Something inside called me back and last Saturday, after respite from the morning service, I headed down Cedar. ‘Twas gravity perhaps, or at least the innate sense that shul was where I belonged. “What do you have better to do?” my Dad would be asking.

So there I went, with tallis and machzor, but otherwise…alone.

In past years there were others. Grandma Bogart, perhaps. Or Aunt Helen… and some times —going back, back, back — the . Ah, and there was always Harold. And Margie. And their kids. Those days, alas, aren’t these days. Not this day.

Parking on Ivydale, I tiptoed the shrubs ‘cross a walkway through a backyard…to temple. Where is Ivydale? (you might ask). It’s one of those side streets that unless you went to Heights High or had Al Bogart as a father you might not know existed. For years though, it was where we’d park, autumn by autumn, with spots at premium.

Holding my mahzor and marching uphill—alone—passing the island of grass from where we’d stand, Hal and I, back in the 50’s, lurching forward, leaning out… just waiting for our dad’s bald head to emerge midst the exodus….

Up steps I trudged, returning to the present. Musaf had started, so after shaking hands with Jeff Schneider, (the Al Kaline of Park Synagogue), I found a home on the aisle, seats down from whence our family’d sat…back in the day. It was early still; the house was semi-empty. So was I.

Immobile I sat, alone…my memories adrift in diaspora.

The rabbi was leading the Question And Answer period, an annual killing of thirty minutes as the clock winds down. (Why don’t they just start things a half hour later, I wondered). Predictably, some putz stood and (in his best Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. air), prefaced inquiry with a commentary designed to impress the congregation yet have the great mentor Rashi turn in his grave.

The ark still closed, I was getting itchy. Perhaps I would leave. (But I couldn’t). Indeed, as bodies still filtered in, the last thing I wanted to do was bump into someone coming as I was going. On Yom Kippur? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Walk Of Shame! And then he said it! Rabbi Skoff! As if speaking to me…

While The Book’s been written, he noted it had yet to be closed. As such, there’s a tension to the last service, and time remaining before God seals our fates.

That was all I need hear. Are you kidding me? I loved my mother, but trust me, when we played gin I cut the deck. You think I’m walking out after hearing that? Not this cowboy. One hour to go? I’m ain’t leaving. God’s getting my A game.

—So I didn’t leave, but my heart wandered. I thought of my Dad… and my kids. Michael took Hebrew seriously and excelled. Jamie took everything seriously; more than the others (perhaps), she accompanied me for minyan when the old man died. And Stacy, the Little One: well I remembered how she’d brandished her flashlight walking the darkened aisle at Havdalah.

They blended, they did—these etchings of past— as we rose for Neilah.

“Psach Lanu” came the sounds, at once both flat and checkered. The place was full now, with welcomed faces of the usual suspects: Rob Epstein (a great line drive hitter), and Howard and Tammy and Cheryl, the smartest girl in my Hebrew class. But there was no Rev Lev and there was no Uncle Bob, (and I noticed that too).

“Ki Anu Amecha” sang the house. Six years post his death, it’s still Rabbi Cohen’s voice I hear. “Ashamnu” sang the cantor as in unison we pounded our hearts. It never gets old.

Sunset had come yet I didn’t want to leave. Not now. Lifted from isolation to a new dimension… no longer alone….in my zone now..and they dimmed the lights!

—In marched the children…down the aisles…holding flashlights…as Stacy did, and I think Jamie, and perhaps Michael…I JUST can’t remember.

—It occurred to me then, that instant, that in a house of worship founded on faith and embodied with sensations of my memories past, I could find my peace.  Always.

Moments later they blew the Shofar. Loudly. And wishes of Happy New Year echoed. Loudly. And I walked out of shul alone.  (But not lonely).

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