The Big Minyan in the Sky

So, a few months ago I posted a blog entitled “Longevity.” You can look it up if you’re interested. It was posted on January 27, 2017. In that post I mentioned that Mike’s mother was 100 years old and severely demented. I foolishly speculated on the value, or the lack thereof, of living to such an advanced age and state of cognitive deterioration. Well, Mike, Judy, and Michelle went up to Minnesota recently to help his mother celebrate her 101st birthday. They were joined by 2 of his brother’s children and 2 of his brother’s grandchildren as well as many cousins. Mike says that his mother was more alert than he had seen her for the past 3 years. She was awake most of the time and seemed to be aware to some degree of who was there and that it was a special day for her. Mike also found out how to get  his mother to speak in a complete sentence in a meaningful way. He was giving her a drink of water and the top of the cup leaked water onto her shirt whereupon she burst forth with “You’re spilling water all over me!” Plain as day, she spoke. I guess it is a matter of motivation. Mike has posted a picture of himself and his mother on her one hundred and first birthday on his Facebook page. You can check it out if you want to. They are  sitting outside in the courtyard of her nursing home, and she is humming a tune. You have to imagine the tune because it is just a picture so there is no sound.

Speaking of longevity, Mike’s brother, Bob, was not so fortunate. Yesterday would have been his 76th birthday. He died almost 6 years ago of complications of diabetes, heart disease, and ultimately, cancer. Bob was a very interesting fellow. Life never made sense to him until he discovered religion. He became very observant in the Jewish faith, and was a Talmudic scholar. He attended yeshiva at the same time that he attended law school. He earned his law degree from the University of Chicago at the age of 21 and was awarded ordination into the rabbinate a few years later. Bob and his wife have 5 children.  Mike enjoys getting together with them. For one thing, they are a loving, devoted family, and lovely and interesting people.  Also, they always have questions about Bob and his family life growing up. At this point Mike is their only real source of information other than digging through documents. Mike enjoys being a resource for Bob’s family. One of the most memorable and emotionally important moments in Mike’s life was at Bob’s funeral in Jerusalem. Mike had the honor of saying Kaddish for his brother at the funeral service.

Now that Mike has lived well over half of his life he is getting a perspective on things that it’s not possible to have for a younger man. Or for a younger cat for that matter. Mike says that as wonderful as life is, it does have a way of knocking you down some. He was at the doctor yesterday to have his thyroid checked and the nurse after measuring him and weighing him told him he was 5 foot,7 and 3/4 inches tall. He was shocked. He used to be 5 foot 10 1/2 inches tall. But, he acknowledged, life has given him somewhat of a pounding over the years. Even Judy says that he’s shorter than he used to be. Mike’s back was never straight to begin with and it is less so now, so I suppose that’s part of it. Despite the fact that he’s shorter, paradoxically, the floor seems to be much further away than it used to be. Bending over and picking something up off the ground is now something that he has to think twice about. The effort is now typically accompanied by unpleasant grunting noises with occasional curse words thrown in. And I have already mentioned in a previous post that Mike can barely reach his feet to trim his own toenails, and that Judy is going to have to start taking him to the Extreme Vet one of these days to get them trimmed. (“Nibbinubs,” posted June 3, 2017)

So, Mike’s Sunday morning group has just left. This time of the year they sit on the screened porch. This morning is particularly lovely. It is sunny, but not yet hot, and the humidity is unusually low. I heard a bird call that I have never heard before, but I didn’t see it. Bird identification is not something that would interest a cat, but Mike would have liked to know what it was. He didn’t recognize the call or see the bird either. Maybe next time. I saw a doe with her 2 fawns in the back yard earlier this morning. They were lovely. It is good to be alive. My advice is to enjoy it while you can, and try to make the world a little better each day that you spend on this earth. One day we will all be sweating in that Great Sweat Lodge, or praising God at the Great Revival, or attending the Big Meeting, or dining at the Great Dumpster, or davening at that Big Minyan in the sky. Or whatever your tradition might be. It will all make sense once we get there. In the meantime have fun, enjoy your relationship with your fellows, and with your God, and pick up the trash when you come across it (if you can bend down that far.) It really is a lovely day today.

The Double Identity Discovered

So, it was yesterday that Ashley Grimes OD’d, and Richard Donkle found an oxycodone tablet in the family room where his kid and his friends hung out. It looked like the opioid epidemic had invaded Happy Meadows. The next evening about 9 o’clock I was home, chilling, and the phone rang. Mike answered the phone and I heard him say that no, it wasn’t too late, and that fine, come on over and we can talk.

A few minutes later the doorbell rang and Mike opened the door to let in, guess who, Richard Donkle.

“Please come in,” said Mike. “I made some coffee. How do you like it?”

“Oh, thanks very much,” said Richard. “Cream and sugar if you have it.”

He extended his hand. “We’ve seen each other around but I’ve never introduced myself,” he said. “I’m Richard Donkle. You can call me Donk.”

