Michael & Warren

It's a six hour drive to Gainesville on the Florida Turnpike, the world's straightest, flattest, most boring road. Signs alert you to Yeehaw Junction (filled with Yahoos) for 40 miles. We bought red navel oranges that were delicious. The countryside is marked by flat brush, orange trees, and pickup trucks with guns and good ol' boys. K-Mart prospers here. There are no New York accents.

Gainesville, however, is a pretty college town, funky, with lots of live oak, camellias, and nice people. The Bargads house is in a secluded cul-de-sac. It's a lovely ranch house with lots of room, antiques, memorabilia on the walls, a beautiful Florida room surrounded by the garden, a splendid patio and a screened in swimming pool. Happy people lived in this house. It was wonderful to see Arlene there, but sad to see her alone. Warren was in the hospital, having his meds adjusted, awaiting placement in his next facility, which will be an Alzheimer's unit in an assisted living facility. We drove over to the hospital to see him.

Adena was there with him. She has moved to Gainesville, where she works for Planned Parenthood. She spends many hours with Warren at the hospital, seeing to it that he gets what he needs. Warren seemed comfortable in the unit. He looks just the same. He is strong, vigorous, dexterous, and agile. He can barely speak at all, but recognized me immediately, springing to his feet with a broad grin and a shout: "Mike!" We embraced. Tears. If I could have his body, and he could have my mind. He didn't know Carol by name, but seemed to recognize her and gave her a long embrace, as well. We told him where we were living. It's hard to know what he understood. Not much, I think, but he picks up the music, not the lyrics, and clearly was glad to see us. We were in the library, and he took book after book off the shelves. He likes to underline books. It's what he did all his life as an academic. I showed Warren a book that I thought suited him perfectly. It was called, I Think I Can't Remember, by Art Buchwald. He laughed loudly, but I'm not sure he got the joke. He laughs at anything he can. The clinician in me says it's witzelsucht, the tendency in people with frontal lobe damage to make bad jokes and be silly. But then I say, as his friend, that he always loved life and laughter. I told Adena how, when we were roommates, we would mount balls of tissue paper on the tips of pencils, saturate them with lighter fluid, light them, and catapult them across the room at each other. We were silly then, too.

Adena & Warren..Michael, Warren, Carol

Arlene, bears all of these changes, gradual and sudden, like Carol, with strength, competence, and devotion, buoyed up by a wonderful network of friends and supports.

After the visit, the three of us went out to eat at the Paramount Grill, one of Gainesville's newest, funkiest, and best restaurants. It was a fabulous dinner of crabcakes, caprese salad, grilled tuna salad, and grilled vegetables, with an excellent Steele Bien Nacido Chardonnay. We stopped by Arlene's office, where she shares space with another therapist. Like her, it is welcoming, warm, inviting.

Carol, Arlene, Michael

We had a good night's sleep with some welcome heat followed by a sumptous breakfast on Sunday morning. Then we drove back to the hospital for another visit. This time, all three of us went in. Once more, Warren was delighted to see us, and we exchanged smiles and hugs, but I'm not sure if he remembered that we were there the day before. I brought his guitar, and we sang through our repertoire of songs from days of Orgay Zemer,--the weavers of song, our folk singing troupe with red satin shirts (Eisig Silberschlag, the dean of the Hebrew College, used to delight in introducing as "Horgay Zemer,"--the murderers of song.) Warren did some watercolor painting, and we watched a tape of Horowitz in Moscow for a long time.

It was time to go. We bade our tearful goodbyes and drove to Jacksonville for the flight home.

What was it like. Sad, but not just sad. There was a physical ache in the gut. The ache of loss. It was like shiva.

There were flashbacks throughout the weekend of happy times--Harvard, his futile attempts to keep his hair with pungent red guck from Thomas Hair Restorers, a company in Boston that his sister shelled out big bucks for, so that her baby brother wouldn't be bald like his father. (Robbie, his son, looks just like him.) Composing awful 16th Century Motets for Mr. Haar in Music II. Hebrew College, riding the subway back to Cambridge. All his girlfriends--Joanie, Ina, Glee, Harriet, Linda. I so envied him. Best man at my wedding.

Bridal party..Wedding toast

Singing together at The Boston Arts Festival on the Common, getting more applause than Joan Baez, hitting the bigtime at Café Yana in Kenmore Square. Living for a year five houses away from each other in Roslindale, getting to know the love of his life, Arlene. Visits over the years that were not frequent enough. And now this.

Vi zenen meine yinge yoren,                              Where are are the years of my youth,
Vi zenen meine zeiten,                                       Where are those good times,
Ich hob farshpilt meine yinge yoren,                   I have pissed away my young years,
Azoy men shpilt in korten.                                  Like men gamble with cards.

Und az men darf in korten shpiln,                       And as men gamble with cards,
Shpilt men nor in gelt,                                        They only play for money,
Ich hob farshpilt meine yinge yoren,                    But I have gambled away my young years,
Und dertsi meine shayne velt.                              And lost my whole beautiful world.


 Back to Hallandale