This morning my cell phone rang with a caller identification number that was
not familiar to me. The "718" telephone area code covers boroughs of Brooklyn, and the
borough of Queens, New York. It was, of all people, a funeral director
from Brooklyn who asked me if I had a loved one near and begged me to sit down
(his tone of voice was well-rehearsed and matter-of-fact). The voice asked me
how I was and recommended that I sit down. I told him I was
alright. I thought that perhaps my cousin Bobby had suffered an injury or health
episode that took his life.
I nearly pushed the button to put the call into voice mail. I guess it was
fate that I decided to take the call and be willing to hang-up on any of the
many sales people who've garnered my direct phone number from my website.
God forgive me for forgetting my mother's sister, Dorothy, whom we
affectionately called "Tootsie." She'd finally died, at over 70 years of age.
What, on earth would I do for my cousin Timmy, who'd lived with his mother for
the entirety of his 52 years? How would he go on, being far more fond of his job
at pizza parlors and his video games — his simple life? I, with so many
responsibilities, envied him that simple life, the simple, non-materialistic
life my Buddhist teacher had directed me to embrace.
When I was a little baby, Tootsie's relationship with her husband (a loser)
came to a head when their verbal arguments one day erupted into physical
violence on his part. He hit her; she only five feet tall and he a monster at
6'1". What a coward! She called my parents immediately. We harbored her and my
cousin in our humble home in Flushing, New York until the divorce was final and
my cousins on my father's side (the cops) guaranteed her safety.
Thereafter, she and my cousin lived in apartments in Queens and Brooklyn, New
York, just outside the magnificent city on the island of Manhattan. I recall many happy lunches of bologna and cheese sandwiches
and Campbell's chicken noodle soup in that first apartment in Queens, down the
street and over a block; within walking distance of our row house in the same
borough. My cousin Timmy and I collected bottle-tops; not the plastic-lined
twist-offs one finds today, but metal caps from beer and soda bottles which were
lined with cork and would only release the beverage within with the aid of what
we called a "church key;" a beer bottle opener to you young whelps!
This morning, (prior to the phone call) I'd been distracted by the regular,
Sunday morning visits of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the
Latter Day Saints. I was not as ferociously argumentative with them; this
morning I hadn't the energy. They were in the house, as was my housekeeper, when
the call came. Some of you, my beloved friends on E2 were on the catbox, and I
beg their forgiveness for leaving them without saying more than that there were
folks at the door.
Suffice it to say that the evangelists left at the teary conclusion of that
phone call. When they asked me if there was some way to help, I told them that
no, they weren't going to take me out for martinis so don't bother. One of the
poor, devoted innocents actually asked "What do you mean by 'Martini'?"
I don't know if I'm upset with guilt over not seeing her enough, or am upset
because this is yet another reminder of my mortality (in a banner year for
death; 6 friends/customers and now two family members gone, this one only 9 days
from the 2nd anniversary of my father's death, which crushed me.