“Mike Gordon,” Mike replied. “I’ve never called anybody Donk before, at least, not to their face. It might come out as Richard.”

“I will answer to either,” said Richard.

Mike led him into the family room, offered him a seat, and returned shortly with 2 coffees. You might think I should describe Richard a little more, in terms of how he was dressed, his general appearance, and so on, but in fact, I don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing. You’ll just have to use your own imagination. That might be more fun anyway.

“I want to talk to you because of your expertise in substance abuse,” said Richard. “No doubt you’ve heard about Ashley Grimes overdosing yesterday.”

“Yes I did,” replied Mike. “I understand that she survived and will be going into treatment.”

“I have heard the same thing,” said Richard. “I am here in 2 capacities. As president of the HOA, I have an interest in the general welfare of the people in the neighborhood. I would like to know if you have any ideas about what we can do as a neighborhood to address the problem with drugs which we obviously have right here in Happy Meadows. I’m also here as a father. I found this pill in my family room last night.”

Richard handed the tablet to Mike. He had it in a small vial. Mike took a look at it.

“Oxycodone 30 mg,” said Mike. “You say you found it in your family room?”

“Yes,” Richard replied. “Ashley Grimes is a good friend of my son’s girlfriend, Hallie. They come over frequently. It appears that they do drugs at my house. I have to tell you that I am very concerned about this, and especially concerned about what my son might have gotten himself involved in. Of course he said that he hasn’t used drugs himself when I confronted him with this tablet.”

“It is never their tablet,” said Mike. “It’s always somebody else’s. So, how can I help you?”

“I would like advice on what to do about making sure that Richie is not using drugs,” said Richard. “I already went to the  store and bought a drug test and had him take it. He tested negative.”

“It would probably be a good idea for you to have him evaluated by someone who is an expert in this area,” said Mike. “How old is Richie?”

“Nineteen,” said Richard. “Almost 20.”

“Is he in school?” Asked Mike.

“He’ll be starting his 2nd year at Georgia Tech,” said Richard. “He is a business major.”

“I see,” said Mike. “Have you noticed any unusual behaviors that he has demonstrated or anything else that you have been concerned about regarding Richie?”

“Not really,” said Richard. “But I now realize that a hell of a lot can be going on in my house that I don’t know the first thing about. I wonder if you could talk to Richie and let me know what you think. I would really appreciate it.”

“It might be better if I stay on the sidelines and not get directly involved,” said Mike. “I think I could be more helpful to you that way. With us living in the same neighborhood I can see some conflict of interest developing that could interfere with open communication between Richie and myself. I don’t want to appear to him to be acting on your behalf. I would rather be supportive in an informal sort of way. But I can recommend a very good doctor for him to see. Dr. Rebecca Kingsley is an addiction medicine specialist and colleague of mine. You can rely on the quality of her evaluation and what she might have to say.”

“I’m disappointed that you don’t want to see Richie,” said Richard.

“It’s not that I don’t want to see him,” replied Mike. “It’s just that I have a good sense that I can be more helpful working from the sidelines. I hope that you can trust my judgment in this.”

“So, how do I reach this Dr. Kingsley?” Asked Richard.

“I’ll text you her office number,” said Mike. “Also, with your permission I will call her tomorrow and give her a heads up about what’s going on.”

“I would appreciate that very much,” said Richard. “Can we talk about the neighborhood matter sometime soon?”

“Absolutely,” said Mike. “I think it’s a great idea to have a community-wide approach to dealing with the opioid problem. And people haven’t quit drinking either. I’m aware that there is a great deal of alcoholism afoot in Happy Meadows.”

Richard seemed to relax a little, took a sip of coffee, and looked around the room. That was when he noticed me for the first time. “Well, hello Sambo,” he said, “What are you doing here?”

Mike appeared startled. “This is our cat, Black Magic,” he said. “Has he been visiting you?”

Richard smiled. “Yes he has, a welcome visitor. He comes over fairly often for a dish of cream and to bully my dogs.”

“Really?” Mike responded.

“Well,” said Richard, “he  had to bully them only once. Now they give him plenty of space.” He finished his coffee. “I shouldn’t keep you, I know it’s getting late. Thanks for your time and your help.”

They both got up and walked back to the kitchen. They put their cups in the sink, and Mike walked Richard to the front door. They shook hands.

“Thanks again,” said Richard.

“No problem at all,” Mike replied. “Let’s talk again in a few days.”

“Definitely,” said Richard as he left. Before he left he glanced over at me. “So long, Sambo,” he said.

Mike closed the door and looked at me. “Cream? Really? Cream?”

I stared at him for a minute and then looked away. Mike headed upstairs, at the same time calling to Judy, “Judy, you won’t believe what Black Magic has been up to.”

She didn’t die this time.

So, I got home very late last night after an exhausting day.I  made my way upstairs and found Mike and Judy asleep. Shayna Maidel was sleeping on Mike, and Jackson was sleeping on Judy, as was their custom. Ladybug was down in the living room lying on the couch, fast asleep, with her legs stuck straight up in the air. She was snoring softly. I went back upstairs, jumped up in bed between all the sleeping beauties, settled in, groomed myself, and thought about my day.

