My cousin Erin stood before a large crowd of guests at my Uncle Joe’s 85th birthday party in L.A. last week and recited an Irish toast.
“May your home always be too small to hold all your friends,” she said.
And that about sums it up for my Uncle Joe. The room at the Marina Del Ray Hotel was filled with friends, former coworkers, and, of course, family on this most special day.
There were Lenihans up the wazoo at this gig and I got to meet many of them for the very first time.
The theme of the event was “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” a slight variation on one of my uncle’s favorite sayings.
My sister and I were even part of the entertainment, providing the voiceover for a video presentation of Joe’s life that was written in the tough-talking style of the old Dragnet show.
I must say that my sister played the neurotic nun role perfectly, but I’ve got to work on that Jack Webb impersonation. I might need it again some day.
Joe is my father’s younger brother and it’s a little strange hearing him refer to my dad as “Jimmy.”
My father and two of my uncles had served in World War II and Joe said he believed that “Jimmy got the worst of it.”
I have some tough memories tied up with my dad, but Joe made me think of him not as a husband and a father, but as a young man giving up a priceless time of his life and going off to war. Nothing in my life even begins to compare with what he experienced.
I love listening to Joe sing old songs like “The Night Pat Murphy Died” and “One Meatball,” which contains the immortal line, “you gets no bread with one meatball.”
And speaking of meatballs, I put away enough food during this trip to make up for the next three Thanksgivings.
Occasionally, however, I would stop eating and meet new people. I haven’t done this much socializing in a long time and looking around the room at Joe’s party and seeing all those people reminded me once again that’s there more to life than holing up in my apartment on winter nights and watching DVDs.
Sometimes I get the feeling that you could fit all my friends into my kitchen and still play a vigorous game of racquetball without hitting anybody. I'm exaggerating a bit, of course, but that sentiment is closer to the truth than I'd like it to be.
During our trip we went to the Huntington Library, which was packed with people attending the Lunar New Year celebrations.
The highlights included martial arts demonstrations and stilt walkers dressed in flowing red robes. I was standing next to one woman and as we trained our cameras on the towering figures, we both said the same line simultaneously.
“It’s like a dream!”
All dreams must end, I’m afraid, and I’m now I’m back in New York. Back to wearing a parka, back to wrapping myself up in a scarf, and back to wondering why the hell I’m not back in California.
And I’m also back in this empty apartment. Clearly I still have to work on getting out more, meeting people and getting the bread to go along with the meatballs.
I want to build a home for myself that will always be too small to hold all my friends.