Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie arrived at my door late yesterday afternoon, bundled up against the New York cold as only residents of Florida can be. They wore puffy winter coats, thick Russian hats, scarves, gloves and winter boots. It was 40-degrees in New York but the weatherman said that overnight it was going down into the teens with strong winds.
I took their luggage--though he's 86 Uncle Slappy still refuses to use a roller-bag. "When I can't carry a bag anymore, I'll stop traveling," he says defiantly. Aunt Sylvie, who has grown inured to Uncle Slappy after almost 60 years of marriage, abides by no such strictures. Her bag glides like a beautiful virgin on a dance floor.
I settled the two of them in our guest room and in a split second or two they were parked at the small table in our eat-in kitchen awaiting a cup of my wife's famously potent black coffee and a schtickle. (A schtickle is something small to nibble on--usually something sweet, like a piece of babka or a danish or a few rugelach. I offered Sylvie and Slappy a selection of all three. They are not getting any younger.)
Uncle Slappy sipped deeply at his coffee and closed his eyes with its goodness. Though he is my uncle, I think he and Sylvie come up so often for my wife's coffee. I don't know how she does it, but I think she makes the best in the world.
Fortified by Sumatran caffeine, Uncle Slappy began his routine.
"Aunt Sylvie and I saw the Grateful Fred last night. They were playing at the recreation center in the village."
"The Grateful Fred?" I asked.
"Fred Weintraub, Fred Steinmetz and Fred Kopinsky. They live in our condo development. They play jazz," Uncle Slappy explained.
"They ain't Tommy Dorsey," Aunt Sylvie chimed in between bites of cherry danish.
"It's a funny name for a band," I added.
"Well, the Grateful Fred are no Grateful Dead," Uncle Slappy concluded.
"Thank god," said Aunt Sylvie. "Thank god."
She was never one for rock-n-roll, Aunt Sylvie. I was surprised they even knew who the Grateful Dead were.
"Download them you can try to, on the iTunes," Uncle Slappy said.
Then, tired from their trip, Sylvie and Slappy went to their bedroom to rest, impervious to the caffeine they had just ingested, and just about everything else.