Some months ago a blast from the past got in touch. No, it wasn’t an 18 year old child looking for back support. It was someone I played amateur tennis with. He was okay but a very nice guy and we got along well.
His family, on the other hand, hated me on sight. You see, they were very Brahmin in their stock, whereas I am not.
I know these people (you couldn’t be around tennis in this area without) and became friends with many. As a matter of fact, two great friends of mine (one a highfalutin flautist, the other a. . .well. . .the less spoken of him the better) argue about whose family arrived first. I mean they’re way past year, month, even week. We’re talking it’s down to Tuesday or Wednesday.
But this family hated me. The mother especially. She was right regal with her disdain. I’d been in her house dozens of times but the only time I was invited to sit (in a room with a proper name) was when we brought dates.
We’re sitting there wondering why we’re sitting there when she comes back in all June Cleavered up. Change of clothes, apron, iced tea on a silver platter.
We stifled laughter accepting the beverage. This is where my axiom, it’s not what is, it’s what is not springs to life.
As is proper, she served the girls first. Then, in something somewhat improper, served herself long before offering me the last beverage.
I accepted it but didn’t wait long before saying,
“Give me yours,” to my friend. He was taken aback until I explained the lack of Emily Post his mother had shown so I was questioning the, ah, purity of the beverage. Although he thought me quite paranoid and I don’t know how much the enticement of my beating him to death with a wingback chair had to do with it but I got my way.
Later, although not conclusively proving me right, he did say he felt a tad queasy later in the evening.
We’d been out of touch for decades and, after he’d spent some time catching up on my writing, brought me up to speed.
He wanted to check in with people from his past one last time. After some back and forth I said I’d meet with him.
I go to his home and am greeted, warmly, by his wife and kids. We go to the bedroom where I see him lying on the bed withering away.
As we approach the room I saw deeper into the room. I wanted to ask his wife, who I was meeting for the first time, why there was no warning.
“I’ve been living with them for twenty years. Suck it up.”
I like her! I thought as I walked into the bedroom to the rolling eyes of his entire family including the doyenne.
I look at my friend and have a thought (or, as many call them, sick thoughts). I can take this in two directions. I can politely offer a few words and beat a hasty and respectful retreat or, well, be me.
“Dude?” I said as all head toggle to take me in. “What is that on your head? A merkin?”
He’s laughing. I step in for a handshake. His mother is gasping. Family members are wondering what to do. He tells me I’d better go before she recovers. And thanks me for the laugh.
And, yes, I’m available for funerals and brit milahs.