I try to be accountable today; I try to be responsible for my behavior. That having been said, must I also be accountable for my occasional flair up of mental illness? Can I not blame that on my gene pool?

Consider Exhibit A, my cousin Sheila: A decade after serving as a bridesmaid in my mother’s first wedding Sheila went away to college. She returned 45 years later—divorced, and may I say, older.

She is attractive, artsy and stubborn; she has nice eyes. That having been said she is the only person I have ever known that is confined to a wheelchair, but drives. (Some people will go to any lengths to get that “Handicapped” sticker). At press time we still await a MEDICAL diagnosis.

Last February Sheila called the Brothers Bogart looking to secure a ride to the airport for May. We readily said we’d help out and to let us know as she booked her flight.

She called again in March to see if we were serious about taking her; we said “Yes.” She called in April to see if things had changed; we said “No.”

One week before her May 14 flight she telephoned announcing her mid-day booking. It went like this:

“Can I still count on you? I can’t sleep.”
“Yes, Sheila…if for any reason I get jammed you are absolutely covered. Relax. You have my word.”

Today I try to be responsible. When three days pre-flight it appeared I might be stuck in court I did call mutual friend Stuart. He was happy to be on stand-by. I then called Sheila to confirm this, and to provide Stuart’s number.

She was happy to hear from me; I confirmed back to Stuart; all was well.
He told me he would call me Flight Day to confirm he had picked Sheila up.

Thursday morning I got the call from Stuart, who was picking up Sheila. She turned him around, having made other arrangements. She said she didn’t know if we were reliable.

Or, better yet, consider Exhibits B –Z, my Aunt Helen.

At 1 PM today I rang her doorbell to begin the bi-monthly shopping odyssey.

The buzzer sounded; I stuck my head in; Then the voice came:  “Please come upstairs…I’m upset with you.”

As my foot touched down at the stairwell top she reminded me that four weeks ago she’d asked me to drive her to the Israeli Bond office to secure a form. At that time I suggested that the office would gladly mail it to her. Then, as we sat in the car in the April rain she’d jumped at me pointing out that the true purpose of the trip would not have been to get the form but to spend time together. It was then that I’d told her that my time in mid-week was limited, as was the time of most others, and that this was precisely why the Bond office mails out forms. In fact, I suggested that this was also precisely why there was such a thing as mail.

I thought the subject was closed. When, oh when am I going to learn?

Today though I did learn that Aunt Helen does not like the way the Israel Bond office is run. Further, she resents having to fill out a form “…to give them money…” and asked me to complete it for her.

One would think that this would be easy. (One would think that, unless of course, one had met my Aunt Helen).

There we sat at the table. I read her the questions, and asked her how to complete the form:

“Aunt Helen, they want to know how you learned about the Bond Office.”

“Tell them whatever you want.”
“OK, I’ll say you are a supporter of Israel.”
“No, don’t say that.”
“OK, I’ll say you are Jewish and leave it at that.”
“No, it really isn’t their business how I learned of them. Isn’t it enough that I am buying a bond?”
“OK, I’ll leave it blank. But you have to check a box concerning your household income. Are you under $50,000?”
“Does it really say that?”
“Yes, why would I lie?”
“Bruce, please I don’t have time for this. What does it say?”
“It has four boxes for income levels. What should I put?”
“Put whatever you want.”
“Can I make you rich?”
“Please just put down the minimum.”
“OK, they want to know if you are affiliated with a synagogue.”
“I know they do. I won’t tell them. It is none of their business.”

It was only then that I accepted the way this was destined to go. All other questions were answered on my gut feeling.

The silence, however, got to my aunt.

“Are there any other questions? I have to sign it. Don’t forget!”
“They need your social security number.”
“I think it is a remnant from the Bush administration.”

And so it went…..and when they asked questions about the recipient of the bond (which was a gift), we had ten minutes about what do you do if you don’t know the information about the donee….

Once done, with my aunt in full sulk, we descended the stairs for a lovely day of shopping. The silence in the car lasted from her home until we nearly reached Marc’s.

I couldn’t think of one thing to say to her that wouldn’t create an issue. Over the years I’ve learned that even discussing the weather is risky. (Weathermen, you know….my aunt says they should not make predictions because people rely on them…)

As we turned into the shopping center she looked at me, and plaintively asked: “Don’t you have anything to say? What can I tell you?”

I don’t know where this came from, but I did come up with one question.

“I was just wondering,” I asked, “Back in the 70’s, I was too young, but what was your position on court-ordered busing?”

“Where do you come up with such questions!” she demanded.

I didn’t respond, but I do know the answer.

It’s in my genes.

One Response to “A FAMILY AFFAIR”

  1. Aunt Helen says:

    I never understand Bruce. Why would he state that our courts would force people to kiss one another. Nahrshkeit I say.

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