“…How do I say goodbye to what we had?
       The good times that made us laugh…”

Those who know me well grasp that I don’t live in the past so much as embrace its best pieces. As such, reveling in the present, still, I found parts of this last month…well… rough.

First, the play:

No show stirs this soul like “The Music Man”. I’ve said it before: my father was the spellbinder in my life. So many of the lines from the script could well have been spoken by him.

Yet it goes way further. Every song that is sung takes me to that air-brushed portion of youth where our family was young, melodic, together….

This production was indeed special. Joyous burial in the ensemble permitted me time to enjoy the music, interact with the principals, and practice “The Art Of Conversation” with the kids backstage.

“Bruce,” asked young Jack, (he in his first show), “Have you been in a play before?”
“Once” I told him. “In fact, that’s how I met John (the actor playing Professor Hill). “We were in ‘Sound Of Music’ out at Chagrin and a week before opening the lead got sick. I had to step in and play Maria.”
The lad’s eyes opened… wide.
“Yeah,” I continued, “I had no problem with the songs; I knew them. But I refused to kiss Von Trapp.”

—So on top of two months of singing with the music, I had all those weeks of this kind of nonsense.

(The kids loved me).

“Jack,” I asked nightly, “You going to stay for the second act?”

Oh, and I taught him early on the special hand-slap that Bob Cummings had with his Army buddy Harvey Helm on the 50’s tv show “Love That Bob”. Yeah, I created a monster. I can’t tell you how many times I entered the “green room” and found the myriad of pre-teen actors slapping each other around.

We closed Mothers Day. My distinct sense as I walked off stage was that I’d never pass that way again. River City Iowa…these friends specifically… would be missed.

Then the player: one of my favorites.

Letterman announced his retirement a year ago. It was a clock that kept ticking. Not for one moment of it was I happy. Had I not been loyal? Had I not read both books about the late night wars? Was I not repulsed always at the sight of that bottom-feeder Leno? Indeed, did I not, through my nineteen “single” years always consider a lady’s preference of Jay a deal-breaker?

When the news broke last summer I jumped on line, trying to score tickets for a taping. They were only reserving them a month in advance and what with the three shows I was doing this season, it just didn’t happen.

Carrie and I did the next best thing. Meticulously we taped his shows— so as not to miss one. “Inventory”, we dubbed it. ‘Twas not only the end of an era, but the loss of a friend.

This spring the inexorable march beat louder. Still, we laughed as the A-list parade stopped by…one last time. Crystal, Murray, Romano, Stern…

— And we learned how to chuckle with lumps in our throats—

Until the evening of May 20.

I was in Chicago that night, with the Bohrers. I’d be flying out the next day.

Sitting “Indian style” I was (Can we still say that?), four feet from the screen. Behind me lay Bones and his dad, sprawled on the couch. And The Little One, she was tiring too quickly.

For an hour or so I perched, until at one commercial I stood, and stood, and stood. Gripped by what I knew was my final look, I just never sat down.

“I’m going to bed Daddy,” Stacy announced, from the hall near the kitchen.

Standing, I walked to her, and hugged her good night.
“Why are you crying, Daddy?”
“I don’t like to say goodbye”, I told her.
“But I’ll see you in the morning. I’m taking you to O’Hare.”
“Not you, honey. David Letterman.”

       “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday….”

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