Civility and Things I Refuse to Do Anymore

August 27, 2022

It’s been a while. I think I was having a dry spell and felt as if I had nothing worthwhile to say. You may read this blog and think I should have continued the spell, but I think I am back in the proverbial saddle.

I decided to make this a two-parter. First the serious stuff and, because some people are whining (you know who you are, you pain in the ass.) that the widow hasn’t been funny enough lately, I will interject a wee bit of mirth at the end. Bear with me please.

So, I am standing in the checkout at a big box store the other day and an angelic looking (emphasis on the word “looking”) young lady, aged approximately seven or eight standing in front of me announces to her mother that she wants a Heath Bar. I don’t blame her. I love Heath Bars. I should probably give more context. It was her method of asking that gave me pause. She didn’t ask; she announced – in no uncertain terms. She’d obviously had a lot of practice using that tone with her mother. “I want a Heath Bar.” Well, Mom made a feeble attempt to say “no” to her little darling. She obviously has been down this road before as well, and daughter, not the least non-plussed, just ramped it up, didn’t raise her voice, because she’s not a toddler after all. She simply grabbed three Heath Bars and tossed them into the cart. I suppose I should give her credit for not grabbing more. Does that count as some semblance of parental respect? And Mama just let it happen. She didn’t make the slightest attempt to show the kid who’s in charge. Oh, that’s right, the kid is. I bit my tongue, knowing that my grandchildren wouldn’t try to get away with such antics, nor would their mothers at that age. Because they knew better.

I predict that little girl and perhaps her siblings, if she has any, will transform into sullen teenagers a few years down the road with their noses stuck in cell phones and video games. They will speak in monosyllabic grunts to their parents and other adults, have few responsibilities on the home front and not be made to face consequences for their actions. They are not taught to be kind, empathetic, take no for an answer, and learn that having less can be a lesson in life that will carry them well as they lean into adulthood. They may never learn accountability. They may become bullies, and in a worst-case scenario, even inflict emotional and physical pain and/or injury on those weaker than they. And why? Because they have never mastered a fairly basic life skill. It’s called civility. Civility used to be a much simpler concept. Back in the late 1920s, my mother’s maiden aunt penned a short missive called just that, “Civility.” It sat on my refrigerator for years. In my move south it was misplaced, and I do hope I find it eventually because although it is dated in many instances, addressing proper etiquette, manners and the like, its basic tenets speak to universal themes that are relevant today, those of simple common decency and respect towards others. And these themes are not applied just to children and teenagers. In the current world we live in, a lack of manners, social conventions if you will, speak to much larger ills; it’s a bona fide toxicity that has become pervasive in human behavior and it’s frankly alarming. If one can’t speak kindly to another person merely because they are just that – a person, then we, ladies and gentlemen, have a significant problem. Beyond the child willfully throwing candy bars into a grocery cart, we are seeing punks for no reason other than sport cold cocking innocent bystanders into unconsciousness, and in some cases death, wreaking havoc in retail establishments, and in schools, not allowing our grossly underpaid teachers to teach. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, “what is our world coming to?” My brother has a saying: “I weep for the future.” He is weeping and so am I.

So many studies, blogs, news programs, weekend think tanks, neighborhood potlucks, spiritual retreats, drum circles, you name it, have attempted to solve the seemingly recent phenomenon of the ugliness that pervades our society. Personally, I think it’s always been here; but is now more pronounced and prevalent, because thanks to the availability of information and lack of privacy, everyone sees it. It does unfortunately start in the home. I refuse to engage in the “work outside the home versus work inside the home” discussion because I truly believe that is not the issue. I believe all mothers are working mothers, regardless of whether some draw a paycheck and health benefits. It is how the children are made to feel that is the issue, not whether Mom is there at lunchtime. I worked outside the home and my kids turned out great. I know folks where mom was “stay-at-home” and honestly, the children are pretty screwed up. What matters is what values children are taught, whether they are made to accept responsibility, understand that yes, there will be consequences, and that respect for others is paramount. My guiding mantra of parenting was always “I’m in charge,” “No means no” and my favorite, the venerable “golden rule.” I think it’s something so timeless that when you think about its simplicity, whether you are four years old or 64 years old, its beauty is its purity and straightforwardness. Now, today with social media, fractured families, an alarming increase in bullying, both in person and online, mental health crises, and food and housing insecurity, young people, in particular, are lashing out, likely because it’s the only outlet they have. Or, they simply don’t know how to deal with a complex range of feelings or perhaps, a more deleterious situation at home that they are ill-equipped to handle, so lashing out at someone weaker is their only release. It’s not an excuse, just a possible explanation. And without spending too much more space on the subject, the sad reality is that without being taught at home to love and respect one another, it simply doesn’t just happen. It takes a strong person to escape a bad environment and dangerous influences. I hope and pray that my grandchildren and their children have a bright and safe future. Realistically unless things change, I know that may not happen. Maybe if we all practice civility just a little bit better…Practice makes perfect. Be kind.

Part Two

Things I Refuse to Do Anymore

So, here’s the deal. I am 72 years old. I think I look half decent for an old bag. I mean I don’t think a person seeing me for the first time has the urge to retch or anything. I think, as the average senior citizen female goes, I pass the gag test, I am, I would surmise, of average attractiveness, “for a woman my age.” But honestly, I don’t really give a damn. I like myself. I am not obsessing over my looks at this point in my life. It’s counterproductive and a waste of time. Time, I don’t have. Of course, I take care of myself; I am not a total cretin. But in the overall scheme of things, it’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I just don’t care.I like to dress up for a night out, fix my hair, put on some nice jewelry, etc.   BUT

