“…The sun goes down
       The stars come out
       And all that counts
       Is here and now…”

Like so many before it, this past year was fueled by family, friendship and fellowship. A series of ordinary moments to be sure, but as life unfolds, it’ll yield some extraordinary memories. As such: a quick glance back…

It was the year Eli turned one, and Aunt Helen one hundred.

—The year I got a Medicare card from my Uncle Sam and sixty-five birthday cards from the masses.

It was a year of learning…

My children taught me to eat and to dress. “Close your mouth when you chew,” one instructed. “And can you take smaller bites?” “No tee shirts with printing,” another prompted. “And who wears mock turtles anymore? You look like a gay man from the 90’s.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with it).

Ah, but the most teachable moment came from a two year-old last winter. There I was snowbound in Chicago — four days sans planes, trains or automobiles. Pleasant but purgatory, thought I, awaiting the thaw. Playing with Pappy, smiled a bubbling Lucy, with better priorities.

Ed.Note 1: For an avid non-traveller, ‘twas a geographically banner year. 365 days and but for the trifecta of New York, Chicago and Columbus, I slept each night at home.

It was a year for the arts.

—Letterman announced his retirement and, much as I tried to see a taping ‘ere his final “Good night everybody”, he just wasn’t filming during my week east last August.

—On a local level, I wasn’t cast as Oscar in “The Odd Couple”, but did get to sing and dance as a father in “The Fantastiks”. The only way I could rationalize all this was my deduction that the first director was dumb and latter was deaf and blind. (Nor was I cast in the movie they filmed about our breakfast club.  That really hurt.  Think about it — for years the Creative Director at Fine Arts has chided me that all I do on stage is play myself in a different costume each show…and here was this movie guy saying, in fact, that I wasn’t even good enough to play myself!).

And it was a year for concerts: three. Billy Joel was ageless and Jerry Lewis?  He is timeless. Hal’s brainstorm Hall & Oates? Let’s just say it was a night to count ceiling tiles. (Not for all of us, actually.  Just this curmudgeon).

It was a year too for baseball journalism: Bruce Bohrer wrote a book (“Best Seat In The House”) in Chicago while I read a book (“Baseball As A Road to God) in Cleveland.

And a year for play — from gin games with Carrie to a poker tourney with great nephew Ethan.

And  for music — from both the young and the less-young! I heard Max sing “Call Me Maybe” out east, watched Elyse play piano back home,  and captured each on my cellphone for later.

And television, from “Mom” to “Madam Secretary” to “Morning Joe”. You know: it’s still right to lean left in my world.

— And a year for comic irony. Emil, the landlord Aunt Helen hated for twenty years finally sold the house. Two decades she’d waited to hear such news.  “Evil”, she’d called him, (to his face).  Ed. Note 2: Her first disgust with the new owner was evidenced at the 36-hour mark, which actually made me money. The over/under, you see, was 48, and I bet the “under”.

Ah, and it was a year for acknowledgement. (We take it as we can). “I love my family,” said Leesa one evening.   After the most pregnant of pauses she looked up and added: “And you too Bruce.” Apparently finding it hard to characterize my nexus to it all, she finally endorsed my status as not part being part of her house, but an “attached garage”.  Ed. Note 3:  I took that as notch above “visitor”, but a plus in any event.

Speaking of visitors, though…Alan came in from Portland this year, and Julius from Israel.  (At different instants, of course).

There was time also, this year, for conversation — from the isolated ones like sharing “war stories” with Gary in Westchester to sharing different types of “war stories” with Brother Greg in Chicago — from periodic reminiscences with Harriet to weekly Wednesday laughter with the boys to nightly banter with Carrie — each regimen treasured in its own right.

Unfortunately though, it was also a year of loss. I knew Harriet Mandel for fifty-plus years. This was a special person.

Best of all however, 2014 was a time of merriment, nonsense and loving! I cradled Eli, danced with Max, bounced with Lucy and even got to walk my Adam. Ed. Note 4:  YES, all the while I was being told not to drop Eli, not to knock over the coffee table with Max, not to get on Lucy’s trampoline lest I break it, and … via remote text messaging: to “be sure to pick up after Adam when he’s done.”

Lucky I am that the soundtrack of my year features many voices, from family to friends to acquaintance. Blessed I am by children that still want to be with their “old man”, friends and family that still wish to break bread, and by gazing each morning into the warmest set of Ocean Eyes anyone could ever wish to wake up to.

I embrace this past year, then, as memories in gestation — gifts wrapped with gratitude — to be reopened later. I am walking a path of faith, family, friendship and fellowship, where even the bad days are good, and …

(As long as I do so, I figure, it will be a happy new year).

       “…My universe will never be the same
       I’m glad you came….”

(Mac, Hector, Drewett)

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