on the precipice of a good life.   We all do.

       My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
       Savoring my family and maybe yet a wife?
       Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
       Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years

                                                    T. McGraw


Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It was the very late 90’s and I was two years into recovery. An uninvited phone ring had awoken me. Rising with sleep in my eyes, gum in my mouth and ignoring the Caller ID, I answered.

“Did I wake you? Are you hung over? Don’t you work? YouLoser! (one word)”? I knew not only the voice, but the cadence all too well. And I was indeed sober.

With neither protest nor attitude I gently hung up, replacing my head on the pillow. CLICK.

Maybe the lesson was sinking in. Perhaps the words of the wiser were beginning to resonate: If I really try to do the right thing, then what others
think of me is none of my business. And today I’m trying.

The program has taught me that it is smart to want to hear what I don’t want to hear…That we remain egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.
I get that.

Today my support system is varied. A montage of family and friends care enough to lovingly hold a mirror up to me, if only I ask. And today I ask. (Just a week ago a smiling Stuart urged: “B, you don’t want to do that).

I trust my judgment today…much more than before…because these days, at least, I TRY to look at my behavior…and without the blinders. Today I’m not afraid to stumble with dignity. And I do…often. Right, wrong, or indifferent, though, by and large, I am doing the best that I can. Not every day, surely, but on balance. And I’ll take the balance.

My brother used to say “You DON’T know when to stop.” Or was that my father, or my mother…or the Jersey Girl? (Answer, E: All of the above).
Oh, I still get that—but not as much. Progress, not perfection.

Last week someone emailed me criticizing a blog. My knee jerk reaction was to apologize; it’s hard not to care what others think. Within moments, however, one of my kids texted with a kind word about the same entry…and it occurred to me…if I’m trying my best, then YES, what other people think of me IS none of my business.

Still—Easier said than done.


Sunday, October 25th, 2009

We dined at Corky’s Thursday. Bob, Stuart and Bruce. I mention Snyder first for no reason other than it makes him happy. Anything for a friend.

Stu and I arrived at 7, and sat in the center booth facing the door. We delighted watching our irrepressible friend stroll in late, adjust his collar ala Dangerfield, survey the field, and then feign a smile, forced to eat with his back to traffic. You have to know your friends, and we know Bob. He wouldn’t have said a word, but trust me, his dinner would be more enjoyable once he could watch the action. Let the man rejoice! (We switched seats voluntarily).

The good thing about lifelong friends is that with all the BS there is no bullshit. No pretense. After all this time we even mock with tenderness. Hey, our shared blood, sweat and tears go back to the 50’s. From Rowland to Greenview to Brush to OSU. From REN to AZA. We’ve married women and buried fathers. Loved. Laughed. Cried. Together.

This week, in a mere ninety minutes, we retraced our lives from adolescent inter-club battles through the perennial question: Where is Jackie Levine? From Bruce Schwartz breaking up our sixth grade club to Marvin telling Arthur we should never contact him again. From who slept with whom to who could have slept with whom. And we found humor in matters that others might well find humorless. It’s great being perfect.

Bob’s wife wondered if I was dating anyone. Stuart suggested I call a name from my first life: “You should take her out,” urged the latter.

My inquiry seemed fair: “It’s been a while…What does she look like?”
Fenton’s counter was weak: “She won’t embarrass you.”
“There you go, B,” Bob roared: “She won’t embarrass you!”
(Not exactly the ringing endorsement I’d have hoped for).

We left just before 9. Heading out, noting that TJMaxx was open I mentioned the need for new underwear. Bob asked to join me, so Stuart followed suit. And there we were, the Three Amigos roaming the store like it was Severence Center in the ‘60’s.

“Weren’t you guys just at the restaurant?

The question came from a petite brunette as we entered the store. We nodded affirmatively, but didn’t break stride. Once out of earshot, Bob couldn’t resist:

“You should get her number, B. She won’t embarrass you.”

On to the underwear.

“What are you buying, B?” asked Bob. Scanning my proposed purchase, he called out to Stuart. “Fenton, look what B is buying! No wonder he can’t get a woman!”

“No, Bruce, nothing white. You need to buy color.” (All of a sudden Stuart was a player).

