THE BALD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

There’s no better instance to visit adult children than the weekend. You arrive, get our face time, assure they’re ok, then leave. It’s God’s perfect unit of time. After forty-eight hours, really, there’s nothing left to accomplish. (Unless, of course, they have kids. THAT, as I learned this year, is a game-changer).

It was the first time in my life, EVER, I’d left town no return scheduled. New York, a one-way ticket to see Max…and time.

Conventional wisdom as my play closed was that the half-moon of hair exacted from my scalp would return. I’d debated shaving it clean, letting it grow in level. The pundits, however, said No. As such, flying east I looked like some putz carving meat in a deli.

“Bruce, that’s hideous,” I heard on the coast. “You have to do something!”

Let the record show that at 10 AM Friday I entered Rubin’s Barbershop in Great Neck. (Picture Floyd of Mayberry, minus Floyd plus Benny, Peppino and yes, the swirling red, white and blue pole). Note further that prior to my exit ten minutes later, at no time had my son ever called me “Telly” or “Kojak” or “Uncle Fester.”

So be it. A gray minivan was pulling in front of the shop; the weekend was truly beginning. Four days would ensue: four days of warm, dynamic interaction—unique opportunities to lay foundation and cement love with a boy sporting more hair at thirty weeks than I had in sixty years. These were times, I well knew, to be treasured.

Max graduated that morning. From Dreamnastics. I was there. Poised on his mother’s lap, he rolled, bounced and smiled at classmates while one lone adult male marveled. He’s about to crawl, (I sensed). He’s the best looking, (I thought). How many teeth does yours have? (I asked). An hour later, one diploma on Facebook, I left. His was not the biggest smile.

“Keep me posted,” said Meredith the next night. She and Michael, heading for dinner, were leaving their most valuable asset with me. Babysitting—after all these years!

Like any good soldier, I followed orders.

“Sleeping,” read one text. “Sleeping. Same position,” said another. The third was more specific: “Sleeping. On right side. 45 degree angle toward near right (camera behind home plate).”

My face fell at 10 PM. So early? Couldn’t they stop for dessert?

We hit The City on Sunday. Ladies at a shower, three generations of Bogart, awaiting Grandpa Stuart, tread the sidewalks of New York. The latter, driving separately, was…on this, the day of the Gay Rights Parade, inexplicably late. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it).

Round and round we went, up and down Soho. Michael marched first; I drove the buggy. Block by block in the sweltering heat. Periodically he’d turn back, me trudging behind.

“You ok?” he’d prompt, and I’d pick up the pace.

Block by block. Every once in a while there’d be a curb without handicap access.

“Not too fast,” he’d warn. “Max is sleeping, and I’d slow the pace.

Finally, gracefully, we sought respite in a corner bar. A beer for my boy, AC for me and, poetically, the Old Timers’ Game on TV. Grandfather, father, son and…the Yankees?

The best came, however, the next day. Day Four we celebrated not on land but by sea. And the Jewish Sea, to boot: a swimming pool.

The water was but an inch deep. “Are you having fun?” inquired my daughter-in-law, knowing full well the answer. “Oh my God,” shrieked I, leaping up. “My phone is in my pocket.”

I returned to my seat, palms flushed to baby’s back. Studying him, his gentle rocking…he had me thinking. Was this the moment? Would he crawl right here?
…in the water? C’mon Max!

The sun was shining—the son was shining! This was, but for one moment, as good as it gets. He wasn’t crawling, you see, but someone was else was….I thought of Hailey, his cousin. Where was she when she crawled—that very first time. On land? In water? Where was I?

Max cooed and I steadied his frame. Time to rise, dry off, go. It was Monday, alas, and the time had come. For now.

I deplaned Tuesday, in Akron. Heart full of love— head full of memories, smiling I studied the box score. First graduation, babysitting, walking Manhattan, swimming—I wondered if Max felt my presence….if he even knew. Somehow, yes somehow I thought he had.  Kids know these things—they just do. The fun was mine but the love was shared. And felt.

“By the way,” I asked Ed as we drove up to Cleveland, ”Do you think I look like Telly Savalas or Uncle Fester?”
“No,” he said sharply, then adding: “More like Elmer Fudd.”

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