Uncle Slappy called me a minute ago--on my cell phone and while I was at work--both of which worried me. Uncle Slappy almost invariably calls on my land-line, and in the evening, when he knows I'm home. Cell phones, in his eyes are for special calls, for emergencies. Nonetheless, my iPhone vibrated while I was in the middle of yet another senseless meeting.
"Uncle Slappy," I said, recognizing his number on caller ID, "is everything ok?"
I suppose most conversations I have with the Old Man start with that phrase. And he returns, most often with this phrase: "Is anything ok?"
"Whatsamatta," I asked.
"It's Aunt Sylvie," he said, morosely. "Again she fell in the grocery. In the fruits. And then, I suppose you heard about Sid Bienstock?"
"Is Aunt Sylvie ok? Her hip?"
"She fell into the avocados when she heard about Bienstock. The news knocked her over. Her hip is as good as can be expected."
"What happened to Sid Bienstock?" Bienstock lived two units away--a little farther from the pool. Distance from the pool is how people in Uncle Slappy's condo community evaluate almost everything.
"He has lost, as if he ever had any to begin with, his remaining marbles. His kids are down this weekend, and back to Riverdale they're bringing him. They got him into assassinated living in the Hebrew Home for the wretched."
After 56 years with Uncle Slappy, I immediately translated his sentence.
"Look," I said, "Bienstock is no spring chicken. And if you have to have assisted living, there's no better place, I think, than the Hebrew Home for the Aged."
"Bleak, it sounds to me," said Uncle Slappy. "The Hebrew Home for the Wretched."
"Uncle Slappy," I temporized "they have activities. You could learn a language, teach Yiddish, go for a swim in their indoor pool. It's not exactly Thereisenstadt."
"Feh," he said with the wisdom of the Ages.
"Besides," I said, "no one's putting you in the Hebrew Home, or Aunt Sylvie."
"Listen," he said to me.
I listened, though my colleagues were motioning me to return to my meeting.
"Listen," he said. "When my time comes, no Hebrew Home for the Wretched."
"No," I answered.
"Leave me in the avocados with Aunt Sylvie."
And he hung up the phone.