“I’m really good at bowling, Grandma Eve, you’ll see.”
We’re at Spare Time Bowling, Northampton’s bowling alley—me, Alisa, and Milo. Milo is not my real grandson but rather Bernie’s, which makes his name for me that much more endearing.
It’s early Monday afternoon. The bowling alley, with some 32 lanes, has three occupied. By the time we play our final game we’ll be the only ones there. The food court is closed, so no White Russians.
Inside, I’m quiet. Can’t help it. This is where Bernie and I used to go bowling. He loved it. I would enjoy it for some 30-40 minutes, then get bored losing to him bigly. After a while I didn’t want to go bowling at all, whereas he would have gone bowling at least once a week.
So here is another opportunity for me to feel bad about the things I didn’t do with him or for him. Didn’t go out to dinner as much as he wanted us to, wasn’t ready to talk about work as much as he wanted us to, wasn’t ready to travel as much as he wanted us to. Didn’t go bowling as much as he wanted us to.
Nothing like death to help you look back and remember all the things you said no to.
I looked back a lot after he died, now not so much. But every once in a while, something from the past reappears—a person, a place, a story—and regrets start coming up, though they don’t last long. I spotted the lane where we used to bowl (it was at the other end) and contemplated the heavy orange bowling balls that he favored and that I could barely hold.
“Do you have any regrets?” a friend asked me a short while ago.
“The line goes out the door,” I said.
“In the mid-1990s we did a benefit for Greyston in a fancy Manhattan apartment. I coordinated it and it wasn’t a great success, simply not enough potential donors at the dinner. At some point Allen Ginsberg came in. He addressed the group in that meandering, Ginsbergian way he had and told them to shell out money for Greyston. At the end of the evening, he whispered to Bernie and Bernie called me over (we weren’t married at the time).
“‘Eve,’ Bernie says, ‘Allen has two tickets for the 11 pm Picasso show at the Museum of Modern Art tonight. He wonders if you want to go with him.’
“The Picasso show at MOMA was the biggest thing that season. Tickets for the entire show were sold out months in advance and the night before the opening MOMA held a special late-night viewing for certain VIP members, and Allen was one.
“Did I go?” I tell my friend. “Not for a second. All I could think of was the long drive home.”
“’You said no to going with Allen Ginsberg, the poet, to the Picasso show at MOMA?’”
“Guilty as charged.”
She shook her head. Clearly my reputation had taken a triple backwards dive in her eyes.
Ginsberg and Picasso at MOMA. This afternoon I was sorry I hadn’t gone to Spare Time Bowling in Northampton more often with Bernie. But towards the end of our last game, Milo turned around and said, “I think we’re the only ones here.”
“We’re bowling so well that everybody ran for the hills,” I told him. I’d just gotten three pins down.
“One guy’s still here,” Alisa said.
“He’s sitting in that seat right there,” she said, pointing to one of our seats. “Wears a Hawaiian shirt and suspenders, and smokes a cigar. When Grandma Eve just finished her turn, he said: ‘Call that bowling?’”
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