It doesn't happen very often, maybe twice a century, but today both the Pontifex and Uncle Slappy are in town at the same time.
As you may or may not know, Uncle Slappy--before he was defrocked--was the head Rabbi of a small Upper East Side synagogue, Beth Youiz Mywom Mannow. He led that congregation, presiding over births and brises and deaths and marriages and holy days and sad ones for 50 years. When he hit the age of 80, he was, as you can imagine, too old for some of the younger congregants and too opinionated for just about everyone.
They forced retirement on him, and shortly afterwards, he and Aunt Sylvie left their congregation-supplied two-bedroom coop on 84th Street between Madison and Park for a coop in Boca with the requisite view of the pool.
This morning, Uncle Slappy (who has been staying in our guest room since Rosh ha Shanah) jostled me awake at 5:15 so we could share a cuppa coffee before he and Aunt Sylvie, his wife of 56 years leave for LaGuardia and their 9AM flight back to Florida.
My wife, who makes perhaps the world's hardiest cup of joe, had prepared the coffee maker the night before. All I had to do was throw the switch and pour the brew into a cup. An easy enough job, even for me.
Uncle Slappy, of course, got the first pour. He took a noisy sip, closed his eyes and said, "You I'll miss. Your wife, I'll miss. Your kids--they should visit more often--I'll miss. But this coffee, I'll really miss."
I agreed, of course. There are many mysteries brooked by my spouse. Her coffee-making ability may be foremost among them.
"Let me tell you something about this Pope," Uncle Slappy began.
I served the old man an egg white omelet with two slices of perfectly toasted rye bread, gently buttered.
"He seems like a nice enough guy. He seems to care for the poor and oppressed."
He scooped a forkful of eggs onto a torn section of his toast and took a large and loving bite. His eyes closed as he savored his breakfast.
"He might be the leader of billions, adored the world over. He speaks before a jerk-session of Congress," Uncle Slappy took a long pause and had himself another bite. "But eggs like this, he never had."
And with that, the old man gave me something special. A kiss on my forehead.