“Folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

                                         Abe Lincoln

 I’m in an interesting place these days. Grave issues yes, but confidence consumes me. Spring is breaking and trusting things will fall into place… for the most part…I smile.

Yesterday as sunshine melted the brisk air, singing out the tunes of “Les Mis”, eyeing a wondrous rest-of-the-weekend, I turned left into Aunt Helen’s driveway.

My polar opposite is this lady. Teasing 96, sad to say, where most see things half-full, she views them half-empty (with a crack in the glass…and a steady leak which is someone else’s fault). I AM sensitive to her life’s path, but is she not, at some level, responsible for her own happiness? Alas, Helen Bogart still believes (to paraphrase Victor Hugo), that there is nothing as dourful than an idea whose time has come. Still, on this lustrous Saturday morning, facing our twenty minute ride to Dr. Lester, I knew that not even the ra-ta-tat-tat of her proddings would rob me of my glee. Our aunt, of course, gave it the old college try:

“Bruce,” she opened, “Have you spoken to your brother about Columbus? He should not even consider going ….”
“I will… but we’ve got tickets for a concert and—“
(She heard nothing as her verbal barrage continued):
“When is it, after all?” she interrupted.
“Not ‘til Memorial Day.”
“Even so, speak to him now.”
“OK,” I said, resigned to keep the peace and more importantly, keep MY

“And another thing…YOU should not be going either. After all, can you
(She was treading on thin ground now).
“Do you even exercise?”
“Aunt Helen, “ I interjected, ready to trump her: “You forget I was in the
“Oh please”.

We traveled on quietly My aunt has a love-hate relationship with her eye
doctor. (She loves to tell me why she hates him). Indeed, each ounce of
warmth and friendship he engenders is interrupted 180 degrees from
its intent. Yesterday, as usual, they got off on the wrong foot:

“Good to see you” he greeted her. “Another big birthday
coming up! Tell me, how many will that be?”

A chill flattened the room. Fact is our aunt can’t handle engaging people;
she has no patience. As such, when the good doctor suggested she buy a
telescope, or rearrange her furniture to better view the TV…well, she met
each entreaty with an audible grunt.

“Do you have a computer?” he inquired.
“Dr. Lester, you KNOW I don’t have a computer.”
“Well, do you know what a Kindle is?”
“Dr. Lester, please examine my eyes.”

The silence was broken only when he asked her to read the chart.

“Dr. Lester, please. Surely I remember that the first letter is an E.“
“Can you see it?”
“Not necessarily. Do you have any other charts?”
“Yes, but can you see this one?” came the rejoinder.
“Wonderful. I’m proud of you.”

The doctor just couldn’t stand prosperity:

“Tell me, Miss Bogart, do you get out much?”
“The weather’s changing. Do you have someone to walk with?”
“Perhaps you should hire someone…maybe a cleaning lady? You could
walk together!”
“I’ll think about it,” she said meekly, dismissively, yet in a manner that
said clearly “I WON’T think about it”).

We left minutes later, but not until they jousted one more time:
“I’d like to see you in nine months,” he said. “Perhaps December.”
“That’s eight months.” (she pointed out).

Our ride home was anticlimactic. True, her commentary continued, but I
treated it like background music.

“Why isn’t his diploma up? How long has he been in that office?”
“Why does he smile?”
“Why does he thank you for bringing me? Are you U.P.S.? He should
thank ME for coming…or simply say nothing!”

Crossing Green Road, in fleeting empathy soon to be regretted, I
finally interjected:

“He means well.”
“You know, I would walk with you. I would come over and we could walk
together. Really.”

(What in the WORLD was I thinking?)

“I don’t want to walk. Let Dr. Lester walk. You could take me to dinner.”


“Michael Jacobson takes me to dinner. Why is it a relative stranger enjoys
my company but my family…”

Her comment induced an acute attack of Jewish Guilt:

“Let’s have dinner. This week. Thursday would be perfect.”
“No,” she interrupted, “It has to be a weekend. I deserve a weekend.”
“OK,” I assented, realizing again that no good deed goes unpunished.

We crossed Warrensville, stopped at The Dollar Store and then I
dropped her off. She trudged up her stairs.

It was barely noon. The sun was shining and the day still
young. Like a freed Jean Valjean I drove up Cedar to rejoin a world
that was half-full.

I was still smiling.

Leave a Reply