“You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
       You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
       And life gets more exciting with each passing day
       And love is either in your heart or on its way”

August, 1972- Somewhere on Interstate 85. A flat stopped our caravan as we traveled Atlanta to Greensboro. Murray Galan, age 60, knelt on the median, changing MY tire. He was sweating, smiling and radiant—clearly having a ball.

July 3, 2010- Chicago, Illinois. There in The Second City my daughter spoke words that echoed through not only Wrigleyville, but my heart:

“Dad, I never realized you’re getting old.”

It didn’t bother me the first time, nor for that matter, the second time she said it. Or the third. But by the eighty-third pronouncement (July 4, 10:15PM, Central, 11:15 PM EST, time approx.)…

My Dad was 47 at his first heart attack. Whatever hair he had was gray, and he bent over only for the “Aleinu.” Still, with all that, never once did it occur to me he was old. Ever.

Those were the days Bert would pick him up for cards. The horn would honk, Big Al would bolt out, rhythmically cantering to the car. Even by the 80’s, when he’d slowed to a trot—-it was never about age. A few extra pounds, MAYBE…but old?

Our Mom—SHE got old (and with reason). By 80 she’d wed our Dad, Sam, and The Thief. That would age anyone. Anyway, it wasn’t so much that she got old as that she rusted.

No, I wouldn’t say I’m old. My underwear: old. My taste in music, perhaps. But me?

Don’t take my word for it. Consider the opinion of the unbiased source, the barometer of social mores, the paragon of reason. What follows, then, is a true excerpt of a telephone conversation (July 8, 2010, 4:00 EST):

“Aunt Helen, do you think I’m old?”
“No. Why would you ask?”
“Just wondering.”
“Bruce why do you bother me with these questions?”

If only my daughter called her aunt more! If only she’d known Murray Galan, or people like him. Like cousin Herschel, who at 70 was still dancing the kazakhski and standing on his head at weddings.

Or like Freddy Gold. When not running The Schvitz at East 116th and Kinsman, Fred found time to manage softball. And so it was that in his late 50’s he was blessed with a catcher named Bruce.

Back then it was me that called his field general old. Thought he’d lost a step, his edge–that he was letting friendships color the batting order. Oh, how I’d hound him, noodge him to tweak the lineup! Those were the days (have they passed?) when I didn’t quite know where to draw the line. So I’d give him a little ZETZ. And another. Always…

“Fred,” I said, behind the skating rink at Monticello, moments after he’d announced the starting ten…”I have a question.” (Alas, I’d gone to the well once too often).

All of a sudden, flying out from behind the third base bench comes this “old” man—all 5’7”of him.

“You sonofabitch!” he screams, as he, in one feel swoop, smacks me over the head with his clipboard, “Get out in the field and shut up!”

Fred old? I think not. He scared me more than any Brush greaser ever did. Fred resentful?…not at all. By game’s end it was like it never happened. Fred was young.

I think of Freddy now and then—he died in February. So real, so youthful, even at 80. And Murray. And Herschel.

Age is but a mind-set. The other night Hal, Margie and I blew a tire on I-271. With Murray gone, we waited for AAA. And laughed. We were smiling, radiant, and having a ball.

If you see my baby, tell her the old man’s young. That my weight is down, spirits up. Softball may be a thing of the past but I’m still sliding head first into life!

       “Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
       To be young at heart
       For as rich as you are it’s much better by far
       To be young at heart.”
                                                          Leigh, Richards

One Response to “YOUNG AT HEART”

  1. Stacy Bohrer says:

    forever young, daddyballs

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