True Love Stories Never Have Endings

The American Parkinson Disease Association is holding its annual Optimism Run & Walk Oct. 30 at South County Regional Park in West Boca.

There are certain phone calls you’ll never forget.Phone calls that change your life.Three years ago, I got such a call from my wife Diane.

But first some context.

Diane’s sister Joan had recently passed after a brave and brutal battle with a rare cancer.

Diane and her siblings went to Santa Cruz to spend those last sad days with a sister who had been larger than life. Joan was one of a kind—tough, independent, kind, spirited, smart.Losing her was like losing a limb, she was fundamental to our family dynamics even from her home across the country.When Diane came back she was understandably sad, notably tired and hurting. We all were.Cancer is a frustrating beast. You rally and then you get hit again.

While the impact  is hardest on the patient, the disease hits everyone and it’s path is broad.Still, I sensed something more might have been amiss when Diane returned home. She seemed to be moving a little slower than usual: her gait was off by a hair. But I noticed.Over the ensuing weeks which included holidays, I asked our kids and family to let me know if they thought something was “off” with Diane.Some thought so, others didn’t notice. Like I said, it was subtle.

But I knew something was not quite right, and I asked that she get checked out. She was suffering from pain in a shoulder and weakness on one side, but despite treatment the symptoms persisted.So she went for another opinion. This time, to a neurologist.The diagnosis: Parkinson’s. Just the word takes the air out of you. She could barely get the word out over the phone when she told me.It’s a heavy diagnosis and we were shocked.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease.

There’s no cure—but there’s hope and Herculean efforts are being made to treat the disease and ultimately find an answer.Until then you do what you can to cope and fight back.You also load up on hope, love, information and support.And here’s where awe takes over.I’m in awe of my wife.

Just when you think you know someone, just when you think you can’t love or respect them more, you find that she possesses whole other reserves of strength, resilience and beauty.It took a few weeks for her “fight” to kick in. A few weeks of emotion and deep depression. I was worried. She didn’t seem up for this challenge. And she said so in worrying terms.But she was processing the news and the impact it would have on our lives.

In an attempt to sort through the noise and anxiety we were experiencing, we reached out to friends who connected us with people they knew who had Parkinson’s. We soaked up as much information as we could find, and came through this process with a strong desire to lean in to our new reality and live with gusto.

The people Diane spoke with were inspirational. Through a friend we connected with a retired airline pilot who was positive and upbeat and living an amazing life. He called Parkinson’s an “inconvenience.”  Diane was taken by his confidence and sense of self. We also spoke to a friend’s aunt who was traveling far and wide—living fully and in the moment. She was encouraging and urged Diane to strive for a full and adventurous life.

These calls helped enormously. I saw a change in Diane. She was processing the news rapidly. Her inner strength, which I have seen before, would be there once more.

But while we were grasping the meaning of this diagnosis, we were also beginning to shift as a family. For us, “someday” had come. Instead of deferring to the future, we would begin to do the things most important to us now.

The takeaway from everyone we spoke too about Parkinson’s was you have to keep moving. The best defense against Parkinson’s was exercise: boxing, spin classes, walking, exercise videos, “Rock Steady” classes anything that keeps you moving and works to keep your balance and strength.In typical fashion, Diane hit it hard. She works out every day—sometimes more than once. She’s in amazing shape.

She also found a wonderful doctor at FAU’s Research Park and has surrounded herself with a community that cheers each other on.To say we’re proud would be an understatement. Those who know and love Diane are in awe.She’s inspiring.

As her husband, I have long been fascinated by the different layers of Diane’s personality. Because she’s shy and reserved, only those closest to her see the depth of her character. But to me, that made uncovering her layers all the more special. She was sharing her professional gifts with the community during her very public career, but I got to see the rest and there was so much more to explore and discover.

To see her resolve kick in, to see her try and find the “gifts” in her diagnosis, gave all of us who adore Diane comfort and hope. This was important, because if you allow yourself you can easily fall down a rabbit hole of despair.

