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As the service was drawing to a close, he started to sweat and he felt his heart beating like a drum in his chest as Pastor Ronnie Morris said, "Is there anyone here who has not yet accepted Jesus as your personal Savior and wants to now, please come forward." At that moment time stood still as Stanley reached back into his past.
* * *
Stanley was born in 1939 in Yonkers, New York to Louis Cohen, a plumber, and Ida Cohen, a homemaker. Ida attempted to raise Stanley and his older sister Doris, as orthodox Jews. Louis, in his heart, was somewhere between a Conservative and Reformed Jew, but he followed Ida's more strict belief in the raising of their children.
Ida insisted that her son attend Hebrew school when he was ten years old. He attended Monday through Thursday immediately following public school from 3:30pm-5pm. This seriously cut into his playtime. He learned to speak Hebrew, not knowing what he was saying.
Stanley hated Hebrew school. Ida scolded him for playing "hooky" when she received form letters, "We missed Stanley in Hebrew school today. We hope he feels better soon and returns to school." She insisted that he attend Hebrew school to the age of thirteen to be prepared for his Bar Mitzvah (A Jewish ritual celebrating a boy's thirteenth birthday and his entry into the community of Judaism). But, age thirteen arrived and Stanley was definitely not prepared for his Bar Mitzvah.
* * *
Ida hired a Rabbi to prepare Stanley to learn his Haftarah (a series of selections from the book of the Prophets of the Bible that is publicly read in the Synagogues and acts as a part of the Bar Mitzvah when a boy reaches the age of thirteen), which he forgot the day after the Bar Mitzvah was over. His parents rejoiced with their family and friends as Stanley gave his Bar Mitzvah speech and then he sighed a big sigh of relief as his religious instruction had finally come to an end.
* * *
on the High Holy days Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (day of Atonement, which is the Holiest day of the year for the Jewish people), the family attended services at Congregation Sons of Israel Synagogue which was within walking distance of their two-bedroom one-bath apartment. Stanley sat next to his father in the auditorium under the watchful eye of his mother, seated in the balcony as is the tradition for orthodox Jewish women.
Since Louis and Stanley did not know when to sit or stand during the prayers, Louis would follow the actions of the congregation and nudge Stanley when to stand or sit. After a while, Louis would look at his watch, glance at Ida and say to Stanley, "Let's go," even though the services had not yet ended. They waited outside the Synagogue for Ida to finish praying.
* * *
One Saturday, Stanley accompanied his father to work. He and his father stopped at a local diner for lunch. When the waitress arrived to take their order, Louis ordered a ham sandwich on rye bread and a cup of coffee. Stanley, age fourteen turned to his father and said, "You are not suppose to eat ham, dad." His father replied, "I like a good piece of ham once in a while and don't tell your mother."
Almost every Passover holiday his mother would invite all of their relatives to the Seder (which celebrated the exodus of the Jews from egypt) and she would always compose something personal, in which she mentioned the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. She would become very emotional and Louis always comforted her.
Even though his mother was extremely strict, Stanley's father was very lax which resulted in Stanley leaning toward Conservative Judaism and away from orthodox Judaism and beyond, but not quite Reformed Judaism.
* * *
Stanley graduated high school in 1957, received an Associate of Applied Science in apparel production and needle trade engineering from Fashion Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from New York University. He served in the united States Army. He married a nice Jewish girl who gave him two sons, David and Danny.
At the beginning of his marriage, he joined a Reformed Jewish Temple where they did not wear the yamika (a round or diamond shaped "hat" that Jewish males wear to remind them of their faith in God who is higher than they are and beyond their comprehension) and prayer shawls. The complete service was entirely in English. He missed the tradition of wearing a yamika and not hearing some of the prayers in Hebrew, even though he could not understand them. He then changed to a Conservative Synagogue, though he rarely attended, and remained this way until his son David's Bar Mitzvah.
* * *
The marriage ended in divorce after twenty-nine years due to Stanley's excessive compulsive gambling.
A second marriage followed shortly thereafter that produced two daughters, Maria and Tommy and ended in a painful divorce resulting in Stanley's fear of never seeing his daughters again.
* * *
Stanley earned a living by specializing in setting up sewing factories in foreign countries and training the management and staff to operate them.
At the time of his retirement, he was living and engaged in his profession in Puerto Rico.
She graduated from Westark Junior College, Fort Smith, Arkansas with an Associate of Arts degree, Bachelor of Science from university of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas, Master of Science from Henderson State university, Arkadelphia, Arkansas and Master of Science from Arkansas Tech university, Russellville, Arkansas. She was employed as an elementary teacher and principal.
