Archive for November, 2015

THANKSGIVING 2015

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Lucy nuzzled her right cheek into my left rib cage as we sat on the couch. “I don’t want to watch ‘Sesame Street’ anymore, Pappy. Will you give me a manicure?”  Ruby slept.

Sweet. Content. Full.

I was growing in the 50’s, puzzled in the 60’s, and thriving in the 70’s. I bounced in the 80’s, got trounced in the 90s and then — Y2K approaching — I began learning the ABC’s of life.

I’ve loved and laughed and hurt and been hurt. I’ve held the smooth handle of a Rocky Colavito-autographed Louisville Slugger and the smoother torso of sons with Meredith and Michael written all over them. I’ve kissed Hailey on the forehead and Matthew in my heart.

I’ve been blessed with growing up in the best neighborhood at the best time in a harvest of best and life-long friends.

I’ve tripped, stumbled, and fallen, and yes, been yanked up by family, friends, and a God of my understanding.

I’ve found Carrie.

I’ve aged, but:

My ears are weaker, but I listen better. Reflexes have slowed but response is better. And my nose? Stacy told me a few years back she’d never realized how big it was! Still, I sense she meant it with love.

What I’m most grateful for, however, is my eyesight. Some would say I see things as “half full” rather than “half empty”. Right they are, but it’s stronger than that.

I walk today with firm resolution that no matter what, everything will be OK. That everything happens for a reason and better yet, that I don’t have to know the reason.

Old enough for Social Security, my true comfort comes from a spiritual security.

Yes,  my cup runneth over.

“…I pray that I may have a seeing eye. I pray that with the eye of faith I may see God’s purpose everywhere.”

Twenty-Four Hours A Day (November 26)

THE HUNGER GAMES (PART ONE)

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

For nineteen healthy years I waltzed through life sans health insurance. Rarely would I see a doctor. One time I went at the instance of a girl friend; another time my kids were hocking me; then once there were chest pains. Never, however, was I ill. Overweight maybe, overtired perhaps, but always, ALWAYS, malady-free!

This reverie of health came to an end late last year, with Medicare.

“You have diabetes”, said the doctor when I re-introduced myself.
“How’s my blood pressure?” asked I (former Army medic).
“It could be better but my concern is your sugar.”
“Is my heart OK?”
“Probably. If you get your weight down your issues will go away.”
“OK”.

Leaving Ahuja that day I felt great. Having looked Dr. Massien in the eye, having assured him I’d address food intake …

“What did the doctor say?” asked Carrie.
“He said I was fine.”
“That’s all?”
“Oh, and I should check my blood sugar.”
“That’s all?”
“And he prescribed medication… he wants me pricking my finger every day.”
“Then you’re not fine,” she insisted.

(Ed. Note: Love her I do, but did she ever go through medical school at Fort Sam Houston?).

Still, buy the machine I did, and slash my finger I did. Once.

(Ed. Note 2: I’d have done it more often but operate it I couldn’t. Twice I returned to Giant Eagle — once with Carrie. Each time the pharmacists’ manipulations were studied and each time, within 24 hours, we couldn’t get it done). Eerily similar, it was, to my periodic attempts at understanding what the hell Stacy does for a living.

Time passed. In the ensuing months I gained a beautiful granddaughter, a wondrous wife, and clearly more weight. Recurring pain in my arms, however, had been a cause for concern.

“How’ve you been?” asked my doc at the summer’s conclusion.
“OK”, I responded, “Except—

I was just beginning what I thought would be a short narrative of minor ailments when he cut me off!

“Have you been taking your sugar?”
“Not in a while.”

He paused, staring with a soft venom displayed by my mother prior to her oft-stated mantra “Bruce, “When are you going to grow up?”…

“We’re going to measure your sugar,” he declared, pivoting out as he spoke.

I sat there, alone and not liking it. Some nurse entered, pricked my finger and left. I sat alone. Again.

Minutes later the door reopening, in barged this formerly gentle, not-quite-middle aged urbane physician — like a Jewish Ralph Kramden —

“375!” he exclaimed. “Do you want your body parts to fall off?”

(Ed. Note 3: An obvious retort to his rhetorical question might have been reference to my recent marriage and need for body parts.  My sense was, alas, this wasn’t the time).

“I’m sending you to a dietician,” he blurted. “You need to deal with this”.

(Ed. Note 4: He mentioned the body parts again. Did he think I had a problem with my ears?).

I’d heard him. Every word. My focus, however, was on the dietician thing.  And nothing in his counsel, by the way, felt warm and fuzzy.

Where was his small talk? Where was his kibbitz… warmth?

