Archive for September, 2016


Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

For a hundred years plus she lived “between a rock and a hard place”, never quite fitting in. Schooled by “old world” parents (picture Judge Hardy and his wife had they been Jewish), yet trudging with a supreme intellect gravely ignored in a male-based society, she was endured by peers — accepted, perhaps, — but never truly embraced. A single woman, she trudged in a coupled society.

Helen Bogart buried her father at forty, her brother at seventy, her mother at seventy-five, and her smile thereafter. We tried to fill her vacuum, (my brother and I), for the next quarter century. Her ground line, alas, dialed but two numbers: his and mine.

And she had a lifetime to call…

Our aunt loved us the same but liked Harold more. This is not speculation but pure, solid fact. Unabashedly she’d declared it on a drive to Columbus when Fred Grail passed. Four people heard the pronouncement (and eight eyebrows raised).

Oddly enough, it didn’t really bother me. In some ways, actually, I relished it! H and I would joke of it over the years and I wore her line as my “red badge of courage”.

Perhaps she thought of me as having been stained by divorce? Perhaps she saw me to be too much like my father? Perhaps it was that once in ‘75 I’d forgotten to acknowledge her. (Lord knows she’d hold onto it). Then again, it may just have been that she liked Hal more!

Truth is that in her final years she and I enjoyed the most beautiful and symbiotic of relationships. Co-dependent we were, in bittersweet harmony. I, you see, was half her world, and she, truly, was half my tie to a world gone by. Moreover, after all was said and done, love fueled our nexus.

I came to understand; she came to accept. Both of us grew.

Sunday was her unveiling at the cemetery. Nine months had passed. Time.

Hal led us in The Kaddish. I read Psalm 113. She rests now, in peace.

— And I would not be me if I didn’t point one more thing out: that our beloved Aunt Helen, at this very moment, is still between a rock and a hard place.


Friday, September 23rd, 2016

We were talking not so much of family heirlooms as decades-old artifacts. (Ed. Note 1: middle-class folk from South Euclid don’t accrue heirlooms; they accumulate artifacts. You know: dated letters and such … old programs … dusty report cards). Memories they are — each of them — and aren’t memories the purest of birthrights? (Ed. Note 2: Jewelry? Well … there are my father’s Army dogtags!).

“They’re organized,” I told Stacy. “In boxes for each of you.”
“You know, Dad,” she offered, “You CAN be selective. You don’t have to save everything.”

I knew she was right, but it’s hard to let go. Every time I try to do so — to discard the perhaps less-than-vital mementos … like a 1984 birthday card — I just can’t pull the trigger. Back in one of four boxes it goes.

This was not our first such discourse, by the way. Just the most recent. In town for Noah’s Bar Mitzvah. Stacy brought her style, her smile, two daughters (and no car seat).

— So it was a weekend I ate right.
— And wore a seatbelt.
— And danced.

When WAS my last time at Landerhaven? The Bohrer wedding seemed so long ago … and yet it didn’t. Had seven years truly passed since some idiot naively posted his Little One’s bridal picture on Facebook one hour pre-ceremony?

(Ed. Note 3: How was I to know? As the Costanza once averred: “Had anyone said anything to me at all that this was frowned upon…”).

An elegant evening it was. Quite festive, and important on a personal level as Lucy’s first adult night party. Ed’s younger son had been called to the Torah that morning and Ed was proud. Rightly so.

My buddy was happy. Resplendent. Fulfilled.

And me? C.J. at my side I sat with one third of my children and one third of my granddaughters. How thrilled do you think I was?

“Can I sit next to Carrie?” purred an approaching Lucy.

The Prayer over wine, The “Motzi”, Dinner, Conversation…  First strains of “Hava Nagila”! (Electric guitar? Really?)

The guts of my night were spent on the dance floor.

— Lifting Weiskopf (Ed. Note 4: He ain’t my brother; he’s just heavy).

— Singing “What Makes You Beautiful” to my still-newlywed bride. (Someone requested the song. No names, please.).

— And dancing with one Lucy Hannah Bohrer. Ad hoc choreography at its best.

It was eleven by the time we left. Exhausted as Carr and I were. Stacy’s Little One rolled on. Ten minutes later we were home.

Tired, ass dragging, I hung up my suit. Emptying its pockets there, in the quiet of my closet, I pulled out the cardboard seat card I’d culled from our table.

“Miss Lucy Bohrer, Table 7”, it read.

Pausing, smiling, I placed it in the box marked “Stacy”.


