They tell me that to grow, to be a better person, to be the best Bruce I can be, that I should not do what I want to do, but do what I don’t want to do.
And with that as my destination I set out on today’s journey.

12:50 PM My car is in gestation—five hundred feet east of her home.
Poached like a Berkowitz-Kumin limo I wait to approach.
12:58 PM Text message to family and friends that “I’m going in!”
13:00 Hrs I ring Aunt Helen’s doorbell. (Ed. Note: the switch to military
time is to recreate the mood).

(She is my Dad’s surviving sister and the Bogart boys’ only living ancestral blood). Still, the A.M.A. has determined my aunt to be the third leading cause of chronic heart disease in America today.

“We have to stop at Target’s,” she opened.
“Fine, “ I said graciously. We weren’t yet at the car.
“I’d like to return a greeting card.”

(Mantra: Don’t do what I want to do, which would be to ask her WHY WHY WHY she was returning a card. Lord knows she reads each card six times before purchase).


“Do you want to know why I’m returning the card?”

(Hesitation…Am I supposed to want to know why or not want to know why? This was clearly a question for Maimonides).

I punted: “If you’d like to tell me.”

“Well, if you must know, it wasn’t worded correctly.” She went on to explain that the bridal shower card purchased two weeks ago denoted “Shower” on the outside but “Wedding” on the inside. And since, she reasoned, the shower was pre-wedding—no one yet married— the card was technically inaccurate. I tried to differentiate to her a bridal shower from a baby shower but it was too late. Helen had crossed the Rubican.

Her response to my point: “Why must everything be an issue to you?”

We re-entered the car after Target, heading to the grocer at Mayfield and Green. Intermission. The road to Marc’s can be treacherous. It is a long stretch with no stopping in between. I promised myself to be careful, repeated my mantra, and……

“Do you want to tell me about your trip to New Jersey?”
“Of course. It’s next week.” (She was lobbing softballs. I felt like a guest on Larry King Live).

“Are you taking off Friday?”
“No. I have to work all day—I’ll actually be in trial).”
“Bruce, why are you so difficult. That’s not what I asked you!”
Clueless, I repeated what I thought was the appropriate response:
“I’m in trial next Friday. We’re leaving after I’m done.”
“Oh, Bruce, please! Then you are TAKING OFF Friday.”
“Oh,” I submitted, just then understanding what she meant, “Yes we are LEAVING Friday, but after work.”
“Then why didn’t you just tell me that. Really I don’t have these problems with your brother.”
“You told me he only calls you every two weeks…”
“Oh, please. When I do speak with him he understands me. And what’s there to say? We don’t have this problem communicating.”
“Aunt Helen, I really thought you meant—
I stopped on a dime; she was already in full pout.

Recircling my spiritual wagon I commented about the weather.

“Don’t try to change the subject. Why is it I never have this problem with your brother?”

(I WANTED to say “Why is it you DO have this problem with everyone else?” but instead I drove on in silence).

Then she changed the subject, abruptly and the press conference portion of trip began in rapid fire:

“Have you done anything about your daughters?” “When are your children coming to town? How often do you talk to Caroline? When was the last time you spoke to your brother?”

We traversed Green Road and were waiting for a parking space. Silence. A calm filled the air.

“You know, I’m really very easy to talk to,” she smiled.
“I know,” I answered, sensing the storm had passed.
“I only want a bread if its from Pincus,” she warned.
“I know, “ (I was on a roll).

Truth be known, the balance of the shopping was uneventful. It always goes smoothly when the bananas look good.

Exiting the store we were greeted with a torrential downpour. I pulled the car up and then we headed back. She asked me if I had more plans for the day and my candid response was: “Nothing I have to do.”

“Good,” she said, as I held my breath. “If it’s raining like this at my house we can wait in the car for a bit.” “Of course, “ I smiled.

Moments later we approached her home. As my Toyota broke the plain of her driveway the skies began to clear. Here comes the sun!

Once again, G/d doing for me what I could not do for myself.

2:35 PM My brother’s on the clock.

6 Responses to “I CAN’T QUIT HER”

  1. alan says:

    hi b

    we have just roared with laughter — thanks. oh for her days at the record shop.

  2. Aunt Helen says:

    Bruce, you are right. It WAS EXACTLY 2:35 when your brother went on the clock. And not a minute too soon. In fact, I checked Pa’s watch so that I could record it in my own blog: //www.howtocopewithanidiotwhilepickinggreenbananas.com.

    Oh, hi Alan. And next time you comment, could you please use some capital letters? Who do you think you are: e.e. cummings? vic gelb? As an English professor you really should set a better example.

  3. Susan says:

    Aunt Helen reminds me of so many little old Jewish ladies that I know. I can see why you hesitate to ask her the “tanta” question. lol You are such a nice man.

  4. JS says:

    Why does everyone hate on Aunt Helen??
    She’s great 🙂

  5. Mark E says:

    She can not be a real person, she must be a figment of your imagination

  6. Rolo says:

    Great, could not stop laughing!

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