Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

It’s not the turkey—that I can take or leave. It’s the meaning behind the holiday—gratitude and the time you get to spend with family.

This year, of course, will be different for many American families. We are being told not to gather because of coronavirus. We are also mourning the loss of more than 250,000 plus people , more than twice the number of American soldiers who died in World War I. It’s a staggering number and it’s increasing.

Yes, 2020 has been a terrible year, and it’s not over yet.

 

Still, if we look there is usually something we can be thankful for. For me, I’m grateful to be alive after a bruising battle with Covid-19.

I had a close call and peered over the edge before thankfully recovering and rejoining my family, friends and work colleagues.

So this year I am thankful for a lot. I hope by sharing my thoughts I will inspire you to think about what your thankful for in your life.

Here’s a brief list. If I miss anything it’s because the list is long (also something to be thankful for) and maybe I do have a touch of Covid fog.

I’m thankful for, in no particular order:

—Community: This year, I have felt the warm embrace of our community. The outpouring of support during my battle with Covid helped me heal and my family cope. When the call went out for plasma, the community responded. I will be forever thankful.

—Prayer: This year, I  learned about the power of prayer. Prayer has been a part of my life for a long time, but this year the appreciation went deeper. When I learned that prayer groups were praying for me, I was deeply touched. I believe those prayers made a huge difference and for that I am thankful.

—Family: I have always been grateful for my wonderful family. I’ve been blessed. Faced with the prospect of never seeing them again my love for them deepened. I saw their faces in my dreams and I was driven to come home.

—Friends: I am thankful for old friends and new ones too. During this trying year, relationships became more meaningful. I have been given a gift; the magic of friendship. Our ability to laugh, talk, share and show appreciation for each other has enriched my life and saved it too.

—Acts of Kindness: 2020 has been a year where I have been given innumerable acts of kindness. A retired police officer who sends me inspirational texts every single morning, a business colleague who shook the trees for plasma donations, the 9 pm prayers that warmed my heart, the E Street Band legend who personally delivered the new Springsteen album to my home, our chamber of commerce which enabled me to share my story on a webinar and then honored me with a nomination for a nice award, the endless texts from friends that included videos, songs, prayers, jokes and general messages of good cheer, the cooking of friends bringing over delicious dishes, the kindness of my amazing neighbors, Dave Wasserman’s zoom calls, Zoom happy hours arranged by Connor Lynch, Scott Savodnik’s lifelong friendship, Scott Porten’s endless generosity, Sandra Allen’s love, Gina and Mike’s prayers, Perry Don Francisco’s videos and Dave Reeves’ extra special phone calls. And the list goes on.  I’m so thankful. If I didn’t mention you—please, please know I did not and will not ever forget you.

—Work: Millions of Americans are out of work. Businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries are struggling. I’m thankful I have work and benefits to weather the storm.

—Medical Heroes: I can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses at Bethesda Hospital. They saved my life and the lives of many, many others. For them, I am grateful also beyond words. My doctor Paige Morris and my pulmonologist Nevine Carp are beyond talented. We are truly lucky to have this level of medical talent serving our community.

Yes, 2020 has been a handful.

We all know the litany of woes. They are real and they are serious.

But amidst the sadness and division, the illness and the economic despair, there’s beauty. There’s hope. There’s love. There’s life. And there is a future.

It will be a brighter one—if we wish for it and if we work for it.

Meantime, I wish you and yours a Happy and safe Thanksgiving. And I pray for your safety and health.

 

Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar
It’s Thanksgiving week and we are grateful.
Yes, the news can be depressing.
Mass shootings—307 in 311 days, fractured politics, wildfires, hurricanes and starving people in Yemen are very real and searingly painful and yet…
And yet, there’s so much beauty in our world if only we would slow down just a tad, look up from our devices and soak it all in.
There’s great music, beautiful skies, a wondrous ocean and incredible art all around us.
There’s good people too.
Lot of really good people.
Right here in good old Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
I’m thankful for them all.
The volunteers, the dedicated teachers, the amazing men and women who serve in our police departments and fire service, the dedicated health care workers who are there for us when we need them most. And the list goes on and on.
On this Thanksgiving I want to say thanks to friends who are always there, family that gives me a reason for being, work that excites me, pets that fill my heart and a wife that patiently listens to my stories, feeble attempts at humor and occasional tales of woe.
So yes the news affects us all.
Important stuff is happening on so many levels.
So stay engaged, speak out, vote, protest if you feel like it and advocate for what you believe in. Never let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter or even worse: that you should keep your thoughts and ideas to yourself. Share. Engage. Try and help others—there are so many needy in our world and right here at home.
But give thanks too—if you can. It makes a huge difference.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts with me. See you next week in this space.

Bookends

He’s been a  brother to me.
Ever since we became friends at the age of 8 or 9.
I’m not sure how old we were,  because it has been so long; through childhood, junior high school, bar mitzvahs, high school, first cars, college, post-college, first jobs, weddings (mine), children, grandchildren (his) we’ve been more than friends. We’ve been family.

The brother I never had moved back to South Florida this week almost 31 years to the day since he lured me here from the gray skies of upstate NY.
Yes you can blame my friend Scott for my presence here. If we get along… thank him when you see him on the Ave. If we don’t… well let me guarantee you that his intentions were good.

