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A Fond Farewell

I’m not very good with death.  In fact, I’m not good at all with it.  I can’t cope with the thought of my own mortality, and therefore am extremely tuned in to every little change in my body.  Some people call that hypochondria.  Others call it neurosis.  A friend of mine recently referred to it as Judyism… not to be confused with the religion, although I am Jewish.

I received the news this morning that a very dear friend of mine, and of my mother’s passed away.  Howie was 87, and some would say he lived a long and fruitful life.  So what?  It still hurts those whom he left behind.  I’m still devastated by the loss of a man who came to be thought of as my second father.  (By not only me, but by Howie himself, and by his daughter, who refers to me as her sister from another mister).

So, I hurt.  I grieve.  And that’s okay.  That’s how I feel, and I always tell people that feelings are the one thing that are entirely your own, and nobody has the right to tell you how to feel.

A long time ago, I came across the poem below on a greeting card, although I cannot recall the author, or even if there was one to whom it was attributed.  I share it often; not only when people have lost a friend through death, but when they are hurting because they have been wronged by someone who they thought was their friend.

Ships that Pass in the Night

There are those who pass like ships in the night,
Who meet for a moment, then sail out of sight.
With never a backwards glance of regret;
Folks we know briefly then quickly forget.

Then there are those friends who sail together,
Through quiet waters and stormy weather.
Helping each other through joy and through strife;
And they are the kind that give meaning to life.

Howie came into my life at an extremely critical time, and therefore, gave that “real meaning” to my life, of which the poem speaks.  It was shortly after my own father passed, I had only been working at a nursing home for a little over a year, and I was struggling with a very personal issue.  When he came to volunteer there, he pretty much fixed EVERYTHING, simply by being my friend.  I was lost, and he found me.

His compassion, his sense of humor and his lust for life somehow overshadowed it all.  His overwhelming and undying support of my endeavors, both personal and professional, helped me unfold into the person I was supposed to be.  He made me laugh when I needed to, and he listened, sometimes for hours, when I needed an ear.

He was, in essence, filling the role my father had played, without even knowing it. When I was little, my father would hold me up with me sitting on his shoulders at a parade, so I could see. Into my late fifties, it was Howie who held me up so I could see.

So today, I bid you a fond farewell, Howie.  May you bring to heaven as much joy as you created here on earth.  Rest in Peace.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Express an Opinion…

Having just found out the delightful news that my closest friend was going to be a grandmother, i immediately took the opportunity to give some advice to the expectant mother.  Or should i say, express an opinion.

When I first got pregnant, I got the best “advice” ever given to me. It was from my cousin, the mother of three boys and a girl.  She actually gave me two pieces of great advice.  She told me, first, “Never take anyone’s advice.  Listen to your heart and to your doctor.” 
There was solid reasoning behind this most ridiculous statement. You see, when my cousin was attempting to nurse her first born, she was encountering some difficulty.  Her mother suggested that perhaps her milk was too thin and the baby wasn’t getting enough nourishment.  Her mother-in-law, on the other hand, felt that her milk was too rich, and the baby was having trouble digesting it.  This is when she learned to listen to the advice she so graciously gave me.  She went on to have three more healthy, well-nourished children, who, by the way, are all healthy, well-adjusted, thriving and successful adults! 

The second pearl of wisdom, was that when I was at a point of total frustration with the baby, on one of those colicky nights when I couldn't get him to stop crying, or when she was in the middle of a "terrible two" tantrum, it was suggested that I think of the "dumbest person I know who is a mom, and tell myself if she can do it, I can do it."

I am reminded of the time we asked a friend of ours, who was carrying her first child, if she knew the sex of the baby.  Her answer we found funny, or maybe placed her in that category of who we might call to mind when we needed a little hope, because she told us that “the baby won’t decided its sex until its four months old.”  With slight allowance for a language barrier (although Hispanic, she had been born and raised in the states), it was then that my husband and I knew we could face parenthood.

My advice?  Listen to my cousin’s advice.  Don’t take any advice… Listen to your heart and your doctor!  

And one more thing... Express an opinion, but send all advice by regular mail. doctor!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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DoYa Dare Me To?

My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny.  I thought that I had the upper hand.  I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.  I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Mother’s Hands are now My Grandmother’s Hands

Oh, how we become our parents as we age.  While I was raising my two children, I often heard my mother’s words coming out of my own mouth.  I assume that’s because as an adult, with my own children, I finally came to realize that my parents weren’t as dumb as I thought they were when I was a teenager.  It comes full circle when your children present you with the same issues that you presented to your parents, and they to theirs.