Still, I’d seen this movie before. An immediate judgment call dictated that I just get whatever they suggested. What the hell difference could it possibly make? Just shut the clowns up. As such, the two sixty-year-old wannabe wingmen picked out some underpants for their younger friend, and as they continued laughing, we marched toward the cash registers.

But it wasn’t over. En route to the store’s front they spotted another female shopper. She was reasonably attractive, (which was all Bob needed):

“My friend wanted to buy tighty whiteys!” he revealed. “What do you think?”

“Not a good idea,” she assured.

The boys cracked up. Not that any of this was really funny. Immaturity in small doses, I suppose, can be refreshing. It’s nice, even for a few moments, to own the world.

We spoke of reconvening Saturday to watch “Curb.” It didn’t happen. Stuart was available—- he never leaves the house. But Bob ran errands and I was busy….Life, you know…Which is why the simplest of dinners—just getting together — remains special.

I had my choice of venue Thursday. It was my “birthday dinner.”
No cake or candles, but a friendship that shone regardless. With good friends you need neither an event nor trimmings to celebrate. The only requirement is time. (And, as I’ve learned late into my 50’s, colored underwear).


Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I got on 271 North like I had every day for a month. But as I drove to the theater it was different. 120 minutes til our last show and I was feeling loss…already.

The ipod repeated “Morning Of My Life,” and with the BeeGees as background music I stopped one final time for the pre-game roast turkey, handrolled (no rice) sushi, and sugar-free Power Milk. One more time. Then on to the theater a half hour ahead of the cast. Checking props, stretching legs, and… capturing it all…. Again.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve felt it—-that feeling—that knowing, as something was unfolding, that I was part of something really special. That the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s how it was on the diamond. Back then we, the Jewish Boys Of Summer perennially ran the table. We had unabashed confidence and epic fundamentals; the good bounces always came our way. Always. Year in/ year out we knew we had it going — that titles would come. And they did. Year after trophied year.

Even when I was invisibly winning a batting title, mired in Alan’s 9 spot of the lineup, even then I had the swagger that comes from being part of something special: Sol’s Boys. Even then I couldn’t wait to get to the field—thrilled to be but a part Wieder’s talented mosaic. I couldn’t carry Racila’s jock strap, couldn’t hit for extra bases with a gun to my head—but I was a part of. Everyone that played JCC then knew us; I wonder if they knew how good it felt to be us. THAT run on THAT team—you can’t take it off the back of my life’s baseball card.

This past month it happened again. Different sport-same feeling, and yes, same swagger. For six glorious weeks I played through the perfect storm. The role I wanted in the show I wanted to do. A cast of true characters sharing (on and off the stage) clean-cut depravity. Good crowds. Good reviews. Good fit. (I was playing Bruce, for G/d’s sake! Do you think I could handle it?)

The final curtain fell at 4PM Sunday, and once the house emptied we struck the set. They handed me a hammer and screwdriver, and as I usually do, I stared at them—just stared. (Why don’t they just give me an erector set?)

I stayed for the strike. Til the very last moment. Useless to the effort but powerless to leave. As the guys and even the gals were hopping and clopping in glee the set was coming down. It didn’t feel right but I watched it all. Then, as the cast scrubbed up, I bid adieu and left. Alone. Sort of like Lou Gehrig in the last scene of “Lucky To Be A Yankee.” You know: that last lonely walk through an otherwise empty dugout.

I have no memory of the last out of the last Sol’s Boys game. It never ended. A few days down the road the letdown of this final show is lifting.
And instead of trophies I hold the crowd’s laughter in my memory.

And I’m feeling a part of. Again.

THE WAY WE WERE (real EX-HOUSEWIVES of cleveland, ohio)

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Stacy is quick to point out how well her parents got along this wedding year. She thanked me, (and I’m certain her mother) for making the process easier. Indeed, there it was a softer, gentler nation from the engagement weekend through the walk down the aisle. Historians will readily note it wasn’t always that way. Still, a smile on a child’s face is reason enough to continue the peace initiative.

We met on a blind date forty years ago this past weekend. Also on Sweetest Day. Grace Slick, with all her east-coast worldliness, and me, a virginal, Jewish Opie. Longert fixed us up. What was SHE thinking? We were so different. On paper…we just didn’t match up. Twenty-six years later this was confirmed by an Ohio court.