  • I will not wear heels. Or any shoe that is uncomfortable, narrow or dangerous. Who wants to break a hip at my age? Nor will I wear backless shoes or sandals that require me to have anything between my toes. Hell to the no on that one too. Wedge? And me fall on my fat ass? That’s also a NOPE! And those shoes that have toes so pointed that the shoe enters the room 30 seconds before the rest of you? What’s up with that?  And why??? Squashing my size 10 foot and the accompanying toes of a size 10 foot, (and did I mention it’s a size 10 WIDE foot?) into a pointed toe size 10 shoe, we are talking gondola here, people. Not a pretty sight, but more importantly, because this is about me after all, HOW can this be comfortable? So, without ever really entertaining the idea, this is a big, overblown, hell no. I think I have covered footwear sufficiently here. Let’s move on. Oh, one more thing. It’s time for UGGS to go. UGH.  ALSO
  • I will not wear pantyhose. Hell no, to that bullshit. First, can we talk about the whole process of putting them on? It’s painful, it’s humiliating, it’s dangerous and in some instances, it’s chafing. Ladies, need I say more? And now that I am in the south, the fluctuations in heat and humidity; actually, there are no fluctuations in humidity; it’s always humid; ergo, pantyhose should be outlawed out of basic human decency. As for this enlightened female – I am done. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most women don’t wear them that often. Why put yourselves through that torture unless you work in the pleasure industry if you catch my drift. Then it’s part of the job, wink, wink. Moving on.
  • I don’t wear a bunch of makeup anymore. When you are as naturally stunning as I, why spoil it with a bunch of garbage piled on your face, right? Kidding. Of course, one wants to enhance what the good Lord has given one, but I think less is more and women of a certain age should enhance rather than hide. As a result, I don’t wear foundation anymore. I read somewhere that foundation emphasizes our lines and wrinkles more thus making us look even older. Why don’t men have these major world problems to deal with? I try to keep what supple epidermis I have left moisturized, throw on some blush, a little mascara, call it a day. If it’s a special occasion, I will add a little eye shadow. I never wear eyeliner. Lack of a steady hand in the past made me look either like a goth princess or Ozzie Osbourne after a bad batch. So, I swore off eyeliner back in the seventies. On a related note, a point of contention for me has always been the beauty industry. My bathroom used to be overrun with products – creams, lotions, scrubs, peels, face masks, blah, blah, blah. All these potions and magic elixirs designed with mystical restorative powers to somehow make us young again. And we buy into it. And our wallets are lighter. And the beauty companies get richer. Note to self: call financial advisor requesting a stock purchase of highest yielding beauty product company fleecing gullible American women over 50. The truth is we all have to face the truth: while we can certainly forestall a few things, keep our skin a bit softer – for a while; smooth out some rough skin by removing a layer – for a temporary fix; inject foreign material to make things look smoother and fuller – until it needs to be done again; it’s just temporary because nature and time always win. So, I’m saving my time and money and just doing the basics. This is me – take it or leave it. All the above sounds so high and mighty, doesn’t it? The truth is I’m just a lazy bitch.
  • I will not obsess about my weight anymore.  I shouldn’t use the word “obsess,” because I never have as much as others. I didn’t enjoy carrying around extra weight and I used to be much heavier than I am now. Even then, I always liked myself; I just didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I hate that women are judged so harshly for their appearance. And it starts young. I accept who I am and if I need to lose weight, that’s on me and if you judge me, then step away, because you are not a person I want to waste my time with. Similarly, if you are someone who disparages others for how they dress, speak, etc., get over yourself. You are a jerk. Buh-bye. It’s time for lunch. Grilled Cheese or Cottage Cheese?
  • Things I haven’t said never to – YET. Right now, I am hanging on to my hair color and highlights. It’s not that I have an aversion to grey; in fact I may just do it sooner rather than later. Many of my friends have taken the leap and look fabulous. It’s just fear of the unknown I guess, and the knowledge that my grey isn’t a pretty grey. The jury is still out. Stay tuned. I still plan to get my nails done, just out of sheer laziness; same for pedicures – which is laziness and the deliciousness of the process. Nothing better. For the good of the public, I will continue to wax my upper lip and pluck the errant hairs on my face and eyebrows. And finally, I will continue to shave my legs. You are welcome. And finally….
  • I will never waste time on inane nonsense because time is fleeting. Pass the vodka. Let’s laugh. Tell dirty jokes. Don’t take life too seriously. Love one another despite our differences. Be kind. Help others. Perform a community service. Buy a lottery ticket. Travel. Visit someone who never has visitors. And Never Ever Wear Uggs. Ever.

It’s My Grief and I’ll Cry if I Want To

June 25, 2022

A few days ago, a friend texted me bemoaning the fact that she hadn’t seen a new blog from me lately. In fact, she gently chided me for that terrible infraction and apparently inhumane thing to befall her otherwise idyllic life. So, she told me to snap to it, get with it, and grind one out ASAP. While I’m at it, she strongly urged me to produce one of my trademarked “funny ones,” because she didn’t want to read anything “sad and maudlin” as some of my recent blogs have been – in her words. Well, we have been friends for over 30 years and as such can feel free to just put it out there and tell it like it is. So, I called her out and gently chided her for dictating the “tone” of this or any blog I write. Admittedly I was in a “mood,” and normally I am not one who is confrontational. I am a peacemaker at all costs. But for some reason, her “demand” really triggered something, and I let her know. She was instantly apologetic and remembered that I had recently experienced the loss of my significant other, observed the nine-year anniversary of my baby grandson’s death as well as other family trials and tribulations. She knew that she had crossed the line. And she is fully aware that I am calling her out here and now in this installment of Widow’s Pique; in fact, it was her idea. And that’s why I love her.  

Grief is something I liken to an octopus. It has many tentacles. It comes equipped with its own array of emotions and feelings. There’s shock, anger, sadness, relief, acceptance, disbelief, guilt, a sense of helplessness, the gnawing what-ifs that accompany the questions of WHY? Even if your loved one’s death was not unexpected, you still go through your own range of feelings. I know I did every time someone I loved left this world. When my husband died almost seven years ago, my daughters and I were devastated, but we weren’t surprised. He had been deteriorating for some time and his quality of life was not what he or we wished for him. He was a person who played tennis, sailed, and taught sailing, coached soccer, built our deck and pergola, loved gardening and flyfishing, was a talented woodworker, and just enjoyed life. When all those past times were gradually taken away from him, it diminished him – and he hated it. So, my grief began long before he passed away. I grieved that I was losing my partner. I grieved that I left a job that I loved to devote my time and energies to care for my husband – and I have no regrets. That is where I was supposed to be – in sickness and in health. I grieved that we never realized our retirement goals of travel and simply enjoying the proverbial golden years together. Instead, he suffered enduring multiple visits in and out of the hospital, getting weaker and weaker. He knew what was happening and yet he still had his most adorable smile and kind eyes. He never missed a chance to tell me he loved me and to thank me or to apologize for our circumstances. I grieve that his final days were spent in a sterile hospital environment, but I am grateful for the staff and the fact that my daughters and I were together as he passed. I relive those days and hours often. And my girls and I often relive little moments of his life, often with a smile or a tear – “Remember when Dad…..” That’s grief.

The grief I feel for my grandson’s passing is different. I continue to grapple with anger and disbelief, and it wells up at the most inopportune moments. It’s often so unexpected that I wonder if God is playing a harsh trick on me to somehow make me think that I am paying for some past sin that I need to atone for AT THIS MOMENT to remind me that HE is carrying all the cards and has all the answers. All I can tell you is that this type of grief is especially cruel because it just doesn’t make sense to me. I have even considered therapy (I will keep you posted.) I have written about Baby J’s death in other blogs so I am not going to go into details here but suffice it to say that it continues to have an all-consuming impact on my life, and I am not sure if or when I will be able to move on from it. In fact, I already know the answer – you never do. He wasn’t with us long, but he was an integral part of our lives, and we will love him forever. The grief is palpable, and it weighs on me like an anvil on my chest. It is a physical and spiritual pain like no other.

When my boyfriend (seems odd using that word in one’s seventies) passed away a few months ago after battling a terminal illness, my feelings of intense grief really surprised me. Not because I didn’t love the man (he was kind, smart, thoughtful, understood me so well), but because I wasn’t prepared to surrender so fully to the sadness I felt after a relatively short relationship. Was it because he was my first serious “person” to whom I gave my heart since my husband? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, when he died, I was bereft and feeling so sad at my loss. He was a huge part of my life and I continue to miss him. And unfortunately, at least for now, I think I have reached my grief limit, my ceiling, my brink, my max. At least for romantic relationships. I just can’t do it.