Florida in 1987 was a vastly different place. My first impressions were almost overwhelming: I loved the colors, which contrasted with the gray skies I had left behind. I was thrilled to see the palm trees and the sun. It felt like summer camp. We played tennis, hit the pool after work, enjoyed the bagel places, frequented the bars in Fort Lauderdale (who remembers Cadillac Jack’s?) and generally had a great time. I still remember the first time I saw the Boca-Delray area. I remember driving over the Linton Boulevard Bridge and marveling at the view and after a job interview at a local newspaper I hit the Town Center Mall which was the nicest mall I had ever seen. Yes, I thought to myself, I could live here.

Ward Melville Prom 1982..with another old friend, Greg.

I’ve written before that I’ve been blessed to have made and kept many friends from my childhood in Stony Brook, N.Y., a magical little place located on the north shore of Long Island.
I treasure these friendships because of our shared history and the comforting sense that we will be in each other’s lives for the duration.
I like the sensation of permanence in a fast changing world. But I’m keenly —and at times painfully aware —that there is no such thing as permanence.
Still, there’s  no chance of these friendship’s ending, but of course we know that nobody and no thing lasts forever. And that gives me a sense of urgency  to enjoy life, savor important relationships and pursue some bucket list items.
One of those items is to spend more quality time with my best friends. So I’m overjoyed that Scott is coming back to Florida. For one thing, it means we can fulfill a promise we made way back when.
Let me explain.

When we were little guys we listened to great music together. One of the songs, an oldie even when we were 12, was a Simon & Garfunkel hit called “Bookends.”
The song is about old friends who sit on a park bench like bookends—surprised and a little taken aback by being 70.

Scott and I have long joked about living that song. Spending time watching life go by and reminiscing on a park bench.

We even took a picture almost four years ago when we turned 50 in Central Park.  We gathered —with a few old friends –to celebrate a half century on Earth and forty plus years as pals.
I used to wonder whether we’d be able to actually live that song’s premise.

Bookends: Central Park 2014

Scott has been living in Northern Virginia for the past 16 years and  me in Delray Beach for 30 years or so. Our park benches were far away.
But not anymore.
Nope, not anymore.

That’s a really good thing.
So savor your friendships. As Paul Simon once wrote about old friends: “our memories brush the same years.”
Indeed they do. And the memories are special. We knew each other’s parents and grandparents. We know each other’s sisters. We dated best friends (twice). We laughed. We did some dumb and dangerous things (not mutually exclusive) and we lived to tell the tales.
I’m looking forward to new adventures and making more memories.
It’s a new chapter in a long story.
Here’s to new memories and old friends.

For Barbara…

Barbara Garito

Barbara Garito

We lost Barbara Garito over the weekend.

She was a wonderful person; truly unforgettable.

Like many, many others who knew and worked with Barbara, I loved and respected her very much.

She served as City Clerk when I was on the Commission and she swore me in when I was elected in 2000 and again in 2001 and 2003 when I became mayor. She sat at the end of the dais for four years of my seven year term and when the going got rough—as it sometimes does in local government—I knew I could look to my left and always find a friend and calming influence.

We clicked the instant we met. I have a feeling that Barbara clicked with lots and lots of people, but right away you felt like you knew her forever. I had lost my mother to cancer two years before I ran for the City Commission. There was something about Barbara—her friendliness, her sense of humor, her ability to connect with others—that reminded me of my mom. So she became a touchstone for me. Someone I felt safe talking to and asking for candid and honest advice.

When Barbara retired in 2004, we went to the golf course to say so long and thank you. I remember the tributes and the kind remarks and I remember telling the crowd that Barbara could be best defined by the word “warmth.”

She was a down to earth person. Funny, smart, grounded and so supportive of her staff and everyone she worked with. She loved her city, very much. She also loved her family, which was a Delray family. Her husband, Larry was a firefighter known to all the kids in town for his outreach into schools, their son Tim was also a firefighter and became a captain, rising high up in a very good organization. Their son-in-law Charlie Stravino rose to assistant fire chief. They are all great contributors to Delray Beach. And it’s the people who make a place great. Barbara was one of the greats. There is just no doubt.

When I think of Barbara, I think of family. She talked about them often, her husband, her kids and grandkids and all the fun they had together. During holiday parades, they always sat in the same spot on Atlantic Avenue, what we affectionately dubbed “Garito” corner and for the 7 parades my kids and I rode in we always looked forward to passing them by so we could see them laughing and having a blast.

When I was mayor, I enjoyed visiting the clerk’s office which was the happiest place in a happy City Hall.

Barbara had a great group of people working for her and when it was time to retire she turned the reigns over to Chevelle Nubin, a wonderful person whom she had prepared very well for the job. Chevelle became president of the Florida Association of City Clerk’s last week, a testament to her talent and hard work and also a tribute to Barbara’s skill at finding and developing talent. She took pride in everybody who worked for her and she took a lot of pride in Delray Beach.

We met for lunch a few times after she retired, emailed from time to time and I could always count on seeing her during the annual St. Vincent’s Spring Festival. I didn’t see her this year and I missed visiting with her and her family. I missed the laughter and I missed her trademark warmth.

The day before she passed, I happened to have lunch with several former department heads that have retired but remain in touch, like a great team does. We talked about Barbara at lunch and were encouraged to hear that she might have been doing a little bit better.

When we learned that she passed, there was an outpouring of emotion and sadness. She was one of the really good ones—someone who came here in the early 70s from New Jersey and worked hard to build a really nice city.

Along the way, she touched a lot of lives, mentored many public servants and raised a family in our community that has given back enormously.

Isn’t that what this should all be about?

A village is community and community is relationships.

We lost a really great person this week, but we were so blessed to have her right here in Delray Beach.

Thanks, Barbara for all you gave to your Delray family.

We love you.

You touched our hearts and you will be in our hearts forever….