“It’ll be OK, little boy.” That’s what he used to tell me. “It’ll be OK.”
No one but no one could dry my tears like him…ever. And I suppose that in spite of all my faith, all my confidence, yesterday I needed to hear it again.

A sunshiny day— I would be seeing Brother Ermine, but the mindset was on late afternoon and my Dad at the cemetery. On this first Columbus visit since Hal’s diagnosis I needed my father.

It was a top-down day, a cleansing day and indeed therapeutic. Mark cooked a Pesadik lunch and afterward I accompanied him on a quick errand to the west side. He has a red Porsche convertible, and freeway wind in our faces we shared quality time. (It occurred to me only later that when Al Bogart died in ’85 Jews weren’t allowed in Porsches).

Has it really been 25 years? A quarter century since Hal and I told Grandma she’d lost a son…since I kissed his cold forehead as he lay on a wooden slab at Schoedinger Funeral Home…since the rabbi, in his eulogy, referred to “Bruce and HOWARD?”

Oh well.

The plan was to pick Harriet up at 5 and head to the cemetery. She was the love of his life when Death took him from his bride on their fifteenth anniversary. She remains a strong fabric in our family and yesterday she was not above yelling:

“Turn the engine off!” she urged as I pulled in her driveway.
“But I only want to go in and wash my face.”
“Turn your engine off! What’s wrong with you!!!”
And I did, (not so much because I agreed, but because I respected). Two minutes and one turn of the key later, though, we were en route.

There’s a ritual I’ve enjoyed these two and a half decades. Each gravesite visit, after reciting Kaddish, after placing the pebble, I always remind myself of one thing he taught me, one saying, one pearl inculcated over the years—from the sublime to the ridiculous. From “Have compassion for those less fortunate” to “Don’t pass the Queen Of Spades without protection.” He gave me so much.

Yesterday was no different. Harriet had slid to the right, pausing by her late parents, but I didn’t budge. Staring at his stone, sensing it was time to move over, to pay respect to Murray and Claire, I froze. Just stood there thinking….thinking… picturing that black and white snapshot of Al Bogart and his boys on the steps of the Hopkins Avenue house in Cleveland…So long ago.

I thought about the ironic symmetry of my life. Dad, the best friend of my spring and Hal, the best friend of my fall. That my father dried my tears and my brother made me smile. That Al taught with words, that Hal taught by example. And then I realized, clearly, that if my father could put his arms around me one more time he’d be telling me “It’ll be OK, little boy. It’ll be OK.”

And with that I rejoined Harriet.

       “Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
       Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so good
       No one could be, so gentle and so lovable
       Oh, my pa-pa, he always understood.

       Gone are the days when he could take me on his knee
       And with a smile he’d change my tears to laughter

       Oh, my pa-pa, so funny, so adorable
       Always the clown so funny in his way
       Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
       Deep in my heart I miss him so today.”

                E. Fisher

2 Responses to “OH MY PAPA”

  1. Stacy Bohrer says:

    I love you, Daddy.

  2. Mark Ermine says:

    B, it was great seeing you. We NEED to do this more often than once every 10 years or so. Actually this past year being with you, Bobby and Stuart in Vegas, Florida and Columbus has reminded me of how much I miss my dear childhood friends. Who knows, maybe one of these days, I too will remember some of these fond memories.

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