I certainly recognize that I can’t hide from grief, nor do I want to. It’s a part of life that all of us experience. I think that I and many members of my family have done more than our share of grieving, much of it premature, witness, my sweet grandson. I have lost two brothers at young ages, one in his twenties, the other his forties. It doesn’t seem fair. But somehow, we go on. Some days, I will cry at the drop of a hat just remembering. Others, I think I am forgetting but truthfully you never forget. And I suppose that’s the silver lining of grief. Because, grieving for someone means you loved someone. How sad would it be if we never experienced that?

Times Have Changed Or Have They?

April 2, 2022

So, imagine my shock and surprise when I open the mailbox and receive an invitation to my 50th reunion. Not my high school reunion. My freaking college reunion. There must be some mistake I thought as I looked at the name and address. Yep. It’s addressed to me. Right name. Right address. Everything is spelled correctly. Punctuation is correct (always one of my pet peeves.) Margins and spacing seem legit. But surely, there is someone else with my name expecting this communication, surely not I. It’s much too soon for yours truly. Has it truly been fifty years since I received my bachelor’s degree? That would mean that I am officially old. There’s no graceful way around it. It can no longer be denied. What happened to that young girl in the tight jeans and army jacket who was able to score free food from the snack bar staff for her roommates because one of the workers had a crush on her? Oh, the shame of using my feminine wiles to get a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. What happened to that young girl in the granny dress and platform shoes and long hair parted down the middle, hiding most of her face but never hiding that come hither look? She was so innocent with nary a worry in the world, other than how to make enough money to pay for her books next semester. As an aside…I am so out of the loop: do college students today even buy textbooks? How do today’s college kids navigate the world? I suppose they have certain advantages what with all the technology at their disposal, the ability to have information immediately, to order food on a whim, (though I think the personal touch of flirty eye batting can be much more effective, if not enjoyable) to contact seven people simultaneously and set up “something fun” (such an incredibly banal and vintage word. I’m going to need to consult my grandson for a more appropriate and timelier descriptive.) However, I believe they are missing out in so many ways. Walk down the street in any college town. Most of these so-called scholars, and I mean no disrespect, are walking with heads down, ear buds engaged, and noses and eyes firmly aimed at their phones. It’s kind of sad. I hate to use the tried and true “in my day” but in this instance it’s warranted. We didn’t have the luxury of instant gratification, no texting, email, voicemail, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, whatever the latest social media flavor of the moment is. Walking down the street was noisy, filled with talking, laughing, pranks. The same with meals. No phones on the table. No eyes averted to check said phone. You either sat alone either by choice or sadly because perhaps you hadn’t been fully immersed yet into the whole “scene,” or you were raucously enjoying a brief respite from class, the library, working on the dreaded research paper (with a typewriter!!!) using actual reference books. Typing was never my forte and many nights as the deadline loomed for submitting the paper, I would cry in frustration as my bleary eyes and muddled brain would often want to surrender in defeat. And let’s not forget those dreaded footnotes. Ibid and op.cit. anyone? UGH! Carbon paper was our “photocopy.” Unless I am dreaming, I do think we had just been introduced to some type of “white out” or eraser material, but regardless, it was a pain in the proverbial ass. Social plans were made on the fly and hopefully everyone was on the same page. Invariably someone was left out, possibly intentionally for whatever reason, be it drama, bad breath, bad choices, or typical young adult bullshit. For me, I tried to stay above the fray, not because I was so noble, but because I just didn’t know which end was up half the time. I always used to say that I was too stupid to be a phony. What you see is what you get.

My college years, 1968 to 1972, were uncomplicated, all things considered, though if you had asked me then I likely would have disagreed. There were a lot of disturbing events happening in the world in 1968 and forward. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam war was at its height in 1968, with the Tet Offensive. The carnage and loss of American lives was heart wrenching, Its divisiveness had a palpable effect on the country with riots, defections to Canada, and young men barely out of their teens were being sent to fight a war they knew nothing about and didn’t understand. My campus had its share of turmoil. My school was about an hour away from the Black Panther trials in New Haven, CT and there were shutdowns, demonstrations, some police activity, and a small group of students who felt it appropriate to use violence to get their point of view across. I never understood why. The Chicago riots at the Democratic convention were further evidence of the culture of hatred in our country. Today in 2022 it seems it hasn’t improved. For me during this time of war the one thing that truly bothered me the most was the way our returning service men and women were excoriated and disrespected by the anti-war protesters. It always pained me to see people who gave up so much in defense of our country to be treated so badly. I have always believed in having an open dialogue; to my mind that is the only way to get problems solved, no matter which “side” you are on. I bet you thought this was going to be a typical irreverent piece by “the widow,” didn’t you? Honestly, so did I. I don’t know what happened. For those of you expecting more raunch and dirty words, my apologies. I will try to slip something in somewhere…maybe.

Anyway, I am at my grandchildren’s home for a few days, so I am taking advantage of a little down time to bang out this long overdue blog, so let’s get this baby banged out. Enough about old memories from fifty plus years ago. It’s back to that invitation that surely must be a mistake. I apparently graduated from college fifty years ago. Yes. Yes, I did. 1972. I had great professors. I had at least one horrible professor. I made many lifelong friends. I grew up a lot in those four years. Elie Wiesel, renowned writer, and Holocaust survivor spoke at my graduation. He inspired. An amazing human being was he. And here we are, ready to “celebrate.” I don’t plan to attend. The cheapest hotel room is about $350 a night. We are talking New York City suburb prices here, folks. And, as enticing as the brochure and accompanying literature makes it sound, I am just not that interested. I keep in touch with the friends with whom I have always had close relationships. With technology I can log onto the website anytime and see how the campus has changed. Blah, blah, blah. My guess is that the powers that be are expecting a similar response from a lot of us in the Class of 1972. We’re not that interested and hey, we’re approaching 71, 72 years old, arthritis, mobility issues, gastro issues, cataracts, knee replacements, hip replacements, glaucoma, irritable bowel syndrome, just plain irritable, irritable spouse syndrome, you name it, by the time we reach this age, we shouldn’t have to explain. We ain’t coming! And chances are after they wine and dine us and escort us around campus to see the new buildings, and we visit our old dorm rooms, they’re going to want a hefty donation. That will be a big negative from me, sir. My money is earmarked for ME, ME, ME. So, that said, the powers that be have requested that we participate in some sort of updated “yearbook.” We are SO dating ourselves. Earlier I asked about textbooks; let me ask about yearbooks. Do they still publish yearbooks? My guess is a resounding no. Likely, they will send us a link, right?

