Its not a particularly widespread tradition in my ethnic snack bracket to send out “End Of Year” letters. My wife, now ex, and I had some some friends during our time in LA that introduced us to this tradition and it was a nice way of catching up, collecting thoughts and framing a piece of time in the context of a continued commitment to friendships that became out of distance. Molly and Edward had us on their list for a long time, long after we left town and, eventually, each other.
I recently was emailed a yearly review – snail mail read by a holiday fireplace is just a Rockwell fantasy these days – by Janny who is married to my close friend Steve. We will keep last names out of this because of the potential problems of being identified as someone who actually knows me. It was a terrific narrative with photos, captions and some heartfelt reflections on the losses and wins of her year from travel to volunteer work to a terrific early third act in her professional career to pets ferried and buried and a not so gentle reminder that life is for the living. And Janny lives, with Steve riding shotgun whenever he can. Just getting it reinforces a friendship that I have not been terrific at maintaining.
And so what about my year you ask? Hmmm. Not the best if you are asking and I should have known going into 2017 because New Year’s Eve was pretty much the worst I have ever experienced. Barbara and I decided to spend the weekend in Las Vegas and it was not great. The relationship was sliding and although I could see the erosion, we had been together for the better part of 30 months and the investment was real at this point. But something was amiss before we showed up on The Strip and something snapped when she snapped at me for being fifteen minutes late for dinner on the Friday night because I had fallen asleep in the sauna downstairs in the gym. This was not her. And then New Year’s was as close to an OD that either of us had experienced. Fingers were pointed and it was a sign that if this is what we needed to enjoy each other’s company then we had problems. We flew home hung over and clammy and things were never quite the same through the winter and into the spring when it finally ended. I didn’t control any of the narrative and I was badly hurt at the end. I lost 20 pounds, couldn’t sleep, work was sketchy. I’m too old for this shit. A close friend of mine suggested I could have my future needs met by a dog and a hooker. Ten years ago I would have laughed at the suggestion. Back in April, however, not so much.
I hit the therapist and after a few months I am back in the land of the living, left with some scars but a few good memories of what Barbara said in parting was , “a good run.” I am writing a film script now which has a cathartic quality to it.
But parallel to these shenanigans was the issue of my father who, at 92, was finally starting to act his age. The old man has survived most of his friends. “Moishe Dior” is a few years older and is still going strong in Florida. They talk on the phone a lot but the rest of his golfing buddies are permanently ensconced under man-sized divots, guys who were very much vital not so long ago. And so, while my lovelife was disentegrating last winter, so was my father’s health. He started to fall as a main course of action with a side order of fainting and with that came hospital stays and various anemias. Spending wholesale amounts of time in a live-in health facility alters the time-space continuum into a parallel universe where the days are marked not by hours but by visits from the on-call, the nurse, the social worker and the meal caddy. His short term memory started to go and he quickly went from not driving at night to not driving at all. Now he’s pretty much wheelchair bound. He won’t go to a home and I can’t make him. We have gone to round the clock care in his condo and he has a girlfriend – Gross men never seem to be without – who is best described as an angel he was lucky enough to have met while still of this world. Look at me, I’m starting to sound like Mitch Albom.
And now he’s 93 and we have a new normal – a weekly or so expedition to a local dairy restaurant where he doesn’t eat much. Maybe me and the kids come over for dinner on a Sunday night and when he’s not asking me the same questions he did five minutes previous he enjoys a lot of television and various medical excursions. The last was at the local cancer service centre where they removed a Titleist Pro VI-sized chunk of his forehead. Apparently this was a malignant melanoma, the result of 70 years of the playing golf without a hat. However I’m not sure the melanoma will beat him to the finish line. He is built of stronger stuff.
