Archive for July, 2016

WHAT, ME WORRY?

Friday, July 15th, 2016

“I remember visiting my dad at the nursing home. He had seen me through everything but now he’d been ill. Anyway, he looked up at me and said ‘You’re in a good place. I don’t have to worry about you anymore…’”.    (SPOKEN BY KEN, AGE 60, YEARS AFTER HIS FATHER’S PASSING)

Al Bogart would have said he never worried about me. He’d have insisted, rather, with that nuanced verbiage of his, that he was … from time to time … “concerned”.

“You’re not working to your ability,” he’d intone (whether quoting Mr. Goode from Rowland, Mr. Govun from Greenview, or merely comparing my high school SAT’s to my Brush GPA). “It would be different,” he’d remind me, “if you didn’t have ability.”

Concern.

Drenched by an indomitable spirit, my father parented with soft, measured eyes. Part “hands on”, part “Go find out the hard way”, he was never overtly worried but ALWAYS overtly concerned. Indeed, his admonitions and paternal warnings were the product of both his inward yearning things would square up and his gut-felt confidence that indeed they would.

He believed in me; and he trusted in God, and yet …

“I don’t care if your friends’ parents let them hitchhike.”

“I’m certain you can find a place to ski a bit closer than Boyne Mountain, Michigan.” (Ed. Note 1: Winter break ’67 the genius of Snyder crafted a plan that with Kraut we drive some nine hours north. Brandywine, of course, was eight miles away. Not to mention that Jews on skis were universally frowned upon).

“Wouldn’t it make more sense,” he’d suggest, “To finish your homework first and THEN play hearts?”

Ah, but just as our father held faith, our mother harbored fears. Thus as his world enriched, her world plateaued. And then there was this dynamic: Elaine Bogart saw so much of the man she divorced in the first son he sired. She feared, as such, that I’d take on the sum of my father/hero (and not just the best of him).

So she worried. Feigning confidence, forever loving — but always: she worried.

I’ve got three kids. Adults. Three distinct, different children.

Well-coupled, in worlds of their own, and HeavenHelpMe…out-of-state.

Through life’s marvel and mire each threads family and friends and work and play and health and growth  — the very essence of which kept my father concerned and my mother so worried…

— All of which will work out, of course.

Four hundred miles from one — five hundred from the others — I think about them, speak with them, visit them, and I wonder…

But worry I don’t. Not really.

I’ve got my father’s eyes, you see … his abiding faith. My eyes, too, have seen the glory.  I care to know, need to know, and have to know.

Michael, Jamie and Stacy are brighter, more balanced and clearly wiser younger than their father was (or for that matter their grandfather). They too –like their father and grandfather, will splash through life’s puddles.

I know, (you see), something they don’t know:  states away I might not be in their faces …. but God will always have their backs.

What, me worry?

INSIDE, OUTSIDE…LIVIN’ LA VIDA BOGART

Monday, July 4th, 2016

We were never a Fourth Of July kind of family — even in my halcyon days.

Al Bogart was not the “outdoors” type. To our father the comforts of air-conditioning and a deck of cards could make any day a holiday.  Moreover,  the persistence of flies and mosquitos would make any event a nightmare. Why, he wondered, would anyone opt to perspire over charcoals in pursuit of barbecue. Was not Jayson’s Restaurant conveniently located at Washington Blvd. and Lee Road?  Did Lodge Brother Leitson not provide ample) parking, seating …..and air-conditioning?

Still at times we convened.  Mom’s side only (of course), yet from certain angles it almost appeared our dad smiled. (Ed. Note 1: Other Bogarts didn’t picnic. First: there were few of them. Second:  Parks didn’t have pianos.  Third: In the canyons of my being is the voice of our late, meek mother. “Albert,” she’d say, “I ask so little of you.”).

I loved family gatherings. Even outdoors. The whole cast of characters…

There’d be Bonnie, Gary, Debbie, Marla — our cousins…and Grandpa Irv and Grandma Cele. And Grandma’s siblings three… and their kids. (Ed. Note 2: Little did I know in those 50’s that Grandpa Irv didn’t like this one or that Aunt Ruthie didn’t like that one, or — for that matter — that Harry, Herman and Herschel Hoffman were all the same person!)

In the 60′s it changed. OUT was Forest Hills Park (which had peaked as venue to Cousin Marla’s 3rd birthday). IN was The Riviera Swim Club at Solon and Richmond.  (Ed. Note 3: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, UNOFFICIAL EDITION, defines “swim club” as “a golf club without a golf course designed primarily as a meeting place for post-war Jews without real money”.

I loved it! Just loved it!

They were all there each Sunday, holiday or not: Uncle Irv, Uncle Phil … the generations of female progeny of still-living maternal great-grandparents Sam and Becky Sharp: Celia,  Lil, Ruth, Karen, Sheila, Barby, Elaine —all laying face up in one-pieces in the second row of lounge chairs along the perimeter of the pool’s shallow end. An airplane view would have revealed a 40′s MGM musical cast at a local Hadassah chapter.   (Ed. Note 4: Grandpa Sam and Grandma Becky were there, of course. Sitting in the shade).

—And each Sunday was a holiday. I swear! (Sometimes even, to my father’s delight, a card game broke out).

—And each Sunday ended the same: The Oriental Terrace at Southgate.  Chinese Food.

Simpler times they were.  Sundays …

— When you didn’t need federal proclamation to make our family one nation.

