Archive for April, 2015


Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Her skin has a soft tone. Cream-like. Her eyes are but small azure marbles peering into the light of kvelling faces. Sometimes she cries, but mostly she lays sleeping, swaddled, and stunning — all as her older sister, (think: Jewish Shirley Temple), holds court. In all, the weekend was a wondrous introduction to Ms. Ruby Emma Bohrer.

The good thing about very newborns is that neither child nor mother are mobile. This isn’t good actually; it’s great! Our visit, therefore, was spent sitting in chat with the parents or standing in awe watching Lucy. All good.

It was restful, moreover — even for a road trip. With Ruby in cradle we ordered food in. No rushing to restaurants— no car seats, etc.

Lucy danced. Lucy counted. (She’s at 40 now). And Lucy sang.
Ruby slept. Ruby fed. Ruby burped.

No one cooked.

“What do you want to get, Jason”?
“I don’t care.”
“I don’t care.”
(Someone had to step up, so)…
“Anything but Greek”, I threw out there.
“I could eat sushi”, my Little One volunteered.

(Ed. Note 2: Sushi created no groundswell, but it did give rise to an interesting colloquy).

“Why do you and Stacy use chopsticks?” I asked Bonesy.

He hesitated a bit. Most do, when asked (and trust me, this is a question I often pose. Is not the concept of human beings dining with wood sticks centuries after the caveman’s use of rocks evolved to 21st century silverware rather counterintuitive?).

Then, after a pregnant pause, this strong, proud man, mustered:

“It’s fun.”
(Jason … Bones Boy! That’s the best you’ve got?).
“Well if it’s that much fun,” I leaped, “Why don’t you use them on other foods? Why not have fun more often?”

Yes, it was a time of warmth, unity and fluff against the backdrop of family matters. On Friday I read Lucy to bed. On Saturday she preferred her father. And on Sunday the seven of us (don’t forget Adam) went —GET THIS, STUART FENTON — on a hike!

—To the schoolyard we strode, with Luce on her trike…
—To the swings, and the teeter/totter…and …
—To the homestead again for batting practice.
(All as the baby slept).

On Sunday the clock struck twelve. Time to go it was — midst emotion and emoting… laugh, love and Lucy — it was time to leave…

— A time of inner angst —-

Kissing my daughter, and Lucy, and Jason, I bent over what they used to call a port-o-crib. Lord knows what they term it these days.

Kneeling, I kissed the ten-day old jewel.

Turning, I strode toward the door, when for some reason I STOPPED.



…And then, in an impulse I’d never before felt, I pressed my forehead on the baby’s, and summoning my inner-Rabbi Cohen, whispered:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May the LORD be with you and grant you peace –”

Rising, I kissed Stacy again and walked to the car.

Minutes later we were on 94 heading south. Only then, the weekend in our rear view mirror, did I realize the weekend wasn’t really fluff.

It was family.


Friday, April 24th, 2015

       “Making your way in the world today
       Takes everything you got.
       Taking a break from all your worries
       It sure would help a lot
       Wouldn’t you like to get away?”

Make no mistake about it: other than nuclear family, Corky And Lenny’s has provided the most enduring relationship of my life. Fifty-some years and counting it has welcomed me, nourished me, and provided the proverbial “place to hang your hat”.

Births were celebrated there; deaths were mourned there; friends were feted there; and of course: dates were impressed there.

One half century and counting…

For twenty-two years I lived with my mother. For the next twenty-two I lived in a marriage. You want to talk hot breakfasts? More were served to me at Corky’s than from my mother and my ex combined. (Oh, and I could read the paper in peace).

It was my Dad that first took me there. Must have been the late fifties, and we each had corned beef. Restaurants were a special treat for us, and I can tell you that the day my father introduced me to Mr. Kurland, the proprietor, I thought I’d hit the mother lode!

Within a decade we were all driving. To Manners sometimes, to McDonald’s often, but to Cedar-Center Plaza, usually. Others may have surfed the web of nearby eateries from Green Road to Van Aken to Severance—-but my true love, my lasting liason was with Corky’s.

