Happy Birthday, Steven

Jon and Linda invited us to their home to hear their friend, David Roth, play the guitar.

I have great admiration for people who open their homes to large numbers of people, risking red wine carpet stains, backed-up toilets and conflicting requests about the thermostatically controlled temperature. The purveyors of such hospitality are usually adventurous, gregarious and welcoming. The Lamberts fit the mold perfectly.

Sweetie and I arrived unfashionably early, said hello to those we knew and a few we didn’t. Most were in the vicinity of our age group but with a smattering of the very young who, as the evening progressed, may have thought longingly of their idle smart-phones.

A couch at the absolute rear of the bridge-chair festooned room beckoned to us and we plopped ourselves into its welcoming softness, fully expecting to have our vision blocked by anyone who might choose to occupy the two taller chairs in front of us. No one did.

David Roth, a personable man with a name that abbreviated our own, and who you would be pleased to have to dinner, introduced himself and made us laugh. A folk singer and composer of some renown, he seemed quite at home in the cozy surroundings. My first inkling of what was to be a memorable evening came when David told us about his Chicago roots. Hmmm. A fellow landsman, I thought. Not a bad start.

David’s mother sat, appropriately, in the front row. He took genuine pride in talking about her, including her accomplishments as a theatrical performer. I’m sure Mrs. Roth must have thought, more than once, what a good boy.

David’s father also figured prominently in the Chicago scene having toiled at the long defunct Chez Paree, a restaurant cum nightclub that featured the likes of Jack Teagarden, Morey Amsterdam, Louis Armstrong, Woody Herman, Frances Langford and a cast of now almost forgotten names. I spent Von Steuben High School prom night there in 1956 with Brenda Dobbs. Another connection.

My mind wandered a bit and, maybe as a result of the connections, I realized that tomorrow, June 12, was Steven’s birthday. Our son who left us much too early in life. He too, like David, was a singer, guitarist and composer. I tried to remember the words to some of Steven’s songs and failed miserably.

It seemed to get softly warmer in the room, more relaxed, more at home.

David reminisced about his bar mitzvah and the mischief he got into as a very young boy who reveled in running about the Chez Paree, no doubt pursued relentlessly by his father. Displaying a photo of Jimmy Durante, he pointed out his own angelic face alongside that of his sister, both sitting on Durante’s lap.

He shared that time when, not so long ago, he was confronted with thyroid cancer and saw his singing career flash before his eyes. Another connection.

Sloan Wainwright spelled David and shared her own brand of music. And the loss of her husband to leukemia four years ago. Her house that he had built for her and that now provided only warm memories. Another connection.

I began to wonder if this evening had been carefully choreographed to remind us of Steven’s birthday. Whether some wizard had conjured up David Roth and instilled memories in him that were just close enough to raise our own. You’ve been there, I’m sure you have.

David finished and a few people wandered to the front of the room, telling him how much they enjoyed his concert. I shared my Steven story with him. At first he seemed just polite, nodding and listening to me. And then his eyes told me that it meant something more to him.

Happy birthday, Steven. Wish you were here.


8 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Steven”

  1. 1 Maureen Ferry June 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Once again Fred you brought tears to my eyes – what a lovely and fitting reminder of Steven on his birthday!
    Love to you both.


  2. 2 Michael Weinper June 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Fred and Ila- these ‘coincidences’ are, in my way of thinking, a connection with the loved ones no longer with us. May your memories of Steven always be a blessing to you both. Thanks for allowing me to remember him.


  3. 3 Roger Conrad June 12, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Fred and Ila- Your connections brought tears to my eyes also. Steven’s spirit lives on through beautiful people like you. Thank you for sharing.


  4. 4 Harry(Judy) Levin June 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I still have Steven’s birthday as a reminder on my computer calendar. His memory is not forgotten.
    Luv, Harry


  5. 5 Irvin Lucks June 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Fred, thanks for sharing those warm connections. What a tribute to Steven, who is smiling down on you and Ila.
    Love you,


  6. 6 K June 14, 2013 at 8:22 am

    What can I say that already wasn’t said above. Time goes by, but memories never leave us. Happy Birthday Steven.


  7. 7 Sally June 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Yes, what every else has already said so well and heartfelt. Thank you for writing this. Love you!


  8. 8 Judie August 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    How did I miss this blog since I read every one you send. Since we shared the happy birth of all our children and more, this is the one sad thing. It also brings my connection which is to remember my brother who also left us early at 34. Life is not always fair, but we look at the 1/2 full side to help us through. Love you both and see you soon


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