While I believe fully that where human beings are concerned, there really is nothing new under the sun, technology has shown us that there are always new things out there.  I also believe that if you don’t learn and grow, and keep up with the times, you aren’t being fair to yourself, and you cease living authentically.

I was looking at my 85-year-old mother’s hands the other day, and recalled, very vividly, the hands of my grandmother.  I then looked at my own hands and saw that I was well on my way to perpetuating the family genes.  This prompted me to dig up an essay I wrote when my mother’s mother passed away.  I’ve shared it below.  Enjoy.

My Grandmother’s Hands

Originally written in 1992

My Grandmother!  She seemed so unapproachable, yet I had been able to get under her skin just enough to develop a delightful relationship, which I cherished during her life and remember with great fondness since her passing.  I remember that she was stand-offish when we tried to show affection, turning her cheek when we tried to zero in with a kiss.  My cousin, Sally, had given her the ultimate challenge when she said, “Nanny, if you really loved me, you’d kiss me on the lips.”  She would give in, because she loved us— all of us, each one in her own way.  There were many sides to her.

The one thing I remember vividly about my grandmother was her hands.  She always kept them neatly manicured, yet I used to marvel at her past and wonder about the millions of things those hands had done in her lifetime.  Did she scrape her palms when she fell while roller-skating down her street?  Had she ever held a butterfly in her palm or had she pointed to the sky to count the stars?  What was she thinking when my grandfather slipped a wedding band on her ring finger? 

 

I know she had a love for things that grew, and I can still picture her with dirt under her fingernails, having just repotted a philodendron.  Had she ever felt compelled to make a fist and strike someone in anger?  I couldn’t imagine that.  I recall watching when she would knead yeast dough for her cinnamon bunds, or roll the kifflin cookies in the powdered sugar.

My grandmother loved to work the daily crossword puzzle, and I can see her tapping her pencil in thought.  She would very carefully calculate the numbers on her purchase orders for the kitchen at the family’s summer camp.  My grandmother did a lot of needlework.  One piece hangs in my dining room, a constant reminder of her.  Nanny also painted.

I can just imagine her wringing out a cool wash cloth to lay across the fevered brow of any of her three children, eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  I heard stories of how she would carefully tear off just the right amount of toilet paper for everyone during the depression.

Though she tried to appear tough, there was always evident a distinguished tenderness when she would wipe away a tear.  I remember the way she held my face in her hands on my wedding day, noting how soft her skin was against mine.

When my children were born, I typically counted their fingers and toes.  I watched their chubby little hands grasp a pencil or crayon that was just fat enough to enable them to handle it gracefully.  I’ve noticed, as they’ve gotten older, how they have lost their baby fat and have grown slender, right down to their fingers.  And I’ve wondered what magnificent things they will do with their hands, and will their grandchildren marvel at them?

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Women Know Women

Women know women.  Most women would probably agree with that statement, for a lot of reasons.  On this particular day, however, I feel compelled to write about it.

My friend Beth, whom I met nearly twenty years ago, was one of those people who could see right through you, and read you instantly.  We met on my first day of work at a facility where she had already been employed for over ten years.  I was there to fill out paperwork only, but she invited me to a luncheon for which she had an extra ticket.  During those three hours together, we learned that we had much in common.  We were avid sports fans, liberal democrats, University of Florida College of Journalism Graduates and “foodies.”   She and I even lived only five houses away in the same neighborhood, albeit at different times in our lives.

We also learned our differences.  I love theater and music; she wasn’t a big fan.  She adored discussing politics, and because of the great divide in my household, I did not.  She collected Beanie Babies to distraction (or at least I thought so, until she gave me one named “Hope” when my Dad was dying); I collected camels and recipes.

After working with Beth for a very short time, she knew me better than I knew myself.  In fact, she asked me a question, after working with me only five weeks, which floored me.  She said, “Was your father very hard on you?”  Yes, indeed, he was.  I still don’t know fully how she knew that, even after years of pondering.   I can only surmise that it was because of the one great difference between Beth and me.

Beth Amy was a strong, confident, out-going and outspoken woman.  She lived her life on her terms.  In fact, when she first took ill, she told me that no matter what the outcome, she had no regrets.