—-Even as years rolled…even as I gave up softball for fatherhood…even as neighborhoods shifted and Cedar became Cedar and/or Chagrin (but not on Mondays)… even during the years “Corky’sOnChagrin” became one single word…with all the bumps in life’s road—

Then ….

• Thanksgiving mornings, pre-football…Ted Brooker bought breakfast for the troops not on Green, not at Severance— but on Cedar.

• By then my Dad had moved to Columbus. I recall still how he’d come in on a weekend –-perhaps for a holiday — and en route to a family dinner he’d run in at Cedar, grab a corned beef on rye and gobble it in the car — even as driving — while from the passenger’s seat Harriet’d be admonishing “Oh Albert, you’re going to eat in twenty minutes.”

And now …

• Every Wednesday morning sit six of us.  Sometimes seven. Boys Of Summer we are, sharing the same conversation week after week, year after year, meal after meal.

I’m in my sixties now — reasonably healthy. The world, alas, has changed. My father’s gone; Ted Brooker’s gone.  Even the old place on Cedar’s been leveled.


The neon still lights, but on a different street. And the picture — you know that big portrait from the old venue — still it hangs, but on a different wall.  I see each daily.

And one more thing: I can’t wait ‘til my grandkids hit town. They’re older now, coming of age. Some day I’m going to introduce them to Mr. Kurland, the proprietor…

They’ll feel like they’ve hit the mother lode.

    “You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

(Titus Andronicus).



Monday, April 20th, 2015

Long, nightly rehearsals had drained me. Leaving home early, returning post-10, I’d pretty much just dined, whined, and pushed through the cycle. Meeting schedule down, hours with Carrie diminished, I’d trudged the week stirred by the melodies of my favorite musical and fueled by the promise of Thursday’s anticipated delivery. We were opening in Chardon Friday, YES— but clearly it would be only second grandest curtain raised this week!

“Ruby Emma Bohrer arrived at 6:54 am. She’s perfect”

Sitting at my Ohio desk I read the text from Sir Bones of Chicago. Eyes full, “Thank you God” on my lips, I let it out. And I called Carrie. And I smiled.

“She’s perfect”, he’d typed.


“The surgery went well and she’s in mom’s arms now.”

I didn’t feel like working. Nor that moment…not the rest of the day…not at all. Business? How anticlimactic! The papers to push and calls to make and things to do would be done tomorrow. My baby just had a baby!

“This is here waiting for you…” read Jason’s next text. Attached was a snapshot of the baby’s first hat, a yarn ski cap. I got Lucy’s too a few years back. This one, baring no hospital logo, was lavender stripes. I guess the times, they are a changin’ (Ed. Note 1: From the east I get birthday candles; from the west it is headgear).

It was a wondrous day. At some point I spoke to Stacy; her voice was hoarse. This I couldn’t quite understand. (Perhaps I’ll review the obstetrics notes from my days as a medic).

Tired, she was…so we didn’t speak long. I told her I loved her, that I’d see her in a week, and yet again that I loved her.

“8 lbs, 13 oz” read another text. Then “20.25 inches”.

I had to give it to Bonesy—he sure kept us in the loop.

A picture came—of the mother and child. Then another — the father with newborn. (Ed. Note 2: A sturdy Jason wore a surgeon’s mask; the kid had on headgear earmarked for my closet).

I called Harold and Harriet, but told Helen in person. (The day’s order: brisket sandwich, side of applesauce, matzoh ball soup).

One call there was, left to make: to the maternal great-grandparents –long distance….

I called my father first. After all, the middle name in Hebrew was Abigail. For my father she was named, and the translation perfect: “A father is joy”.

“Is that you Bruce?” he answered.
“What’s with the caller ID?”.
“No, hotshot. But who else could it be? Your brother was never one to phone. Remember when he bought the new car and never called to tell me? And your aunt’s still afraid to dial long distance without her rotary dial.”

“Do you mind if I get your ex-wife on the phone?” I asked.
‘”Why would I mind? After all…Harriet’s not here.”
“Hold on. If I lose you I’ll call you back.”
“I’m the one you never lost, Little Boy.”