When Diane got the news I had just spoken at the funeral of a beloved Delray icon who suffered for years with Parkinson’s. I saw how this disease can level a strong person. I also thought about Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali, two people with all the resources in the world but still…

But we also learned that we don’t know our exact path. We are going to try and write our own story. We are going to have faith, do what we can and not allow this or anything else to define us.

I drew on those lessons a few months later when I got Covid and thought that I might die.

I was also told that if I lived, I may need supplemental oxygen for the rest of my life. But my doctor, Paige Morris, said “Jeff, let’s write our own story. Let’s try.”And we did.

I can feel the limits of my scarred lungs but I don’t need oxygen. And while I cannot keep up with Diane, who is in great shape, I do try and hang with her when we put on an exercise video.When we went to Maine this summer (because tomorrow is here) we took long walks every morning and I marveled at her stamina.She is doing well. And I love her even more if that’s even possible because she meets life’s challenges with a work ethic and an attitude that inspires all those who know her.

None of us knows what the future holds. Our lives can be changed with a phone call. Ours surely has been.But we move forward. We live. We are thankful and hopeful.

Always hopeful that we can write our own story….

In two weeks, there’s a walk and 5K run for Parkinson’s in West Boca.The event raises money for Parkinson’s research.Here’s a link.

At last year’s event, Diane and I walked alongside brave families on the same path. The event was emotional for both of us. We saw a lot of brave people. But we didn’t see any broken people. Looking around the park that morning I felt the spirit of a community. I also saw Diane’s doctor, Henry Moore. There he was, early on a Saturday morning greeting his patients with a big smile and a whole lot of warmth. I knew he was the right man for the job. I knew Diane was in good hands.  It was overwhelming and emotional.

Life changing news will do that to you. That’s why it’s life changing news.

But a year later we are strong, happy, healthy, hopeful and grateful for each other, for those who struggle and for those on the front lines seeking answers. Someday we will get there. Until that time, we laugh. We love. We live; a precious day at a time.

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” – Sophocles

I’ll See You In My Dreams

My mother and father.

“I’ll see you in my dreams

When all the summers have come to an end

I’ll see you in my dreams

We’ll meet and live and love again

I’ll see you in my dreams

Yeah, up around the river bend

For death is not the end

And I’ll see you in my dreams” –Bruce Springsteen, “I’ll See You in my Dreams”


I’ve written a fair amount about my father over the years, but not as much about my mother.

In the wake of Mother’s Day, I’d like to remedy that.

My sister Sharon and I lost my mom, Fay, in October 1998. She was 59 years old, a year older than I will be after my next birthday.

She would have celebrated her 83rd birthday on May 4 and I often wonder how my mom would have aged. She always looked 10 years younger , so in my mind’s eye she’s forever young.

I must admit it feels odd to be approaching the age when she passed. You start to really realize how young she was when she died. How much of life she missed. I can’t help but feel that she –and we—were robbed of so much.

My mom passed away after a 50-week battle with cancer. We had a bird’s eye view to the cruelty of that disease because my parents had moved to Delray just four years earlier. We were there to witness. Thank goodness we were able to be with her.

My mom and dad were young retirees anxious to enjoy a long retirement in the sunshine with their children and grandchildren. It was not to be.

So much of what we plan, tends not to happen. I don’t mean for that to be a negative statement, it’s just the way it is. Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.

But I still believe that we need to be intentional. I still believe we must plan, aspire, and strive even if life can level us in a heartbeat.

Losing my mother was a shock to my entire family. It was a dagger through our hearts. It’s hard when everyone you love is so sad. Who do you go to for comfort when everyone you know is in pain?

Today, as I think of those agonizing 50 weeks, I realize that I have never felt totally safe since hearing the news that the person I loved the most was diagnosed with something that had no answers—only bad options —radiation and chemotherapy designed to prolong the inevitable.

But on Mother’s Day, I won’t let myself dwell on a life cut short. When you love someone and that someone is special, they live on. They stay with us for all the days of our lives. Their essence and their goodness endures and continues to shape the people they knew and loved.

For the longest time, when I thought of my mother, I couldn’t shake the image of her being sick. I thought those awful snapshots were seared into my brain

I was wrong.