Paige was married to Jack Ennis forty-two years until his death in 2000. Their union produced six children (Jackie Faye, Gregory, Kelly, Douglas, Katie and Carrie) fourteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was retired at the time of Jack's death.
* * *
In 2002 living in Russellville, Paige began to experience loneliness. She met Stanley, then age 63, online in a chat room called "romance 60+." Stanley lived in Puerto Rico. It was instant attraction via webcam for both Paige and Stanley. "What's your name?" asked Stanley. "Paige, and what's yours?" replied Paige.
For a split second he thought about how unhappy he was with his past and replied, "Scott," as if he was trying to recreate himself with the name of the main character of his first novel, The Risk Taker.
After days of chatting they exchanged phone numbers and their relationship added a new dimension as they could now hear each other's voice. Stanley fell in love with Paige's southern accent and she felt the same about his yankee accent. He soon sent her a copy of his first novel and told her that Scott was his nickname.
As their relationship blossomed, she invited him to visit her and her family for Christmas.
* * *
Paige muted the television when she heard the doorbell ring. She walked over to her front door and ushered in her son, Kelly and his wife Margie. "What are you watching on TV?" asked Margie. "Oh just some old movie that I've seen before," replied Paige as she turned off the TV. "Kelly, you look tired. Sit down." Kelly and Margie sat down and glanced at each other as though they were both waiting for the other to talk first. "We heard that you have been chatting with someone online." said Kelly. "So?" replied Paige. "He's from Puerto Rico and he's a JEW." "First of all, he's not Puerto Rican." He's white American born and raised in New York who's now working and living in Puerto Rico and ... and ... and what's the problem with his being Jewish? Jesus is a Jew," answered Paige.
With that, the doorbell rang. "Kelly, answer the door for me please." Her eldest son Greg entered the living room and sat down. "What are you talking about?" asked Greg. Kelly replied "What you and I were talking about earlier today." Greg continued, "Mother is it true that this man is a JEW?" "Yes, and are you ganging up on me now?" as Paige answered in a somewhat annoyed tone. "Well, you always wanted someone to go to church with you, mother, and he is not going to go with you. Why don't you meet someone here." added Greg. "I just don't understand how you can do this," chimed in Margie. Irritably, Paige said, "Your father has been gone almost three years now and I've mourned enough and before you judge Scott," "Scott? Who is Scott?" asked Greg. "That is his name and you are going to meet him over Christmas when he comes here to visit me, so hold your judgment until you've had a chance to get to know him."
Scott exited the jet ramp with the nervousness of a 14 year old on his first date. As he made his way to the exit he ducked into the nearest men's room to wash his face, brush his teeth and comb his hair. Paige was waiting on the other side of security where they kissed and embraced for the first time.
At the time, both were unaware that Paige's daughter Katie and friend Annette had followed her to the airport and was watching her meet with this "online yankee predator."
* * *
When they arrived at Paige's home in Russellville, they were greeted by several of her children including Katie and Annette, who had arrived earlier to get a good look at their mother's "date." She introduced Stanley to them as Scott and the name forever stuck, except when he was in the presence of his sons, daughters and sister.
* * *
After the remaining "uninvited" guests left her home, she took Scott on a tour of her neatly landscaped three-bedroom, two-bath home with adjoining carport. He smiled to himself as he compared her nicely furnished cozy little palace to his one-bedroom, three story walk—up spartan apartment with cold tile floors and only one window air-conditioner. It was sparsely furnished and had one bath with the hot water being heated by a solar unit on the roof resulting in cold showers during cloudy weather. "Scott, could I get you something to eat and what would you like to drink?" "Later," he replied as he pulled her toward him and they looked into each other's eyes.
* * *
As the days passed, Scott was introduced to Paige's family, but could not remember all of their names. On the third day of his ten day visit, he noticed his novel, The Risk Taker, in her bookcase. He reached and pulled out his book and said "one of these days I would like to write a screenplay about this novel." "Have you ever written a screenplay before?" "No, but I have a couple of chapters of the screenplay Goodwill Hunting as a guide. You know fade in-fade out and all the other movie talk," continued Scott. "Why don't you write it?" asked Paige. "When?" he asked. "Right now. You can dictate it to me and we can start from there."
Paige's daughters Katie and Carrie helped with the typing and Katie created a cover for the screenplay based on The Risk Taker book.
* * *
The only break that was taken from working on the screenplay was Christmas day. The entire family was present for Christmas dinner. Scott had told Paige that he loved the turkey drumsticks and as luck would have it, none of her family liked them.
