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Heart of Boynton Beach Club

by Phyliss Shanken; story by Florence Seidelman ©2011, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-935232-46-9, 200 pp
 

Includes questions for self-reflection and discussion topics for book clubs.


The Movie

Boynton Beach Club is a romantic comedy about our capacity to rebound and fall in love…at any age. After losing loved ones, the characters, who live in an “active adult” community in Boynton Beach, Florida, meet at a local bereavement club looking for emotional support. Unexpectedly, they find themselves in the dating scene—a strange new world from the one in which they lived when they married.


The Novel

Heart of Boynton Beach Club delves deeper into the characters’ personal histories and motivations, along with their marital relationships, fears, dreams and joys. The bereaved spouses learn that there are no shortcuts to the grieving process, but they do experience renewed vision for dealing with the challenges and changes facing them as single adults. Readers gain a new understanding of what it means to be supportive in times of loss and that for anyone, healing can occur, another day will dawn and new love is possible. Heart of Boynton Beach Club depicts the beauty and resilience of the human soul—we are strong and courageous individuals who don’t always know it until we are tested. But we can prevail.

Prologue ... 1

Introduction ... 3

Chapter 1 ... 7
Marilyn & Marty

Chapter 2 ... 27
Jack & Phyllis

Chapter 3 ... 41
The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club

Chapter 4 ... 53
The Women

Chapter 5 ... 64
Harry

Chapter 6 ... 74
The New Marilyn

Chapter 7 ... 84
Lois & Donald

Chapter 8 ... 104
Jack

Chapter 9 ... 127
Harry & Florence

Chapter 10 ... 135
Marilyn’s Discoveries

Chapter 11 ... 144
Lois’s Disillusionment

Chapter 12 ... 151
The Men

Chapter 13 ... 158
Sandy’s Secret

Chapter 14 ... 164
Marilyn’s Resolution

Chapter 15 ... 169
The Party

Chapter 16 ... 187
Happy New Year

Guide to Questions and Discussion Topics ... 195

Questions & Discussion Topics ... 197

CHAPTER 1
Marilyn & Marty


As the Florida morning sun streamed into the kitchen, Marilyn, a well-kept woman in her mid sixties, stood at the sink, washing the large purple Lucite bowl from last night’s bedtime snack with her seventy-year-old husband, Marty. Still in her nightgown, which camouflaged her full midlife body, her ultra smooth skin belied her age.

On the refrigerator hung a large calendar crowded with indelible ink in almost every square, which denoted the couple’s very busy social life: golf and tennis dates for Marty; Mah Jongg and hair appointments for Marilyn; dinner with The Gang, bridge and other social engagements for both of them.

Marilyn balanced the phone between her cheek and shoulder as a parade of large black ants scurried across the granite counter. She seized the sponge from the sink and slapped the bugs that had marched, uninvited, into her kitchen.

From somewhere up north, her forty-year-old daughter, Denise, held the corresponding phone, “Maybe it’s time for you to find something else besides taking care of Daddy.”

Having tired of the same old mantra from her only daughter, Marilyn merely hummed a token acknowledgement. “Hmmmm.”

“Are you still there?”

Marilyn changed the subject. “How are my little Danny and Eric?”

“They’re good. When we see you next month, you won’t believe how they’ve changed. Can’t wait.”

“Me too.”

“Alan’s calling. Gotta go.” Dial tone.

As Marilyn continued her battle with the ants, Marty sang his way into the kitchen dressed in his usual garb: an Adidas jogging suit, walkman headphones balanced around his neck, and an “Orlando” sun visor tilted on his head. He carried a tube of white sun block, which he smeared over his nose as he crooned up to his wife. Marty paused to pucker his lips and plant a loud kiss on her already pursed mouth. These chirping kisses represented their ritualistic morning greeting, the daily streak never, ever broken in their forty-five years of marriage.

“How’s my cutie this morning?” The question was another everyday routine in Marty’s repertoire, along with his customary short journey to the walnut cabinet above the counter where he retrieved a sorted pillbox.

