A big teddy bear of a man is seated on a comfortable couch feeding a toy bottle
to a baby doll. Sitting beside him, and watching him carefully to make sure he's
doing a good job, is a smiling two-year-old girl with large sparkling dark eyes.
The man in the photo is Milt, a retired optometrist, who is my fiance' and
my very best friend. The little girl is my grandaughter, Margot.
This past week I discovered the photo in a bookcase located in the guest-room of
my son Alan's new home in Malibu, California. There were several dozen photo albums
in this bookcase. I stayed awake all night looking at the photos and re-living memories
of the days when all of my nine grandchildren were small and when Milt was the strong,
kindly healthy man whom the kids thought of as their second grandpa. (little Margot
and her brother Jake called him "Milk").
We took many of my grandchildren out to lunch on weekends and spent happy birthdays
and holidays with them and their parents here in New Jersey.
Milt and I babysat for my grandaughter Emily every Thursday, from the time she
was an infant until she started kindergarten. Emily, who will be fifteen years old
next month, recalls our lunches at Sizzlers. Milt predicted that Sizzlers would
go out of business because we ate so much. Emily laughs when she recalls that
Milt's prediction was correct -- and it was our fault.
When Emily was four years old, she came along with us to my hairdresser, who
gave Milt a haircut. I told her that Milt would be so handsome with his new
haircut that all the women who saw him would fall in love with him. Milt told us
that I was wrong.
"I'll brush them all off," he said, seriously.
Emily stood near him with a worried look on her face, as she stared at the
women who were seated nearby, wondering if Milt would actually "brush them off."
When fifteen-year-old Jake was little, we took him to brunch every Saturday or
Sunday morning. This mischievous little boy was an absolute angel when he was with
"How come you're always so good when we take you out?" I asked Jake one day.
Jake's answer? "That's because I like you guys."
Two weeks ago, Milt moved from New Jersey to a house his daughter Beverly owns
in North Carolina, located a few blocks from where she lives. Beverly is an
osteopath who practices holistic medicine. According to Milt, she told him she can
cure him in a couple of months with vitamins, a special diet and chelation treatments
which are administered in her office under her supervision. He telephones me every
day -- and today he told me that his kidneys have stopped functioning and he is
being admitted to the hospital to begin dialysis treatments.
Milt suffers from Parkinson's disease. He has lost more than eighty pounds and
requires constant care. He plans to spend about two months in North Carolina,
so that he can "get better and come back home" to me and to all of his good friends
here in New Jersey.
Although he is very weak, he is still my Milt, with the same brilliant mind, sense
of humor and loving heart -- and I am his "pretty girl."
"Do you know what I like about you?" he always asks me -- and his answer is,
Every phone conversation ends with the phrase, "I love you sweetheart."
I told Milt I would visit him next month and I would stay for three days. "Stay
for a week," he said.
So while Milt struggles to "get better" in North Carolina, here I am on a plane
heading back from my son's big, beautiful new house in Malibu to my cozy little
home in New Jersey. My heart is filled with love for Milt and for my son Alan, his
wife Marie, who I couldn't love more if she were my own daughter, eleven-year-old
Margot and fifteen-year-old Jake.
As I thank God for my loving family and for my good health, I pray that God gives
Milt the strength to survive the winter and return to me and the rest of my family and
our friends who live here in New Jersey.
We miss you, Milt