Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mondays With Dolores

Mondays With Dolores

It’s almost two years since I inadvertently ended what turned to be a longtime tradition between my mother, Dolores, and me, a restaurant dinner every Monday night.

I had a stroke.

I actually thought she might have ended it years ago by a standard route, dying. After all, she was 26 years older than I, which sounded considerably older than it …sounds…now, or seems so, anyway. Besides still suffering the, I’m-going-to-live-forever fever, I suspected to near conviction that she would pre-decease me.

After all, she had undergone a triple bypass operation some 30 years ago. It was to give her as many as four years, the doctors said, maybe five, no more, so seriously had she neglected her athero-arterial something-or-other, which frightened my father to death. He, of course, died five years later, and that was twenty-five years ago.

The tradition started nearly 20 years ago, when I called her one Monday and said that I had looked at my calendar (It must have been January. I start living by a calendar every January, and by February, I’m back to the seat of my pants.) and, lo and behold, I didn’t have the kids, I didn’t have a speaking engagement, and, would she like to go to a restaurant for dinner.


I continued, trying to talk her into it (Yeah. What was I thinking?). “It’s cold, but not terribly cold, and well go close, like, there’s a lovely place in Farmingdale called Umberto’s…”
“I said, ‘Yes,’” she said, “I’d love it…”

“I mean, if you don’t want to go to Amato’s (I didn’t know what to think about Amato’s. That was, ‘their,’ place.), or right here, at the corner…”

“I’d love to go to Amato’s. Unless you have an objection. It’s up to you.”

“No. It’s up to you. I asked you.”

“Well, Amato’s is fine with me. Unless…”

“No. No, Amato’s it is.”

“Unless you feel funny…”

“No, I don’t feel funny. Amato’s is great.”’

“Well, it’s up to you.”

“I got an idea: let’s go to Amato’s.”

We ate at Amato’s. Dolores was in her glory, either talking to a waiter or a waitress she knew or overhearing a patron who recognized her son (Look how he takes care of me, taking me out to dinner.).

The following Monday, sacre bleu, I’m facing the identical situation.

I could have eaten at home, but I had only what the boys ate, macaroni and cheese—which I bought by the acre. I think that’s what they ate through the Nineties. I can’t have macaroni and cheese in the same building, now; can’t stand the smell of it.

“Hey, Doe. Wanna date? I got the same situation I had last Monday.”


“I mean, do you want to go to a restaurant…oh, I get it, you do. Ha, ha. Fast decision. Funny.”

The next Monday night, my phone rang.

“What time,” she said, “are you picking me up?”


People think I was good to my mother because I was good to my mother. I’m good, more or less, but not that good. I didn’t know how to get out of it. What do you say, an only child, to your widowed mother: “Yeah, well Ma, I…I’m going to watch, uh, the, Emmy Awards…”

So, I took her out for dinner. I figured that eventually, something would come up, like a series of Monday night soccer games, or a seasonal blitzkrieg of Monday night speaking engagements, something to break the spell.

The first Monday night to come up where I had a conflict, I feigned disappointment. “I’m going to be busy next Monday night, Ma, I can’t take you out for dinner.”

She took it like a soldier. No, like a general.

“Oh, that’s all right, we can go out any night next week. Wednesday, maybe. Should I put down Wednesday?”

Should you put down Wednesday? What is this, a scorecard? Not knowing what else to do, I said, “Uh…Yeah…put me down for Wednesday.”

“Then we’ll go back to Monday next week.”

I think I did 15 years of Mondays.

And if a holiday fell on a Monday, she would want to go out on Tuesday, as well, because Monday, well, that didn’t count. It was a holiday.

She eventually settled on Captain Bill’s in Bay Shore, as a favorite, though when the Duck Inn became The Lakeside, she liked that. A long-gone restaurant in Brightwaters, a few more on Montauk Highway, in that general area, Il Classico in Massapequa (when my nose was stuffed, and I sounded like I needed a curative Fish Soup), Runyon’s, Vittorio’s when that opened, Hudson’s Mill, when that opened, Dick and Dora’s, Catfish Max, The Brown Osprey, to name a few. I said, “to name a few.”

My mother then developed new traditions for holidays. She made Thanksgiving dinner, so I and whatever kids I had that year were, “invited,” to her house. If I didn’t have kids that year, she asked me to make restaurant reservations, for two. I would take her up to Peppercorn’s, or even Abel Conklins, have Thanksgiving dinner, take her home, and drive to Susan’s house for late coffee, which I couldn’t drink, because it would keep me awake all night, wondering how all this happened.

Then, I made Christmas Dinner for eight or nine years, and alternate Thanksgiving dinners.

And the holidays kept increasing. All right, Mother’s Day is a given, and Christmas, Thanksgiving, maybe Easter. But, Father’s Day? Veteran’s Day? What’s next, Arbor Day?

Then, I had the stroke.

Then, a year-and-a-half went by, and she died earlier this month.

Wow. Where did it all go?

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