“You got a ride to the hair dresser?”

“Yep, Irma’s taking me.”

“Okay, cause I’m free until tennis.”

Like a well-oiled machine, they moved into action. He unloaded the dishwasher; she set the table.

They had many customs such as this one: for example, the way they went to sleep each night. They simultaneously shut off their night table lights with a “Good-night, Marilyn.” “Good-night, Marty.”

The longest standing performance was the preparation for their nightly slumber, which they always accomplished together. They each stood on one side of the bed and folded down the Laura Ashley bedspread. Twice, they met each other with the ends and then the final transfer to Marilyn who placed it on the brass quilt stand in the corner of the room.

Presently, in the kitchen, Marty sat across from her at the table and slurped his coffee.

Referring to his greasy nose, and truly getting a kick out of this man, Marilyn guffawed. “Be careful not to get the white stuff in your coffee.”

“What, it’s got too many fat grams?”

Marilyn’s giggle hadn’t changed since the first day they met when he made silly faces at her. Despite the oily protection around his nose, she reached across and intimately touched his face. He raised his arm to meet hers and pressed her hand. They had always loved each other but ever since his mild heart attack, without ever stating it aloud, they had renewed their mutual devotion.

It’s funny how people can change the way they see things, especially when both remain open-minded. This is what Marilyn pondered while she held Marty’s bronzed hand. She remembered how her mother and other elders had advised her: never get married with the idea that he will change. She had said, yeah, yeah, yeah, believing she knew what they meant and that she loved him unconditionally. She soon learned that when you get married, you think you know what you’re getting into but boy, are you in for a rude awakening: marriage takes effort.

As in all good marriages, they had challenges to work through in order to arrive where they were today. Take her issues with Marty’s telling her what to do. Each time she complained, he assumed a “what—me—worry?” innocent expression on his face with his hands outstretched and palms up. He knew he wasn’t trying to manage or dominate her. He wanted to make her happy, that’s all! So, what was all the talk about control?

Fortunately, they had the glue that keeps good relationships together while muddling through those stormy times. For years now, they had reaped the benefits of those early and enlightening conversations. She learned that he wasn’t trying to control her. He had thought he was supposed to fix the problem. But all she wanted was for him to listen to her. And, eventually, what do you know? He learned to wait before launching into the old “you-should-do-it-this-way” routine.

To this day they maintained their loyal lovebird status. They concentrated on what they adored about each other. It takes a lifetime to get to this place, forty-five years of a lifetime.

“Aren’t we a sight, Marty? Look at you.”

“What? Isn’t this normal? A guy with a white nose in his coffee? What’s so unusual? And isn’t it sexy?”

With her mouth ajar, Marilyn’s tummy jiggled as it always did when she laughed at Marty’s quips.

“Real sexy, Marty. Anyone who saw you would be turned on!”

As she watched Marty grin in total enjoyment of her, she eyed the black and white photo of twenty-eight-year-old Marty and twenty-three-year-old Marilyn from immediately after their honeymoon. Although before they met, she had taught school in Brooklyn, she quit her job right after the wedding. Could that have been the last time she drove a car? Or, fixed a faucet? She couldn’t remember how she came to rely on him so heavily.

There they were, smiling into the camera like a promising young couple with their whole lives ahead of them. She was a knockout then, slim and glamorous in an unaffected way. When did she gain all that weight? Even though she had never struggled with it before, it seemed that she had been trying to lose weight from their wedding day forward. Yet, Marty always said he loved her just as she was; he looked forward to sinking into her as if she were his own personal velvety cushion. Since it gave him such pleasure to be her sole caretaker and protector, had she secretly fattened up for his sake in the same way she relinquished her other skills? Was his encouragement of her transformation from svelte to chubby an assurance he would never lose her?

She shook her head to erase such negative propositions. She believed in replacing negativities with good memories. She recalled the tenderness in their bedroom last night...

...

Although they lived in sunny, warm Florida, she had never shed the blood chilling experience of Northern living. So as usual, she was clad in her flannel nightgown. When especially cold, she snuggled against Marty, her salvation. He warmed her to perfection, “like cooking a rump roast,” he would say, referring to her zaftig body.

