Tuesday, December 2, 2008


His name leaped out at me from the obituary column of my morning newspaper. An electric shock vibrated through my body as I read that he was 96 years old at the time of his death. He had been married for 60 years, had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and had been a successful business man.

As if I were on a time machine, he and I were on a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains. He was 18 years old and I was 16. We had just finished a long swim and we were slightly out of breath, watching the sun set. I could feel the wetness of my bathing suit, the sand on my feet and on my shoulders.

The majestic mountains surrounding the lake were like walls providing a private space in which the two of us seemed to exist. Private moments were in marked contrast to the busy, noisy action-filled days of our roles as counselors at a summer camp. So we rested quietly, only the singing of birds, breaking the silence.

He turned towards me, as if he wanted to say something. Perhaps it was accidental, because we had never touched each other before, but within a moment we were holding each other, caressing each other. I could feel the droplets of water on our bodies mingling together. A wonderful feeling erupted within me.

A short time later, the summer was over, and I left to begin my freshman year at college in Massachusetts. I never saw him again. For many months, he inhabited my fantasy life. I dreamed that we would be together, sharing the pleasures of new experiences.

And now I read that he was dead. I was 94 years old as I read that notice. But as I traveled on a time machine that morning, we were swimming in the cool waters of a beautiful lake–he was 18, I was 16–both of us joyfully unaware of life’s inevitable stages.


Tim had visited quite a few times, and we had established some kind of relationship. He had even taken me for a walk once or twice when my lady was tired or maybe just glad of a break from our usual routine. It was a treat for me, because he walked on different streets and didn’t stop to look at shop windows.

But this was different. Tim had moved in! It wasn’t just his physical presence around so much of the time. It was his clothes in her closet, his shoes and socks under her bed, and the new smells that permeated our place.

But it was the situation in the bedroom that disturbed me the most. I had always slept at the foot of my lady’s bed. Sometimes she’d pull me under the covers with her, hug me and shower me with kisses, and even let me stay next to her all night.

I had even discovered that certain situations led to her wanting me close. Sometimes it was because she was sad. I could feel her hot tears wetting my fur, sometimes she was happy and she’d hold me in the air and we would dance to her happy laughter. Sometimes she would ignore me, and I knew then that it was my job to comfort her. I learned how to be pretty good at that.
But since Tim moved in, things were different. True, he had slept over a few times before. I had been polite enough to our guest to let him have complete privacy. But that didn’t mean I was going to give up my proprietary rights.

When they were getting undressed, I jumped on the bed and waited till they got in. My lady would me pet me and kiss me good night and a few times she and Tim played with me under the covers.

But I couldn’t deal with it when I saw how close they got in bed. Often, they looked as if there were struggling, and I would growl and bark and jump on Tim to protect my lady.
At first Tim would laugh; but when I perfected my strategy to separate them, Tim started to pick me up and put me on the floor. Once or twice, he carried me out of the room. My lady would protest and tell Tim.

"He’ll get used to not being #1." But, will I?


This is a story about Joe, not Joe the plumber, who has already faded into obscurity, but Joe, my cousin. He was about 40 at the time of this story–single, a musician and a great favorite in the family. He played the piano at all our parties and never seemed to get tired at meeting requests for our favorite songs.

One day we heard that Joe had been taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, suffering from stomach pains. My father decided to visit him there. When he entered Joe’s hospital room, Grace, Joe’s sister, was there, glad to see a member of the family.

As a physician, my father was permitted to read a patient’s medical chart, which was attached to the bed, where Joe lay, pale and nervous in a hospital gown.

After reading the chart for some time, my father put it down and said to Joe in a gentle but firm voice –

"Joe, I want you to get dressed. You’re leaving the hospital with me." Joe looked at my father with astonishment.

"Uncle Louis, I love you and respect you, but what are you talking about! My surgery is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I have one of the best surgeons in the city and the chief of surgery here."

"Joe," my father responded, "if you don’t get dressed, you’re leaving in your hospital gown!
And that is how the story goes ... My father led the parade, Joe followed him in his gown, his sister after him, carrying a beautiful plant she had brought as a gift. As she told it later, "so it wouldn’t be a total loss."

The three of them marched out of hospital. No one noticed them; no one stopped them.

Shortly after, Joe moved to California. He got a job at MGM, a major Hollywood studio, as a musician. He lived in California until his death at the age of 81. He never had abdominal surgery, nor did he suffer any abdominal pain after his march through Mt. Sinai Hospital in his hospital gown.