Saturday, September 17th, 2016

To most Americans the unofficial commencement of summer is Memorial Day.  For me, though, summer always began when you could go outside and play after dinner. I’ll stand by that definition.

I don’t play anymore — outdoors, anyway. Oh, I walk here and there — sometimes even recreationally. But play? Did you SEE my last time on a softball diamond? (Ed. Note 1: It was a few years back, in Chicago. Hobbling ‘tween base paths I was no less ugly than Babe Ruth at his end with the Braves or, for that matter, my all-time idol Willie Mays stumbling to retirement in the New York Mets’ outfield).

Yet I love summer. Every summer. (As long as there’s air-conditioning). This year, in fact, I approached it with an internal skip down the sidewalk, not unlike the Costanza’s dance up the Manhattan street in his “Summer Of George”. Good weather was coming. There were places to go and things to do.

And so it was that o’er the past months, linked with Carrie I hugged my kids, played in the World Series, charted a future, and thrived. The important things!

Remiss I would be, however, if I didn’t memorialize the unimportant: the otherwise forgettable moments that colored in my times with smiles, warmth, and so often laughter. The ordinary.  How blessed we are when we marvel in the ordinary.

Here then, in alphebetical order, are the Most Important Unimportant Happenings of my Summer Of George:

AUTO WASH. “Dude,” said the guy wiping my car window at the AlPaul on Warrensville, “Don’t you ever get your car washed?” A head emerged from the passenger side: “He’s Rick’s friend. He comes here once a year.”

FIELD OF DREAMS. En route from Newark, Ohio — rural routes half way — we were passing through cornfields. “Do you mind stopping?” I asked, yet hesitate she didn’t. Not for a second. (Ed. Note 2. My bride had the wheel, of course. Says my driving makes her nervous). And then, in two takes, emerging from the tallest of grains I pronounced on video that “If you build it they will come!”.

GRANDMA BOGART’S PICTURE. Directing one-act plays in Garfield Heights, in need of a specific prop — the portrait of an old lady, no less, — I grabbed my Dad’s mother from our family’s archives. Her framed, near-century old picture hung deftly center/stage in a suburb she never saw.

KFC. Three years after the “I ate the bones!” tv commercial captivated me, with bride by my side I returned to The Colonel for chicken. Original recipe, of course — still perfect.

SMILE. One of the roles in the Garfield production called for a soft, sassy, sweet-with-an-edge female. Reaching out even prior to tryouts, I called someone from my non-theater world. Allison, I reckoned, would be perfect.

“I’ve never acted,” she demurred (yet her interest was piqued).
“You’re a natural,” said I.

Commitments kept her from auditions but one day after work, in the parking lot at the Chagrin/Green Starbucks we met. There, sharing a front seat, I showed her one page. All the laugh lines. “I’ll do it,” she said. (Go figure).

The show opened September 9 and the lady, insecure as she was, hit it out of the park. But I won’t remember the laughs (‘though the audience roared). I’ll hold on to her smile … and her beam. How nice it is to see a friend ring happy.

THE ZOO Carrie Bogart Week, the annual pageant commemorating our 2015 wedding, ran in August’s first week: five days of events planned for husband and wife. And Sunday of that week (gevolt!) we would head to the zoo. The Cleveland Zoo. On the f’ing west side. (Where I hadn’t gone since an 80’s Lodge picnic).

And then….

“If it’s too hot we won’t go to the zoo,,” urged my bride, that hot, humid day. “We’ll go in the fall.”

(Ed. Note 3. Our change in plans was simulcast on cable news networks. MSNBC cited “global warming”. FoxNews said it was God doing for me what I couldn’t’ do for myself).

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And now it’s over. Summer that is. It didn’t end on Labor Day, of course; that’s only the myth. (Ed. Note 4: It’s conclusion until the eighties, was the end of the Little League or softball season. Since ’85, its formal end has been our father’s August yahrtzeit).

And I closing book on it, I seal it with gratitude. Yes, for the family and friends that surround me. But also too, for the myriad of “ordinary” events that shape my extraordinary journey.

One more moment, please. One final thought:

On a bridge chair he sat. At a chartreuse table on the grass at a farmers’ market in Chappaqua. “Poems $5.00” read the sign. Clicking away on an old Smith Corona, peace reigned within him (and I had to approach).

“Would you write a poem for that woman?” I asked. My new friend obliged. And yet — what he crafted covered not only my beautiful bride, but my whole family around me:

“Only in the light of this shared existence we see it clearly.”

How right he is. How thankful I am. Summer is over, but the sun shines bright!