So this is now a daily thing but more significantly this year was my newfound role as Big Brother to my younger brother Adam aka “Mr. Shlaimey”. A little background, long overdue I guess. Adam is seven years younger than me and severly autistic going back to a time before autism was “cool”. I am being cynical but there was no “spectrum” way back when, nothing broad enough to allow for a network TV show about a gifted physician who is also autistic. Yeah. Sure. Spend a half hour with Mr. Shlaimey. Anyway he’s a gentle soul who lives in a group home full time save for every other weekend where he is mandated out of the house by the agency. Fair enough and until my father stopped driving he was taking Adam on those weekends. But with the arrival of live-in help and the end of driving, Adam was better served by spending his weekends in my spare room. So now, instead of picking up him on the odd Sunday for some bowling or golf, I get Adam on Friday and outside of a few hours with my father on Saturday afternoons I am responsible through to Sunday night. And fine. My father’s most consistent relationship has been with Adam who has the communications skills of a five year old and has since….he was five. You raise children in hopes of some payback. Not here. Not that he is a problem outside of making sure he is fed and given a decent place to sleep. We have our activities and he is a good boy. My father has spent the last forty some odd years looking after my brother without a word of complaint and now its my turn. Hopefully my kids will kick in after a time. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the former Mrs. Gross as backstop. Everybody has been very supportive. Its appreciated.
As for my own health, I had a little mishap with the motorscooter in September leaving me with a slightly dented pinky and I have now entered the wonderful world of blood pressure medication but all things considered I am a paying and attending member of a local Orange Theory Fitness which came to town this past year. Its a tough hour and I shed about 800 calories per session. Seriously, I need ten minutes in a cold shower to bing down the core temperature. The class is at best a half my age on average.
As for everything else, its been no less rocky a ride. The year started off with one of my major customers – HMV – going bankrupt which was the third such on the customer side in the previous twelve months. I spent the entire 2017 holding things together in my little film distribution company and it has taken a toll. I am going to devote another post to the business but this was the year where I realized I need an exit strategy. Not a moment too soon either. Again this is going to take another post.
What else? Fun travel? Was in Berlin and Paris with my daughter Madeleine last February. It was good to spend the time but I was distracted by the erosion on my busines and personal fronts. Got to ice skate in the Eiffel Tower though. However Paris wasn’t what it was way back on my honeymoon. Not sure I have to go back to what is now pretty much a Third World City Of Headlights. I’m grateful to the aforementioned Steve for having me at his place in Palm Desert last March during his 70th Birthday celebrations which was a nice distraction. I owe him for this and for the birthday weekend in New York which came just ten days after the breakup. I was a mess but he was very patient. Thank you.
I am thankful to my lifelong friend Richard Shaw for having me at his Florida condo last June to do some scuba diving while I was still in rough shape. He helped me resurface as a human being. I am also thankful to one of Barbara’s friends for setting me up on a date before I was ready. I had to write a letter of apology to the poor woman. She was gracious at a time where I needed to know that I wasn’t ready.
In the middle of this my son went into the recording studio and laid down some tracks. He smiled. So did I.
In October I participated in a charity hiking trip in Israel. Again I needed a goal and this was a terrific target back when I signed up in the spring. Five days in the Golan Heights with my reconstituted knee. I made it while making some new friends and a few thousand bucks for the One Family Fund, an organization that supports victims of terror. Thank you Gary Tile, Shelley and Simmy for working your asses off to make it special. Not forgotten.
And there was other trips, mostly business (LA x 3), the last in Florida with my daughter the artist during Art Basel earlier this month. Thank you Richard and Carol for the condo. I came back a couple of weeks ago, exhausted from spending most of the previous two months on the road. I promptly caught the flu and am just now off the extra list from The Walking Dead.
Along with a few good golf shots (thank you Uncle Benny), a few well drawn Cohibas, a decent calendar of sporting events and concerts – Tom Petty with my son a month before he passed – and, finally, a new relationship with a terrific open hearted woman who actually uses the words, “How are you?” in conversation, I can’t complain.
What is in the future? I will finish that screenplay, start my new business and spend more time with my kids and the people I love. And I hope for the best for you, you who read this self-indulgent dribble. Thank you.
Hands. This story is about hands. Lots in my life, as probably yours too. Today north of sixty. Most out for money. Other hands next to impossible to escape, are in my back pocket. Those especially I’d like gone. Or at least visit less often. The ones on the clock I’d like to keep. However wish they would slow down. Migawd! I was a kid at forty!
I’m exhausted just reading about your year. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some old memories of Adam and your Dad. Let me know if you want to have a bite again at that dairy restaurant and catch up.
Christina leaves January 2, we need to settle on a date to get together. That was quite a year!! Love you, kisses, Helen
Nice piece, brought back many Markdale memories. I have bumped into Adam from time to time and usually I get an Ellie, Ellie Cowan and a 1/2 smile. Cheers for a good 2018 for all of us….