“I’m about at the end the line. Do me a favor. As I walk off, just give me ‘one of these’.”                                                                                                         Rodney Dangerfield

Many went the extra mile for my birthday— it being a milestone and all. The decks of cards and mug featuring The Boys’ pictures, the Scarsdale dinner with the Bogarts and Millers, Lucy feeding me a chocolate via Face Time—each were of signal moment. Still, no one gifted me with such novelty and purity as Carrie did.

“You didn’t want a party,” she prefaced it, handing me a one foot tall, Halloween-themed gift bag.”
“Didn’t want a present either,” I reminded dismissively.
“JUST TAKE IT!” she pushed back (with love).

Right then I saw—really saw the bag and I grasped—really grasped its contents: Sixty-five cards, to be exact! Birthday cards … delivered by carriers … solicited discreetly by CJ…secreted for days to be tendered in bulk.

“You’ll read them in the car,” she suggested, (balancing my hunger to open the envelopes with my obsession for hitting airports early).

And so I did. Fervently. Zealously. Passionately. As she drove.

Left hand in the bag, I withdrew Michael’s first. What were the odds? (64-1, Walt would say. Marc’s card arrived too). Won’t share my son’s comments, but his sentiment was so moving that an immediate re-reading would have been like sitting through the final twenty minutes of “Field Of Dreams”.

What a ride to the airport! The hits kept on coming….

Not only from my son but from HIS family. And the machetanim, and branches therefrom, and, believe it or not: from two couples I’d only met once at an east coast wedding. (Who says New Yorkers are a tough crowd?)

Not only from Stacy but HER family as well. The machetanim. (Ed. Note 1: Rooney’s card urged me not to die. How do I tell her that sometimes parents have to say “No”?).

Not only from Margie & H but from two daughters and Maynard as well. (Ed. Note 2: “Almost family,” Aunt Helen terms him.).

Not only from Carrie but HER family too. All wings.

And me? Unabashed lover of snail mail that I am, I studied each, savored each, cherished each — and reached back in the bag.

Grateful I was that people’d taken time … and memories emerged:

Aunt Etty sent old family pix. We were younger then, all of us. (I heard too from Debbie and Gary. (Ed. Note 3: Into my 50’s I’d wondered if Debbie even liked me). From Harriet came a copy of a check from Vegas’s Union Plaza Hotel — my Dad having cashed in the ‘78 World Gin Rummy Tournament. And from my most senior of friends, Stuart: reflections on 1969. Contacts (for self-approval) that year and a Mustang (for Bob’s approval). Yet Stu wrote so much more.

Some cards, of course, were less pensive. Keith’s card, for example, burped. A few others sang songs. Still others contained the likes of birthday cakes, erections (3D), singing monkeys, excretions, and various references to anticipated bodily dysfunction.

How thrilled I was that all groups took part! I heard …

—From lodge brothers met in descent to drunks met in recovery.

—From Sabbath School friends (in Hebrew) to a state official from the right to a core friend so far left that he’s profiled in airports.

—From Boobus Bowl veterans and two Vietnam Era vets.

—From one cat and two dogs.

—From one Deak Past Chancellor to five ushers from my ’72 wedding.

—From two Beachwood housewives that never went south to my 12-Step sponsor who keeps my eyes north.

—From a card penned by Lucy and a card stamped by Max to a card signed by “Rocco Scotti” to another just unsigned. (Ed. Note 4: As to the last two, I still have no idea).

Yes, I read every card, both canned text and comment. One couple, for example, said I’d reminded them of The Cowardly Lion. Had I ever played the role, they wondered. (Ed. Note 5: Of course I had. And I’d nailed it!). A few miles from there someone had written “You bring a smile to my face…”.).

And then we got to the airport…and she pulled to the curb…and I left.

With the bag in the car and a smile ‘cross my face.

Reveling in the good wishes, I embraced still, the greatest gift of all: sharing life with one who “gets” me, who sees that as self-assured as I can be, all I really want from people is “one of these” —that “OK” sign saying I’m, well…OK.

—-And THAT is the gift that keeps giving.

“…I always think about how you love and respect the work of your local postal workers….”

R.S. and J.S., Oakland Gardens, NY  (10/31/14)

5 Responses to “ALL I NEED”

  1. Stacy says:

    did you get adam’s card???

  2. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Ed. Note: YES, I received Adam’s card. When I mentioned “1 cat and 2 dogs” he was the first of the two dogs. You may return him at any time, by the way.

  3. alan wieder says:

    Carrie’s idea was brilliant and she knew, as did everyone who knows you, how much you’d love them. Now listen to her and get your ass out to Portland.

  4. stacy says:

    i would return him if he was more than just “a dog” to you. shame.

  5. Up From Dysfunction says:

    If he wasn’t more than just a dog to me, I wouldn’t bring him up from time to time. Indeed, Adam was a fledging puppy in Parma when I brought him home. AND OBVIOUSLY he still longs for his Cleveland roots. After all, even Adam (who can’t read or write), sent me a card this birthday.

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