She slept, but I was riveted to a two-episode arc from “All In The Family”. It was the day before Michael and Gloria were leaving for California and the couple’d opted to go to Manhattan and dine with a professor rather than spend their last night home with the Bunkers. Archie and Edith were more than hurt; they were devastated. She grieved silently while he railed of the Fifth Commandment and the looks on their faces detailed disappointment. It was not the first tear I would cry last night.

We always honored our parents. Always. There were times we disappointed them, moments we’d laugh at their expense…but there was never disrespect. More often than not, even if they were wrong/wrong/wrong, H and I kept our mouths shut. They were, after all, our parents.

Like I said: we honored them.

— As kids our parents kept us home High Holidays. (Rowland being 90% Jewish, the school would pretty much close down. Heck, even Masseria observed). There’d be temple by morning (children services for us), Grandma Bogart’s for lunch— and then home. For some reason I recall only good weather those days, and I remember still how friends would be out playing by the “school day”’s end. Not us, though. Not Bruce or Harold. No, our dad would have none of it. Mattered not what our pals did; mattered not that he was sitting inside playing endless solitaire. It was holiday, said our father—-so we shut up. (Or more likely, never opened our mouths).

We knew even then the difference between discord and disrespect. We knew even then that they’d earned our respect with their love. No more, no less. Sometimes we didn’t understand and sometimes we couldn’t agree—but we knew well our role, and our mandate to honor.

(Not to say that we didn’t get close. Not to say that I, specifically, didn’t tease that line you didn’t cross).

In the late 60’s The Supremes released their greatest hits album. A two-LP set, its dark royal blue packaging contained a tri-fold photograph of each of the singers. I was living with my dad at the time—on campus—and proudly I’d posted the pictures over the wooden molding in the bedroom.

“You know,” he observed, “If they couldn’t sing they’d just be hookers on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.”
I got angry.
“What do you mean?” I roared, beginning a several sentence rant.
Face reddening, he shot right back: “Don’t be naïve.”
Then I lost it. Don’t know why—I was never a rebel—but my rambling soliloquy ended with a glare and some ugly words:
“You’re a racist!” I accused.

His lip puffed. Smoke—the kind that signals the election of a pope—flew from his ears. For minutes, (it seemed so much longer), I then heard how the world had changed, and on and on, including his take on Detroit’s riots of ’67 and the Glenville riots just passed, and the war, and long hair, and …

My talking was done that day. I sat there half-listening, (waiting for the storm to pass), but more thinking how I’d gone too far. Who calls their father a racist? Really?

It was an episode we never once discussed. Ever. Indeed, when the dust settled he went in the shower, emerging soon after in boxers and his omnipresent “wife-beater” undershirt.

“What say you for dinner?” he asked with his twinkle.
“You’re not mad?”
“We both have to eat.”

I’ve replayed that scene quite often o’er the years. Stuart knows it  like he was there.  And me?  I laugh and cry.

It was years later— perhaps as I fathered— that it sorted out. Fully.

I’d crossed a line that day, to disrespect. This wasn’t the sixth-grade Bruce getting caught playing tackle football; this was an adult Bruce, forgetting who his father was. A proud moment it wasn’t, but unique it was, and never to be approached again.

I remember it though; I picture it; and when I see others mistreat their parents, as sometimes I do, I cringe. It’s not right. And as I watch poignant moments, like I did last night on TV, my throat clogs in memory.

Epilogue: We went to the Suburban Steakhouse that night back in ’68. A sucker for their rolls, Al Bogart could make a meal of them. “Better than cake,” he would tell me. Always. “Better than cake.”

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