Mistakes were made, but I’ve come to believe the biggest flaws were in the foundation. Dodging our differences, we discovered love before sharing friendship. Not necessarily a good long-term prescription. Moreover, this was my first girlfriend and I brought neither confidence nor maturity to the table. (I can’t speak for her). I do know that we stumbled while engaged, but nonetheless moved forward. Perhaps it would have been wiser to heal a bit before exchanging vows…maybe work on the issues. (But we couldn’t—the caterer had already been paid).

Historical Note: On December 24, 1972, as Alan, Hal, Bob, Stu and the rest of the Ohio contingent exited Howard Johnson’s Motor Hotel for the wedding, the Browns were up on the undefeated Dolphins in the playoffs.

Actually, we had a pretty good run. 22+ years, three beautiful kids, a dog. Even the embryonic part of the divorce was amicable (until I woke up missing a testicle).

Then it got rough, — at times, ugly. And I readily understood why kids
cringed at the thought of being with both parents for life cycle events.

That, however, was then. This is now. Personal growth has been a bridge over troubled water.

We’re as opposite today as the day we met, but there’s an acceptance level today that melts the differences in how we approach life. We’ve never jointly dissected our marriage, and, at this point, why should we? It IS water under that bridge. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, I have enough to do living my life that I don’t need to direct traffic elsewhere. So I’m content to continue my journey and she can have hers….

The first hint of peace came at Stacy’s engagement. Jason had summoned us each to Chicago for the surprise betrothal. I was flying, but his future mother-in-law was driving with my dog. A few days before the trip the ex called, advising that there was no reasonably priced room for her in Chicago. It was agreed that she stay with me (in the other bed). Then, arriving at the room, we discovered but one king-sized bed.

Stacy’s mother was incredulous! We called down and cots were unavailable. What to do! I suggested we just share the bed and not worry about it. She abstained. (Perhaps I underestimated the durability of my cavorka). Rearranging the furniture, a couch and ottoman were set up, and one of us (No Names, please), slept on a make-shift setting. It mattered not. The day had been saved, and I, for the first time in over 8,000 nights with the woman, got the remote control.

The peace continued. Through it all. The meetings with the caterer. The shower. The confab to determine reception seating. All of it. The two of us would sit down and make wedding decisions democratically. We each got one vote, (and then, if necessary, she would break the tie).

But we muddled through like mature adults. Even when we disagreed. Not once did she call me a “loser.” Not once did I remind her she shared a birthday with Saddam Hussein, (and was also born under Hitler’s astrological sign).

There is something about peace that is contagious. And that’s a good thing. The newlyweds were in town the other night to catch my show. The ex joined the kids, my brother and his entourage at the theater. She even called me ahead of time and urged “Break a leg.”

And I think she meant it as “Good luck.”


Friday, October 16th, 2009

Took a few bullets for the team today. Nothing major. Just playing the cards I was dealt.

“What am I going to do with your friend Michael Jacobson? “ the nonagenarian cried. But before I could respond, she continued:

“First he said he would call me at 9PM , but he did not call.”
She wasn’t done. “Then he called to apologize, but said he couldn’t talk and would call again next week! …Really, how busy is he? In the time he took to apologize we could have had our chat!”

“He was Nevada on business,” I offered, saying no more, no less.

“Really, Bruce, why do you always feel the need to defend people? He should have called when he said. Why does he promise to do things he cannot do. I understand he was busy. Then he shouldn’t have said he would call me at a specific time! (Pause) And, really, next week? How long does it take to call. A mere hello is acceptable.”

But before I could rebound, her solilique continued: “And it is not for you to attempt to justify his behavior. He can speak. Now, do you see my point? Am I right?”

And of course, my response was “You’re right.”

Moments later the games continued.

“And another thing. Why did you not tell me your brother was going to the play with his friends? Why would you purposely leave that out? Of course I would not expect to be included in such a gathering. What is WRONG with you?”

