I got a call last night--this morning, actually--at exactly 2:46 on my iPhone. It was from Uncle Slappy and I knew it wasn't good news. No one with good news calls at that hour. Certainly not Uncle Slappy, who more often than not follows his Circadian rhythms and is asleep not long after dark, or, in other words, not long after the early bird has flown.
In any event, it was Uncle Slappy and he was frantic.
"Boychick," he began. "Your Aunt Sylvie fell down."
"She fell down," I repeated. "Is she ok?"
"What did you think, she was going to fall up? She was heading to the bathroom and tripped and fell."
I cried the cry of Jews for five millennia. "Oy vey is mir."
"Oy vey is right," he said. "I called nine-one-one and the BMT were there in about five minutes. She couldn't get up."
The BMT is what old-timers like Uncle Slappy called the Broadway subway line. I didn't correct him. It wasn't important to.
"They were two nice young fellas. They got Sylvie standing."
"That must have been a relief," I said.
"We had to go to the horse-spittal anyway. They wanted to make sure nothing was broken and there was no internal bleeding."
"And she was ok?" I asked.
"A horse-spittal at one in the morning I wouldn't wish on Saul Benowitz, the world's worst dry cleanerer. You never got a shirt back that wasn't shrunken. Boychick. She's ok. As strong as a horse said the Indian doctor. She is laying in bed next to me as I talk to you. But Boychick, let me tell you something..."
"Thank god, she's alright. Do you need me down there?"
"Boychick, I am 87 years old. Your Aunt is no spring chicken at 86. Let me give you some old man perspective: don't waste your time. That's it. Don't waste your time."
I sat silent, giving him pause to continue.
"There are schmendricks and schmucks and schmos and schlmiels and schlamazels. There are blowhards and bastards and big heads and back stabbers. There are cowards and turn-coats and summer soldiers and fair-weather friends. There are liars and losers and lousy low-down leeches and low-lifes. There are thieves and sneaks and bandits and rascals and scoundrels. The world is full of all of the aforementioned and more.
"There are people who court disaster. People who panic. People who huff and puff and say nothing. There are people who are great at mediocrity--who hone it to a fine art and try to foist it on you. There are people who cut you down behind your back. People whose sole game is to cover their not inconsiderable asses.
"There are all these and more."
I attached names to all the adjectives as Uncle Slappy spoke. It wasn't hard to do.
"Don't waste your time with them. Take care of the people you love."
With that, I heard the old man kiss Aunt Sylvie good night.
Then he did something he's seldom done through all the decades I have known him.
"I love you, boychick."
And he hung up the blower.