“Since when do we stash the popcorn on your side?” Marty had asked.

“Since now. Because if you keep eating all this salt, you’re gonna die!”

She leaned against the king size headboard and possessively hugged the large half-empty Lucite bowl. To further reinforce her concern for him, she used her pointer finger to trace the long scar on Marty’s hairy chest, the one from his heart surgery. As the aroma of their childhood snack permeated the room, he faced the blaring television, which was showing an old Gene Kelly movie.

“I’m not gonna die. Come on, Mar. Pass it over.”

Reluctantly, as if the bowl could skate, Marilyn glided it in his direction. At the last minute, she clutched on with her well-manicured hand. Marty lunged for the purple container. She yanked it back. And the playful battle ensued.

The tug-of-war concluded in a volcanic explosion as kernels propelled onto the designer sheets that always smelled like lavender. Marty’s boyish snicker converted to a belly laugh. He tackled her.

Giggling, they reached out to each other and clutched on for dear life. They rolled over each other like logs moving downstream. So as not to rotate onto the floor, he stopped their momentum but they remained clamped together in a spooning position. From the back of her, he swirled his arms around, searched her chest and cupped her breasts. He inhaled her scent, a combination of moisturizing soap and recently used Tide.

She squeezed his hand and smiled into the darkness while, on the screen, Gene Kelly danced with an umbrella.

...

Marty interrupted her reverie: “If Bernie calls about tennis, tell him I booked a court for 12:30.”

He checked his pockets for his keys, put his headphones over his ears, turned on the walkman, straightened his shiny jogging suit and began a little dance to go with his best jogging accompaniment: the much loved Mambo only he could hear. He trotted toward the door.

“Love you!”

“I love you, too, Marty. Don’t forget to take the trash on your way out!”

The screen door slammed behind him as Marty skipped over the doorstop into the warm Florida air. He dumped the trash bag and strutted into his starting position on the streets of Silver Moon Estates, a gated adult community in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Like a captain at sea, he surveyed the territory of pastel Mediterranean ranch houses. He inhaled the freshness and purity of the air, happy to be alive, having survived a mild medical alert not even a year ago. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

In the last few months, he had felt uncharacteristically vibrant, with more energy than ever. Instantly, he danced his way to the middle of the street. While lip-synching the words, he practiced his mambo steps—three steps forward, two steps back, with an occasional full-circle twirl thrown in for good measure.

He praised himself that Marilyn and he had moved here when they did, with real estate costs rising and all the Northern snowbird retirees here in droves to spend their golden years.

Marty lightened the path of everyone with whom he came in contact. Take his neighbor Bob, a man in his late seventies, who was retrieving his mail at the end of the block. After returning Marty’s wave, Bob ambled back into his house. Was there a little hint of Mambo in Bob’s step?

Marty mamboed further and thought about last night’s tryst: Marilyn had been a riot. What a great sport. When he pulled on the bowl and the first popcorn kernel spilled over, she had jumped up, causing some of the corn to practically re-pop and land along the crack where the twin beds were hooked together.

“Marty!” She half-smiled. She often donned this smirk when there was a lesson to teach. Concentration on being stern was a necessity. If not, she might laugh out loud and lose her case against Marty, which she almost always did.

In a ceremonious display, Marty grabbed a smashed kernel, held it up between his thumb and forefinger. Like an ostentatious kid, he tilted his head toward the ceiling, opened his mouth wide, confidently tossed the corn in the air and then trusted gravity to complete his stunt. It missed the mark! Instead, Marilyn’s jaws, already open from the hilarity, snapped shut and trapped the well-traveled kernel. She threw her arms up in victory and he loved her for it.

Marilyn saved the girlie, playful side of herself exclusively for him. It belonged not to Marilyn alone or to Marty alone but to the Marty-Marilyn team. Without either one of them, the system, so intrinsic to the combination of the two of them, would end as well.