Editor’s Note: Hal is attending with his wife, daughter, mother-in-law,
niece, nephew AND ex-sister-in-law in tow. The concurrent attendance of friends is somewhat coincidental. Still, I am not a total idiot. Hal had spun the story to legitimize excluding our aunt. Time to “have his back.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “No excuses.”
She was true to form: “You’re always sorry, aren’t you! …(PAUSE)


“And by the way…We will have to make another stop. I have a package for Stacy. Do you mind?”

(Like I COULD mind! Like I COULD tell her the Bohrers were flying in for the weekend—that they would see my show—that they’d be thrilled to stop by, say hello and save her postage…..or, G/d forbid, save me a trip to the post office).

Her question went unanswered. Actions, of course, speak louder than words.

We went to Marc’s, bought a bread, three large green bananas, a bag of oranges, one tomato, two packages of muenster cheese (with coupon), and a jar of Spin Blend dressing, and then, after Aunt Helen summoned the manager to inquire again about the scarcity of Pincus rye bread…I fell on my sword.

It took us forty minutes to send Jason and Stacy a package. Not bad for the post office on a Friday afternoon. I never asked what was in the box, but it’s guaranteed for delivery within five days.

The kids, by the way, arrive at Hopkins about 10 o’clock tonight.

       Kiss today goodbye,
       And point me t’ward tomorrow.
       We did what we had to do.
       Won’t forget, can’t regret
       What I did for
                                                           (E. Kleban)


Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The calligraphy said “& Guest”, but as I opened the envelope yesterday it mattered not. Sure, I appreciate the gesture— but what’s the point of bringing token “arm charm” just because I can? Absent meeting someone special real soon, I’ll be flying solo that night.

What’s wrong with me?

This summer marked fourteen years of divorced life. Do the math: 1.5 relationships later I’m still a party of one. What gives?

Inventorying my past is revealing, but not necessarily dispositive. Should I look closer in the mirror? Am I thinking too much? What IS wrong with me?

What do I lack? Am I too old, too heavy, too poor? Must she be a Clevelander? Jewish? Normal? The entire world seems to be coupled. Why can’t I find that special connection?

I don’t isolate. From meetings to groceries to theater to…whatever…It’s not about not being out there.

And it’s not about being too particular, or fear of commitment, or settling.

So what is it?

I’ll tell you what it is: It’s Wieder’s fault! At least this past year, anyway. Last fall I witnessed his catch of lightning in a bottle….so……

Where’s my lightning?

Mid-2008- I was minding my own business…content, dating a bit, not really thinking about it…when the phone rang.

“B, I’m getting married. In October. We want you there,” proclaimed the only person I know that’s broken bread with Larry Zelina, Jack Tatum AND Bill Ayers.

After all these years Wido was proving once again that G/d works in mysterious ways. Alan, the least probable candidate for a JDate liaison, met Joanie, New Jersey native, ON LINE. Say it ain’t so! And he was going coastal—moving to (of all places) Oregon. You tell me what a Jew does in Oregon…please.

Seeing truly is believing. Last October Walt, Mary and I found our way to the South Carolina beach wedding. You had to be there. Alan never looked happier. Ever. (And that includes the night we upset Angelo’s Pizza at Kirtland Field, making softball’s Sweet Sixteen).

Returning to Ohio I hopped back on the web. JDate—even Notta. Some nice ladies/some not-so-nice ones. I made friends, but no lovers. And that’s OK.

There was that nut last July. She not only used an alias, but understated her age by fifteen years. Taken aback, I looked her dead in the eye and asked if she was in the Witness Protection Program. Coffee ended moments later.

And there was the widow that unceremoniously dismissed me twenty minutes into our meeting at Fairmount Circle. The lady announced she had to go, (which was fine). Standing to say good bye, I noticed something weird: only one of us had risen to leave— and it was me. Ouch! Then, catch this: this same JDate gem called me out of nowhere but two weeks later, seeking to get together. I took a pass. I may be crazy but I am not nuts.

So where does that leave me? The play closes Sunday. I’ll have time on my hands. Hey, I’m not looking for miracles here—just the right hand to hold. Still, why take a date to the wedding if I don’t want to dance with her?

No, I’ll just go about my business and wait for the lightning. More internet? We’ll see. A fix-up? Maybe. A chance meeting? Perhaps. Matters not. I’m ready.

