News this morning carried yet another story of England’s wedding. (As we’d say in the days of payphones, “Here’s a quarter. Call someone who cares.”) They’re closing off streets today so the carriages can have a dry run before Friday. Are you kidding me? The roads will be cordoned off for the nuptials! Do they really think the horses will get lost? Just another reason to stay this side of the pond.

Hal and I, of course, are not adverse to rehearsal. Indeed, Margie may roll her eyes and the girls may snicker, but we spend many a moment preparing for, anticipating interactions with Helen. As my brother notes: “It’s always the unexpected.”

There’s the race in Columbus this May. At issue now is when do we go—Friday or Saturday? Where do we sleep—hotel or Harriet? If we go for one night, should our aunt be invited? She’d love it, of course, and H and I could push through it. Would Margie, though, leap from the car in Mansfield? (Or would she just drive separately?)

A motel might avoid the issue. Ah, but would Helen then have the bright idea of staying with Harriet? (If so, I suppose I’d drive down Friday and Margie’d go with H and stay in the car). If we did that, though, would Harriet not jump out her house window?

What to do…what to do? OK, we decided: Don Quixotes we’re not; Helen stays put. We’ll secure our seats in heaven next trip.

When then, DO we mention it? It must be done! Still, not only is there never a right time, but, clearly, whenever the shoes drops, no good will come of it. It’s not like the old days when we could slide in or out of town without major discussion. (Ed. Note: Aunt Helen recently told me that I don’t space my trips to New York adequately).

Ours is a global society. Somewhere, somehow, some way, she will learn of our trip. The rest of the world, you see, is sane; they have normal conversations. Harriet…Norm Diamond—they wouldn’t think twice of mentioning it in casual conversation; it would never occur to them there’d be fallout.

Either way, of course, I suffer. Either way, Hal wins. It’s not his fault; I get that. He’s just Ray Romano to my Robert…and Everybody, (translate: Helen), Loves Raymond.
He shops with her this weekend. If he tells her, then, trust me, at 1 PM Friday May 6 it will be like this:

“Don’t start your car yet. I’d like to talk.”
“Your brother told me you’re going to Columbus this month.”
“Was this decided before or after the Seders?”

(At this point I will pause, looking for Regis Philbin, dying to phone a friend).

What IS the right answer? If I tell the truth and say “Yes,” she’ll grill me about why it wasn’t discussed at dinner. She’ll ask if it was because Margie was there and Margie has something against her though she “…has no idea why….” And then she’ll ask why I didn’t bring it up at Second Seder…at which time I’ll pause at Sophie’s Choice.

I could, I suppose say I thought it was discussed at the First Seder, but Hal and I have a code: only in the direst of straits would we ever throw the other under the bus.

If I say “No, we just made plans,” she won’t bat an eyelash…at first. Then, just as I exhale, just as my car crosses Fenwick, she’ll utter the three words that, to this day, strike fear in the hearts of two sixty year-old men: “Just one more thing…”

“When did you make plans? Your brother didn’t mention it last week?”
“I don’t remember, Aunt Helen…really,” I’ll tell her, feigning sincerity, praying for impasse.

Sometimes, alas, our prayers aren’t answered:

“Does Harriet know?”

I’ll want to tell the truth, but I REALLY can’t recall. Did H call Harriet? Do we warn her? Has there been a pre-emptive strike? What if Hal called her? Where did he tell her we’re staying? What if he told her we weren’t sure about when we were coming? Would that leave the door open for Helen opting in?


The truth is that Hal and I play these mental gymnastics all too often. (Or do we?)

Rehearsal began this week out in Wlloughby. I’m in another play.

“What are you doing?” my brother asked last Friday.
“The Music Man,” I said.
His face fell.
“She LOVES that show!…What are we going to do?”

And we spent the next twenty minutes deliberating.

I am reminded that the best major league ballplayers—the all stars, the elite—still take batting practice before every game. This raises a fair question: Who are we, then, to think we can get off the bench twice a month and compete?

This is a new world with new math. Ninety-six is greater than sixty-one plus sixty.

5 Responses to “TO TELL THE TRUTH”

  1. Mark Ermine says:

    You forgot one place you can always stay…….at our house. I have room and Lisa and I would love to have you for one or two nights. Meals included. Let us know

  2. m says:

    That’s very nice Mark, but will Lisa make room for Aunt Helen, too? She’s just one more person and eats like a bird…a harpy.

  3. Aunt Helen says:

    m is right. I do try to keep my girlish figure.

    But, I am NOT analagous to a harpy.

    After all, in Greek mythology, a harpy (“snatcher”, from Latin: harpeia, originating in Greek: ??????, harp?ia) was one of the winged spirits best known for constantly stealing all food from Phineas. The literal meaning of the word seems to be “that which snatches” as it comes from the ancient Greek word harpazein (????????), which means “to snatch”.

    A harpy was the mother by the West Wind Zephyros of the horses of Achilles. In this context Jane Ellen Harrison adduced the notion in Virgil’s Georgics that mares became gravid by the wind alone, marvelous to say.

    Hesiod calls them two “lovely-haired” creatures, perhaps euphemistically. Harpies as ugly winged bird-women, e.g. in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides are a late development, due to a confusion with the Sirens. Roman and Byzantine writers detailed their ugliness.

    Why does m continually put me down?

  4. bob says:

    Mark have you ever heard B snore? Dinner sounds good but you might want to rethink the sleep over.

  5. alan says:

    My solution is that Helen takes Amtrak and stays with Ermine. All problems settled

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