I tackle missions with Aunt Helen no different than witnesses taking the stand—answering only the question before me. The less said the better, as there is certainly no upside to volunteering collateral information. With my aunt, issues are like tissues. Pull one out and another pops up behind it.
Friday was a perfect example:

Approaching her domain I found traffic to be inordinately heavy. And so:

“Hi Aunt Helen,” I greeted as she opened her door.
“You’re late.”
“It’s 1:03.”
“That’s what I said.” It was only then that we reached the car.

“Did you talk to your brother this week?” she asked, knowing full well that Hal and I speak most days.
“Of course.”
“When and what did he have to say?”
“Nothing, “ I responded, just beginning to back out of her driveway.
“Did he tell you about Alison?”
“Yes.” Breaking the plane of her sidewalk I just knew the examination would continue.
“Then he did have SOMETHING to say.”
“You’re right.”
“What do you think?”
“It is what it is,” I offered, hoping the generic response would suffice.
“And do you mind if we stop at Jack’s”
”No, why would I mind?” (Mind, I was goddam thrilled—thinking she’d forgotten about H).
“Your brother should do something.”
“You’re right.”
“Then tell him.”
“What will you tell him?”
“To do something.’
“Very well. Please tell me what he says.”
“Aunt Helen, I won’t get in the middle.” (I was caught in the crosshairs, not wanting to be her conduit for information… yet if I redirect her to call Hal, HE suffers. Can I really do it to him?)
“You won’t get in the middle! Why are you always trying to be nice?”\
“Is being nice wrong?” (I would try misdirection).
“Please don’t argue with me. You will let me know then?”
“OK, I’ll let you know.”
“What CAN he do?”
“Then maybe you should not say anything.”


After a solid moment of hallowed silence:

“I know you hate it there.”
“Jacks. You tell me you don’t like it.”
“But I’m not buying food. You are.”
“If you hate it there why don’t you just tell Michael Jacobson to meet you elsewhere on Saturdays?”
“It’s just easier. Why do you care so much?”
“I don’t care so much. Why do you think I care so much?”
“OK, you don’t care so much.”
“It seems to me you should be able to find a restaurant you both enjoy.”
“So you do care!”
“Why are you so disagreeable?”

I paused. We were within field goal range of the grocery store. All I had to do was punt and have my defense hold her one more time!

“I’m sorry. You’re right,” (I knew neither for what I was sorry nor what she was right about).

We entered Marc’s and as she handed me her shopping list she reminded me to get a pumpernickel only if it was Pincus’s—not Ungar’s. Like I could forget. This same admonition is received alternating Fridays 26 times per year at precisely the same spot in the store. Like clockwork.

After a scoreless third quarter the action resumed. She had the ball:

“I need baking soda. Do you know where it is?”

I had this one: “Marc’s keeps it with the household products.” (We HAVE done this before).
“Please ask,” she urged.
I was tempted to scream “THEN WHY DID YOU ASK ME WHERE IT IS?”
but like manna from heaven a red-aproned helper appeared, advising: “Aisle 7, with the household products.”
“Thank you very much,” I offered and as soon as the lady was around the corner my aunt retorted: “Well that’s ridiculous. It should be with the baking goods.”

We ambled over to Aisle 7 and found no baking soda.
“You see, it IS with the baking goods,” she triumphed.
Back four aisles we went, but to no avail. No product on the shelf. Another red apron was summoned. We were again directed to Aisle 7, so “hat in hand,” I asked for an escort. It was discovered that the store was indeed out of stock.

“I don’t know how they stay in business,” she declared.
“You’re right.”
“You know,” my aunt continued, “I just hate doing business with them.”
“You’re right.”
“Do you think I have reason to feel this way?”
“Of course. It’s frustrating for all of us.”

The game ended in a tie. We drove back in small talk, and I helped her with the groceries. It was 2:15 on a sunny Friday afternoon, better yet, Brother Hal was now “on the clock.”


  1. JS says:

    Why do you feel the need to bash her every posting? Marc’s does suck when you go there for the most basic of items and they don’t have it in stock. Terrible.

  2. Aunt Helen says:

    I appreciate your instinct to defend me. But don’t bother. I am quite capable of winning a battle of the wits with Bruce. I may be older than him, but I am spry. Think Barney Fife in a calico dress with a parasol. And come to think of it, who are you to criticize my idiot nephew? He may be an idiot, but he is still a Bogacki.

    Lastly, if you must know, while Marc’s does a terrible job of merchandising their product offering, their prices are quite competitive. Go to:

    and you will see what I mean.

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