Sunday, 4/15/01 - Thursday, 4/19/01 - Five Days in South Florida
The Readers Digest Version of My South FLA Stay...
4/15 Sunday - Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in the afternoon and went to the tried and true Kozy Kamper on Commercial Boulevard. Mom picked me up and brought me to my grandfather's for his 92nd birthday.
Here's this sharp-as-a-tack, funny-in-a-dry-way man dealing with a failing body and the kind of loneliness that only those who have lived long, full lives and stand with one toe dipping into the dirt can understand. I have never really known my grandfather very well, but he has always managed to make me laugh or smile with his depracating wit.
I get him talking about history. My gift to him was a huge coffeetable book about the last one hundred years seen through the front page headlines of the New York Times. Each page looked like a replica of the actual front page of the paper, announcing the news of the day. My grandfather began to talk about his recollection of the news about World War II and sure enough, I'd turn a few pages, and there were the matching headlines.
"I wasn't driving a taxi then," he recalled, "I still owned the store. I didn't realize what all the headlines meant, what was actually happening back then. It didn't really hit me at the time."
The Berts bring a smile to his face and he leans over with some difficulty to pet Ernie, his large, old hand patting the dog's head. He mentions that he wishes he could have a pet but that he wouldn't be able to take care of it. "Look at me," he said. And I'd look at him and realize that this man has seen nearly a century of life, and it all leads to one place, and right before that, you're alone.
It saddens me that for his 92nd birthday, there wasn't a family celebration like the previous year at 91. His daughter/my Dad's sister/my aunt will be by with some dinner for the two of them to eat. My Dad is home sick with a sinus infection. I'm ready to leave and go to my Mom's house for dinner. Part of me wants to stay, to keep him company. But my mom and aunt don't get along, and I don't want his birthday to be spent with silly family tensions.
Mom and I leave, she cooks me dinner which is always delicious because she is an awesome cook, and she returns me to my RV which I proceed to clean and organize into the night.
4/16 Monday - I bring the RV to Fairbanks Dodge to get tons of little things fixed or looked at and to make sure the engine is A-OK. I return to Mom's house and work all day on the computer. I avoid the Florida sun and stay indoors.
4/17 Tue - Mom takes me to water aerobics in the morning. Women of all sizes and ages over 40 wade, waddle, wave, woosh. One woman dances in the water to her own choreography, facing away from the instructor, face turned up toward the sun, beaming. I feel my muscles pull and push through the water and am surprised that I'm actually getting a workout. Oh that's right, I'm out of shape. I'm a slug.
That night, Mom brings me to Liberties in Boca Raton for my speaking engagement. I brought one of the digital phones by Kyocera that I got from Qualcomm for giveaways at special events. Since Liberties is the hoity-toity bookstore of South Florida, I thought it would be a great place to give one away.
The winner of the phone was a Hispanic woman, mother, with her two young daughters. She started to cry and I mistook her emotions to be the thrill of winning a cool phone. Instead, she hugged me and said "I only wish that my daughters will grow up to be like you." My eyes welled up. Highlight of the night.
4/18 Wednesday - Spent the day inside again, at the computer. So sue me. Then Mom took me to Take Sushi restaurant so I could meet up with Dad.
Had dinner with Dad, his wife Ferne and my aunt Phyllis, then went to Liberties in Ft. Lauderdale to speak. Gave another phone away. This time, to a woman who is a lawyer. Before we did the drawing for the phone, I had told her the story about the woman the night before and her kind words.
"I don't have any children," the lawyer who won the phone deadpanned, "But if I did, I'd want them to grow up just like you." We all laughed.
4/19 Thursday - Dad's Birthday. We went for dinner - Dad, Ferne and me - to the Tower Club, on top of some bank, with views of the city at night. Same place where I had spoken in January.
Dinner was fine but the best part was getting to dance with my Dad. He's an excellent dancer. We talked about how we loved to watch ballroom dancing. I tried my best to be graceful and agile and not to lead, which I think I had a tendency to try to do.
I gave him two books, both to remind him to take care of himself and not be stupid about his health (several years post double bypass surgery, two angioplasties later ala Dick Cheney). One was Anna Quinlan's book about having a happy life and the other was about the Darwin Awards, stories about stupid people doing stupid things and ending up dead (which then helps our species by whittling out the stupid gene). As always, I hope he gets the message. As always, I'm pretty sure he'll forget in the devastating grip of Work-a-Holism. And that's not a joke.