I was up early, earlier than usual.
Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie are flying back today to Boca and I wanted to squeeze the most out of every last minute I could.
We had a pecan ring left over from the weekend, and I heated a large slice in the oven for the old man, then I poured him a cup of my wife's ridiculously strong black coffee.
He nibbled at the pecan ring and sipped at the coffee, but I could tell there was something troubling the old man. Usually he's as talkative as a carnival barker, but this morning Uncle Slappy was downright lugubrious.
"Uncle Slappy," I began, "you know you don't have to leave. We love having you up here. Why don't you stay at least until we leave for Christmas vacation at the end of the month?"
In the next room we could hear Aunt Sylvie raising a ruckus as she packed their bags and as she straightened up the guest room. She had National Public Radio on--the news, of course--and she spent half her time cursing some of the imbecility that is the hallmark of our age.
Uncle Slappy took a long draw on his coffee. "The airlines charge you $50 to change a ticket. That's $100 for the two of us. They are bandits."
I came right out with it.
"You seem upset, Uncle Slappy," I said. "Is Aunt Sylvie driving you mad? Is it Donald Trump? Is it going back to the condo in Boca? What's troubling you?"
He got up to leave the dining room, leaving his slice of pecan ring only picked at.
"Nothing, boychick, nothing." He went into the guest room to close up their luggage and a moment later he had left it in a heap in our foyer.
Among Jews, and I guess most people of my generation and Uncle Slappy's, we would say "nothing is wrong," if we were spewing blood and our intestines were being gnawed at by wild dingoes. I was worried about the old man.
"Your daughters, they're good," he said to me. "Your wife, she's a good woman. You, you're a mess, but you're a mensch."
He walked back to the dining room and sat down again to his pecan ring.
"So you know what's wrong?"
I shook my head, "no."
"I'll miss you, that's what's wrong." He kissed me as he does on the forehead. "That's what's wrong. I miss you already."