“Hello, who is this?”. The voice was familiar.
“Sam? It’s Bruce. Can I talk to my mother?”
“She’s lying down — let me see if she will come to the phone. You may have to call back after ‘Wheel Of Fortune’.”

(Three minutes passed during which I heard rumblings and the whistle of an adjustable a hearing aid).

“I’m going to put you on speaker phone so your mother doesn’t have to get up.”

Punching in my father’s line they achieved a cellular unity surpassing their best days of marriage.

MOM: “What is it Bruce?”
DAD: “Elaine, I’m on the phone too.”
BB: “Stacy had the baby. Everybody’s healthy.”
MOM: “Wonderful? Sam, did you hear that?
—-in the background I discern her second husband bowing, “Yes Elaine”.
DAD: “When are you going up there? Make sure you call my sister.”
MOM: “I’m going to cry.”
—-in the background, a plaintive Sam is asking “Elaine, you should rest. I’ll
tape ‘Jeopardy’”.
DAD: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to get off the phone and get to Lodge meeting.
SAM: “Bruce, your mother is overwhelmed. She’ll call you tomorrow.”

I hung up the phone with a smile. My parents were thriving—each on his/her game, each clearly in a better place.

Weren’t we all?

I drove to Chardon with a song in my heart. Final dress rehearsal.  At the end of the first act there’s a big production number: “The Wells Fargo Wagon”. I sang it with gusto.  The wagon, after all, had arrived…

And delivered us Ruby.


Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Moses Nathan died this week. He was my uncle.

I first met Uncle “Mush” about 1970, when courting his niece. It was in Manhattan and I was brand/spankin’ new to the equation.  Dining with Mush, Honey and my future in-laws, I was focused on accomplishing the impossible: acting suave, debonair, fitting in, and yet being myself.

Aunt Honey was their “frontman” that evening. Indeed it was she that politely cornered me inside Brentano’s Bookstore asking my intentions with The Jersey Girl. ‘Twas Uncle Mush though, that I noticed. Always.

Tall he was…somewhat lanky, elegant …a Jewish David Niven perhaps. He had this gentle sophistication and a twinkle in his eye that could light up the New York skyline.

I met her entire mishpicha that year —from the Canadian contingent to the Connecticut clan to Uncle Willie and Aunt Millie (still standing near Bobby’s Corner near Farrell, PA). They embraced me, each of them, with open arms — arms that extended unconditionally over decades (both pre and post-divorce). Indeed, as I dance through my sixties, I still see and forget not that the middle third of my life was enhanced by the mural of beautiful memories of wonderful people. Closing my eyes, still I see:

— Uncle Fred, stoic but warm, with his home medical office (think: Marcus Welby, M.D.) in Queens.

— Aunt Rosie, who upon our very first meeting me in the backyard at the Fanwick’s pre-Newfield home told me I seemed nice but perhaps I should “watch my weight”.

— Uncle Willie and Aunt Millie. An hour away they were, just east of Youngstown. There was this Oneg Shabbat — perhaps their 40th anniversary?  I picture it still; the shul was on a hill. More vivid is my visage of watching the NFL playoffs in their home, specifically the Montana to Clark throw that beat Dallas. (Even then a Cowboys loss was always good for the Jews).

— Uncle Ernie. I’m not sure he ever really “got” me, but I know he liked me. Still, he was a corporate lawyer, and it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that every time we spoke he urged me to get into tax law.  The family’s standard bearer in the Tri-State area, he was also, GET THIS:  half the answer to the oft-asked trivia question: “Bruce, name the only father and son for which you were at both of their Bar Mitzvahs”.  (Ed. Note:  YES, it was Ernie’s 50th anniversary—but there he was on the bima).

— And Yes, Mush and Honey: dining with us in Old Montreal … three days into our honeymoon.

I spoke to Cousin Eric this week (when I heard the news). To Michelle as well.  I wonder if he’s seen the picture of me singing with his brother Louis. We took it in Stamford a few years back. Paul and Judy were there.

I need to call Aunt Lee next week. Mush was her brother. ‘Figured I’d let some days pass…the shivah and all.

It’s bittersweet looking back and remembering. And a blessing.  So many special people that have touched my life.

Like Uncle “Mush”.