The same factors were operative when they called each other those little nonsensical names. Using their own brand of baby talk, these grown-up people, like so many other couples, would be devastated if anyone eavesdropped on their cutesy, poopsy-woopsy, affection. From where did the endearing phrases of the world secretly used across the land by scores of competent adults originate? Love and love making brings adults back to those early infant days when words weren’t words, when responsible caretakers cooed soothingly at them in what sounded like gibberish and made them feel so warm and secure.

For the moment, Marty tried to think of all his pet names for Marilyn: “Schnooky,” “Spanky,” “Bubbles,” “Boobsky-Doodle,” or any group of syllables that spewed from his lips without forethought. As if he were clicking the shutter on a camera to make a slide show, he recalled Marilyn’s preferred and most enduring way of referring to him. She called him, “Poo.” He liked the way her lips curled when she said it.

With each mambo step, he saw through the viewer an array of “Poo” references along with Marilyn’s smiling face at various stages of age and weight over the last forty-five years: “I made your favorite macaroni, Poo.” “I knew you could land that sale, Poo.” “Poo, would you please change the ceiling bulb in the bedroom?” “I love you, Poo.”

He turned the corner.

In the middle of the gated community, in one of the best locations, lived a single sixty-five-year-old woman, Anita Stern. Her coiffed, platinum blonde hair framed her darkened face with a complexion the color of someone who had never heeded sunscreen warnings in her years of traveling to Florida, first for two weeks, then for three months and finally for good.

On this day, she scurried out from her freshly painted pink, Mediterranean house, busily gabbing on her cell phone. Anita’s naturally loud voice reverberated into thin air and was further accentuated by her thick Long Island accent.

On her way to the driveway, Anita held the phone with one hand and used the other to open the Cadillac, which had already been backed out of the garage.

“So, we couldn’t wait for Shelly to find a guy. Joseph and I wanted our time together. I mean, living with your parents until you’re forty, that’s pretty bad.” She swung her hips inside and onto the seat.

“But when Joseph passed, she was such great company. She helped me through a lot.” Anita put her key in the ignition and quieted herself in order to better hear her sister’s response.

“Come on Joyce, you were there. You saw.” She situated her large handbag.

“Yeah. I know I’ve said it all before but I can’t help myself. I’m so mad. So, she finds the guy. Did he have to be Japanese? Am I gonna get on a plane and fly for days to visit her? By myself?”

While she listened, Anita adjusted the rear view mirror to check her hair. “Come on, Joyce, when is she gonna visit, like once every five years?”

She looked again in the mirror to go over her lipstick with her fingers. “Right Joyce, I am repeating myself. Can you just listen for a minute?” To remove the extra lipstick, she rubbed her tongue along her top teeth.

“Her daddy isn’t here anymore. Do you think she’s gonna come all that way just to see me? I’m only her ‘muh-ther!”

Anita put the car in reverse and hurriedly placed her foot on the gas pedal, ready to take off on her journey.

“I know. I know. I do want her to be happy. But, you know how it…”

With a loud thud, the Cadillac bumped into something. Her car stopped, but she hadn’t even put her foot on the brake.

“Wait a second. One second, Joyce. I think I, I hit the trash can again.”

She pulled up the emergency break and got out of the car. She tentatively went around to the rear. At first, all she saw were his sneakers. Then his legs in jogging pants.

She screamed.

...

In a small, private chapel reserved only for invited family and friends, Marilyn, dressed in black, sat in the front row pew next to her daughter, Denise. Alan would be bringing the children in a few days.

As the funeral service progressed, the chaplain’s voice faded out and Marilyn, a trance-like expression on her face belied by her trembling facial muscles, searched out Marty’s photo resting on an easel in front of the coffin, the framed black and white that had inhabited her entertainment center wherever they lived. If she hadn’t dusted those shelves every day and moved it just a smidgen to clean under it, there probably would have been a permanent dent where the frame had sat.

Denise squeezed her mother’s hand. Denise was more broken up than her mother was, but this was because Marilyn couldn’t grasp the reality of the situation: Marty was never coming home again!