“They’ll give you the number to call,” he said. “Get it done, and I’ll see in you six weeks.”

I waited for his smile to return.  It didn’t.  To bring home his point — perhaps to underscore concern — he just bolted. Walked out. Gone.

The room’s silence was deafening as I sat there alone. In the still it was my father’s voice I heard and his face I pictured in a so familiar scene.

We were sitting playing cards, head-to-head:

“Gin”, he announced. (How often would I then stare at my cards, not quite comprehending how he beat my good hand?).                        “You can look at them all night,” he would say, “But they’re not going to change.” (So I’d start counting).

My father was as right then as the doctor was as I sat in his office.  It was time, I knew, to read the cards.

I called the dietician the very next day.

SONGS IN THE KEY OF STACE

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Stacy Bogart Bohrer is warm, sensitive, talented, intelligent, caring and cunning. And yes, she can be demanding. “Is it wrong to want more time with you?”, she’ll ask. More than anything else though, she bubbles. This sprite of a child that once graced the windows of Tower City, still to this day, oozes enthusiasm.

Never would one envision her singing a slow song. Not Stacy. Upbeat, she is.

—And on the go … always. How often have I quoted John Wooden to her: “Never be so busy making a living,” he said, “That you forget to make a life”.

From all appearances, Stace and Jace are doing both.

“Should I pick you up?” she asked when I called from O’Hare. (Working from home she was, twenty minutes away).
“What do you have better to do?”
“OK, I’ll call when I’m five minutes away.”
“What color car do you have?”

Retrieving me on cue some half hour later, she studied me.

“You look better in person,” said The Little One.
“Huh?”
“It’s the angle, Dad. You look heavier in the videos and also: when you film yourself your nose looks even bigger”.

A compliment of sorts, I presumed, (yet it mattered not). En route we were to Moriah … to scoop up Lucy.

“YOU DON’T OWN ME!” glared my daughter on the freeway, over familiar music that blared from the dashboard. “I’M NOT JUST ONE OF YOUR MANY TOYS.”

— And on cue I chimed in:

“YOU DON’T OWN ME! DON’T SAY I CAN’T GO WITH OTHER BOYS!”

So sing we did. She: from “The First Wives Club”, and I the old Leslie Gore.  Not once, but twice, and three times, and more.

“You sing this; I’ll sing that….we arranged and rearranged, and sang and laughed, and even ad libbed. (OK, just I ad libbed, throwing in lines about Adam the dog she stole from me).

A mellifluous thread it became, which ran through the guts of our weekend— the balance of which was gleefully predictable:

Lucy thrilled when she saw me. “Pappy”, she shried in her classroom …grabbing my hand … introducing me to her teacher … pointing to her picture on the wall.

And Ruby cried when SHE saw me. “Give her time,” Stacy urged, eerily reminiscent of my early-on visits with Lucy.

Adam, the precious bichon I’d rescued from Parma — even Adam rushed to my side, tail wagging!

And then there was Jason. As always, he greeted me with a hug, and a smile from the heart.

Ah, but there’s nothing — absolutely nothing — like Stacy in a zone.

Ordering in for dinner, the question arose. Who, pray tell, would go pick up the food. “I’ll get it!”, volunteered the young mother, “And my father will come with me.” (Of course I would; I’m no fool; we’d practice our song).
So we drove for the sushi … face-timed Rachel, and Amber, and ….
Our weekend flew by. Hip-hop classes with Lucy, a few naps, her birthday party at a gym, more sushi, and always … always … singing that one song. Nothing against Rooney’s voice, really, but clearly Leslie Gore (nee Goldstein) had to be spinning in her grave.
— And questions! Stace loves the game:
“Ask me things,” she requested, as she rested her voice. (Ed. Note– It is a game we play: posing unimportant, hypothetical, improbably scenarios to each other):
“Assuming no Jason, would it be Michael Linsker or Michael Groner”?
“One person on a desert island: Rita Mandel or Susan Lomaz”?
“Who was the one person in high school you had a crush on that didn’t notice you?”

Nonsense, of course, but she answered a few…and when candor didn’t suit her, it was … inevitably: “YOU DON”T OWN ME!”

(Ed Note 2: Not that there weren’t other riveting parts to my visit. I got to watch Bonesy stare at a car seat for hours, endeavoring to put it together. Where’s Dickie Lomaz when you need him? And Saturday, as we rested post-party, I spent ten solid minutes telling fam friend Donna about the wise counsel I got from Snyder lo those many single years I had.

And I got to sing with Stacy … and smile with Stacy … and laugh with Stacy—Endlessly.