You see, I’ve gone to Carolina in my mind.


Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Maddy called Tuesday, and of all things, wanted to get a group to come see the show. The “It” girl calling me! Who’d have thunk it? (Swear, back in the sixth grade I was afraid to talk to her). That was a long time ago—when we first started hanging out with the ladies.

There was us: Bob, Joel, Stuart, Arthur, and I can’t remember if it was Wieder or Herman. And them: Maddy, Susie, Sue, Linda, Phyllis, Arlene.
Timid me…I could never talk to a girl one-on-one. Too full of fear. On a good day maybe Linda or Susie. (They were safe–I saw them at Sabbath School). Or Sue B, —her parents knew mine. But Maddy? Not this cowboy. She was a rock star.

Things loosened up a bit during the Bar Mitzvah cycle. (We MUST have danced). Still, you can make book that I was one of those clowns the girls always motioned another guy to cut in on. So be it.

I remember when she moved away in the eighth grade. Out west.
It had marginal impact on Wieder and me, but Snyder wore black the rest of the semester.

Over the years we had minimal contact, if any. “Hello” at reunions—no more. (Sort of like sixth grade again, but without Harry Kliot). Then, sometime in the early 90’s she returned to raise Brandon in Ohio. Still, our paths rarely crossed, but she did run with the Treinishs. (Indeed, Ronna gave me the “heads up” a few years back when Maddy’s mom died). Since then, though, we’ve developed an adult friendship—making it our business to stay in contact.

Last summer we even walked. Somewhere off Route 303…a bicycle path in the woods. (Her call, not mine). Trudging in the humidity (and warding off mosquitoes), I learned more in one hour than I’d ever known from our youth. About California, her son, her future.

Frankly, I much prefer Maddy in air-conditioning. She can hike with Alan and Ronna next time. Their son Gregg is already an accomplished photographer, recently becoming the first person to backpack the length of the Andes. (Heck, I couldn’t find that mountain range with an atlas!)

Alan, by the way, is another Rowland alum whose friendship has strengthened over the years. Back in high school we were on different ends of a large circle of AZA buddies. He was cooler than me, dated, and was actually hitchhiking before I even started shaving. Anyway, we keep each other posted on the goings on of the group at large,

Which brings us full circle to Maddy. Last night she corralled Ronna, Alan and a grown up Brandon, and the quartet schlepped to Willoughby, Ohio to support a friend on stage. Me.

They were on the aisle, of course. No surprise there.

That’s always where you seat the rock stars.


Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

I love October. Always have.

When I was a kid, it meant not only MY birthday, but my dad’s. Those were the days when we both celebrated them. Now neither of us do.

But October 4 was my Dad’s day. And none was more memorable than his 50th. (That seemed like such an old age at the time).

Harriet had secured a party room on Columbus’s northeast side and a celebration was planned. Family, friends and assorted business colleagues were included. (I recall my father’s uneasiness at the mix that night—worlds appeared to be colliding).

Not everyone was thrilled with the scheduling. You see his birthday fell on a Saturday that year—and not just any Saturday. That night, in those pre-cable days, ABC had chosen to nationally televise the OSU/UCLA football game. This, to my father’s Damon Runyan cronies, was a major predicament.

Not to worry. After the requisite surprise was shouted out, Bert Hines and the gin players from Aquamarine Swim Club slid out the back door ONLY to reemerge schlepping a big color TV. Deftly, they plugged it in at one corner of the room, and for the ensuing three hours stayed riveted to the screen as the Buckeyes kicked the crap out of the Bruins IN LOS ANGELES. (And they even turned the volume down as the rest of us sang “Happy Birthday.”)

But October meant more than birthdays. It was the World Series. Back before they prostituted baseball with expansion and multi-tiered playoffs, this was the month. (As in Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.”) THE Series of my youth was in 1960. Mr. Goode permitted transistor radios that day, and when the bell rang at 3:30 the top of the ninth was just ending. Bolting across the street to my house (to watch the balance in glorious black and white), I heard shouting. It was over! Mazeroski had just ended it all with the first walk-off home run in World Series history. I never made it home, but retreated to the schoolyard to join the antics.