We went to the cemetery today. The two of us.

Four grandparents I saw. And Uncle Bob …Ruth and Ernie Schwartz….Norm, Charlotte, Herb Diamond.  And Aunt Helen. (Can you believe it?) Aunt Helen.

Noon it was, give or take, as I placed each stone. Through a shining sun, not yet perspiring, I was whispering Kaddish.

For a moment I felt old, even semi-depressed. Yet it passed.

Minutes later we were home. Stace called. We spoke to Meredith’s mom.

Smiling again, holding on to last week’s Chicago I filled with glee with my eye on New York.  Two more weeks. Just two more weeks.

Michael‘ll barbecue today on a deck bigger than the house I grew up in on Bayard. For family. Stace and Jace’ll schlep their girls to a park … full of insects. And family.

We’ve got this thing today at the Baskins. Carrie’s side. Fourth of July and all. They’ll sit on the patio, all of them. And they’ll eat, drink and smile. (Like at Forest Hills. Like at The Riviera. Like when my Mom and Dad were there. And my Grandma and Grandpa. And my uncles, aunts and cousins…).  They’ll be nice tonight. Yes, they treat me like family.

(And with any bit of luck, a card game might break out).

A MONTH OF SUNDAYS

Friday, July 1st, 2016

“Good to go’, the adage goes, and “Good to come back.” For the first time in three weeks — and only second time since May — my Sunday eyes will open in Cleveland, Ohio. (Not that I’m complaining. Weekends this virtual month of Sundays have each been better than the last). It’s just that I’m tired.

I need to sleep where my boots are. It’s my natural rhythm…and yet I’m blessed:

Cameo appearances, even as a weekend warrior, were nothing but joy. Consider …

We woke June 5 in the greatest capital city in the world: Columbus, Ohio. Our overnight sojourn held its standard agenda:

1) The poker room at West Broad and Georgesville Roads was friendly; it usually is. (Ed. Note 1: Needless to say, I couldn’t resist reminding Carrie for the umpteenth time that before the interstate ‘twas a Lincoln Lodge Motel at that spot and that while lunching there with my father some worker left his paint bucket and mop on the floor at our booth and walked out. And I told her yet again how my Dad had opted at that precise moment to go to the mens’ room— but couldn’t get out. And I told her YET again how his lip puffed and his voice raised, and…and then mercifully my monologue ended turning into the casino).

2) The Jack Roth Run/Walk was in Bexley that morn. (Ed. Note 2: Not that we ran, mind you. Or walked. It was the ebullience of “The art of conversation” that ruled as we renewed acquaintances with the myriad of Shafrans).

3) The cemetery. My father.  “You’ve gained weight,” he told me, “but it looks good on you.” (Ed Note 3: Which is why he was the best).

4) Breakfast with Harriet at an eatery with profound staff, and where on that very day at the age of 66 I concocted the perfect — and I mean PERFECT morning spread: buttermilk pancakes topped with sliced lox. Was it not the ideal ending to this 24-hour outing?

We awakened to the penultimate day of our Vegas trip June 19. The 68th anniversary of my parents’ union — Father’s Day — and it punctuated what had already been a wondrous trip.

1) Dinner with Linda and Jeff. Catching up. Something about Linda always makes you smile; something about Jeff always makes you feel safe. Friends of a lifetime are friends, and a lifeline. Just the best.

2) The Wayne Newton concert cancelled, but curtail it didn’t my recounting that Hal and I saw the crooner open for Jack Benny one ’66 Philadelphia night.

3) You didn’t see it on ESPN. Nor for that matter did it trend on Twitter. My entry in the 2016 World Series Of Poker, however, completed a rare trifecta some six decades in the making. (Ed. Note 4: My appearance in the 1987 World Gin Rummy Tournament was short-lived, although my father did cash. Years earlier, midway through the twentieth century, I came off the bench to hit a bunt double at old Brainard Park in the 1960 South Euclid-Lyndhurst Little League World Series).

5:54 AM it was, just last Sunday. In a well-slept bed near an Illinois mudroom where a bichon hangs his leash, a sprite four-year old tapped my shoulder. (Ed. Note 5: I used to have a dog like Adam).

“Pappy,” she murmured, “I want to watch ‘Curious George’”.
“OK, Lucy,” I obliged, wiping crust from my eyes — as I had also some 24 hours earlier.

Highlight I could my Chicago adventure. Share it I could: in a hundred words or less…

Salads from Michael’s. Stacy says I chew loud. Fixed it, ordering three grilled cheese next meal. Babysitting Ruby, one-on-one (like I had early Max). Stacy skinny. Walked girls and Adam. Forgot tissues. “I’ll get it later” said Stace. She forgot. It found Jason’s shoes a day later. Everyone laughed (except Jason). Read Lucy a book and Stacy a book. Town hall meeting with Bonesy. Good interview, available on tape. Best spinach pie ever. Bohrer refrigerator stocked by a reincarnate of Aunt Helen. Starving in bed. Smuggled in bagel-wrapped hot dogs for Night Two. Kissed Rooney goodnight on top of head. Jason too.

— Memories pale, though. All of them: from the 5K I didn’t run in Columbus to the set of queens I did flop at Bally’s to the joy that is Deerfield —all of them dim to the light of one short colloquy between that sparkling young lady and me:

“Lucy,” I’d told her as I bid her Good Night, “I wish we lived in the same city.”

“Pappy,” she said, “I wish we lived in the same house.”