I had a huge stone removed from my chest last week. Let me tell you about it.
My cousin Murray is about eight years older than I. He was always around family gatherings when I was a kid. Because he was older and into more mature things, like girls and cars, we never talked or interacted much then. When I became a dentist in Jamaica, he and his wife Cynthia and their two girls became my patients.
He worked in the Bronx, and he would get off at the Parsons Boulevard Subway Station and walk to my office. We had the most interesting conversations and a lot of laughs and I even managed to do some dental procedures for him. I truly looked forward to his visits. I am not sure he found pleasure in dental visits but we had fun. He even recommended some of his coworkers and they were as nice as he was. Murray was reaching retirement age and he was itching to leave Queens, the Bronx and the northern winters.
One day about 18 years ago he told me he was moving to Orlando, FL. "Why Orlando?" I asked. "Because," he replied, "when my grandchildren visit Disneyland I will get to see them." He had done a lot of research and concluded on his pension he could afford to retire in central Florida.
When he left, I missed him. He wrote me letters and postcards but I never answered them. I don't know why I never replied but I just didn't. Laziness, great distance, self-involvement are three possible answers. I felt a little guilty but not too much.
Soon months turned into years and the postcards from Orlando slowed to a trickle and finally stopped. The years turned into decades and it appeared that the once lovely bond between cousins had ruptured completely. I was the guilty party and I felt sad. I had wronged him.
As the time lapse grew so did the possibilities of a reuniting. Every time something on the news was from Orlando I winced and the guilt crawled into my heart. It was up to me to right the wrong but I couldn't muster the strength.
I realize that my little story had been played out many times in the burst of New York people moving to Florida. That, however, is no consolation. Guilt and inertia are the culprits.
Then the miracle occurred! While watching a Mets game I received a telephone call from Murray. He started talking to me as if nothing had happened. He spoke as if he had seen me last week and was just catching up on things.
I screamed, "I'm so sorry," but he said, "Forget about it." We talked for 45 minutes before I said the words, "Murray, you have removed a huge stone from my chest. I can't thank you enough."
He said, "Come visit me now." Could I refuse? Of course not! I booked a Jet Blue flight and with another cousin, Saul, we flew to Orlando for a three-day visit. Murray and Cynthia could not do enough for us. The food, the drink, the reminiscences, the family stories flowed easily and wonderfully. There was not a trace of hostility or even a mention of my boorish behavior. We all just had a grand time together.
Honestly, I am still not crazy about Orlando. I have stated that even after visiting Mr. Disney and all that folderol. Summer in Orlando is not recommended for the sane or for people who can't face 90 degree temperatures.
To me it was wonderful. As I stated before, "A stone had been removed from my chest."