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Dec 16, 2015 - Family, Saratogian Archives    No Comments

Holiday shopping season is not for sissies

(A version of this post originally appeared on Dec. 14, 2002 in The Saratogian)

 

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Christmas in 1989 with David and a newborn Joe

Done with your holiday shopping? Then what are you doing reading this? Get going.

Nothing like a Saturday stalled on Route 50 at Exit 15 to get you in the holiday spirit.

Admit it. You whine about parking two blocks from your downtown destination but you’ll burn a half-tank of gas winding up and down the rows of the mall lot for a spot that’s more than two blocks from the stores.

You burn the other half a tank idling, wondering if those people are going to pull out or are just loading up their trunk, and if they are leaving could they please get a move on.

Here’s a bit of holiday song trivia: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” was inspired by the first parking lot to fill to capacity the day after Thanksgiving. Read more »

Nov 13, 2015 - Family    3 Comments

Playing the cards you’re dealt

“I like to sit at the edge of my bed and think. It looks like I’m davening, but I am just thinking,” my father dictated as I sat beside him with my laptop earlier this week. “Sit back, Jerry, sit back, everyone says. You’re going to slide off.”

unnamededitedDavening, pronounced dah’-vening, is Hebrew for praying. I remember his mother, my Bubbi, nodding in frequent prayer. My father, however, is often just nodding off. And the other night – whether davening or dozing — he leaned on his recliner’s remote, which tipped him forward until he did slip­­­­ off.­­­­­

Dad is slipping – slipping away. And he knows it.

So I was glad when I visited the next day that he agreed to let me type up his thoughts. In recent years, my 85-year-old father has written up lots of stories about his growing up and his take on life, but his fingers and eyes aren’t cooperating like they used to. His mind, however, remains sharp. Read more »

Oct 31, 2015 - Family, Saratogian Archives    No Comments

Chocolate-coated guilt is not a bad affliction

(An extended version of this post originally appeared on Nov. 2, 2002 in The Saratogian)

 

What a sad sign I saw on my morning walk: mini Snickers and Crunch bars still in their packages, one here along the sidewalk, another near the curb, one nestled in fallen leaves beneath a shrub, little lost treasures no doubt dropped by careless trick-or-treaters, strewn about like chocolate-covered, plastic-coated seeds.

Ah, Halloween.

The richest and fattest country in the world thinly disguises its children and sends them door-to-door to beg for candy. You can’t beat it.

Halloween 1999 - Vertical

Joe and David celebrate Halloween in 1999.

Of the few good reasons for having children, #1 is so you can steal the dark chocolate and coconut from their Halloween bag without them minding or, if necessary, without them knowing.

My kids are at that touchy in-between age – young enough to want candy, but too old to look cute in a costume. When both decided not to go trick-or-treating, I panicked.

Would I be reduced to lurking in alleys, snatching pillow cases from pint-size princesses to satisfy my mounting Mounds mania? Of course not. I would wear a white jacket, carry a clipboard and claim to be the City Department of Public Safety’s Candy Inspector. Read more »

Oct 26, 2015 - Family    3 Comments

Practicing the punchline for dad’s funeral

Barb and siblings with Gerry

Jerry looks comfortable with his three kids, Steven, Barbara and Robin.

Are you comfortable?
A reasonable question to ask of my 85-year-old father for whom so much has become difficult: hearing, seeing, walking, breathing.
But he’s the one who likes to do the asking, a set-up for a punchline that he’s trained his children, grandchildren, aides, friends and even his rabbi to deliver, with a shrug: Eh, I make a living.
The other day he and Rabbi Dan spent more than half an hour together in the furniture-packed living room of my dad’s apartment. Afterwards, the rabbi told me my father instructed him to practice the joke he wants told at his funeral, with specific directions that the punchline be shouted from the pews by those of us in the know.
Yes, at his funeral. Which, the doctors say, could be days, weeks or a very few months away. The other day my father learned he has a malignant tumor that he decided not to treat. Don’t worry, he said, cancer won’t kill me. Not being able to breathe will.

My father likes to point bit by bit from head to hip, reciting which parts are gone, dead or dying. He outlived his wife, and he’s lived with diabetes, kidney disease, two bypass surgeries, the addition of a pig’s heart valve, macular degeneration, hearing loss, the replacement of a hip and now, cancer. When he tips forward in his medical recliner and suddenly zonks out, we think, today’s the day. Then he gets a second wind in time to catch the Off-Track Betting station’s replay from Belmont. Give me my sheet, he demands, checking to see how well he fared following favorite trainer Linda Rice.
My father had a premature wake of sorts four years ago when the doctors promised he was a goner. Turned out, as the rabbi explained, God wasn’t ready for him and, as my brother assured him, neither was my mother, may she rest in peace. Nonetheless, after being told death is imminent, accepting the end and saying all his goodbyes, it took a while to come to grips with still being around.
This time is different.
And so, Rabbi Dan needs to practice. Read more »