I don’t have the materials with me as I am away from home spending time with my grands, but my recollection is that I am to provide photos both from fifty years ago as well as from the present. I am to provide an overview of my life as it has transpired since graduation – the good, bad, ugly, indifferent, inconsequential, whatever I feel like sharing. Again, going on memory here, and at my age, memory and memories can be tricky. I am pretty sure they are asking the class of 1972 to provide what we consider to be our contributions to the world vis a vis our work, our personal goals and if any were achieved, our family life, our financial endowments if we are so blessed (not this chick.) and on and on. We are asked to write a brief treatise on what our baccalaureate education has meant to us and what it prepared us to accomplish in the ensuing years, personally, professionally, and I suppose on the world stage.

Folks, I got nuttin.’ Once I graduated, I traded four years of fun, frivolity, and freedom in New York, for parental oversight and sharing a bedroom back home in Delaware. It was and is for all recent grads, a shock to the system. I went back to waiting tables, got a job at an international insurance company, where I worked for a few years in a mind numbingly tedious job. I moved into a dump of an apartment with a girl I hardly knew; big mistake. Kids, sometimes it’s better to tough it out with Mom and Dad. I got married to a decent and kind man. We added two outstanding daughters to the world’s data base, which, in my mind is the BEST THING I EVER DID. I love my girls so much and am so proud of the people they are. End of story. Despite the typical teething, diapers, occasional whining, teenage eyerolls, I can honestly say, they never gave us a moment’s trouble. I like to take some credit for our luck and success. My husband and I believed in a firm approach to parenting, including compassion coupled with discipline, responsibility, consequences, love, and fun. They seem to have adopted some of our parenting practices with their own children. (Although, between you and me, I have never understood the whole concept of the “time out.”) Ultimately, I began a 30-year career with a respected non-profit organization in the public relations sector. It was a job I was and continue to be proud of because we impacted lives, often saving lives. It meant something to me, and my colleagues and I will forever be grateful that I was a part of it. I have been a freelance writer for most of my adult life, still have a small consulting business and those of you reading this are familiar with my blog. I hope you continue to enjoy it. I have chosen to just do it, for the sheer enjoyment. I make no money and will continue to make this a non-monetized venture, though the way our economy continues to sink further into the septic system, perhaps I should rethink that choice.

So, there you have it. Maybe with some edits, slicing and dicing, I will submit this blog to my reunion committee or whomever is running the weekend shindig which I will not be attending. I will accompany it with a few carefully selected photos; photos from my not so misspent youth when I was considered cute by most standards and photos from today when my face isn’t as wrinkled as a lot of my contemporaries (thanks, Mom, for the good genes), but hopefully I have garnered some wisdom along the way. It’s been a good ride. I haven’t set the world on fire, but I think I’ve done OK. I’m satisfied with where I am. Take it or leave it.  

The Circle of Life

January 23, 2022

I often ask myself what I want to do with the rest of my life. I am 71, in relatively good health, in relatively good spirits, and still in possession of my longstanding sarcasm and snark – thank God. It has held me in good stead throughout my life both in happy times and devastatingly sad times. I guess it’s part of my “charm.” At least that’s what some people tell me. Those of you who read my blog know that I meander between happy and carefree offerings to some reflective and morose stuff that can make you sad, to some seriously deranged offerings that border on offensive. I make no apologies. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Obviously, our sense of humor isn’t of the same genre. Anyway, here I am attempting to crank out yet another offering of purple prose. Honestly, sometimes it’s a chore, because I feel as if I have nothing worthwhile to say and I ask myself, “does anyone really care.” Then, my friend, BB, smacks me back to reality. Apparently, SHE cares. She will call or text and tell me “Chop, chop, girlfriend! Get a move on! I and your minions are waiting!” Sigh. I will do my best, for I am truly not feeling it my people.

So, allow me to provide you with a little personal update on my so called heretofore non-existent love life. In previous blogs I have shared the pathetic stories of dates, potential dates, and online candidates of so-called perfect matches of men with questionable hygiene, missing teeth, possible arrest records and proclivities that would make a sane individual carry mace and a firearm. You get the picture. I was beginning to question everything about myself. Was I THAT grotesque that only trolls and mythical hobgoblins found me attractive? I USED to be cute. I USED to have my share of dates back in the day. I was married to my husband for 41 years and he was just adorable and understood my crazy sense of humor and it was balanced beautifully by his quiet, dry humor and slow to deliver but perfectly delivered witty comebacks. Sometimes when I was “on” he would just roll his eyes and chuckle. He just “got” me. Once I meandered through the grief process after he died in 2015 and at my daughters’ urging, I decided to dip my toe into the dating pond, I figured how hard could it be to find someone similar to my F? He was special I know. But there had to be others like him, right? How naïve could I be? Nothing but freaks I tell you. And be sure to throw in the occasional asshole. Lots of assholes in the mix just to make it interesting. So, after enduring my fair share of truly horrible encounters, I decided to just stop and enjoy life on my own. I had my dog, my widowed group friends and my Rotary club friends, and the other assorted friends I met along the way. And this is all in my new home state where I moved after more than sixty years living elsewhere. After F died, not only did I suffer the devastating loss of my life partner, a few years later, I picked up roots and moved south to where I knew NO ONE save my children. Let me tell you, a move like that is not for the faint of heart—even for someone like me who usually makes friends easily. I was scared to death. But here I am almost three years later and I am doing OK and I have my dog, and I am alone, and I have sworn off dating. I am single and content. Life is pretty good.

WAIT!!!! Hold that thought!!!! Things have changed ladies and gentlemen! And I know my friend B’s ears and eyes are at attention! Drum roll please!!!!!! This girl, yes this girl, ME…..this girl has a boyfriend!!!! Yes sir! A real live, honest to goodness, flesh and blood boyfriend. I didn’t find him on the internet either. We met the old-fashioned way. He seems to understand my weirdness, appreciates it even. Gets my snark and sarcasm; he better because he wouldn’t be worthy of calling himself my boyfriend. By the way, I call him D. He says I am beautiful; either he needs a complete eye examination or he’s just full of shit. He believes I am super intelligent. Well, he did graduate from Duke, so obviously he knows what he’s talking about. And he says I make him happy. And for this final statement, I have no plans to make any sarcastic comment. I will simply say that I plan to do my best to continue to make him happy as long as I can. Because he is simply one of the kindest sweetest people I have ever met – a lot like my husband, F. It’s probably what attracted me to him. But, and it’s a big but…here’s the rub. And here’s where those of you who have been following me from the beginning are going to lose your minds and say “are you effing kidding me? Does the widow EVER catch a break? It’s kind of why I named this blog The Circle of Life. I am not a saint. So many people have experienced so much more upheaval and sadness in their lives, but I do think I have had more than my fair share and I am ready to say ENOUGH already, OK, God? I have lost my parents, two brothers before their time, my husband, and undeniably THE WORST DAY of my life, the death of my grandson, Joshua. I will never recover from that sadness. It is a sadness that leaves a mark on your heart. The only good that came out of it is that it made me want to be a better person and it brought us our sweet angel, my granddaughter, A, through adoption. Anyway, my point is, I am tired of being sad and looking forward to being happy.  Meeting D has made me happy and he tells me constantly how happy I make him. But I kind of hinted above that the other shoe is about to drop. Get ready folks. Here goes.

