This morning, however, instead of having my quiet time to type away my worries, Uncle Slappy was in the kitchen drinking a cup of cold coffee, eating a day-old danish he had removed from our bread-box and pouring over volume 20 (Madjanek to Mengele) of a 32-volume encyclopedia (abridged) of the Holocaust.
He began, as he so often does, like a champion swordsman, with an offensive thrust that almost, almost cut me.
"Good morning, sleepy-head."
I gave him a kiss on the top of his head and went into the living room and to my Mac.
He padded into the room and sat on the sofa cater-corner to me. "So, on Rosh h'Shanah you're working?"
"Really, Uncle Slappy, the holiday doesn't begin until sunset tonight. There's no Talmudic injunction against writing a bit of copy on the day before the High Holidays."
Even though Uncle Slappy was a Rabbi for 55 years, he looks at religion and doctrinaire "holiness" in much the same way I do. Believe all you want but if god is all-mighty, all-powerful and all-good, where was he between 1933 and 1945 when nearly seven-million of his chosen were chosen to be immolated in ovens. That said, he really doesn't cotton to me working on the holidays. Whether or not you're a True Believer, he believes you have to take the time off because, well, you have to.
"OK, boychick," he said opening volume 20, "this year you're taking off?"
The past two years I've been shooting on Rosh h'Shanah. And the old man hasn't forgotten that. For Uncle Slappy and me, it's not about going to temple, or synagogue, or shul, or whatever, it's about finding some space in your head to think about the world, think about your family, think about your life and think about how you can do better. You're more likely to find that space if you're not ensconced in a conference room listening to some newspeak advertising drivel.
He sat back in the sofa, put a bookmark in volume 20 and closed the book. He sipped at his cold coffee and looked vaguely pleased.
"Listen, boychick," he said. "Do me a flavor, will ya?"
"Anything, Uncle Slappy."
"Zap me a danish. And tomorrow," he continued, "don't work too hard."