Dear Mr. Cohen,

You may not remember me. I mean, it’s been what…fifty-five years? I lived three doors from you and used to play with your sons up at Rowland. Morton and my younger brother Hal were in the same grade. Stuart Fenton, who lived next to you, was my best friend. Once in a while, even, I was at your house.

I remember you, and the few times we interacted.

Once you refereed a wrestling match between Morton and myself in your basement on Bayard. Those were the days we used to watch The Gallagher Brothers, Lord Layton, and Bobo Brazil on black and white TV. Boy were my parents surprised to hear you let us fight on cement!

There was another time—another good memory — when you took a bunch of us to your job at the New York Central rail yards. Stuart was there, and Ricky too. We road on the open box cars. It was like a field trip without teachers!

Those memories have legs, Mr. Cohen, and bring back simpler times.

I was in New York last week, awaiting a flight from LaGuardia, when I read of your death.  Committed to be in Painesville an hour before your next-day services, I hadn’t anticipated being able to attend. As such, I was wearing a burgundy dress shirt on Thursday — not necessarily funeral attire.

Anyway, court ended quickly and, driving like a maniac that day I arrived right at noon. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was walk in as it started and walk to the front (dressed as I was). So I sat in the back…with nary an angle on the family room.

—And I listened intently —

Grateful I was learning that the second half of your life was so joyous. You were a nice man, nice to us kids, and Lord knows you deserved it. I’ve got to tell you though, for the first time in my life, sitting in that chapel, I felt ire toward a rabbi.

Look, I’m thrilled that in your second marriage you hit it out of the park and found happiness. Frankly, Stu and I knew your first wife was nuts. Well we recall playing swift pitching across the street from your home and how, one day, a batted ball trickled into your shrubs. That thing you were married to bolted out of the house screaming, grabbed our ball, and retreated inside.

So we sort of got it, even as young kids, when one day you evaporated. And we understand, to this day, of life’s second acts.

Not once in the eulogy however, was Morton acknowledged. Nor, for that matter, was there mention of Garry (who died so young). That wasn’t right, Mr. Cohen. It wasn’t your doing, but it was wrong. Very wrong. Omitting them? Not the right thing to do.

I guess what burned me most though was when the rabbi gave a shout out to your stepson. Again, I’m thrilled you two bonded; it sounds like you raised him. I met him back at his house and he seemed to be nice. Clearly you’d both been good for each other.

But did the rabbi’s homage really require a tribute to the guy proclaiming “You were the son Abe always wanted”?


I sat in the chapel, listening, but couldn’t see Morton. But I felt for him. And I thought of Garry. And I angered.

They were your sons, Mr. Cohen, and I don’t know what went on or why—and I don’t care. They were your sons.

A handful of times—not much more—have I seen Morton in decades. Every once in while we’ll bump into each other on Fridays at Marc’s. I’m with my aunt; he’s alone; we always speak. What a mensch he is! Do you know there’s never a time he doesn’t ask about Hal? Never.

I left the funeral dazed the other day. Bothered. Confused. Needing to vent.

I called Stuart from the car and we spoke.

Of you … and Morton and Garry … and the New York Central.

And I drove home past Bayard and stopped to see Morton. (I think he still lives there).

He wasn’t home, by the way; but it matters not. Some day our paths will cross once again.

And he’ll ask about Harold.

Morton, your son, does the right thing.

Rest in peace,


7 Responses to “HONEST, ABE”

  1. H says:

    Well said. Morton and Gary deserved better. If Morton was there, he must have been humiliated.

  2. Stuart says:

    Very well done. Family is family. Morton always was and always wii be a gentle soul. Too bad if Abe didn’t appreciate the Son he always had.

  3. H says:

    I know you disagree with me because we have discussed this many times before, but I still don’t think that Morton’s father looked like Abraham Lincoln. Why are you so insistent on calling him “Abe”. It isn’t funny anymore.

  4. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    Are you sure I didn’t say he looked “like a Jewish Andy Griffith”?

  5. bob snyder says:

    Are you sure you were at the right Cohen funeral? I know with the many services you go to (you even wrote about one such event in a previous blog) maybe this wasn’t Morton’s dad. Was anyone else from Bayard or Rowland in attendance? For example, anyone from the Hovany family or Fromin family or even the Stain family of Beaconwood. If it was the correct Cohen than I agree shame on the rabbi.

  6. Stuart says:

    Please note the correct spelling of Hovanyi And, what was Chris Hovanyi’s real first name?

  7. Up From Dysfunction says:

    I’ll take FAMOUS NAMES for $200.00, Alex.

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