June 24, 2024

What Keeps Us Sane – Family and Friends

Friends since we were boys – from left Geoff Keenan, Keith Schneider, Bobby Fargo. Photo/Gabrielle Gray

SOMERSET, KY — This is the week that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is supposed to make public sentencing memorandums for three Trump allies who pled guilty to various illegal acts committed in and out of service to the president. From what’s been made public, and from what I know from fact-checking Seth Abramson’s book, Proof of Collusion, it’s not going to be pretty or something to celebrate.

The country has been in a state of dissolution and disruption for more than two years, the most dismal period of national unraveling in my lifetime. I never imagined that an individual, backed by power-mad legislative allies, could so easily push a huge nation so far off its moral mooring. I never understood that so many Americans would so eagerly embrace the reckless tilt. We’ve experienced 30 months of national vertigo. Mueller’s conclusions this week, I fear, will make it worse because the president, his allies, and the state-sanctioned right wing media are sure to describe facts as fiction, and investigative narrative of wrong-doing and collusion as political fantasy.

It is for those reasons and more that Thanksgiving this year was such a welcome respite. I put aside the daily grind of White House abuse and national dismay. We get in the car and drive through the mountains of West Virginia and forests of Maryland and Pennsylvania. We talk and exit the car now and again to shake the stiffness and ache out of our immobilized bones. It feels great.

The Schneider family, New York City, Thanksgiving 2018. Photo/Keith Schneider

As in other years, Gabrielle and I spent the holiday in New York. The Schneiders, and their spouses and children, gather at the Harvard Club once a year to spend a few hours catching up as a family. It’s one of the select “don’t miss” dates on my annual calendar. Jo-Anne Schneider, who is 88-years-old now, holds the event and issues the invitations. She was greeted this year by a 100 percent rate of acceptance. Pretty good since we come from several states. Our circle expanded a bit the last few years. In 2017 a new wife, Gabrielle. This year we welcomed Lauren and Jeffrey Lipton’s April-born baby, Samuel, and Taylor Powell’s girlfriend, Jackie Danisi.

This year also included a new landing spot. Instead of our usual Manhattan hotel room, Gabrielle and I spent two nights in Scarsdale with Grant Schneider and Larry Diamond, and their children, Margot and Graydon Diamond. We were treated to such hospitality and graciousness in their beautifully decorated and welcoming home. It had been years since I spent that much time with Grant, not since he was unmarried and lived in New York City and Boston. He did not disappoint. My younger brother is a tempest of style, smarts, energy, and opinions. He can be an irrepressible wave of ardent expression one moment. A gentle and generous welcoming breeze the next. He is the sails and rudder on his family’s ship. His composed and handsome husband, just as smart and ambitious, is the hull and keel keeping the whole thing in balance. Gabrielle and I loved it and look forward to our next visit.

At the Harvard Club – from left, Jeffrey Lipton, Mariel Schneider, Gabrielle Gray with Samuel Lipton, Lauren Lipton, Reed Schneider. Photo/Keith Schneider
From Scarsdale from left – Graydon Diamond, Grant Schneider, Larry and Margot Diamond. Photo/Keith Schneider

On Friday we traveled to Cherry Hill, New Jersey for a reunion with two dear friends from my White Plains days, Bob Fargo and Geoff Keenan. Bob’s wife, Cathi, and Geoff’s son, William, joined us. It was my first introduction to William, who is a doll and makes his father so obviously happy. And I hadn’t seen Cathi since I visited the Fargos in the early 1990s with another dear White Plains friend, Andy Feinman and his then-fiancee’ and future wife Mary Van Hoomissen. Andy was a vital figure in our close circle of boyhood friends. He died last year. Earlier this year we also lost Bob Monahan, another cherished friend.

New Jersey was the first time we’d gotten together recently where we weren’t in mourning. It’s why I always, always, make a personal entreaty to those I love to “Keep breathing!” until we next meet. We told a few choice stories about Andy and Bobby that evening, which elicited the carrying on pictured at the top.

Gabrielle had never met any of my White Plains circle. She wasn’t disappointed. Cathi set a beautiful table and prepared a wonderful meal. I brought a bottle of fine Kentucky bourbon. Bobby and Geoff swept up Gabrielle and Cathi and William in their fun and warmth, wit and candor. The staging was perfect for an evening of laughter and memories and dialing into each other’s lives. Hopefully I can convince them to join us next summer in Michigan.

Fifty years of friends — Bob Fargo, Keith Schneider, Geoff Keenan. Photo/Gabrielle Gray
A beautiful and fun evening in New Jersey. From left – Cathi Fargo, William Keenan, Bob Fargo, Gabrielle Gray, Geoff Keenan. Photo/Keith Schneider
Three dear friends and two wives. Photo/William Keenan
Cathi Fargo’s beautiful table. The stage for a memorable and magical evening. Photo/Keith Schneider

Probably because I never had to raise infants and toddlers I’ve been blessed with having the time and inclination to stay close to groups of dear friends from various stages of my life. My college brothers and their wives and families. My Michigan friends. The new friends from Gabrielle’s Kentucky circles. My White Plains brothers and their families.

It’s been almost two weeks since Thanksgiving. A lot of the country awaits the findings from the Mueller investigation. The denials and evasions and gnashing are close. I try to keep some of it in perspective, at least I hope I do. My wife. Close family and dear friends. Those are the sweet ingredients in the recipe I’ve mixed for my life. I try hard at these moments of national grubbiness to remember that.

— Keith Schneider

8 thoughts on “What Keeps Us Sane – Family and Friends

  1. I still do not have a full understanding of how deep friendship is. I wonder if another bottle bourbon and a gathering of a bunch old friends is in order to help me figure this out. Seems as ever time we all get together as we grow older the bond becomes stronger and deeper.

  2. I think — check that — I know you’ve figured it out. It just surprises you how much you’re stirred by what you feel. Me too. It’s what makes those moments so useful and beautiful. Give careful consideration to joining us up North next summer. You won’t be disappointed. It’s worth the trip. Fly from Philly or Newark. Or take a drive. 827 miles door to door.

  3. How could I miss the Cherry Hill event?! Oh yeah, I forgot. I usually have to travel out of state to be with one of my own families on Thanksgiving. Which is a blessing of its own, but after I look at the photos of your reunion in Cherry Hill, I feel like I missed something pretty good.
    And, not sure if you guys feel the same, but when I look at those photos I also believe I BELONG in them with you! And, of course, so does Andy. I miss him more than almost any other moment when I look at photos of you guys together.
    Yes, friendship. A toast to friendship.

  4. Hey Mary, we had a very fine evening. You belong for sure. Soon I trust. Hope you and the boys are well.

  5. I’M really an outsider, having only spent 18 months with our dearly beloved Bob Monahan, but I must tell you that this writing brought tears to my eyes and pierced my heart. What a priceless gift you all have love really is all we need May God continue to bless you all. Thank you Bobbie Fargo for sharing this with me and once again getting a glimpse into the band of Brothers

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