Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 06 August 2010 00:00
There has been a profound change in My Old Gang. I guess, at 75 years of age, I would still like to see my old friends as they were at 17 years of age.
Lorraine and I attended a 75th birthday celebration (not a surprise party) for one of my oldest pals. He is my age, but has gone through a difficult bout with Mesothelioma. He lost a lung, but he keeps on ticking.
Although he cannot trace any asbestos situations in his life, he came down with the disease. His wife and children marshaled all their strength and somehow pulled him through. He spoke, he danced with his wife of 54 years, and he enjoyed his new look at life. It was stirring to observe.
Another friend at the party gave me a shock. As we spoke, I detected that I was about three inches taller than he was. All our lives, we were the same height, and maybe he was a bit taller than I. But now, I felt myself looking down at him and feeling very uncomfortable about it. He said it was due to a slouch that he developed late in life. He added that he was now round-shouldered, which would account for it.
As you would expect, the room was filled with elderly men and women. The conversation was on a high level, with little or none of showing grandchildren pictures.
As kids, my friends and I used to hang out on the corner of Longfellow Ave. and 174th St. in the East Bronx. The lamppost was our beacon.
On the corner, I used to put a bear hug on one guy. He was so slim, it was easy to contain him. At the party, I tried to bear hug him, but my arms didn’t meet around his back. The good life had placed a large belly on him, but he carried it well.
The honoree’s older sister made me sentimental as she spoke of my parents’ store between Vyse Avenue and Bryant Avenue on 174th street. She reminded me that my parents had a slim, small store in the early 1940s for many years and eventually moved to a larger store.
She made me laugh as she did an imitation of my parents as shopkeepers. My mother was a fabulous salesperson, but my father was always excited and agitated in the store.
Going back to my early years was enjoyable. There is nothing like seeing the “Old Gang!”