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I look back sometimes at the person I was before I rediscovered my old professor. I want to talk to that person. I want to tell him what to look out for, what mistakes to avoid. I want to tell him to be more open, to ignore the lure of advertised values, to pay attention when your loved ones are speaking, as if it were the last time you might hear them.

Mostly I want to tell that person to get on an airplane and visit a gentle old man in West Newton, Massachusetts, sooner rather than later, before that old man gets sick and loses his ability to dance.

I know I cannot do this. None of us can undo what we've done, or relive a life already recorded. But if Professor Morris Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as "too late" in life. He was changing until the day he said good-bye.

Not long after Morrie's death, I reached my brother in Spain. We had a long talk. I told him I respected his distance, and that all I wanted was to be in touch-in the present, not just the past-to hold him in my life as much as he could let me.

"You're my only brother," I said. "I don't want to lose you. I love you."

I had never said such a thing to him before.

A few days later, I received a message on my fax machine. It was typed in the sprawling, poorly punctuated, all-cap-letters fashion that always characterized my brother's words.

"HI I'VE JOINED THE NINETIES!" it began. He wrote a few little stories, what he'd been doing that week, a couple of jokes. At the end, he signed off this way:


[signed] SORE TUSH.

I laugh............

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