Just as I was about to leave the house early this morning for an 8 am doctor's appointment, the land line rang. 59 years of filial obligation kicked in and though I was running late (who doesn't run late when they have an eight am appointment) I picked up the blower.
"Boychick," the voice on the other end said.
"Hi, Uncle Slappy," I answered. "Is everything ok?"
When your surrogate father is pushing 90, it's not unusual to worry a bit about his health.
"I've never felt better," the old man said. "I was wondering," he paused expertly building suspense for what was coming.
"I was wondering if you're coming down for the graduation."
I know better but I played into the hand Uncle Slappy was dealing.
"Graduation? What graduation? I didn't think anyone under 70 lived in Florida."
Uncle Slappy ignored that.
"Norman Weinstein," he galloped ahead, "Norman Weinstein after all these years is finally getting his degree."
"Weinstein is a dentist, is he not? What kind of degree could he be getting in these his sunset years?"
"He's getting that most exalted of all advanced degrees." The old man paused for a sip of motor oil he calls black coffee.
"He's getting a PhK."
"A PhK?" I asked. "Not a PhD?"
"No, a PhK. A doctor of kvetchology. The man is the foremost kvetch in all the world."
"He is given to the lugubrious," I admitted." I sat with him by the pool last year. You would have thought it was the black hole of Calcutta."
"Ask him the weather, ach, so humid he'll reply. As him about his grandkids, ach they don't visit, ask him about politics, climate change, something funny on tv it's all kvetching."
"Some people can see gloom in everything," I temporized.
"The other day we went the four of us to our favorite bagel place, from Schmear to Eternity for their all you can eat."
"From Schmear to Eternity. There's no better bargain anywhere. Especially when you wrap some in a napkin for later."
"They expect that," Uncle Slappy said. "It's into the price built in."
"So it's like two meals for the price of one."
"Not for Mr. PhK. He takes one bite of herring pickled with sour cream and out of his mouth he spits the fish."
"The fish is no good?" I ask.
"Feh, that wasn't herring," says Weinstein, "that was all bones. The same happens when he tries the belly lox on a poppy. And kippered salmon on a sesame. And chubs on an onion. Each time out of his mouth he spits the fish."
"I've never known Dr. Weinstein to be such a picky eater," I replied.
"Finally," says Uncle Slappy, "I said to him. Norman, you don't the fish like? And he gave me the answer that earned him his degree."
"I like the fish okay," said Weinstein.
Uncle Slappy paused and sipped another sip of coffee.
"But I don't like it nearly as much as kvetching about it."
Uncle Slappy hung up the blower and I made to my doctor just ten minutes late.