I, on the other hand, until most recently, was far from confident and out-spoken.  I had a severe problem with self-confidence and self-esteem.  Beth probably figured out my personality flaws were a result of a flawed father-daughter relationship.  I know that now, and understand my father’s path and accept that people do the best can with what they’ve got.  Both Beth and my father would be happy to see the woman into whom I’ve unfolded.

Besides teaching me almost everything I know about Special Events, Beth taught me how to be flexible, to “punt,” as she put it, to stand up for myself, and to not be so hard on myself.  She taught me how to laugh at myself.  She also taught how to live with myself.

Beth passed away this morning, after a valiant clash with cancer.  Beth knew me.  I believe she loved me.  I loved her.

Because women know women.

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in General, Phase 2

 

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Mindsight vs. Hindsight – Dear Beth, Thank you.

It took me a long time to learn that whatever decisions we make in life, are ones that we, alone, must live with.  There may be lessons learned from those decisions.  Whether large or small, physical, financial or emotional, there are often ramifications or consequences.

I had to make one of those decisions yesterday.  In short, I had to decide whether or not to visit an old friend in the hospital or not.  I should clarify it to say that she was not just in the hospital, but in a nursing home, in Hospice care.  She’s dying.  In fact, she was, at the time I saw her yesterday, fairly close to the end.

My decision to visit her wasn’t an easy one.  Seventeen years ago, I watched my father die a slow, agonizing death over the span of three and a half months.  I visited him nearly every day on my lunch hour, through the compassion of my employer at the time, and by so doing, I watched him die just a little bit every day.  The result of this experience left extremely stunning visual images in my head… images that took me years to replace with the sweet memories I have of him today.

I fought with myself as to whether I wanted to do the right thing, say my final goodbyes and offer love and support to her beautiful family.  If I chose to do that, the last memory I would create in my mind would be that one of her as she is today.  If I chose not to go, and do the wrong thing, it would have been selfish, leaving me with vibrant, full-of-life memories of my dear friend. It would have also left me with a raging case of guilt and remorse.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty.  I don’t want to ever have to look back again, and feel as though I didn’t give all of myself to the people who mean the most to me.  I want my “mindsight” to be remorse-free and guilt-free.  With all that being said, I did visit my friend.  I don’t even know if she knew I was there.

I know I was there.

I love you, Beth.  I always will.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2017 in General, Uncategorized

 

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Flashbacks!

Standing in the doorway with the sun sneaking through the slats in the window shades, I couldn’t help but lose myself in flashbacks to older days.  The light danced around the room, stopping briefly on moments in time… moments that will forever be in my heart and mind, but will ultimately fade as new memories nudge them deeper into the elevator crevices of my aging intellectual lore.

My daughter filled that room with those memories. She created them. In three days, we, my husband and I will walk her down the aisle and give her hand to a man with whom she will create a new life, and new memories.

In the middle of the floor, on the bright red carpet, we sat, cross-legged, cutting out flowers from a magazine for a collage on which she was working.  Many nights I climbed into bed and lay down next to her and just talked until she could fall asleep (if she wasn’t visiting me in my room).  I can’t remember how many times I sat on the edge of her bed listening to a problem with a friend, or a new Backstreet Boys song. We must have spent hours doing art projects on that floor, even before, when the carpet was aqua colored.

She had decorated the room herself from floor to ceiling herself, with excellent taste, when we offered her the opportunity to do so as a reward for taking the smaller bedroom when we first moved into our present home. She was ten, but had a remarkable ability to make the best out of every situation. She still has that attribute.

The color scheme had changed when she was away on a school trip to Boston, the room transformed to her Coca-Cola theme. Her brother, father and I spent every evening making that happen in three short nights. It seemed to me that was when the door of that room began to slam more, and would remain closed most of the time. Middle School will have that effect.

Over the years, her room was always cluttered. In the aqua days, I would find little girl things: games, stuffed animals, candy wrappers and the like. As she grew into a young woman, her interests changed and so did the clutter. There were running shoes and clothes, make-up, community service awards, art supplies and books. The food wrappers had changed too. There were granola bars, protein bars and vegetarian snacks wrappers now.  Don’t misunderstand, there was still chocolate.  And there were still a few of her favorite stuffed animals. Now, additionally however, there was a vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

The room has been as she left it almost ten years ago. Empty, except for occasional visits.  The memories remain, sometimes haunting, sometimes tickling my heart. My daughter has, does, and will always have a large part of my heart.  As she enters into this marriage, I know she will bring as much joy to her husband and new family as she has to me. As for me, I’ll likely find myself standing in her doorway, remembering, and having flashbacks.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in General

 

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