Moses Nathan died this week. He was my uncle.


Thursday, April 9th, 2015

I was never much one for hospitals, whether I was young or old, insured or un, healthy or not. Nor medical centers for that matter. Even after my volunteer run at Meridia Hillcrest, after witnessing all the good ‘twas done—even seeing up close and personal the mass of true good done by the medical profession. Perhaps at age sixty-five I still prefer too much to bury my head in the sand.


My last trip to the hospital I went alone. “You can’t drive home,” they’d told me, which was fine. Ed scooped me up at the end of the day, took me for groceries, then dropped me at home.

“You gonna live?” he greeted me in the lobby.

That was as detailed as I wanted, or he needed. We had bigger fish to fry. To Giant Eagle he drove, where, guiding a still-dizzy me to a cart, he pushed me through aisles. It was The Marx Brothers in “A Day At The Grocery” — two overgrown idiots, completely oblivious to the fact that an hour or so earlier one had been tied to a gurney.

To the grocery he took me; he pushed me in a cart; then home I went. Someone took me (in the morning) to retrieve my car.


Carrie not only drove me Monday, but she accompanied me in to what was truly a friendly facility. Located on Green Road adjacent to what they used to call St. Gregory’s, the place had that “home court” feel. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the waiting room, including (frankly), the often tedious task of completing paperwork.

“How do I fill this out?” I asked the lady behind the counter, placing before her the page seeking the name and relationship of the person driving me. (Ed. Note 1: From CJ I got the nuanced eye roll; from the staff I got only a stare).

—We were having fun though, so I continued—

“I mean we live together but we’re not married. ‘Friend’ doesn’t seem strong enough.”
“How about ‘significant other’”? one suggested.
“Too ‘80’s”, said I.
“Then just put down friend,” said the other. (The ladies had bonded).
“No,” I shot back. “Too weak.”

This discourse, I might add, was but background music to the true conversation going on. The staff lady, I had learned, was also a graduate of Brush.

— So we traded names, and I learned her husband’s name, and it sounded Italian.

“You know,” I interjected, giving her my favorite theory, “Back in the 50’s when the Jews and Italians fled the city, they all went up Mayfield Road. You guys turned left at Warrensville. We turned right.”

(Ed. Note 2: Carrie didn’t react. She’d heard the mishigos before. The lady: she nodded knowingly, and thus…in so doing, gave me the greatest confidence).

“Paramour”, I wrote down on the form.


Mt. Sinai Hospital was the venue when my children arrived. Proudly, as a graduate of at least one la maze series, I embraced each delivery. Indeed, even through the lengthy pre-Michael labor, I felt not a bit of pain. Breezed right through it.

The grandkids? Each was born out of town. It’s the Y chromosome that Michael, Jamie and Stacy received from their Jersey transplant mother. (“Y” stay where your roots are?). Ed. Note 3: Selected geneticists from MIT deny the existence of this chromosome, citing rather the inordinate magnetism — think: kavorka — that was me. Ed. Note 4: I was there for Lucy’s arrival. Hanging to this day from my car’s rear/view mirror, is the parking pass for Prentice Women’s Hospital .


Laying on my back in the ward, something about the way our friend from the front had acted was gnawing at me. Surprised she seemed — almost incredulous — that I didn’t have a Living Will.

Was there a chance I wouldn’t make it? I thought this was simple.

“Could you see if the woman that brought me is still here?” I asked my nurse. “I need to talk to her.”

Dutifully, she brought her back.

“Listen,” I said, clutching her palm,” God forbid, you need to call Michael, and Jamie…I spoke to Stacy earlier. Tell them I love them, and call Helen, and Harold…”

(Her eye roll was less nuanced).


‘ Can’t recall what they said as they woke me,  but it sounded good. Carrie gave me the headlines over gin that night yet I remembered none of it.  We celebrated my return with Pesadika pastry, “Castle”, and Duke’s victory in bed. It was a beautiful night.  That was Monday, and on Tuesday I began eating right.

‘Feeling great right now— ‘though it’s been but a day. Truth is…if  I must say … I feel I could live forever!