At dinner one drumstick was placed by Scott's plate and the other saved. But, he filled up on white meat, leaving the drumstick laying there. After dinner, Carrie was helping to clean. She said, "Mom, can I take the drumsticks home to my dogs?" Paige believing that Scott evidently did not want them said, "Sure."
That night Scott began looking for his drumsticks. "What do you mean the dogs ate my drumsticks?" he asked. "I'm sorry," Paige replied as she hugged away his disappointment.
* * *
When the Christmas vacation was over, Paige drove Scott to the airport and they said goodbye at the security gate. Scott whispered in her ear, "I love you and I'll see you soon." She wiped her tears as she saw her new screenwriter walk through security.
Scott leaned back on his seat after take off clutching his copy of his screenplay, The Risk Taker.
* * *
"Are we there yet, Scott?" "Just one more floor baby," replied Scott. "So you live on the roof?" asked Paige, as she sighed when he finally opened the front door to his "luxurious penthouse pad." She tried to smile as he gave her the tour and turned on the lonely window air-conditioning unit.
His humble abode did not bother her as they were both happy during her two week stay, with him showing her the sites, his workplace and especially the house hunting as they were planning their future together.
* * *
Scott returned to Russellville and spent the July 4th holiday with Paige and her family and presented her with an engagement ring.
* * *
It was early August on a Sunday morning and as Paige walked out of her church, she thought how hot the weather was in Russellville and if it is this hot here, she could imagine how hot it was in Puerto Rico.
Her thoughts continued as she walked to the church parking lot, "I'm sure going to miss this church and my family when I join Scott in Puerto Rico."
* * *
Destiny took a hand in their wedding plans as Scott met his boss at the San Juan Airport in early August. His boss was based in their parent company in the united States and visited him in Puerto Rico twice a year.
As they drove from the airport to the factory, he learned that the united States parent company had decided to sell all of its U.S. holdings including this manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico and that they had at present three potential buyers that were biding and that the sale would be final at the end of August.
At the end of August they learned their fate as the buyer decided to phase out the entire Puerto Rico operation and that Scott would no longer be needed after mid-September.
* * *
Scott phoned Paige after learning when his last day of work would be. "Scott, that is wonderful. That means you can join me here in two weeks." "I was hoping to keep working until at least age sixty-five," he replied. "But, vocationally you don't have anything more to prove. You don't need to set up a new garment factory in 'tim buck two'. Honey, you've worked long enough. It's time to stop and smell the roses. It's time for you to retire and come home to me." "I know you're right; it's just that I've been active all of my life. You are going to need to teach me how to smell the roses." Paige sighed as they would now be starting their new life in Russellville.
Carrie was styling Paige's hair. Jackie with her husband Bob, were picking up the wedding cake. Kelly and Margie offered to have the ceremony at their house and they along with Greg and Debbie and Doug and Pam were busy decorating for the wedding.
* * *
The time had finally come. The family, including Scott and the minister, gathered in the den for the ceremony. As Paige started to walk down the stairs to the Den, her granddaughter Alison sang the "Wedding Song." Scott thought "How beautiful she looked."
David and Danny served as the Best Men, Paige's granddaughter Hanna was the flower girl, her grandson Nick was ring-bearer, Katie and Carrie were maids of honor, and two grandsons Tyler and Ryan were ushers with granddaughters Paige and Taylor tending the guest book. Before the ceremony began, Katie sang "When I Fall in love."
* * *
The wedding was Christian with a Jewish ending as David placed a wedding glass wrapped in a white linen cloth under Scott's foot to be broken by stomping it. This is customary at Jewish weddings. Breaking of the glass has various interpretations of why they do this and where this wedding tradition came from. But, the most popular explanation is for a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. When he broke the glass Debbie yelled "Mazel Tov" (congratulations).
After the last member of the family had gone home, Scott took his Mrs. Cohen on their honeymoon to Branson, Missouri.
Although he honestly felt that the third one was definitely a charm and he could not have asked for a better mate, the city of Russellville, Arkansas, which is the county seat and largest city in Pope County with a population of 27,920, was closing in on him. He was educated in New York City and had traveled the world and could not imagine settling down in a city that had a total area of 28.3 square miles. Unfortunately at this point in time, he was not yet ready to appreciate the advantages of living in a small city. He was also unaware that it is the home of Arkansas Tech university and Arkansas Nuclear one, Arkansas' only nuclear power plant.
Excerpted from The Greatest Risk Of All by Stanley Cohen Copyright © 2012 by Stanley Cohen. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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