Internally, she smiled as she viewed the young Marty in front of her, full of life. Her tears were mere specks compared to the ones in storage awaiting eruption. If I let go now, I will never stop.

...

A few weeks later, Marilyn and Denise stood in the middle of the crowded airport waiting area, comprised mostly of senior citizens. Marilyn’s deep sigh didn’t go unnoticed by Denise. She reached out and held her mother close in a long embrace.

Marilyn said, “What are we doing here? Daddy and I were supposed to be greeting you and Alan and the kids. This was always his favorite day.”

Denise nodded perfunctorily. Her eyes followed the crowd and finally, she saw Alan, a strapping man in a plaid flannel shirt. Presently a bit frazzled, he stood with six-year-old Danny and four-year-old Eric looped through his bent muscular arms, like stiff, horizontal poles.

Simultaneously, he dropped the luggage and his offspring, who like cats, righted themselves to a standing position. He hugged Denise and stood awkwardly as he eyed Marilyn. Was it safe to approach?

Marilyn dodged between the group of strangers aware that her legs were already hurting, a problem she had developed from standing in high heels during her teaching days. Marty wouldn’t be there later to massage her ailing feet. Even when he was convalescing from his bypass, he had asked his usual: “Honey, do you want me to rub your feet?”

Marilyn went for her grandsons. They tackled their Grandma and nearly knocked her over.

“Hey, how are my big boys? What about a kiss?”

Their having just been released from a stuffy airplane made them oblivious to the flatness of her greeting. Danny and Eric accepted Grandma’s familiar and unique rapid-fire kisses, a puckering feat no one had ever been able to duplicate.

Too soon these delicious creatures would be grown up or living far away with no time for their grandmother. You don’t really understand these truths until your husband doesn’t snore alongside you one morning and the noisy sleep disruptions you once complained about are now missing from your life forever. You learn that no matter how much you numb yourself to the finality of life, you lose people anyway. When your husband dies, your reality develops a sharper edge. In a way, it puts you more in control: not that you can actually have a say over what happens to you but that you know it will happen!

Having stooped to be at the boys’ level, as she tried to stand, Marilyn found that her knees couldn’t support her. Beseechingly, she peered up at Alan who was grateful to have something to do rather than having to find something to say. He, like many others to follow, didn’t know how he was supposed to act toward his grieving mother-in-law.

Gingerly, he helped Marilyn to her feet and kissed her on the cheek. She held on a bit longer than expected and patted his back as if he were the one in grief.

With a jerk, Alan about-faced. “Oh, I forgot!” He disappeared.

With a grin, Alan returned, holding out the barred enclosure toward a non-responsive Marilyn.

Denise gazed into the cage and saw its inhabitant. Enchanted, she removed a white, furry, excitable Shih Tzu. Remembering her task, she gestured with it toward her mother.

“We bought you a dog. Alan and the kids picked it out since I wasn’t –“

“Why?” Marilyn’s non-compliant arms remained by her sides.

Denise protectively caressed the dog toward her chest and rushed to explain, “It’ll keep you company. You said the house was too quiet without Daddy.”

“And you decided how to fix it? You know I don’t like dogs.”

“Ma, trust me, you’ll fall in love with him.”

Without any utterance whatsoever, Marilyn about-faced and marched resolutely away from her family who silently strolled behind her, keeping their distance.

The car ride home had been hushed, except for the yelping puppy that served as total entertainment for Danny and Eric. When they arrived at Marilyn and Marty’s home, Marilyn, key in hand from the time they had left the airport, jumped from the front seat of the car a split second after Alan pulled up the emergency brake. On a mission, she unlocked the door and headed straight for the master bathroom: How dare they? What did they know? A dog? As simple as that, huh? They had no idea how she ached for Marty, how nothing, absolutely nothing would fill the empty place inside of her.

By the time Marilyn willed herself to exit her bedroom hide-a-way and revisit her immaculate and painstakingly ordered living room, the little dog was snarling playfully as he chewed on the corner of a decorator throw pillow, engaging in a game of tug-of-war with Eric and Danny. Toys and snack food were now visible in places they had never been seen before—at least not in this house. These children, and the dog, by the way, were to serve as diversions from her grief? Again, her anger welled up.