D has terminal cancer, less than a year to live. I am not kidding. Seriously. It’s like a Lifetime Movie. I want to throw up. I finally meet someone who isn’t an asshole (well he’s a dude, so there’s always that potential) and the big C screws everything up. The thing is D is in a great place. No more treatment for him. He wants to live life, enjoy life and take what time he has left and just appreciate what he has. I so admire that approach. So many people whining about wearing masks and this guy has it right. He really is stopping to smell the roses — and my perfume. And he is focusing on me and telling me how beautiful, funny, and intelligent I am. I think he just wants to get me into the sack. Men! Terminal illness or not, some things never change. Maybe I’ll oblige. You know I’ll rock his world! D, you have taught me so much in our short time together. Let’s get this party started. It’s an honor to know you, D, my sweet, kind, funny boyfriend. And if the big C wins, I hope you and F become fast friends up there and enjoy a laugh at my expense.

A Few Words About My Buddy

December 8, 2021

My dog died last week. It sounds kind of simplistic to just say those words when the reality is that it crushed me to the core. This little nine-pound ball of fur and attitude has been my main companion for close to five years and even though he was “just a dog,” I am here to tell you that he saved my life on many occasions. Bruno was my go-to dude. He was at the ready with a cuddle or to simply splay across my lap snoring in total contentment. It was heaven to me. And now he is gone. I “rescued” him from a local organization. Allow me to editorialize for a moment. Rescue organizations do God’s work and with little reward. I will never buy an animal when there are so many looking plaintively through cages waiting for someone to say “yep, YOU are coming home with me today, buddy.” The joy on their faces is palpable and they will never stop letting you know how grateful they are. That’s how it’s been with Bruno the moment he entered my life. He was a senior little guy, and I knew he wouldn’t be around forever, but we packed so much joy and love into the five years we had together. He had a tough life before he came to live with me. He didn’t know how to play, had no interest in toys, didn’t know how to communicate his needs, so potty training was a challenge (I highly recommend the Bissell Spot Bot) and he was not a fan of tall men and barked incessantly. But we made it work because he had SO MUCH LOVE for ME. He followed me everywhere. If I wasn’t home, he was heartbroken and waited disconsolate because in his mind I might never return. Dogs have no concept of time.

So, he was 13 years old and costing me a lot of money. He had an enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, and a cough requiring narcotic medication. He also was given additional prescription meds that were, shall we say, difficult to swallow, as was the exorbitant price. And, because he was a real pain in the ass when it came to taking medication, I had to jump through hoops to please his majesty and “meet his demands.” The demands were as follows: Pills shall be placed in a small piece of gourmet deli turkey, topped with a dollop of Cheez Whiz, and then rolled up into a small bite-size hors d’oeuvre and gently placed into his mouth. Yes, that is how we did it. And I did it happily. He was my Bruno.

As Bruno approached the end of his life (I didn’t know for sure, but had my suspicions), he began acting a bit differently. On his final day, early in the morning, he died right by my side where he spent most of his time. I know that is where he wanted to be, with me stroking his back as he slipped away. He has helped me deal with the loss of my husband and provided me with comfort I never knew I needed to get through some dark days. This little nine-pound runt is my buddy, my dude, my hero. I love you, Bruno.

Live and Let Live

November 4, 2021

I suppose I need to step it up in my blog production. I know of people cranking out their purple prose at a much more prolific rate than I – as often as once or twice a week. Perhaps I can look at this from several perspectives. Those people have more to say. Those people have too much time on their hands. I don’t have enough to say. My words are so precious, they are to be savored and anticipated. My brain isn’t as large and oozing with content as my peers. Words are cheap. Words are gold. Who can really say? The possibilities are endless. Regardless, I am here now with a short offering of prose, not necessarily purple, perhaps merely a pale lavender or amethyst. It’s the best I can do on a dreary day which weather-wise and metaphorically, matches my mood, and I am not sure why.

Take my life for instance. I live alone, save for my 13-year-old, almost blind, and I am fairly certain, completely deaf, 11-pound Chihuahua. This little dude clearly didn’t get the memo, because despite his infirmities, he firmly believes that he is a Rottweiler. It’s comical. Annnnd, I am about to go to the pet supply store to purchase doggie diapers because not only is he peeing on the floor, this morning the little jerk thought it would be a nice gesture of defiance to literally wet, no, saturate the bed – MY side of the bed as I was blithely taking a shower. He’s never done this before and, I am afraid, given other signs, he is beginning his downward spiral. Also, I really shouldn’t accuse him of being defiant as he emptied his bladder, because a) I didn’t see it and b) of late he’s been anything but defiant. My Bruno has been almost a different (I almost wrote “person”) canine. He seems depressed but accepting of his fate. The eyes tell it all. He still wants to cuddle, but there are also days when he’s not interested, and would rather just retreat to his dog bed or under the adult bed. Perhaps to be alone with his thoughts. Much like the rest of us in our senior days. Those of us in our “twilight” years are lucky I believe. I think we can appreciate life on so many levels. Yes, we don’t have as much spring in our step, but we have a greater respect for the fact that we can still take steps, albeit more gingerly in some cases. I’m glad to be alive even when my dog is peeing all over the place. So, I stripped the bed and avoided eye contact with my Bruno, because I know he felt bad. At least I hope so. Ask me tomorrow.

I recently went to Las Vegas for a few days with some friends to catch a couple shows, eat some good food and enjoy some adult beverages. Two of the shows were renowned artists, Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow. Since I am talking about geriatric issues in this blog, how appropriate is it that I would buy tickets to see two of my favorites. They did not disappoint and demonstrated that when you’re good, you’re good. Neither has lost it. Maybe they are a bit slower; they are in their late 70s after all, but they demonstrated to me that when you love what you do, you continue to do it well. I also called my financial advisor to remove my daughters as beneficiaries from my estate because of their disrespectful remarks about these two fine gentlemen and their possible lack of stamina and maybe the need for spotters and walkers while on stage. No child of mine will be rewarded for such talk. They will think twice before disparaging such icons of modern music. My guess is that when they are in their 70s, that New Kids on the Block won’t be having a residency in Vegas. Just sayin.’

After returning home, I had a slew of appointments, doctors, dentist, etc. They quickly brought me down to earth with the realization that this old body is starting to betray me. I am not the sexy young broad I once was. Things are facing south that used to be facing east; other things seem to have relocated; I can’t seem to find a few things and neither can the doctor; one or two things may need to be removed or relocated, not sure why, etc. etc. You get the picture. I have friends who have similar, I won’t call them complaints, just realities. This is life and I/we will deal with it. As they say, it’s certainly better than the alternative. I did manage to make one doctor laugh so hard that he cried and said that I made his day. He was asking me to entertain the possibility of having a sleep study performed and I quickly put the kibosh on that suggestion, because I have had sleep studies done in thepast and I have also used a CPAP machine. I informed the doc of these facts and let him know that I failed miserably and took the walk of shame when I returned the CPAP because of my aversion to wearing anything on my face. I told him “The only thing I will have on my face is Hugh Jackman. So, unless Hugh is there to utter sweet nothings and blow moist air into my mouth and nostrils, just let me die.” Hugh? Are you listening, sweetie?