I hadn’t visited Richard Donkle for a while, so I had headed over to his estate after lunch, when my homies regularly take one of their many naps. There was a lot of activity at one of the houses as I made my way along. I saw a fire truck, 3 or 4 police cars, an ambulance, and a bunch of people rushing in and out of the house. Naturally, I stuck around to see what all the fuss was about. After a while, two of the EMT guys carried someone out of the house on a gurney. I was close enough to see who it was, and darned if it wasn’t the girl who was with Hallie and that other kid the last time I visited the Donkles. (A Bade Vibe, posted 4/30/17; and Fake Jews, posted 5/26/17) She seemed out of it. I moved on. Coming to the Donkle’s estate I slipped through the Great Gate and strolled across the lawn of their 3 hole golf course. The four white German shepherds (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs—“The Suits” as I call them) kept their distance. They learned their lesson with me the first time I came for a visit (Veni, Vidi, Vici, posted 3/26/17). Richie’s Jeep and several other assorted vehicles were scattered in the circular drive, and in front of the 3 car garage. The patio door was open so I walked into the kitchen. Richie was sitting at the kitchen table with his mother, Bianca, and he was distraught. I realized that they were discussing the excitement I had just witnessed on my way over here. Joker was there too, his tongue hanging out, with a goofy smile on his face. He was the only one who noticed that I had come in, but he was too lazy to get up and greet me, or even to bark.

“God, mom. I thought she was dead!” said Richie. “Hallie and I came over to pick her up. She didn’t come downstairs when her mother let us in, so we went up to her room. She was passed out on the bed, with a goddamn needle stuck in her arm!”

“My Goodness, what did you do?” asked Bianca.

“I started shaking her, and Hallie ran to get her mom. She came running upstairs and started CPR. I called 911. Hallie was screaming. I told her to calm down and call Ashley’s father at work. He got there right after the first police car did. Then everything was happening at once. The paramedics arrived with Narcan, and a minute later she woke up. More cops came. Neighbors. Everyone. I couldn’t believe it. A freaking needle in her arm!”

“So you didn’t  know Ashley was using drugs? She is one of Hallie’s best friends. They come over here all the time.”

“I knew she dabbled a little, but I had no idea she was shooting up. Jesus Christ!” Richie got up and started pacing around.

“Richie,” said Bianca, “Please don’t say that, unless you are praying. You know how I feel about using the Lord’s name like that.”

“I’m sorry, mother,” he replied. “I’m just so upset.”

Bianca got up and hugged her son. “Let me get you a cold drink,” she said. “Go sit back down.”

About that time Richard walked in. “What’s going on?” he asked. He glanced over at me. “Oh, hello Sambo,” he said.

“Ashley Grimes just OD’d,” said Bianca. “Richie and Hallie found her a little while ago.”

“Is she going to be okay?” asked Richard.

“We haven’t heard anything since she was taken to the hospital,” Bianca replied.

“They did arouse her before they took her away,” said Richie. “I just can’t believe this.”

They commenced to discuss the situation. Richie was grilled about whether he or Hallie used drugs, whether he knew of anyone else who used drugs, whether anyone had brought drugs to the house, and so on and so forth. The phone rang several times with both curious callers and updates. Richie was on his Smartphone more than he was off of it. I wanted to explore, but did not want to miss an opportunity for a dish of cream, now that Richard was there. Eventually my perseverance paid off. I also used a little persuasion by rubbing up against Richard’s leg.

After my delicious snack I went to look for Natasha, the Donkle’s cat. She lived under the comforter in the master bedroom for the most part, and that was where I found her. She was decidedly unsociable, so I nosed around for a while, used the box, and then stretched out on the white couch in the living room. It is not that I forgot that Jarmila, their maid, didn’t want me getting my luxurious black fur on her white sofa. It is more that I didn’t care. A cat has his spots, and this was one of mine, so she can just get used to it! I’m not sure how long I slept, but it was a good while. Inevitably, though, I was interrupted by a series of angry Polish expletives as I made a quick exit back to the kitchen. It was already dark outside. Things had calmed down. Apparently, Ashley was going to be okay, and discussions were being held about what to do with her next. Richie and Hallie had gone to the hospital.  Richard had gone downstairs and conducted a careful search of the living area where the kids would hang out. He had found a pill, and I found him in his office at the computer, looking at pictures of pills. I rubbed up against his leg. He looked down at me.

“Roxicodone 30mg, Sambo,” he said. “It looks like Richie and I are going to have a little talk.”

He and I went up to tell Bianca, who appeared very upset. Drugs had invaded their world. I had had enough and went over and pawed at the patio door until Richard let me out. Mike talks about the opioid epidemic at home. He is a doctor who works with addicts in his practice, and he seems to enjoy it and helps enough people to make it worth the effort. He has written an article about addiction and Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) that is going up on his website in a few days. I will let you know when it is available, in case you are interested.