Just get out of here! Go home! It was all she could do to repress this recurrent thought. Grandmothers were supposed to be nice, even after their husbands died. It was always tough for Marilyn to have them invade her house but no one ever knew that piece of nasty news—except for Marty, of course. Where was he? How was she to cope with them all by herself? For the first time, instead of feeling sad about losing him, she resented his desertion of her.

Sometime later, Denise apprehensively entered the kitchen as Marilyn cut the vegetables for the stir fry. “I think you should move back North and live with us. The kids would love having you around.”

“Look, that’s nice of you to offer, but my friends are all here and I can manage.” What was the deal? Just because her husband died, had she now been relegated to the role of a child in her own child’s eyes?

“Manage? Daddy did everything for you. Do you know how to balance a check book or pay the bills?”

“I can learn.”

“When was the last time you drove a car?”

“I can walk everywhere I need to.”

“Mom, what about your bad knees and your arches? Why are you being so stubborn?”

Marilyn smiled. It wasn’t too long ago that she had thought the same of her youngster, Denise.

...

During former visits, Marilyn ran out of energy after only two or three days. Even Marty, who had more stamina than she, breathed a sigh of relief when the visit ended. Neither of them had to say it aloud. As they kissed all their kids good-bye, no one else observed the covert, poker face eyeball-to-eyeball look that Marilyn and Marty silently communicated to each other. There would be no detection of a flinch or a twitch but, as occurred so often, they each knew what the other was feeling. They bestowed upon their offspring an affectionate good-riddance mixed with tears of regret that Denise’s family lived so far away.

On this morning, having lain awake for hours, feeling cold and alone without Marty to warm her, the old familiar, ‘Give me peace and quiet’ loomed large. Denise and Alan wanted to keep her company but this wasn’t the kind of comfort she longed for. They would never understand the loudness of the silence of the night. They would say she was crazy. Does the absence of a snore make a sound?

On this breezy Florida day, the sun began to stream through the lower part of her sheer curtains. She clutched Marty’s pillow and snuggled into it so she could smell his life force residing there.

It had been three weeks and the formerly fastidious Marilyn couldn’t bring herself to wash these linens even though there lingered the faint aroma of popcorn. She willed herself out of bed and entered the master bathroom to ready herself for the day, but not without glancing at Marty’s green toothbrush still settled into its holder.

Marilyn got dressed in slow motion, trying to steal a few extra solitary minutes for herself. Jolted out of her lethargy by the chime of the doorbell, Marilyn walked through the living room to the front door.

Here stood a sexy, slender woman in a fuzzy aqua vest adorned with an assortment of jewelry that immediately matched her soon-to-be-evident bubbly personality. Lois’s smile was so wide; for sure there could be no way to reveal any more exuberance. “Hi. Hope I didn’t come at a bad time. I’m Lois Martin. I live over by the Clubhouse. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“No. I don’t think we have.”

Lois held up a basket of fruit with pink and purple gauze that intertwined and resembled something like a makeshift flower. Marilyn thanked Lois and only then actually observed Lois’s long wavy blonde permed hair, the rings on most of her fingers, including her thumbs, and her large hooped earrings.

Converting the smile to a compassionately soft expression, Lois went on. “I’m so sorry for your loss. From all of us at the Boynton Beach Bereavement Club, here’s a basket and an invitation to our next meeting.”

By not resisting it when Lois placed the gift in her hands, Marilyn reluctantly received this token. However, a sudden ruckus intruded on their moment of silent and mutual acknowledgment. It was the children again, just being kids.

Lois proclaimed, “I can see you’re busy with family. But if you’re interested, all the information is on the card. I know it’s difficult. We are a supportive group. Think about coming to see us.”

“Thank you.” Marilyn turned slowly toward the door to close it as Lois’s muffled, “good-bye” could be heard.

