Not two hours ago I piled Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy into a cab to LaGuardia, so they could make a 6:45 flight back to Boca. The period of Rosh h'Shanah and Yom Kippur lasts ten days and Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy were up for all of those days. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being exhausted from their visit.
It's not that I don't love them and that they don't bend over backwards to be unobtrusive, but the fact is, they're 86 now and, let's face it, ten days is a lot of time to share proximity. It started, actually when Uncle Slappy arrived. He began asking for a cherry danish.
Maybe you don't understand exactly how Uncle Slappy asks for something. He is as persistent as a fog horn.
We sat down in my eat-in-kitchen and I poured the old man a cup of Joe. He likes it black as pitch and as hot as magma. I actually zapped it after I poured it from the coffee pot.
"Good," he says, "your wife makes good her coffee. But better it would be with a danish cherry."
Uncle Slappy speaks English as if it were translated from the Yiddish. His word order is as neat as a Jackson Pollack painting.
"We have no cherry danish," I answered. "Would you like a slice of babka or a 'nilla wafer." Uncle Slappy is the only grown-up I know who loves 'nilla wafers. He described them to me once as a "cookie apotheosis." A line that surely won't appear in their advertising any time soon.
"No, a cherry danish is all I want. Sweet with tart and subtle rivers of cinnamon."
"I'll bring some home tomorrow. I'll get some at Glaser's on 87th or maybe from Zaro's in Grand Central."
"Ach," he spat. "Train station danish, no thank you. Not since they closed Eclair will I eat from the train station a danish or even a rye bread."
"Then Glaser's it is," I answered. Glaser's is the last real bakery in our neighborhood--the genuine article. It's been around since the 1910s, even longer than Uncle Slappy.
"Twelve hundred miles we fly and no danish," he said into his coffee. "You can't in all of Florida get a good danish. In all of Florida they have nothing that resembles a danish."
The next day I walked up to Glaser's a bought a dozen assorted danish--cherry, prune, cheese, even blueberry. That evening when it was time for Uncle Slappy's coffee lava, I gently warmed a cherry in the oven.
"Now this is good," he said. "Not as good as danish used to be, but better than an airplane danish at least."
"I did the best I could do, Uncle Slappy," I said. "Things like danish are hard to come by, even in New York."
"What kind of world are we living in? What kind of world? Poison gas in Syria and no danish in New York?"
"The geo-political part I don't understand," I told him. "The connection between tyranny in Syria and pastry in Manhattan is beyond me."
"When you're my age, you'll understand," he said. He got up and began walking out of the kitchen, leaving his coffee still steaming on the table. "For my shiva," he said "I want better than this."
Like I said, I love Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Slappy.
But ten days is a long time.