Monday, March 10, 2014

Sid's Passing

Our friend, neighbor and contributor, Sid Bolotin, passed away in his sleep on March 6.  Those of us who knew him personally will sorely miss him.  Those who knew him only through his stories, articles and poems on this blog and elsewhere will sense the void his absence creates. 

Many of Sid's writings touched upon the pleasures he derived from his love for his extensive family and resonated with others who shared similar pleasures of their own. Even those who were not blessed with such pleasures could vicariously enjoy them through his words.  Thusly, a bond was created between Sid and those around him.
Ten years ago in a writing group at Cascade Lakes, Sid wrote the following story.  The “assignment” was to write a story based on the suggested theme of “Three People You Meet in Heaven,” inspired by the late Mitch Albom's novel "The Five People You Meet in Heaven."   I’m sure Sid would not mind our reprinting it at this time, as sort of a memoriam to him, and as a hint as to what might be going on in Heaven right now!  
“Three people you meet in heaven” was the assignment given out in my writing class. What 3-people? Is there a heaven? If I suppose that there is, whom would I want to meet? Father I never knew? Mother?  My own original ancestor at the dawn of time? Leonardo DaVinci? Ben Franklin? Some person whose life I touched? Looking back, there have been hundreds, if not thousands of contacts and influences.

The last thing that I remember is lunging for the wide, crosscourt tennis shot that Lou smashed toward me. Well, not really the lunge, but the stabbing pain in my heart as I lunged and then nothing till now.

Where is now? I wondered. A forest surrounded me as I stood at the shore of a lake that seemed strangely familiar.

As I walked first left and then right, I came upon an old man with a fishing pole in his hand who was staring at me with that familiar, toothy grin, like Teddy Roosevelt’s.

“Zaydah?” I asked. “Is that you?”

“Of course it is,” he chuckled. “Who’d you expect? Moses? This is my heaven … my lovely lakes, my fishing, my memories of you at my side.”

“Why am I here?” I asked.

“Because of how happy you made me as a child. Your visits helped to ease the pain of your father’s sudden death. He was my only son, and it was only a few years since he escaped Russian servitude by coming to America. He loved your mother and adored you. Teaching you about fishing, farming, raising chickens, worm farming softened my agony of losing him. The summers you lived with me in Plymouth, MA were like heaven to me, and so here I am.”

The scene shifted from the bright, sunlit lake to a dimly lit shed-like structure with a dirt floor. A single, low wattage bulb dangled from the exposed wooden rafters and cast an eerie glow over the vintage car that straddled a pit dug in the floor beneath it. As I strained to see, I suddenly realized that it was my 1955 Volkswagen Beetle, and that there was a man in the pit holding a trouble light.

“Jim? Jim?” I called out. “My God, is that really you?”

“Yup, sure is.” the familiar drawl floated up from the pit’s darkness. “You remember this, don’t you? When we became friends at General Electric where you were in The Apprentice-training Program, we bonded so well that you became like a younger brother. I loved your interest in theology, philosophy, and cars. We shared so many hours together that after my sudden heart attack at 39, I asked for a heaven that replicated those happy times. So, God was very kind. He set me up here in my old garage with your Volkswagen to putter with…as well as my old Saab. Moreover He’s arranged for this place to become a hangout for some of the greatest spiritual teachers … Moses, Plato, Meister Eckert, etc. They drop in now-and-again like at Socrates’ meeting place in ancient Rome. You touched a lot of people, Sid. I’m here because of you.”

As I pondered Jim’s words about my touching many lives, the garage faded, dissolved, and I found myself in a swirling mist. As I strained to see into the opaqueness, two figures took shape, and I gasped, “Mom? Dad? Is that you?”

Smiling gently at me they said in unison, “Yes, our darling. It’s truly us. We learned of your arrival and asked to be one of your three greeters. It’s wonderful to see you again. Of course our age differences are awkward as you can see.”

I was flabbergasted to realize that they were each being presented at their ages at death … Dad at 27, and Mom at 72.  “Don’t you find it awkward to be 27 and 72?” I blurted out in my stunned amazement. “Are you sharing a mutual heaven, or are you each in your own, like Zaydah and Jim?”

“Sadly, we’ve each been in our own.” My mother answered softly. “But now that’s all going to change. We’ve asked for a special consideration to share this with you … if you’re willing.”

“Willing? Willing for what?” I asked. “I don’t understand. How can we share?”

“Well,” my father continued. “We’ve all been so unhappy since my untimely death, and Mom and I loved each other so deeply, that we’ve proposed to God that we three be given another go at it by living here in heaven as a family once again. He’s agreed on condition that you agree to it. You and Mom would regress to your ages at my death. She’s willing; but, are you willing to go back to being 22 months old?”

“What are my options? What will my heaven be like if I don’t?”

“That’s the rub, Sid,” he chuckled. “You have to decide without knowing. This is another one of God’s quirky conditions about His heaven.”

“So God is asking me to buy a pig-in-a-poke,” I muttered. “A heaven based on my 71 years of being a son, husband, father, grandfather, and basically a good human being versus going back in time to when we three lived idyllically … or so mother always told me. He sure likes to play with humans as if they were His personal toys. I truly don’t know how to make the decision.”

As I stood pondering what I saw as God’s malicious humor, I felt a jolt, saw the mist fading, and heard shouting:
 “The defib worked!  It worked!”
“Thank God!”
“No, no let him lie there. Just keep him warm ‘till the EMT’s get here.”                                       



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