So this meme popped up on my Facebook news feed this morning, just a day after I'd been ruminating about the time my Pop had his heart attack.
We were living in Howard Beach. Here's where my memory get foggy; I always thought Pop was 62 when he had the heart attack, but that would have made it late 1970 - early 1971, and we were still living in North Woodmere. So I did a little calculation - not easy, as it turns out that my math skills, never too great at any time, have gone down the fibromyalgia tube - and Pop would have been between 65 and 68, and I'm guessing he was closer to 65. Certainly not a lot older than my 63 years.
Fortunately, it was not a massive attack nor heart failure, which actually made for some pretty funny maneuvering, as he had time for me to take him first to our doctor's office on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and then to wait until he could be admitted to Brookdale Hospital on Linden Blvd., rather than being immediately admitted to Flatbush General, also on Linden, about 2 miles further down the road (why were all the hospitals in Brooklyn when we lived in Queens? Well, google a map for Howard Beach and focus in on 79th Street, a block or so off of Linden Blvd. County line, I've always lived right by the county line. Besides, Pop never really left Brooklyn, despite 11 years in North Woodmere and the 5 years in Howard Beach.)
My Poppy, Hy Morris, was my hero. I had loved him as a grandparent, and later as a parent, something I was never able to do with my grandmother, who became my personal Torquemada.
So his heart attack hit me hard, and for the first time, I realized that he was old. I worried about his mortality, then comforted myself with the knowledge that his father, Jacob Morris, had been 92 when he died, and that I would have Pop in my life at least another 25 years. (He died 7 or 8 years later from a vicious stomach cancer that made the last 16 months of his life unbearable. I had conveniently forgotten that his mother had died from stomach cancer a number of years before his father. Well hell, who wants to think about stuff like that? Just like who wants to think about the fact that my other great-grandmother, Gussie Sarif Albert Frey, had died of a heart attack at the age of 63? I always thought of my sainted Grandma Albert as being ancient. Like I am now, I guess.)
The point of this rather disjointed story is that I realized, albeit belatedly, that despite 65 years, 2 bad marriages, 4 children and a heart attack, in his own head my Pop was still a very young man who had learned to drive a Mack truck when he was 14, loved the Yankees with an early 20th century passion, hung out with some of the Jewish Mafia, was born and lived in Williamsburg before it was cool and it was still mostly spelled "Williamsburgh", and who loved to gamble on horse races, spending far too much time and money at Aqueduct and Belmont. I realized it because it is my current life experience as well as that of my husband and all my friends from college. We never grew up, not really. We pretend to be mature and strong and indestructible for our children and families, but the truth is, in a our heads, we got stuck at 18 or thereabouts and so did Pop. When I thought he was old and mature and as serious as the heart attack he'd had, Pop was still a devil-may-care kid from Williamsburg, the youngest of 5 and terribly spoiled, running around the kitchen table to escape from the Rabbi who came by the house to teach him his bar mitzvah haftorah.
I think that is marvelous. I think that is what keeps us humans from mass suicide as the inevitable aches and pains and old age diseases make daily life so fucking uncomfortable. I think it's cool, like fezes and bow ties and disco and Williamsburg. I think it's my life, like Bon Jovi sings, and that is a Good Thing, as Martha often tells us.
Let's end this on a Cloris Leachman high note. Much better than where I started today's post.
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive ...