I was honored weeks back when Lana asked me to speak at Michael’s 70th. “It’s a surprise party. Roast him—say whatever you want—you know him as well as anyone,” she urged. When the bell rang, though, I didn’t roast him. I couldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong—there was plenty to say. No sooner had I hung up the phone that day than ideas swarmed.

I could rail on the fact that our friend Michael has an answer for everything. Not in a rude or upstart way, mind you—but he always answers, nonetheless. And not that his proffers are correct necessarily—but answers they are—and one thing is certain: you can never quite say he’s wrong. Like…ask him how many gallons of water in Lake Erie? Trust me, he cites you a finite number. No approximations. Go ahead then: say it ain’t so!

How many times have I watched him in action? “Michael,” they ask, “You’re president of our shul. What was Moses’s astrological sign? Did Lot, the shepherd in Genesis, hold the staff in his left or right hand?” “Michael, how many bricks ARE in the dome at Park Synagogue? “Michael…did Oswald act alone?”

And yes, I could mention how Michael has to sit facing out at restaurants. Ever gregarious, he’s always sticking his hand out greeting people… strangers. (Never do I have the angle, but I’d love to know how many times people pass our table after just shaking Michael’s hand, and walking on by utter “Who the F was that?”

“That,” I’d advise them, “Was Michael, and No, you don’t know him– but try to prove it.”

Just sayin’

And yes, I might chide him further, regaling at the party of his overwhelming thrill—NO, his voyeuristic passion for watching others overeat. “Save room,” he warned me, way back in ’81 as I lay in Hillcrest Hospital. “I’ll be there after lunch and bring food.” And that he did: Two triples with cheese from Wendy’s. (Not to mention the fries and Frosty). “Bogey,” I’m sure he said, “You know I know Dave Thomas?”

Yeah, I had the material, had the stories, and ‘though I took no notes, it mattered not. When the night would come I figured I’d just rise and shine and leave them laughing.

But I didn’t—by choice.

NO, when they called me last weekend—before a string of family—as Lana handed me the mic—and I studied my larger-than-life friend….

I didn’t want to share laughs. I wanted, rather, to share smiles and warmth and the sense of family that Michael’s transmitted in so many ways from so many angles for so many years to so many people.

So I told them there was never a time he wasn’t there for me, from the births of my children through the deaths of my parents …and that yes, although we met as adults, he’d seen me too grow up! And I mentioned Lana, the wind beneath his wings. (It had to be said).

Then I sat down.

Others followed, of course. A sister, brother and grandchild spoke, each with oral snapshots of the guest of honor. In truth, though, his youngest said it best. “The reason my father knows so many people,” asserted Brian, “Is because he’s touched so many lives.”

It was a simple statement, an honest statement, a profound tribute.

Not only has my pal Michael touched more lives than any person I know, but seven decades in, he shows no signs of slowing down. He remains, alas, A Man For All Seasons.

I love him.

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