It started out fine. I was thrilled that Hal was up to getting out of his house and we’d called the night before to set it up. After all, she hadn’t seen him in months and we knew how she’d missed him. Although my brother and I shared a branch on her family tree,  indeed it was he that was the love of her life. It was not that he honored her more, frankly.  No, I sense it’s just that I reminded our Aunt Helen of her “fallen” brother (our Dad), who had the nerve to be the first American-born Bogart to marry, divorce, drive a car, go to college, and —dare I say it — lose virginity).  And so it was that over time Hal became Lancelot; she  played Queen Guinevere….and me?  At the far end of the Round Table I sat. Content.

“Aunt Helen?” he said, by phone on Saturday.
“Harold? Is that you?”
(I was on the line, but she didn’t yet know it. Exhilarated she was—buoyant even).
“Bruce is on too,” he continued. “We’re coming over tomorrow”.
(I can’t say her voice then dropped. She spoke, though, only to him).
“You’re coming here?”
“Yeah, how about 10:30?”
“Yes, is that OK?”
(She hesitated, which was odd. Maybe she was counting the consecutive questions. In any event, although H and I’d agreed on 10:30 in our pre-game chalk talk, it struck me this was my moment to chime in…even move the clock up).
“Aunt Helen, this is Bruce.”
“Aunt Helen, can we make it 10:15?”
“Can we say 10:45?” she shot back. (I should’ve had Harold request it).
“How about 10:30?”
“I’ll see you at 10:30,” she pronounced, subject closed. (The exchange had eerily paralleled the bartering between Kramer and Morty Seinfeld when they were going to sell old raincoats. We too’d ended up where we’d started).


Peaceful — serene even — standing at my mother’s grave first thing Sunday. It was warm out already as moments and thoughts were sun-kissed. The calm, however, would come to a screeching halt an hour later.


10:25 AM and having met at La Place, the Brothers Bogart drove down Cedar.

Buoyed by satisfaction that the pilgrimage indeed was “the right thing to do”, they did a final run-through of the impromptu discussion they would have with their aunt. Indeed, discussion of her approaching 100th birthday —with most people— would be celebratory. Too well they knew though that with this classmate of Tolstoy the seas would be choppy . Has not each of her life cycle moments been rough? Has not each been a delicate measure?

We never know what to do. All the charts and graphs, all the advanced planning and orchestrated circumstances have changed little. In the words of the great Harold Dale Bogart: “Always expect the unexpected.”

I rang the bell but (as we figured we go with strength), he walked up first. All eyes on Raymond as he moved to the couch.  Everybody loves Raymond.

“Sit over here,” she guided Him, “So I can see you.”
(She spoke not to me, but any doubts I had that she knew I was present were quickly dispelled).
“I’m angry with you!” she carped, turning swiftly toward me.
“What did I do?”
Answer she didn’t…at least not right away. (Sometimes with old people it’s hard to tell if they’re glaring or their faces are just immobile. Our aunt —when shes in that zone — leaves nothing to one’s imagination. Think: Granny from “The Beverly Hillbillies” with Moe Howard’s face).
“Why didn’t you take me to see Harold?” she glared.
“I brought him here.”
“You know I like to get out of the house”.
“So does he”.

I’d like to tell you that it ended there, but it didn’t. On and on she went, “pissing away” (as our father would say) the better part of a half hour.  Airing resentments she’d apparently carried since the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, she railed and she railed—-albeit always returning to her central concern:  we should have driven to Harold’s!

Was it not the most “Non” of issues?

Hal sat silently as I thought silently: what a waste! Does she not grasp the GIFT time is?  Could she not seize the moment?  Did it really matter on whose couch we sat?

“Have compassion for those less fortunate than you,” our father would tell us….over and over again….about her.

So I did. And my brother did.

Then and now.

Through her half of scowling replete with the her howling… biting our tongues….eating our anger….until mercifully we could change the subject.

To fluff.

We wanted to broach her birthday that visit. We wanted to make plans to have dinner with family.   We wanted to embrace her One Hundredth.  We just couldn’t.

The going was rough; Hal was spent (so was I).   Eyes meeting ‘cross the couch in fraternal connection; we both knew now wasn’t the time.    Neither of us, truthfully, could take the fight.

Even if she could.

One Response to “CAMELOT”

  1. alan wieder says:

    very, very powerful — don’t know about getting to 100

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