I was watching a quiz show when the announcer gave the following clue; “it’s
someone you’re with 24 hours a day”. I, being retired, quickly guessed, -- “my
wife”. Of course the answer was “Yourself.” On one hand I’m crazy about my wife
Arlene; she means everything in the world to me. She’s been my best friend for
49 years. When I wake up I thank HaShem for sending me my bashert
and my first thought is that I will get out of bed and bring her a cup of hot
tea with milk and a glass of cold water. Something she needs and likes before
she gets out of bed. That’s how my day starts-showing my love for her. On the
other hand, she sometimes makes me crazy. I’m amazed that we’ve survived with
each other as long as we have.
I was relaxing in my easy chair when my wife asked me what I was doing. My reply
was “Nothing”. She said “You did that yesterday”. I replied saying, “I’m not
finished yet.” She walked away from me smiling and shaking her head.
Arlene’s very organized and has many systems. The only problem I have is that
she never tells me when she’s changing a system. She says, “From now on we’re
keeping the tuna chopper in the closet to the left of the sink.” I say “Good,
now I know where it’s located”. The next time I go to chop tuna I open the
closet door and the chopper is not there. “Sweetheart, I can’t find the tuna
chopper”, I say. She shouts back, “It’s in the third drawer on the right” Hmm,
seems like I’ve been left out of the loop. This is just a small example of how
systems change and I am not involved or consulted on the change.
I enjoy cooking, so before I begin my creation of the day, I
choose a place to work in the kitchen. As I begin preparing the meal, I notice
Arlene standing so close that we are almost in the same space, gently shoving
tukhas to tukhas. “I was working here dear”, I say…”No, I was working
here”, says she. “Arlene, maybe it would be better for you to do your work at
the other end of the counter”. “I think not, it’s more fun this way…and I need
to be near the sink and the garbage can.” And that’s how it goes. I never know
what to expect.
I have come to the conclusion that there are only two ways of doing things for
her, my way and the right way, so I think sweet things and move on. I’m sure if
she were telling this story it would sound very different. The wonderful part of
spending forty-four years with one person is that she and I never age. She’ll
always be twenty-one in my eyes.
While writing about aging, I realized that I can never understand the aging
process. How is it I stay young looking and all my friends are looking older?
Sometimes I’m taken aback when I see someone that I haven’t seen in years. I’ll
often say to Arlene “Look how old he got”; she smiles and says “Sweetheart, do
think you stay young while everyone else gets old.”? I think “Hmm, she makes a
strong point” What I find more startling is that if I am window shopping and see
a reflection of me on the glass, I want to hide. “Who is this old mieskayt”
I ask myself. Only then do I see myself as others do. I’m grateful that it
rarely happens, enabling me to live in my fantasy world. When I make a new
acquaintance, in my mind he or she will never age. People that I’ve known for
twenty years are still thirty-eight-years-old to me. When I tell them that, they
smile…hmm why doesn’t anyone say that about me?
Now one person who never aged was my Mom. “Melvelah, be careful when you drive,
you never know what those older people will do”, my 90 year old mother
instructed me as I drove her to the doctor. I knew she’d soon be smiling when
she approached the doc’s receptionist. “Yetta’s here, I have an appointment, he
knows I’m coming” she told the receptionist. The receptionist replied, “It’s
good to see you Mrs. Yahre; have a seat, the doctor will be with you shortly”.
My mom looked at me and asked in Yiddish “Vus hut sie gesugt?”
I held her hand as I walked her towards the seating area. Her hearing and
eyesight were weakening. We did not know that in three years she’d become
legally deaf and blind. G-d had blessed her with the strength to go through that
and maintain a positive attitude. Yetta enjoyed life and squeezed it like a
lemon sweetened with lots of sugar.