The wonderful people at Hospice by The Sea in Boca told my sister and I that in time those images—while never forgotten—would give way to happier memories. Thankfully, they were right.

It took awhile, but now I can hardly remember those images because they are crowded out by a million memories of a mother who was so good, so loving, so kind and so gentle that her essence crowds out all the bad things in this world.

If I had one wish, it would be that everyone should have a mom like mine.

I only had her for 35 years, Sharon for 33, but her love shines through and lives on in our lives and the lives of all those who knew her.

My mother personified goodness. She had one purpose and that was to take care of those she loved. She was everyone’s best friend, never said no to a request and made everyone around her comfortable and happy. She had a good sense of humor, adored animals, and loved nothing more than to spend time with my dad, her children and grandchildren.

She enjoyed the simple things in life—Mah-jongg games with her friends, lunches out, shopping, hanging out with her bichon, coffee and Entenmann’s cake with my dad after a long day at work. Oh, she loved Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers too.

There’s a lesson in that kind of simplicity.

On this Mother’s Day, I hope you treasure your mom. For those of us who have lost our mothers, may we continue to carry their memories in our hearts forever.

A Love Story Begins

Today is a very special day for me and my family.

We are welcoming a new member to our pack. Her name is Gracie and she’s a four month old golden retriever.
Of course, we are already deeply, hopelessly and completely in love with her.  Being a golden, we know she will love us back.
Diane and I are dog people.
Our home feels empty without a dog in it. We talk about dogs. We watch dog videos on social media. We admire dogs we see when we’re out and about.
Yes, we love dogs.
And other pets too.
These days we have a cute little cockatiel named Bailey and a wonderful old dog named Randy.
Randy is almost 19 years old. He’s a chihuahua mix and we adopted him from the Animal Rescue Force at the Delray Affair in the early days of our marriage. Frankly, I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of the family. He’s been there to watch the kids grow up and he’s been with us through so much of life.
In his day, he was full of sass. In his mind, he’s a lion.
These days, the lion is blind, deaf and very quiet.
But he’s still got an appetite, still loves us to rub his neck and from a distance he still looks like that little lion I fell I love with almost 20 years ago.
Randy has always had another dog to pal around with. There was Casey, a golden we rescued. Casey was sweet and loving. She loved going to Kilwin’s on the avenue but after her ice cream cone she was ready to go home and tried to get in every car parked along Atlantic. We really felt her loss when she passed. It hit hard.
After Casey,  there was Sophie, another chihuahua mix we rescued. She was a tough girl who once wandered the streets of Miami.
She loved us and we loved her. But she only had eyes for us. She died after being attacked by an unleashed dog while we were out for an early morning walk.
I think about it every time I walk down that street. Every time.
I don’t like writing about it, but it does allow me to urge others to leash their dogs. For their safety and ours…
I miss that little girl.
They all take a piece of you with them when they go.
I lost a big piece of my heart to our next golden who died way too young  after a battle with cancer.
Teddy was remarkable. He touched so many hearts and he and Randy were great buddies. He also bonded with Sunny, our snowbird yellow lab who visited us from Pittsburgh for a few glorious South Florida winters.
Teddy came from Golden Retrievals, a wonderful non-profit.
I can write a book about that beautiful soul. He was…well he was everything.
Losing him took a chunk out of us.
His loss was coupled with the loss of a dear family member, Covid and other heavy stuff and things have not been the same since.
Coming off my battle with Covid, I asked my incredible wife if we could let one more golden into our hearts. She said yes…as she always does to the things that really matter. I am a lucky man.
So here comes Gracie. This time, we are going the puppy route.
Its a brave move. Not sure how Randy will handle this. Not to mention the ducks, squirrels and  gallinules that like to hang out in our backyard.
I’m an optimist, I believe things will work out. I think the puppy will keep us active, make us laugh and give us years of love and joy.  We are following our hearts.
We love dogs.
They warm our cold world.
Here’s to the adventures to come Gracie.
One thing is certain, you will be loved.


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.



“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.


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….