Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A love story.

I grew up with very little extended family. My old man was very much younger than his brothers and never really got along with them, so I never really knew my uncles. His mother, my grandmother, we seldom visited and truth be told I don’t remember anything about her except that she would say to me, “Georgie want a cookie?” And when I said yes, she would give me two Ritz crackers on a broken plate. My father’s father was dead long before I was born.

Things were even more estranged on my mother’s side. Her parents, my grandparents were long gone, and she hardly mentioned her sisters and brother, and their concomitant nieces and nephews. She traveled, in the words of Wordsworth, lonely as a cloud, and a wretched cloud at that.

That said, there were my cousins, I’ll call them here, like Kafka, the Xs, who lived in Philadelphia. Herb was my old man’s best friend. Yetta, his wife, could, somehow tolerate my termagant of a mother, and Lisa and Howard, their children, were the same age as me and my brother, my sister Nancy as usual, off to one side.

Through the seasons, through birth and deaths, through joy and sadness, and health and sickness, through too many big meals followed by too frequent, ‘I’ll just have a schtickle,’ I’ve grown closer and closer to my cousins.

Yetta defies aging. Lisa and Kenny and their three kids, Howard and Debbie, and their two, well, how else to say it but like Nestor at the Gates of Troy, we’re growing old together. 

And we're growing wiser, too, having put our kids through colleges and grad schools, having gotten them launched, having saved our scheckels and now we’re all, collectively and individually, trying to figure out how to get old. How to still laugh and still exercise and still learn and still cuddle and still read the news and do the crossword, as aches take residence in our joints and the answers in Jeopardy! sometimes come ten minutes after the questions, we’re still living as Hemingway recommended. One day at a time, and always the day we are in.

With the above as foreplay, let me tell you a story. A true story.

Cousin Herb, Yetta’s husband, Lisa and Kenny’s dad, Lauren, Adam, Marc, George and Andrew’s grandfather, died almost two decades ago.

Around last October, as out of the blue as a snowstorm in August, Yetta’s phone rings. It’s another Herb.

“It’s Herb Y,” he says when Yetta answers the phone. “Yetta, I’ve always loved you. And love you still.”

They were friends, the gang of them including Herb X and my old man in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. They hadn't spoken for more than half-a-century.

Herb 2.0, we’re calling him, and Yetta are now an item. They spent the winter together at Yetta’s stomping grounds in Boca. They spent this summer together at Herb’s, in New Jersey somewhere. There are rumors—and they haven’t been denied—that the word ‘fiance’ has been bandied about.

It’s a strange and sometimes atomized world we live in. To quote Stephen King in “Stand by Me,” “Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant.”

Yet somehow, sometimes, old friendships don’t die. Even after years of lying fallow, or at least untended.

Sometimes, if you’re looking for it, and even if you’re not, love has a way of tapping you on the shoulder. You turn around to see who it is.

And love says, “Remember me?” 

And you do.


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