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WHEN HARRY LEFT SALLY, Reposted

Just two weeks ago, I walked past the garden apartment where
Maurice Francis (Frank) Kiley lived. The sliding glass door
leading from his apartment to the patio was closed. There were a
couple of dying plants on the patio and the flower boxes on the
railing were empty.
Frank was a neighbor in the garden apartment co-op
development where I live. He was also one of my very best
friends. He had retired from his job as Director of
Immigration for New York City. He was happy, healthy, and
enjoying every moment of his retirement.
Last week -- the day after Frank died -- a song came on the
radio. "My Buddy." The song never touched me before. But this
time I cried. Yes Frank, your buddy misses you.
So many times I want to pick up the phone and dial your
number again. "How are you Frank?" I always asked. "Wonderful,"
was your standard reply.
"Aren't we lucky," you would say, "to be so healthy and
happy."
You had two pet names for me: "Scoop," because you loved to
hear about the stories I wrote; and "Scarlett O'Wexler," because
sometimes I confided in you about my romances.
I always enjoyed talking to you on the phone while I did my
ironing, "You iron, I steel," you would say.
I tried to take walks with you -- you were such great
company. But I couldn't keep up with your fast pace. You walked
so fast, and played tennis so well. And you were so proud that you
hadn't smoked a cigarette in five years.
You had a strong booming voice, and a big smile for every-
one. You planted flowers every spring and the flowers bloomed in
the boxes on your patio railing.
During the years before you began spending winters in
Florida, we went to lunch together a couple of times a week. You
loved the deli. And you were the only person I knew who ordered
brisket sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise.
I confided in you one time that I was afraid to die because
I didn't want to be buried. So you drove me to a local mausoleum
and showed me the vault where one of our neighbors rested.
That didn't appeal to me either -- but it was good to have a
friend like you.
We went together to see "When Harry Met Sally." I think it
was the only movie we ever saw together. We were like Harry and
Sally -- except that we were a generation older and we never
became lovers.
And I loved to hear you tell me, over and over again, how
proud you were of me. You knew how much I needed to write and
how hard I worked to keep myself in the writing business.
My grandchildren loved you too. Last summer, when Evan was
four, he was my overnight guest. I took him to the pool that is
located in our complex. On the way back, we stopped by your
apartment. You had a talk with him about baseball, and then:
"Evan," you said. "Did you know that there's an alligator
on my porch?"
Evan looked at you with his big, blue eyes and almost be-
lieved you.
"Notice, Evan," you said, "that I'm not wearing any shoes.
And that's because the alligator ate them."
Evan turned away from you. "Grandma," he asked me, "where's
the alligator?"
"He must be on the porch," I said. "Let's look."
"Maybe he went for a swim," you said.
The next morning, Evan asked if we could visit the
"Alligator Man" again.
"Let's call him," I said.
Before we went out, we left a message on your answering
machine.
When we returned, there was a message for Evan on my tape.
A booming voice announced: "Evan, this is the alligator. Do
you have any shoes for me?"
"No," Evan replied to the machine, his eyes sparkling.
"I'm very hungry," the booming voice proclaimed. "Please
give me your shoes."
"No," Evan shouted gleefully, "you can't have them!"
And then, "Play it again, Grandma. I want to hear the
alligator again."
Evan's cousins – my grandchildren Ashley and Alex – came
over for lunch, and the three children listened to the Alligator
Man over and over and over again.
The week before you died, Evan came to visit and he spent
the night with me.
"Can we see the Alligator Man?" he asked. I told him you
weren't feeling well.
What do I tell him if he asks again, Frank? I don't have
the heart to tell him you're gone.
There was the co-op's annual pool party on the evening of
the day of your funeral. I didn't go.
We had fun at last year's pool party. While the others
drank more potent stuff, you brought a bottle of Manischewitz
wine for us. (You always said I'm a drinker like you). We mixed
the wine with club soda and thought it was delicious.
When the party was over, you offered to walk me back to my
apartment -- less than two blocks away. "No thanks, I can make
it," I said.
A few minutes after I came home, the phone rang. "Are you
okay?" you asked, adding, "We're really great drinkers, aren't
we?"
Then we discussed our drinking habits for about an hour.
After your funeral mass, your children invited me -- along
with your other friends -- to lunch at a lovely restaurant. You
had provided money in your will for friends and family to go out
together after you were gone.
You left quite a family: eight children, 22 grandchildren
and 10 great-grandchildren (four of them quadruplets).
I finally remember the names of all your children: Frannie,
John, Michael, Jimmie, Dennis, Mary, Kathy and Barbara. How
proud you were of them. They're all charmers, just like their
father.
Every one of them is so successful. And I found out that
day how proud they were of you.
"My father didn't just encourage us to do well," Frannie
said. "He challenged us." And it worked.
They discovered the leukemia four months ago when you went
to donate blood. They couldn't take your blood this time, you
were told. They told you to see your doctor.
You developed pneumonia. They gave you two weeks. You were
still optimistic. Your kids were all there for you. "Don't we
have great kids?" you said to me on the phone. "We're so lucky.
And, "I'm gonna lick this. I'm getting better. I'll stop by to
see you soon."
Frank, that was the only promise you ever made to me that
you didn't keep. I can't forgive you for that. But I love you
my friend. And I'll never forget you.

                                                                                                 Annette
                                                                                              1993



 




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