Personal Essays

A Joke

This is a short piece I recently finished & wanted to share with you all. 

“How are you doing, how is the family?” Leonard Saltzman bellowed over the background noise at Guttman’s Kosher Jewish Dairy Restaurant. It was lunch time and Guttman’s was situated at the heart of New York City’s garment district’s appetite.

My dad, me, all of 14, and Leonard were seated in my dad’s favorite booth. Leonard’s remarks were aimed at an African American man of 40 or so who was on his way out of the restaurant. The man turned to visualize the source of the voice and after gazing at Leonard looked befuddled. Leonard, lizard like, dead panned him. The man squeamishly pronounced that all was well with him and his family and rushed to exit Guttman’s ASAP.

My father and Leonard then badgered the waiter into bringing more “free” rolls, having hid the first basket in their coat pockets. My dad and his buddies in the garment district never missed a chance for a joke.

At 90 my father was spent. He lay there in the hospital bed, unable to feed his already emaciated body. Food wouldn’t stay down. His doctor postulated that he had a cancer blocking his intestine. With IV fluids my dad lingered on with no diagnosis and no death imminent. Finally, frustrated, I intervened in my dad’s care, something I had done out of necessity many times in the past. “We are keeping my father alive with IVs but to what end? We don’t have a diagnosis.” My father and his doctor opted to do a C-T of my father’s abdomen. It was “negative,” no cancer, no obstruction. I knew then that he was most likely suffering from intestinal angina. Blood flow to his heart, his brain, and his legs had already been diagnosed as severely compromised. Now he had symptoms of diminished blood flow to his stomach, his intestines. His life was over. It was time to die in peace. I let my father know this. He motioned me to come close. His voice had been weakened by a stroke seven years before and my hearing was compromised by a familial otosclerosis. He whispered in my good ear, but I couldn’t hear him. “What did you say, Dad?” He gathered his strength and whispered as loud as he could, “Bill Medicare.” Those were his last words to me; they made a lot of sense.

2 thoughts on “A Joke”

  1. A superb piece! Heartfelt and humorous, it really tugged my emotions in many different directions and I couldn’t help but to smile. I’m very impressed by your succinct writing style and ability to provide only the most essential and revealing details that made this piece so powerful.

    “Leonard, lizard like, dead panned him.” << great line!

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