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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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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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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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My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Tasty!

Someone once told me, in reference to fashion, that “that lady’s taste was all in her mouth.”  Pretty rude comment, if you ask me, especially because the first part of my professional career was spent in sales in the apparel industry, and “that lady” was one of the designers for whom I worked!

That being said, I tend to be more literal in my old age, and I do believe that taste really is mostly in your mouth… with a little help from your nose.  The smell of my mother’s kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving of onions sautéing, or the aroma of cookies baking heralding an afternoon or late night snack with a glass of cold milk.

I happen to be one of the adventurous types, and am willing to taste just about anything once.  Some of the things I’ve eaten, I’ve had three times: first, last and only.  Like octopus.  That was one of those foods that was prepared ever so delightfully, but no matter how long I chewed, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow it.

I was raised on “no-thank-you portions.”  We would sit at the table, and be coerced to put a small portion of everything that was served on our plates, and then have to sit there until our plates were cleaned.  I figured out early on, that my napkin could be a good friend.  Many times, I wiped my mouth free of a mouth full of creamed spinach, excused myself, and then flushed it down the guest bathroom toilet.  I thought I was being so clever.

We came to find out later on that my father, in his efforts to present a united front in parenting with my mother, was a very good sport.  One evening, during a family dinner, with all of his adult children seated around the table (a very rare occurrence), my father finally, after thirty years of marriage, balked when the broccoli was passed to him.  “I don’t care for any,” he declared.

“Why not?” my mother asked.

“”I hate broccoli.  I’ve been eating it for 30 years to set a good example for the kids,” he lamented.  “They’re grown now, and I’m never eating it again.”

Years later, although my rules at the table were a little more lax, a similar ruse was played upon me.  Our table rules never included cleaning your plate.  At our table, you were only requested to taste everything that served, and if you didn’t care for it, you didn’t have to eat it.  (I may have served the same thing many times, and my kids had to “taste it” many times, but they were never forced to eat more than one mouthful).  Consequently, they grew up with, I believe, healthier eating habits.  I did, however, find out that my daughter used the same napkin deception to rid her plate of that lone standing Brussel Sprout, every time I served them.

Today, both of my kids eat mostly everything.  They’re slim and trim, and healthy. I, however, could stand to eat a little less.  But I have good taste!

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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All in the Genes

Margaret Meade did countless studies on Nature vs. Nurture.  In today’s world, the “nurture” part, I think, has suffered due to the breakdown of the institutions of marriage and family.  I am grateful, however, to have come from a long line of fine people.

If I could have picked out the best qualities, in my own eyes, of those who came before me or were around me as my personality, my character and the sense of who I would turn out to be was being formed, I would have likely chosen the following.  Please know that this is an extremely incomplete list, derived strictly from MY memories and feelings, although it’s likely to start a firestorm amongst other family and friends…  Please family and friends, feel free to chime in.  (I chose not to mention my own siblings as I can’t publish those nouns).

My Mommom’s worldliness, understanding and back-scratching ability;

My Poppop Jack’s faith, perseverance and altruism;

My Poppop Daniel’s spontaneity, lust for life and sense of humor;

My Nanny’s green thumb, etiquette, and ability to finish a crossword;

My father’s persistence, sales ability and silver hair;

My mother’s looks, positive attitude and baking ability;

My Aunt Ticky’s artistic talent;

My Brecker Cousins’ musical talent and passion;

My Uncle Danny’s business acumen, vision and confidence;

My Bernheim Cousins’ fairness, capacity and tenacity;

My Aunt “A”s optimism, goodness and laugh;

My Miller Cousins’ resiliency, inspiration and creativity;

After living with my husband for thirty three years, I have to believe that he came from a long line of good genes too.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t see in my own children: my daughter’s wit, inner beauty and conviction, and my son’s compassion, perceptiveness and charm.

That, my friend, is a bunch of nouns.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Family Tree

When we all get together and reminisce, I sometimes find it hard to believe that this family tree of mine ever took root, at least on my mother’s side.  That’s not being said to be derisive in any way.  My mother’s family was and is lovely in many ways.  But there was one member of her family, who, in his own way, could have shattered any hope, of any of the female members of the family, of maintaining a relationship, much less getting married.

Starting with my mother.

Mom tells many stories of the ways in which my grandfather scared many of her boyfriends away; things like coming to the dinner table dressed in my grandmother’s bathrobe and shower cap, or sticking his thumb in a piece of chocolate cake as it was passed by him, only to “see if it was fresh,” or the ultimate story, which commands its own paragraph.

Mom had been invited to Princeton weekend by a young suitor, but before she would be given permission to go, the young man was invited to Friday night dinner at her home.  Friday night dinner was always a formal occasion.  My grandfather would come to the table in a suit and tie.  This particular evening, someone spilled a bit of gravy in front of him.  He proceeded to add some salt, pepper and ketchup to the stain, all the while stirring it with a spoon.  The young man just stared in disbelief.

Subsequently, while quietly enjoying the repast, he reached inside his jacket, fumbling around the shoulder area, and then took his cufflink off, and promptly pulled his shirtsleeve out of his jacket sleeve.  He then proceeded to do the same on the other side.  By the time he had finished his antics, he was sitting at the table with nothing but his jacket and tie… no shirt.

Needless to say, not only did my mother never get to Princeton weekend, but she never heard from this young man again.  I remain grateful that my father was able to withstand my grandfather’s antics.

Far be it for me to expose the private and very personal lives of my female cousins, because there were, indeed, other “Poppop” interventions.  For me, however, my boyfriend met my grandfather under typical circumstances.

My grandparents, like a lot of people from the north, wintered here in South Florida, and were here for Thanksgiving.  My boyfriend was a little bit of a prankster and jokester himself, so as we walked up to my parent’s home, I begged him to behave himself.  I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  We were greeted by my Dad, as usual, by an offer for a cocktail, and took our seats on the couch, opposite my grandfather.  After very cordial introductions, my grandfather piped up with, “So, Judith, do you have socks in your bra?”  My boyfriend looked at me and calmly asked, “And you wanted ME to behave?”

Less than a year later, my grandfather had the opportunity to meet my soon-to-be father-in-law.  You see, not even Poppop was able to scare off my boyfriend.  Nor was my grandmother, who tried to fatten him up for the kill by piling food on his plate at every meal.

It was the night of the bachelor party and Poppop had been remanded to the back patio to smoke his cigar.  When my father-in-law arrived, my grandfather yelled into the house, “If you want to meet me, you’ll have to come out here.  They won’t let me back in the house.”  My father-in-law had been warned, but in his sweet, southern gentlemanly way, he started to say, “I’d tell them to go jump in the river.”  He never got to finish, as Poppop, once again, tried to impress (or stun) by saying, “I told them to all go pound sand up their asses.”

Yes, we got married.  My grandfather danced “The Bump” at my wedding, but sadly, all that’s left are the memories, stories and laughs.

We named our first born after him.  I imagine what really took root in our family tree is the love.  Today, my mother has four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren (so far), and they all know who Poppop Daniel was… the Patriarch of my mother’s family, who gave us all his wit, his sense of humor and his lust for life, which I believe are three very good elements for growing a family tree.

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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