Marilyn adopted a gracious smile. She watched Lois balance on her high heels toward the street. In her bell bottom pants with a belt that resembled a necklace, Lois turned to wave just as Marilyn was rearranging her face back into a neutral expression. Nevertheless, Marilyn, still holding Lois’s offering, managed a friendly farewell.

“Bye.”

...

Marilyn forgot about the invitation to join the Boynton Beach Bereavement Club because her friends managed to keep her busy enough to postpone her self-pity and morose ruminations. She resumed her Mah Jongg games; Irma continued to take her to the hairdresser; the women invited her to dinner with them and their husbands even though Marilyn protested, saying they might not want her since she wasn’t coupled as they were. Besides, she knew that the fun-loving Marty had been more important than she had been to the men. Marty could tell a joke better than the best of them and could divert a glum conversation to a funny one so the group never had to deal with negative emotions.

One night, they were all sitting about the big round table at the local seafood grille, yukking it up as usual.

Irma asked, “When did we all start calling ourselves ‘The Gang?”

“What? You don’t like it?” responded Jim Gillespie, the newly self-appointed jokester of the group, ever since Marty had relinquished his role.

His wife, Mary Alice, laughed. “I like it. I like it!”

“She’s at it again, guys. When she says that, I know I’m in for trouble. This woman exhausts me.”

The Gang, mainly the men, laughed uproariously.

Irma joined the bandwagon. ”Yeah, when I say I like it, John runs out of the bedroom!”

“But, Irma, my dear, when I come back in and tackle you, you seem pretty grateful!”

“I’m not talkin’.”

“Hey, you started it. Now, tell these people about your little fetish.”

Some members of the Gang were making “ooh” and “ah” sounds related to the forbidden material about to unfold.

“Okay,” quipped John. “I’ll tell them.”

Irma didn’t seem to object so he continued. “She likes to take a running leap into my arms and have me catch her.”

“Like in the movies,” Irma piped in.

Mary Alice was the first to inadvertently glance toward Marilyn and take note of how Marilyn was steadfastly picking at her salad and conscientiously chewing small pieces while showing no expression one way or the other.

The laughter ceased as others joined Mary Alice’s lookout. Then silence followed as people realized they were joking about husband and wife interactions and sex that could be performed only by two people. They turned quietly uncomfortable as they cut short their own amusement.

By the time they finished their entrees, Marilyn excused herself to go to the Ladies Room. Mary Alice and Elsie had left the table a few minutes before. Marilyn opened the door to the multi-stalled restroom. Mary Alice and Elsie were in separate booths, engaged in conversation from across the partition.

“Well, what do you expect? Her husband just died!”

“I know, but it’s a downer.”

“What does Jim say about it?”

“You know him. He’s so oblivious; it doesn’t affect him.”

“Frazier, too. He says he notices but it doesn’t ruin his night like it does for me.”

“Well, it’s like every time I look at her, I’m reminded that I could lose Jim just like that.” A finger snap could be heard. “I don’t want to think about it.”

Mary Alice flushed the toilet. Abruptly leaving Elsie and Mary Alice to their deliberations, Marilyn braced herself and ambled slowly but purposefully back to the table.

Except for Irma, the remaining diners were men. They had taken the liberty of unleashing their inhibitions and retreating to their comfort zone—comedy. They were already engaged in a game that Marty had originated: a combination of poker talk and therapeutic review of age-related ailments and concerns. Raucous guffaws filled the restaurant between quips such as:

“I’ll see your constipation and raise you heartburn!”

“I’ll raise your minor inconveniences to full-fledged ulcers!”

“Oh, yeah. I’ll re-re-raise you to a dropped bladder!” piped in the only woman at the table. To their perplexed expressions, she elaborated sarcastically, “Frequent urination!”

What’s a woman doing among us? This is our game.

Not to be deterred, Jim resumed the contest. ”I win. I bid,“ he feigned confusion, “I bid, uh, C-R-A-F-T.”

“Doesn’t count,” John challenged, knowingly, “If you Can’t-Remember-A-Fucking-Thing, you’re disqualified!”

