When I pulled out the 75th birthday photo of my dad, Zeke Segal, it reminded me of the party where we celebrated at Bones restaurant in Atlanta. He amazed us that afternoon, when he gave us a new definition of “best friends.”
My dad was a complicated guy. Two nights before his birthday party, my husband Nick and I flew in from New York and took Zeke and his girlfriend to dinner at La Grotta, another of his favorite restaurants. We talked about politics, the world, laughed and ate the good food. He consumed great quantities of red wine. His girlfriend, a woman about twenty-years younger, was smart, interesting and seemed to really like my father. The evening flew by and I enjoyed my father more than I had in years. We all almost forgot one critical thing. We never mentioned my dad’s wife Theo.
She was at home several miles away and had no idea we were in town enjoying an evening with Zeke’s girlfriend, whom I believe she didn’t know existed.
After dinner, Zeke got into his Cadillac tipsy and happy and drove home to Theo.
Two days later, we joined Theo and the party she assembled at Bones for the big birthday celebration. Zeke, with a glass of red wine in hand, chatted up the guests and enjoyed the attention of his friends. Most of the people at the party were from the condo complex where they lived in an Atlanta suburb. They frequently gathered in Zeke and Theo’s condo at five in the afternoon for a pre-dinner cocktail.
So the convivial group laughed at Zeke’s jokes and happily drank with him. But most of the people who’d worked with my dad at CBS News, and with whom he strongly identified, were absent.
When it came time for the toast, Zeke raised his wine goblet and thanked everyone for joining him to celebrate his 75th birthday. And then he toasted them. “To my best friends in the world, right now,” he said. He didn’t blink.
It was an interesting concept, and I guess it’s one of the lessons Zeke taught us. You can have “best friends in the world, right now.” Or can you?
Here’s to my dad Zeke Segal. Maybe not the best father, but the one I loved then and love now.