My family tends not to die in order. As a result, milestone birthdays can be a bit more memorable. Our dad’s sister will turn 95 in June, and consensus is that no matter what we do it will be wrong. The only thing more certain is that should we do nothing at all, this too will be wrong.
Interaction with Aunt Helen is difficult at best. She is an old-world blend of austere, rigid, authoritarian and ungrateful, all complicated by her undoubtedly good intentions and warm heart.
Twenty years ago her mom, (our grandmother) turned 95. With Dad already gone it fell upon the Brothers Bogart to pick up the gauntlet and acknowledge the occasion.
Grandma B had never owned a color television. Perfect, we thought. Early one Saturday afternoon Hal and I shot over to Snow Brothers Appliance and purchased a $400 set (expensive for those days), intent on surprising Grandma and “hitting a homerun.”
Gingerly we placed the large cardboard box in Hal’s trunk. I guarded it through the rear-view mirror as H carefully navigated Richmond Road south to the home shared by the mother and daughter.
The driveway to their duplex was blocked so we carried the TV across the snowy lawn, rang the doorbell, and finally heard the buzzer ushering us in.
Opening the door we saw Helen at the top of the stairs. “What’s in the box?” she asked.
“It’s for Grandma,” Hal answered. (Younger brother was lead man, walking backwards).
We took a few steps up, but again it came:
“What’s in the box?”
My brother and I kept climbing. Reaching the summit we placed the covered appliance on the carpet just inside the door.
We exhaled, smiled and looked valiantly for our grandmother; she was not in view.
“Who’s here?” called a voice from the kitchen.
Aunt Helen’s eyebrows were now in military formation.
“Boys, I am asking you what’s in the box!”
Hal’s smile had diminished but before he could answer a now bitter aunt interrupted herself:
“Ma, they brought a television! How could you boys? Take it back!” Helen was, get this, angry!
“But it’s for Grandma,“ we urged, revealing the contents for all to see. “For her birthday!”
Truth be known: Al Bogart’s kids knew even then how to read a hand of cards. Gently, we placed the TV back in the box, folded it closed, and bid our adieu. Down the stairs, back through the snow, back in the car trunk, and back to Snow Brothers.
And credit back the charge.
A few days later we each mailed cards.
This, however, is 2009. We are not only older, but we are wiser.
Our game plan this June is simple, and will make everyone happy. By agreement, (Margie included), we will merely stop over one Saturday afternoon with a huge, EMPTY cardboard box.
We will grunt and grimace and then set it down in the precise spot the first box sat two decades ago.
Our aunt will stop us in our tracks and demand that we return the gift. She may even ask us if we remember…
Ah, but we do.
The brothers will then, faces forlorn, schlep the vacuous box down the stairs, (pausing momentarily to wipe a brow), proceed across the lawn, to the car’s trunk where we will carefully deposit the gift.
And we will drive away as we did in 1989.
We will not be out-of-pocket, and we will have saved two trips to Snow Brothers.
And, most importantly, we will have acknowledged yet another milestone birthday.
Sort of gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”
Rose Kennedy


  1. Jackie says:

    I need for you to write every single day. Never to skip a day. You are the sunshine in my life.

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