To Yetta, I was still her little boy, her fifty-year-old
little boy, and she was still telling me what to do. It annoyed me then, but I
miss it now that she’s gone. When the phone rings I know it’s not her with
instructions…I really wish I could go back in time. Now, Arlene and I are doing
the same with our sons; giving advice to our children from our vast store of
life experience. Mama taught us well. I remember calling my Mom and immediately
asking, “Hi mom, how are you feeling”? I was greeted with, “I feel wonderful”. I
thought I had dialed the wrong number, so I hung up the phone. She never said
she felt wonderful!
I really don’t think about getting older. I speak with and listen to many
younger and older people I know, and view myself at my favorite age…Twenty-two.
So, I guess I’ll always be twenty-two and picture people saying at my
funeral…such a shandeh, look how good he looks…with another responding,
“Why not they brought him back from Florida.”
We had Barbara and her husband Lyn, two dear friends, visiting us. Our
friendship started over forty years ago, and our children played with each other
when they were toddlers. I gave them a copy of my book “Gefilte Fish Tales,”
which is a composite of some of my writings from the Gantseh Megillah. Arlene,
my bashert and beautiful wife, and our two sons, had it published and
presented it to me as a sixty-fifth birthday gift. The next time we got together
to socialize, Lyn approached me and said “Mel, this is one of the funniest books
I’ve ever read, and written so professionally”. Barbara turned to Lyn and said,
“And since when are you a critic; you don’t spend enough time reading.” Lyn, not
to be out done, replied, “I have lots of experience and know the difference
between a book that’s well written and one that’s not”. I started laughing, I
just couldn’t contain myself. They were talking about what I had written as if I
wasn’t even in the room. I guess I can say they were talking behind my back in
front of my face. I just love my friends!
To the “High Riser”
Barbara and Lyn, Jerry and Evelyn, and Arlene and I would celebrate every New
Year’s Eve together. We were in our twenties when we first started celebrating,
and this continued until our fifties when we moved from New York to Florida.
Every New Year’s Eve we’d toast the “High Riser” and laugh. It’s forty years
later, and I am sixty-fiveish.
Barbara and Lyn were visiting us recently here, in Florida,
where they live part of the year. We each had a beverage in hand (sugar free of
course,) and chuckled while we toasted to the “high riser.” I suddenly turned to
Lyn and asked “Why did we originally toast to the high riser?” There was
complete silence as we all pondered where this little tradition got its roots.
Barbara said we were really into champagne and toasting during those early
partying days when we’d all get babysitters and be “child free” for an evening.
We were at the local firehouse New Year’s party and Barbara announced that they
had just purchased a high riser, a kind of guest bed for sleepover company, thus
the toast. We were happy and tipsy and would toast to just about anything that
night. We were young and life was good.
Barbara should only know that Jerry and I have been toasting the wrong high
riser all these years!!(wink, wink)
When our friends are in town we enjoy dining out and then playing board games.
Barbara knows the latest and also popular old games, which she teaches us to
play. Since they own a condo and are in Jacksonville four months a year we all
chose to play rummy kub, a rummy game using tiles, and it was their turn to have
us at their home.
I won the first game and the second, the third and the fourth.
It was time to leave to go home and feed our dogs, two Bichon Frises, one with a
stomach alarm that goes off at five p.m. when I stood up and made the
announcement, “It’s time for us to go." Barbara looked at me and said, “Sit
down; you’re not going anywhere until someone else wins a game.”
I sat down and I smiled inwardly; instead of buying a Florida
Lottery I’m winning at rummy kub!! I won the next two games which brought the
total to six. Lyn said “Mel you play well, you use great strategy”. Barbara’s
response was “Strategy, shmategy… he’s just lucky.”
I now understand the rule of the game: when I win it’s because I’m lucky, and if
I lose it’s because I play poorly. Arlene uses a similar logic. It translates as
follows: When we’re playing a game, if you continue winning then your brain is
better at that game and I will never win, so I will no longer play the game with
Till next month, eat kosher!!
L’ Shana Tova,
Mel (the fat guy)