The hearty laughter resumed as other diners either smiled at the elder folks’ enjoyment of each other or frowned at the disruption.

Frazier declared, “No one can top me. My final and winning bid is a by-pass!”

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as Frazier triumphantly claimed his prize, he abruptly stopped because he spotted Marilyn who had just reached the table. How could they continue playing Marty’s game with Marty’s widow right in their faces? And referring to Marty’s old winning bid to top off the insult.

She didn’t even sit down. Instead, she excused herself, claimed she wasn’t feeling well and took a taxi home. Making her escape from the cab into the refuge of her home, she immediately marched over to her refrigerator calendar and crossed off the squares which contained the words, “Dinner with The Gang.”

The Gang kept inviting her to go to dinner but she graciously declined. They never figured out the true reason: She didn’t want to be the source of their misery. She merely told them she wasn’t ready yet. She did, however, engage in social activities with her girlfriends, but was careful not to permit her sadness to slip through.

Marilyn remained in her self-imposed, insulated shelter because to express her feelings, she ran the risk of turning off her friends and family, something she desperately couldn’t afford to do. But over time, she longed to express these freshly buried emotions to those who might understand. That’s when she remembered Lois and the Bereavement Club. Maybe, just maybe, she would give it a try.

READER COMMENTS

I read Boynton Beach Club.  Thank you for putting me on to it.  I found the book delightful, informative and very meaningful  I laughed at one page and shed a tear at the next.  Your characters were wonderfully developed in very short space and they were all familiar to me as if I knew them personally.  Everyone should read the book, not just the bereaved as we will all experience it if we are lucky to have enough birthdays (ironic, eh?).

 

I finished reading the book…and I loved it! The dialog was excellent, the descriptions/flashbacks to develop the characters, the dog (and other tidbids you added) to inject humor,

 

Before I started, I was only looking forward to reading it because it was by Phyliss Shanken, but I did have a resistance because I already knew the story. But I got really into it and at times 'forgot' that I was reading a book by someone I knew, ie. it really felt like I was reading a novel by a best-selling author! And the depth you added made it a new experience from the movie.

 

Greg from Merrick, NY

Movie Reviews

“The frisky 60-something residents of a Florida ‘active adult’ community are so determined to find love that as you watch the movie, you might be excused for speculating that it is really a high school romantic comedy whose teenage characters are played by their grandparents.” 
The New York Times

“Boynton Beach Club is remarkable for its optimism and solid performances giving a refreshing contemporary spin to the lives of an unrepresented group.” 
Los Angeles Times

“This movie takes chances that few others would dare, with an audience in mind that most of Hollywood seems to have forgotten.” 
The Sun

 

About the Movie:

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Written by Phyliss Shanken
Psychologist

Phyliss is Director of Psychological Services at INTROSPECT in Colmar, PA, a private practice of more than twenty practitioners who treat approximately five hundred patients per week. In addition to almost forty years in private practice as a psychologist, Phyliss is a human relations and laughter consultant. She has made over 300 presentations to audiences, was published in psychology, literary and poetry journals, received poetry awards, and was a newspaper and national magazine columnist. In 2005, she won Best Live Reading at the Bare Bones Film Festival for one of her screenplays, Love on the Other Side. You can learn more about Phyliss on her website: www.introspectcare.com


Story by Florence Seidelman
Educator, Screenwriter, Film and Theater Producer

Florence is the producer and co-writer of the 2006 motion picture Boynton Beach Club starring Dyan Cannon, Brenda Vaccaro, Sally Kellerman, Michael Nouri, Len Cariou and Joseph Bologna, upon which this book is based. She has also been active in theater production over the past three years, producing the stage drama Millions of Miles that premiered at the Delray Beach Playhouse in Florida. She is one of the Producers of the "Boynton Beach Club Musical" opening in February 2012. Florence holds a Masters Degree in Special Education from Temple University in addition to a Masters Degree in The Psychology of Reading. She helped to develop an experimental educational program in association with the Philadelphia Catholic school system for high school dropouts. You can contact Florence at www.florenceseidelman.com.

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