Where would we be without the love of a woman?

What did the janitor say as he jumped out of the closet?


When my six and a half year old granddaughter told me that joke I laughed uproariously. For weeks afterward, every time we were together, it was our catchword that immediate brought us to laughter.

But the punch line brought me to tears this past Sunday.

It greeted me at the surprise party for my 85th birthday arranged by my wife Arlene without a whiff of the secret coming my way. I was flummoxed, without a clue and damn near passed out when about fifty friends from all corners of my life, coming from as far away as Texas, greeted me at the Sunday brunch I had noted in my calendar as “informal get-together with my two daughters.”

I was totally taken aback and elated beyond words. Being celebrated by so many friends was almost more than I could take in; for a moment I literally floated above the scene watching it like the fiddler in a Marc Chagall painting!

When I was able to come down to earth I saw each face as a chapter of the unfolding story of my life; joyful chapters, happy ending chapters, sequels waiting to be written. It was a euphoric occasion.

And then I almost slunk away!

I didn’t deserve this party. There was so much I regretted in my life; so much shame that discredited me. Until I met Arlene the very notion of living a life fully committed, fully trustworthy, was simply a whimsical concept that had nothing to do with me. My moral compass was more like a Salvador Dali watch than an arrow toward true north.

But there was Arlene, beaming with delight. Quietly she stood to the side, letting me soak it all in, this amazing event, this crowd of friends celebrating our friendship. She had hosted this party and turned a Sunday brunch into a celebration of my life.

The past was not erased but it did not describe or define the man in the center of the room with tears in his eyes. “Could it be,” he asked his higher power, “that principle and decency and mysticism and a soupcon of humility and a passionate embrace of the power of love had become part of the changes revealed by the wrinkles and crinkles of aging?”

I knew full well this wonderful event was considerably more than my party; it was a testament to Arlene and who she is and what she inspired in me to become. It is doubtful there would have been a celebration without her role in my life - wife, friend, teacher, partner, soul mate - and the incentive she provides every day to continue living sans duplicity and with unflagging honesty.

My amazing surprise party validates the premise of this blog as well: we can cheat death when we cease bemoaning transgressions of the past. Joyfulness waits when we view the years behind us as an action plan for the years that lie ahead… and are blessed with the good fortune to have the love of woman who stands beside you!

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