Saturday, April 4th, 2015

We sat for a bit Friday and kibitzed. Aunt Helen (my father’s 100 year old sister) and me … two on a couch … for a half hour. I spoke; she listened. I rambled; she heard (I think). Before you go thinking, though: “What a good nephew”, DON’T. I did it for me. Just for me.

They’re all gone, you know — well almost all. Some died, some moved, and strands — just strands of my child/time family — remain in Cleveland. It is on holidays, especially Passover, that I miss the masses.

Helen stands. Aunt Etty too. Gary’s here and Jackie and Pinky and Sheila … and Hal of course. But that’s it. Poof! In the sandstorm of half a century my family’s mural tore, its mosaic frayed and pixels only remain from my past.

I miss them: those endless seders of Pesachs past, the dreadfully dour yet extremely animated assembly of aunts and uncles —one louder than the next – (except my father who steadfastly followed as Grandpa Sam led and Uncle Bob: always there, but always bored).

Yes, six decades or so after I first thrilled to hunt the afikoman, I miss them all.

On my mother’s side the service was social. We’d sit aside a configuration of card tables, plastic tables, and true dinner tables all covered in cloth camouflage, zigzagging through our great-grandparents’ living room and dining room spacing. (Ed. Note 1: Only in the retrospect of years would I perceive an airplane view of the array revealed a pattern not unlike a swastika).

On my dad’s side the service was stern. Rigid, in fact. Sitting in the endzone of a table for six, Al Bogart kept his eyes on the liturgy and ears on the boys. God forbid that when without warning he’d resolve “Bruce, take the next paragraph” that Bruce wasn’t ready! It was … let’s just say … worse than getting called out on strikes with men in scoring position. A shanda! (Ed. Note 2: On the other hand: start reading the next segment in stride, enunciate the Hebrew precisely, and the thrill of knowing you’d hit it out of the park was enough to carry you through the entire second half of the Seder!). (Ed. Note 3: And Lord knows we wouldn’t miss a line. Indeed, the ritual at Grandma Bogart’s home included every f’ing song in the Haggadah. Some years, when perhaps he needed to have a cigarette, our Dad would rush through “Ki Lo Naeh”, but other than that, the only tell-tale sign the vigil was ending was when we stood for “Hatikvah”. Rising for the anthem was akin to the Boston Celtics’ Red Auerbach lighting his victory cigar.

So I do look back. Especially now, with our numbers faded.

Uncle Irv went first, then Great Grandpa Sam and Grandpa Irv. The cousins went to college and never came back.  Their parents headed south (to never move back). Lives and marriages would take their tolls.

The clock ticked.

We lost Joel and we lost Barbie, but I remember them well. (Second cousins they were, but our hearts knew no difference). The twins wore matching glass frames, went to Brandeis and Michigan. Barbie? Florescent lipstick of the ‘60’s faded sadly, but I recall well her smile. We’d speak through the years, but there was always a scent — even over the phone — of her unfulfilled promise).

—And all the great aunts, and all the great uncles….gone. No more quarters from Uncle Phil, no more humor from Uncle Benny, no more pointed sarcasm from Aunt Ruth…

How then…as I trudge through my sixties … do I not look back? Yet how, …as I embrace the present … can I not be grateful?

Michael, Jamie, Stacy… grounded with heritage, have left town. Their homes are Jewish homes, and to the east and west they build families and memories.

Me? Even with all the wear and tear, self-inflicted wounds and otherwise, I sit pretty. Carrie’s table last night bore the traditional Seder plate. Surrounded by her mom and kids, she served matzah ball soup, chicken, brisket,  and warmth.   Oh yeah, and Leesa (her youngest) found the afikomen.

And not far down the road in a house full of family my brother presided while a half century later Aunt Helen still scrutinized his Hebrew…

And from Boston to New York to greater Washington to Cleveland to Chicago to wherever Debbie Hoffman is out west I’d like to think our family stands — like posts to a chupah.

Yet I miss, to this Yom Tov,  not seeing the head table in the old house in Cleveland Heights…where the tables dreidled around walls and where Grandpa Sam sat immobile and Grandma Becky smiled and my Uncle Phil always gave me a quarter.