Cross-country travels, I oft say, are to see grandkids. “If there weren’t grandchildren I’d slow down.” (Or so I say).

It’s not true; not really.

Last weekend was Stacy: the song in my heart. Mid-January ‘twill be Michael in Vegas. Side-by-side we’ll be sitting, for two days of football.  We’ll talk of his boys, and of Meredith, and we’ll touch other bases.

We’ll bond, smile, laugh and love.

Now:  if I can get him to sing!

 

TOO CLOSED FOR COMFORT

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

“You’re not as good as you think you are and not as bad as you think you are,” Dr. Nooney advised me. It was 1981 and ready to hear it I wasn’t. No, I needed to get beat up some more.

I don’t know when it began— my insecurity. Was it at ten, when making Little League’s “majors” and being young on a team of 11 and 12 year-olds I went 0 for 1960? Was it our parents’ divorce? Or was it, just maybe, the result of culling the “facts of life” from experts like Stuart and Alan? All I know is that from some time in adolescence ‘til some time in middle-age, I never TRULY felt like I belonged. Liked I felt always —welcomed even — but never like I quite belonged.

— And No, assurance I’d been “drafted for the future” meant little. Nor did seeing my parents rebound. Nor, for that matter, did ultimately graduating with honors from Lamaze Class.

But for my Dad, I suppose, I just always felt …… expendable.

Ray and Walt were pure athletes and Wieder knew baskets. Snyder? Even with all his pomp and circumstance on and off the court— give the man his due: he excelled while with Sol’s Boys.

I was smart, to be sure — but not like Herman or Cohn.

And I had friends — even friends that were girls! But still, back in the SLAM Days of Susie, Linda, Arlene and Maddy, I remember feeling that the only reason they talked to me is because my guy friends were cool.

Whatever. It didn’t matter. I just felt out of sync.

At college in the late 60’s, on one of the largest campuses in the country, I was the one not smoking dope…In the military right after, I was the one Jew in Louisiana. And in law school, which followed…it was I that was married.

(Ed. Note: Ohio boy wedding east coast girl? Are you kidding me? Not one among her high school group didn’t think this naïve kid from Cleveland, this lad aspiring only to be in sales like his old man, wasn’t marrying up! Indeed, as The Jersey Girl once informed me: “Roberta thinks I can do better”.).

It wasn’t her fault; it was mine. Totally. I just never felt like I totally belonged. And then, again, looking back, it was never what others did that made me feel as I did; it was ME, and my internal “stuff”.

In the practice…in charitable work … in the lodge I felt not as smart as, not as giving as, and not as successful as the others. Surrounded I was, (or so it seemed), by markedly affluent people in creased pants that never outwardly stumbled. If they were wearing masks, I didn’t know it — but I bought what I saw … and I felt almost like a draft mistake. Like I didn’t fit. Not really.

(And that was in good times).

The bad times came, thank God, and I finally looked up. Over time I would learn that matter it didn’t if I fit in with others. Matter it did if I fit with myself.

Spring it was, in 1999—

Three hours with the clergyman, and for three hours I spilled. When it was all over, driving up Carnegie digesting his advice I realized what he’d told me was nothing other than what Dr. Nooney’d told me nearly two decades earlier: that I was neither as good or as bad as I thought… that what other people thought of me was just not my business … that I should just be myself, but be the best self I could be.

That day, for the first time in years, I looked in the mirror and truly smiled. That night, as I’d done for two years, I went to a meeting. That evening, surrounded by so many men and women interplaying sans masks, I looked the world in the eye.

And smiled.

Two decades more have passed, (almost). My son married a New Yorker and we mix well together. I still practicing law and I’ve found my right zone. As to lodge brothers? The true friends remain.

Today I feel comfort in my skin, and even stumble with dignity.  I can be myself.   In a crowd.

Today I feel welcomed. And “a part of”. And like I belong.

(Even when I don’t).

HALF A HEART

Friday, November 6th, 2015

        “…Being here without you
        Is like I’m waking up to
        Only half a blue sky
        Kind of there but not quite
        Walking round with just one shoe
        I’m half a heart without you…”

She dropped me at Hopkins Saturday, bright and early. Small talk in an idled car was followed by a kiss (or two) goodbye. Stepping from the car, moving to United’s door I looked back. Like I always do.

How simpler would it be if my kids lived here. Think of it: the whole fam damily in northeast Ohio. (Ed. Note 1: Not that they’d be happier here. Truth is each had outgrown what one still terms a “cow town”. Indeed, parental heeding that they not forget their beginnings —that, moreover, their roots positioned them for whatever successes they have might bear more credence if 80% of their graduating classes hadn’t left town). Alas, if I want to see my progeny in any manner other than Facebook, I must travel. And inevitably, while Carrie accompanies me half the time, and while I embrace I do one-on-one sessions with my children —when I fly solo…I’m out of sync.