Seriously, some might say getting old sucks. I really don’t mind. I obviously wish I didn’t have my ailments and various medications, but it’s OK. I plan to live my life as actively as I can, travel, be with my kids and grandkids and enjoy what comes my way. I refuse to take things too seriously. Don’t worry, be happy. And make sweet Bruno’s waning years as comfortable as possible.

Shame on me. Shame on you. Shame on us all.

September 13, 2021

We have all done it. None of us is immune unless we are close to perfect and that’s just not possible. You’re at a social event, your high school reunion, or maybe a family gathering seeing distant relatives you either feel ambivalent about or are related to by marriage. In other words, you don’t have a lot invested emotionally. Suddenly you find yourself sidled up to the bar or comfortably ensconced in a corner whispering with your bestie of the moment as you toss back some adult beverages. “Wow, did you see HER?? She looks like she’s been rode hard and put away wet! Someone needs to tell her that that’s not a good look for her. Did she NOT look in the mirror before she walked out the door today? Holy Mother of God, she looks like a whore in that dress. The years have NOT been kind! Has she heard of Spanx? Moisturizer? Sunscreen? Did she get her date at ‘rent a dude?’ Those kids of hers are such brats. I would never allow mine to behave that way. OMG!”

We all seem to feel comfortable voicing our opinions about people’s personal choices, lifestyles, appearances, possessions, political viewpoints, likes and dislikes, you name it. If we are in the safe cocoon of friends and the “non-judgment zone” even though that is exactly what we are doing, we feel empowered to cast aspersions with free rein and lots of well-targeted venom. The irony is that we will turn on our most obsequious smiles when in the presence of the individual whom we were trashing just moments ago, because we would never deign to be so mean to their faces. That wouldn’t be nice, would it? So instead, we fawn all over them and act phony. Keeps things simple, peaceful, and fake. Not that I am advocating hurting people’s feelings by making snide comments to them. I suppose I am trying to understand why we do it. Because we all do it. Some more frequently and viciously than others. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better about our own inadequacies. They say the biggest bullies are those with the biggest insecurities. But at least bullies are open about their disdain. The so-called silent offenders just do it among themselves because they think it’s funny and they likely believe it’s harmless.

Fat shaming is probably the worst. Fat shaming is a dangerous precedent that is noticed by young children, particularly girls as early as toddler age. Often without thinking we women bemoan the pounds we need to lose, the girth around our mid sections, our big butts, heavy thighs, whatever our offending body parts are. Believe me, children’s ears are acutely aware of everything, and the bullying begins early. It’s sad really when a three-year-old comes home from pre-school to tell her mommy that so and so accosted her with those hateful words “you have a big bubble butt!” Why should a little one need to even be aware of what he or she looks like at this point in life? God knows there’s plenty of time for self-loathing. Right now, let’s leave these kids to enjoy Legos and other innocent pursuits. But unfortunately, they are learning early to be critical of things they shouldn’t worry about and also they are learning that it’s OK to shame others, which is a deeper problem for our society. I have been subtly fat shamed and it’s not fun. For me though, it occurred as an adult. I was always quite slender as a child and young adult. Then life happened and the pounds overtook me. I could feel the disapproval when I got on a plane or into a booth at a restaurant or struggled to get out of said booth. But I used my sharp humor and self-deprecating attitude to deflect. It worked. But it didn’t ease the pain I felt internally. Then I lost the weight. Then life happened again with the death of my husband and other ancillary family issues. I gained back some of the weight, not a lot, but enough to make me and yes, others take notice. I like myself, but of course I don’t like the pounds. But I will never allow myself to feel ashamed of who I am, and I also will never hurt someone through words or actions due to their appearance. For the record, when my weight was at its highest and I needed to fly, as soon as I got on the plane, I immediately asked the flight crew for a seat belt extension. I did so directly and without shame, even would make a joke. I also always engaged my seat mate with the “well sucks to be you today, you get the fat girl. But I am adorable and charming and funny as hell.” The joke never fell flat and every time, I made a friend. Own it and it won’t own you.

Shaming occurs due to other triggers for the shamers. A lot has to do with simply not understanding the choices someone makes, choices as simple as a haircut or clothing. In college, for a short time I dated a guy with shoulder length hair. My father went ballistic. No matter that the dude was brilliant, getting his Ph.D. in English Lit, Dad couldn’t get past the hair. My mother, God bless her, could. She said three simple words: “It’s just hair.” I never forgot that. If we all approached life and our differences with an openness to the other individual, to look beyond the superficial, wouldn’t it make the bigger problems so much easier to tackle? Maybe I am being naïve, but I truly believe a lot of the world’s problems are blown out of proportion due to meaningless prejudices.

Passing judgment on parents with unruly children is a big one. We have all seen it – at the mall, in a busy restaurant, at church, or in a social situation – a child out of control, running amok, screaming, backtalking, ignoring his or her parents, being destructive, rude, petulant, you name it. And of course, we make assumptions and are quick to puff up our imaginary feathers and holier than thou attitude of our superior parenting skills and nod knowingly to other parents of the same ilk. The eye contact says it all: “My children are SO well behaved and would never do what that little monster is doing. My child is just perfect.” Back it up princess. Maybe your child doesn’t have autism. Maybe your child doesn’t have an endocrine problem or a chromosomal disorder or any number of deficiencies or issues that don’t come with a cheat sheet to readily explain to outraged onlookers what the harried parents and these special children are experiencing. So maybe we should just give them a break and instead of looking askance at them with indignation and condemnation, we could look at them with concern and maybe offer to help. Just a thought.

Making fun of someone or showing our disapproval either blatantly or through subtle looks or behaviors simply because they are perceived as not pretty enough, handsome enough, didn’t benefit from cosmetic surgery, orthodontia, dermatological assistance or had Daddy’s credit card to buy the latest fashions. This is just not cool. I am having a flashback to high school when loudmouth popular girl shamed me in front of multiple classmates for wearing the same dress multiple times at school events – sorry sweetheart, my parents had ten children; they did the best they could. As an aside, I know my and other large families experienced our fair share of side eye, snide comments, judgmental attitudes, even a little pity for space we occupied in the world. Too damn bad. We were fed, and very well I might add. We were educated – private school, thank you very much. We were clothed; not a lot of clothes, witness this paragraph, but they were clean, well taken care of and stylish. And we were taught values. And for the record, I had the best mom in the world. I don’t hold a candle to her. I miss her every day. By the way, I think I looked slammin’ in that dress, despite the fact I wore it a lot. So, I am sorry if it bored you by its repetitiveness, loudmouth popular girl. Bitch.

Shaming can be inadvertent and unintended to cause discomfort for the recipient. I know I have been guilty of it on more than one occasion. I do try to be aware of the words coming out of my mouth or the facial expressions this mug makes. I am definitely a work in progress. But I can say with certainty that I would never intentionally cause anyone pain and if you are reading this and I have, shame on me. Please seek me out and I will offer you the appropriate mea culpas. All of us are worthy of respect for who we are. I have a huge ass and I am proud of it. Shame on you if you think otherwise. Bitch. Let’s all of us do better.

