Mincha was beginning. Sitting up close—seats from our past—I was alone. No Grandma, no Dad, no Hal, Margie, Helen or kids. Yom Kippur’s denouement and in the still-empty sanctuary I gazed through paned glass at trees, playfully reviewing the past 24 hours.

FRIDAY, 5:15 PM: Stace and Jace were in, staying with the Mother Ship. The Jersey Girl had invited me a pre-Kol Nidre meal. Nice gesture. Clearly gracious. Still, (I thought), F the dinner. Why not just wipe out some of the alimony you shook me down for? This is, after all, Yom Kippur.

5:20 She greeted me warmly, urging me to sit down, watch tv. Time was needed in the kitchen and the Bohrers would be down soon.

“Do NOT touch anything, ” she admonished with a smile, referring perhaps to my penchant for quietly rearranging furnishings.
“Don’t worry. I’ve matured.”

5:30 We sat for dinner. Jason got my matzah ball; I took his carrots. Tried to pass on salad but caved to two white Shirelles singing “It’s good for you.”

5:40 The ex was in the kitchen. Spreading half my untouched lettuce on Jason’s plate I rose, returning both dishes to the sink.

5:41 There was a bowl of green apples in the kitchen. I put one in her freezer.

6:20 Dinner downed, children aboard, we left for shul. Next stop: Aunt Helen’s.

6:35 Deposited Jason and his aunt outside Kangesser as we parked the car. He wasn’t mad, but his face hadn’t looked like that since Sosa tested positive.

6:40 Stacy was looking for Rochelle. “See her hat?” I said, pointing up front. “Oh,” my daughter replied, “I thought that was The Liberty Bell.”

6:45 In the mass of confusion just prior to service, a Mahzor went missing.
“How could I lose it in the walk from the car?” asked Hal
“I beg you children to write your names in them,” said Helen.

6:55 Service had begun. It was hot, humid and crowded. I heard my father, incredulous, complaining to Harriet: “They’re begging us to leave!”

It occurred to me just then that somehow I’d picked up Hal’s prayer book. Must be his, I surmised; I’d placed a program in mine.

7:20 Three rounds of “Kol Nidre” concluded, I embarked on a scavenger hunt for the missing mahzor. Didn’t find it but the trip wasn’t a total loss; I saw the janitor and suggested air-conditioning. (He smiled politely just as I had an hour earlier when offered salad).

8:25: My brother pointed to Larry three rows ahead. “Gefilte fish,” he nods. We laugh for the umpteenth time, also referencing our cousin “Baked Potato.”

8:45 Stacy smiled at me and noting Hal and I play together like ten-year olds.

9:45: Service ended, I looked again for the book. Oddly, I now found it right there on the lobby’s table. The three of us walked old halls and even bumped into the rabbi. Finally leaving, ours was the last car in the lot.

9:46 Opening the door, I found my Mahzor on the back seat. I guess I’d picked up someone else’s book; we now have inventory.


10:00 AM Helen on board, I backed out onto packed Cedar Road. I deliver her; Hal takes her home: a Cleveland tradition.

10:20 Yizkor was particularly difficult. Hal pointed to young adults appropriately leaving for the short service. I thought back to the days when I had all my relatives. I’ve been touched by so many truly wonderful people. I couldn’t NOT cry.

10:50 H brought me back to reality: Larry was seated in front of him, and, perhaps noting the now-pale hair, my brother announced a name change: Larry will no longer be known as “Gefilte Fish.” Henceforth, Hal whispered the new name will be “Whitefish.”

12:45 PM The service had but an hour to go, but I was dead. Leaning to my left I told Hal and Margie I was leaving. “Don’t go,” came the voice from between us. It was the moral indignation of Aunt Helen, not unlike Moses atop Mt. Sinai.
“Can I go to the bathroom then?”

1:10 PM Chatted with Gary Levey in the mens’ room. The john was occupied and it was clear to both of us that at least one congregant had failed to fast.

1:20 PM Bumped into David Steiger with his new bride and stepson. The kid has my ex as a teacher. “Does she still carry a gun?” I said straight-faced. David laughed but the mother didn’t.

1:35 Rabbi Marcus signaled the afternoon’s recess and for the first time since Rosh HaShana I left synagogue with the same amount of books as I brought.

Neilah was ending and soon the Shofar would sound. Darkness camouflaged outside trees while smiles marked renewal on the faces of those indoors.

Folding my Tallis I stared at bricks in the ceiling. The Book was being sealed right then. I wondered …was God giving me another year to count the tiles?

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