October has meant, though, more than just sports. It’s been home to two of my major Coming Of Age events. The 27th (1962) I was Bar Mitzvah in the midst of the Cuban Missle Crisis. The 18th (1969), commemorates the blind date meeting of the ultimate mother of my children. (Historians will note that although JFK averted war, ultimately, I could not).

But that was then. This is now. And while today I warmly recall the riches of past Octobers, I honor October 14, 1997 above them all. (You see, on October 13, 1997 I had my last drink).


It is my sobriety date.


It is my second social security number. No, make it my first.


It is the day I began to reclaim my life, one day at a time.

The gift of sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only to me, but to those around me.

October is my “anniversary month” in recovery. And as long as I keep on keepin’ on, it will be the warmest month of the year.

Regardless of the weather.


Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

On Rosh HaShana Margie, Hal and I joined other congregants for Tashlich. Casting bread into the creek we listened as Rabbi Skoff urged the assemblage to each focus on but one misdeed. Quietly asking G/d for the strength and willingness, I endeavored to treat my Aunt Helen better this year—no matter how difficult. Frankly, I asked Him to give me endurance to treat her with the understanding so many had given me when perhaps I didn’t deserve it. To worry about my side of the street, regardless of the venom she may choose to spew.

Yesterday was the first test.

“Do you have a cold?” she opened.
“No, just sniffles.”
“Well, that’s a cold. Why do you deny it?”

I smiled. My game plan was to NOT let her engage me in colloquies destined for difficulty. The lady leads the league in semantics; why fight the fight?

And so it was that I’d quietly employed a mantra. Whenever she pushed, I smiled. Whenever she criticized, I smiled. And through it all, I knew to remind myself that, in her heart of hearts, she has no idea how difficult she is. Indeed, she could pass a polygraph test affirming that the entire world was wrong and she was right.

Arriving at Marc’s without incident, we settled for an Ungar’s challah, rather than a cherished Pincus. Her criticism of the store management evoked only a warm smile from me. (The store is set in an Italian neighborhood. I’m thinking: it’s nice they carry challah at all. I’m also thinking: Will Rogers never met my Aunt Helen).

We moved on. Produce. Frozen food. Then a circuitous route across the store to cereal. The prolonged journey brought choppy waters.

“Are you excited about your show opening?”
“Will anybody come and see you?”
”Actually, Fenton, Snyder and Dennis Burnside are coming with their wives tonight.”
“That’s nice. Do you think your brother will come?”

• Editor’s Note: The “old Bruce” would have played it safe, refusing to volunteer. (Hal and I have discovered, only after years of getting kicked in the face, that unnecessarily disclosing information to our aunt is counterproductive. As our dad would say, “No good can come from it.”)

This being post-Tashlich, however, I put my best foot forward. Wrong move!

“Hal and Margie are coming closing weekend,” I whimpered (under duress). It was a split-second judgment call. Her question was pretty much about last night, but the fact is…I’d like to think that, by and large, half-truths is the “Old Bruce.”

She swarmed immediately, like Eva Braun’s surviving sister:

“Why would you tell me that NOW?” she demanded.
“Because you asked.”
“No, you should have told me that before you mentioned your friends!”
“But my friends are coming TONIGHT, ” I countered softly, sooo close to losing it.
“Why would I care about your friends? I want to hear about HAROLD.”
I punted and said I was sorry with a smile.
She recovered my unforced error in the red zone and spiked the ball:
“Really! You would think that your brother coming would be the FIRST thing you’d tell me! You are so stupid sometimes!”

• Editor’s Note 2: I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Fat, sloppy, irresponsible. A liar. Too far to the left, too consistent, too predictable. Even “mean.” And, hey, in one stretch the ex called me a “loser” so often that even Norman Vincent Peale bought in.

But I’ve never been called stupid.

And with a strength from some source other than me, I let it go. I really did.

My thoughts turned to my father who’d always counseled us to have some compassion for those less fortunate. He would remind that her life could not have been easy. That she was no more difficult to be with than the life she had lived.

And I thought about my poor brother and sister-in-law. What if she asks to go with them?

And I chuckled inside, knowing that if that winds up being the case, at least I’ll be able to hide on stage. They’ll have to sit in the audience and do the right thing: Smile.