“You can still love people even if they don’t believe the same things you believe or act the way you act.”

– Danny Gokey

Sing

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song

-The Carpenters

Traveling, Tributes, Truckers, and the Trots

July 10, 2021

A few weeks ago, I set out on a trip to meet up with family to pay tribute to my cousin, Ron, who passed away in April. His life celebration had been postponed a few months because of timing and weather. He lived in the Adirondacks on Rainbow Lake. It was still cold and snowy up there and having it further south enabled more of us to attend and pay tribute to a truly remarkable human being. It also served as a long overdue family reunion of sorts with some of my crazy cousins whom I adore. We’re all getting older and some of us are beginning to show signs of aging and all of its accompanying afflictions. Not I, of course. Wink, wink. So, this blog will serve two purposes. First, I will talk about Ron and why we honor him and the life he led. I will also mention the family members who would be insulted if I did not. And then, I will sink into the depths of degradation I endured, bare it all, and describe the trip from hell that brought me to Frederick, Maryland, the location of the family gathering. It wasn’t pretty and I am giving you fair warning.

Ron was a big bear of a man. It was somehow fitting that he and his bride, Corinne, achieved their dream of moving to the Adirondacks over twenty years ago because of his love of the land, an area replete with bears and other wildlife and where he brought many Boy Scouts on adventure trips. He loved life and he loved people and it was never more evident than in his huge bellowing laugh and giant hugs. Those hugs. They literally enveloped you. If you weren’t prepared, you needed to be warned, because you might break a rib. And given his Slavic roots, his hugs were not complete without the kiss. That kiss. He was not afraid to plant one right. on. your. mouth. The first time I introduced my then fiancé to Ron, I may have “accidentally” forgotten to mention to him that Ron was a “kisser.” The look of utter shock, fear, and consternation was one for the books. One of my fondest, laugh-inducing memories involving Ron and my husband (other than “the kiss”) was when we were visiting in the Adirondacks staying around the corner from Ron and Corinne with my cousin, Bill, who also had a home there. It was getting dark. We got a call that Ron and my brother were out on the lake and the boat had run out of gas (something my brother had warned Ron about prior to setting out) So, I guess the plan was that Bill and Frank were going to “rescue” them somehow. Bill reaches into the kitchen drawer and pulls out two medium-sized, serrated knives and hands one to Frank who inquires “what’s this for?” Bill’s response: “It’s bear season.” Frank uttered a couple well-placed expletives and said something to the effect of “No way in hell. If there are bears, my ass is going in the other direction.” Too funny and luckily, the bears stayed away.

Ron was a lifelong educator, teaching high school science, developing award winning STEM programs, heading departments, working with NIH and NIST and later as an adjunct professor. Teaching was in his blood and his legacy has been passed to his only daughter, Michelle, who herself is an accomplished teacher with the same joy and light as her father.  She delivered a beautiful and uplifting tribute to her dad at the Life Celebration. No one could have done it better. Ron is someone we will always hold dear and our memories of him will always make us smile, because he always had a smile. This will sustain us when we are sad at the loss. I suppose for me, the one thing that I can’t forgive however is something I discovered the day of the life celebration. It was Ron’s allegiance to Sheetz. Seriously, Ron? What the ever loving hell? Did I not know you at all? Sheetz? Was everything I knew and respected about you a lie? How can you possibly call yourself a human being and espouse the sludge they call coffee and the pitiful MTOs they call sandwiches? I am going to need a moment because my whole belief system has come into question. It’s as if I don’t know who I am anymore and for sure I don’t know you or what you stood for. Anyone with an iota of common sense knows that the only establishment worth discussion is Wawa. Good coffee, clean restrooms, outstanding sandwiches, excellent service, end of discussion. Ron, I love you, but I’m a little upset right now. I forgive you, but you have hurt me. Please take some time up there in heaven to reflect on what you have done.

A few quick words about my other cousins. Some of them I haven’t seen since almost six years ago at my husband’s funeral. I suppose this is what our lives have become. We gather for funerals now. We all voiced our concerns that we cannot let this be our norm. We need to make every moment count. But life seems to get in the way. One cousin is dealing with some troublesome health issues that require frequent doctor visits. He uses a walker which is not pleasant to see. But as is typical for my family, his sense of humor is intact. When I said to him “what’s up with the walker?” his response was “it’s either the walker or I keep falling on my ass.” This cousin is one of four brothers, all of whom are now in various stages of “disrepair,” using canes, walkers, or stooped over with stenosis, etc. These are the same guys who at every family wedding would do a rousing if clumsy version of the YMCA. Always a hilarious highlight. I told them they should resurrect it at the next wedding with an updated version this time using their canes and walkers in a rhythmic version clicking and twirling and using carefully enunciated grunts and groans along with spotters should they fall. All in all, seeing everyone as we celebrated the life of one of the good ones was good for my soul. RIP Ron. And Sheetz sucks.

So, let’s turn back the clock 24 hours. The plan was to meet my sister and brother and families the day before the Life Celebration. We’d check into a hotel, have a nice leisurely dinner and enjoy the evening. I had a physical therapy appointment early that morning and planned to hit the road immediately after and arrive in Frederick in the early afternoon. It would be an easy trip – just 254 miles, at the most four and a half hours driving the speed limit, okay exceeding it a smidge, EXCEPT in Brunswick County, Virginia. Side note: never ever ever speed in Brunswick County, Virginia. You will be caught. You will be pulled over. You will pay a hefty fine. You will receive NO MERCY. A month after my Frank died, I shamefully used his death as an excuse for being distracted and therefore having a lead foot. Apparently, the officer had no soul. He looked me straight in the eye, with I swear the slightest sneer, said “sorry for your loss” and issued me a three-figure ticket. No remorse, no guilt. I think my ticket got him the microwave for that month’s quota. My predilection for speed is something that I don’t realize half the time, because I have been stopped twice in Brunswick County, but not lately. Now I am very aware when I cross into that zone of capitalistic opportunism and put my Camry into legal cruise control, about three miles over the speed limit, sweating bullets until I can escape. Now the other counties I confess that my cruise control is set just “a bit” higher.