        “…I’m half a man at best
        With half an arrow in my chest
        I miss everything we do
        I’m half a heart without you…”

“How’s married life?” I get asked. “Great” I’ve answered since August. (Ed. Note 2: Typically and immediately (if I think they REALLY want to know) I supplement my response with “Better than I expected. As good as things were, it’s actually enhanced our dynamic”). Little wonder then that on this recent trip, my first post-wedding trek to see grandkids — I missed my best friend. The rhythm of our life just borders on epic.

Our balance in Cleveland works. She has her time; I have my time. Both of us, however, prefer our time.

She has her grandkids and volunteering; I have my work and my nonsense. And together… we have each other

“Honeymoon over yet?” people wonder. “Bet the ‘over’”, I say.

Not that we can’t survive without each other. We can, we do, and we thrive. Embarrassed I’m not, though, to tell you that when she’s the first one I see in the morning and the last smile I see at night there’s more bounce in my step.

“Make sure you tell everyone I said hello” she reminded.
“Can you take Aunt Helen food Sunday?” I urged plaintively.

Waking Sunday to the chatter of brothers down the hall, I joined in. From the couch I watched Max on his Ipad as Eli banged drums. In Cleveland she was … with Charles Osgood and CBS. Was she having our traditional lox, eggs and spinach without me? So be it.

“Let’s have a band together” I exclaimed. “Max, you can be the front man”.
Eli beamed while Max just nodded.
“I can get music for us,” said the five year-old approaching.
(Ed. Note 3: The younger one had an epiphany. Abruptly he’d dropped his drumstick and was now schlepping a heavy metal guitar ‘cross the room).

Let the clanging begin! How great was their symphony? I wish she could see it!

We don’t talk during the day, generally, when I’m visiting family. It’s texts here and there and “Good night” calls like clockwork. My focus, as it should be, is on the children.

And yet …

Came the time to go home. Monday morning it was, and Yes, bright and early we drove to La Guardia.

“Make sure you tell Carrie we missed her,” urged Caryn.
“Kiss Stuart for me,” said I.

Stepping from the car, heading to United’s door I kept walking. Michael and Meredith…Eli and Max… the kids were all right and it was time to go home.

She was there when I landed. Of course she was.

“How’s Eli feeling?” she asked me. “How is Max?”
“Let me call Aunt Helen first,” I told her. “We’ll get her food on the way.”

— And then, as we always do, we hit for the cycle:

We telephoned Helen, spoke of New York, picked up my mail and then headed home….

Where both of us —casually — turned off our phones.

       “…Cause I miss everything we do
        I’m half a heart without you….”

One Direction

WATCHING MAX P GROW

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Five years it’s been. Five Fleeting years. Permit me, please, this mental collage:

Michael’s morning call Election Day of 2010 … his evening call that Max had arrived…

The Andrews Hotel, the bris, the Pidyon Ha-ben, the laughter and tears.

“He looks like Meredith,” the east coast said.
“He looks like Michael,” the midwest said.
“I see them both,” the wise ones urged.

Baby food, real food, his love of blueberries.

The first New Year’s Eve – me getting to babysit him— ALONE!

Great Neck’s swimming pool, and park, and diner.

Max crawling, then walking, then marching the aisle at Aunt Lindsay’s wedding.

Max running, throwing a ball, and YES: stuffing a basketball down through a two-foot high hoop!

…Tumbling at gymnastics, trudging a pumpkin patch
… On a trike, a bike, in his car.
…In a Yankees cap, Giants cap, LeBron jersey, tuxedo.

From a crib to a bed, high chair to booster seat …
Potty seat to toilet seat…
From Thomas The Train and Carly Rae Jepsen to A-Z Dinosaurs, Beyonce,Tot Shabbot and BIG BROTHER!!!

—All of which reminds me the clock is ticking! Have I mentioned that Eli, the one named for my mother, turned two this summer? That he’s talking now, walking now, and banging on drums? That he calls my name?

That he shares a birthday with his Grandpa Stuart? That I was at my high school reunion when Michael’s call came?

Have I told you the time has flown?

” In five short years I’ve bragged right through my britches, And what I did before that I don’t know...                                                                                                 “So let it rain on my window pane; I’ve got my own rainbow:  Just sitting here smiling, watching Max P grow….”

 Bobby Goldsboro (adapted)