So, back to the trip. I finished PT, stopped for some coffee and hit the road. As I blithely started listening to satellite radio and enjoying the fact that there was hardly any traffic (pay attention, the no traffic mention is SO IRONIC) I noticed a small SUV about six car lengths ahead in the right lane. I was in the left. This idiot apparently thought transporting two, very long canoes on top with no type of rack or any other mechanism to stabilize said canoes was a good idea. He seemed to have attached them with what appeared to be a couple of bungee cords. I’m not an engineer, but even with my limited reasoning abilities, I knew this did not bode well. It didn’t take long before bad things started to happen, seemingly in slow motion. Canoe #1 on the driver’s side suddenly began to slide forward and down impeding idiot driver’s vision. I instinctively began avoidance measures, and as I had stated, there was little traffic.  I braked, slowed and prepared to stop. I was more worried about the car directly behind idiot with the small SUV (makes for a catchy movie title, eh?) Somehow as the long canoe began to fall onto the road, idiot driver exhibited some remarkable reflexive action, pulled onto shoulder and jump out of car. Driver number two managed to veer around canoe pulling over to the shoulder and ran onto road to assist idiot with the small SUV in retrieving the canoe from the road. Did I mention that canoe #2 was beginning to slide off the roof at this point? I was, by then safely past the craziness and thankful nothing truly bad happened but wondered how the idiot solved his initial problem of getting the canoes from point A to point B, because clearly, his first plan sucked. All this occurred the first 15 minutes into my trip. Surely, the rest of my travels would be uneventful, right? Ah, such a sweet, naïve, unsuspecting lamb was I. Let the games begin. I should have carbo loaded because I was going into beast mode and didn’t know it. So, I cranked up the Motown channel, enjoyed the beautiful Carolina sky and continued on my way to Frederick. About 15 minutes later, I saw the first sign for the rest area in two miles. No worries. I didn’t need the rest area at this time but given my gastrointestinal “issues” I always like, (read NEED to know where the next one is — always) But, after two miles as I approached the rest area that I didn’t need, I did experience a pang of anxiety as I saw barricades and signage announcing that this particular rest area was CLOSED. Was this a harbinger of things to come? Were all subsequent rest areas on Route 85 going to be closed? All 124 miles on this stretch of Route 85? What if I had an immediate need, which, without being too graphic or detailed is my typical scenario. As I stated, I have “issues,” and these “issues” do not bargain. They are in charge. I am at their mercy. There is no negotiation. There is no postponing. There is no ignoring. There is simply acceptance, surrender, acquiescence, because I am never in charge. Never. I repeat: Never. Ever.

A shit show of bad luck was about to begin and there was nothing I could do but accept it. When you are at the mercy of construction, crashes, congestion, and your colon, you simply surrender. I am a mere mortal. I have no other worldly powers to rescue me from things over which I have no control. The things and events that were about to happen were a curious amalgam of the curious, ridiculous, the funny, and the “are you freaking kidding me???” Let us begin.

As I could have predicted, within ten miles of passing the “Rest Area is Closed” Rest Area, you guessed it: my innards began doing an Irish Jig while simultaneously humming a John Philip Sousa March, all the while my colon was taunting me with its evil gibes, daring me to outrun it. I have never assigned a gender to my colon, thinking it would somehow make it a living, feeling “being,” which it is not. It is evil incarnate. As the tiny beads of sweat began collecting over my brow as I saw the sign saying there was another eight miles until reaching my porcelain land of release, I began my deep breathing exercises. These, coupled with a type of light meditation, were not unlike what I learned in my childbirth classes. I focused as much as I could, slow deep breaths, watch the road, stay in the right lane, attempt, though futilely to ignore the growing anger in my abdomen and suddenly get very religious despite my years of not attending Mass. Please dear God, let me make it to the rest room at the rest area. Please dear God, do not let what we know my colon is capable of doing happen in my pants. Please dear God, have mercy on me, my car, my clothes, my underwear, my sanity. Please dear God. Please. And most of all, please dear God, PLEASE make sure this rest area is open unlike the first one. Please dear God. Just please. God heard me or just had a good laugh at my discomfort and suffering. The rest area was open, I bolted out of my car and waddled as quickly as I could in my weakened state into the building and without a moment to spare took care of business. You don’t need any additional description. Use your imagination if you are so inclined. Having a chronic gastrointestinal illness is no fun but writing about it is. Cheers. Refreshed and renewed I left the building to return to my vehicle only to be accosted by what could only be described as the spawn of Charles Manson asking me for money. I occasionally will give some of the downtrodden a few bucks, because even if I am getting scammed, I figure at least I have good intentions. Not this time. This guy was nothing but a creep. I said, “sorry, I don’t carry cash” and kept walking. Got into my car, checked my phone, took a few minutes to regroup and began to pull out. As I am pulling away, another panhandler, this time a female, who was better dressed than I, trots up to my window and motions for me to open it. I went against my better judgment and let it down about half-way. She gave me sob story #26 about how her husband lost his job and they need to get enough money to get to some town for the night. I gave her the same “sorry, I don’t carry cash” excuse and she informed me rather firmly that I could go back into the welcome center and use the ATM. Uh, no. See ya. I must have vulnerable old lady written all over me. I drove off, grateful that I wasn’t stabbed that day. I suppose I should have mentioned earlier that while I was planning to wear a lovely dress to the life celebration, my footwear was going to be well, not so fashionable. The reason I was going to PT and continue to go is that I have Lymphedema and am undergoing treatment – not painful, just uncomfortable, especially during the hot temperatures. The PT tightly wraps my feet and legs in layers upon layers of gauze and bandages and I wear lovely medical “boots.” I think some men with shall we say certain weird predilections, find them kind of kinky. Just sayin’. Walking is difficult and fraught with hazards. Good times. I am a catch.

So off I go again. Fifty miles later, another attack of explosive diarrhea, exhortations to the Lord, and a dead cell phone. This time, I leave the turnpike and find a truck stop which is always an iffy proposition. Again, the Lord heard my prayers, both in the “please don’t let me shit my pants” department as well as please don’t let me get murdered and let me find a phone charger. All prayers answered, praise Jesus. I think living in the south has changed me. And note to self. Truck stops, at least this one, have nice rest rooms. Plus there was actual hot water.

From here on in, once I left the truck stop the rest of the story is simple. What should have been a four, at the most five-hour drive, turned into a ten-hour drive. A combination of weekend traffic, multiple construction projects, and as Google Maps kept telling me, several crashes. Even the Express Lane was slow, that’s how pathetic things were. Even the Google Maps lady sounded stressed. There was a sense of alarm in her voice as she alerted me to trouble ahead. “Traffic is getting worse (Oh my!) Crash ahead (Oh my!) Practice caution (Oh my!)” I swear her voice quavered.  My legs were cramping, my back was screaming, and I was petrified that my southern regions were going to rise in revolt again as I sat in bumper-to-bumper standstill traffic. For those keeping score, I did stop again – three more times, but I was always able to reach my digestive salvation in the nick of time. I think I am going to start going to church again. Couldn’t hurt.

What I encountered on the road: a young father taking his adorable baby, likely eight months old out of her car seat and walking along the shoulder with her. Yes, folks, that’s how bad it was. We were stopped. At one point, I was looking at my cell phone and didn’t realize that traffic had moved – twelve feet – and the jack wagon behind me beeped his horn at me. I don’t know what that extra twelve feet meant to him, but I hope beeping his horn made him feel manly and somehow increased his testosterone level that day. Bite me asshole. And then there was the other asshole, among the thousands I am sure were on the road that day, who when traffic was moving, was doing the “I’m a classic tool” dance with his Ford sedan. Speeding up, changing lanes at breakneck speed, darting back and forth between lanes, tailgating, you know the type. First of all honey you’re driving a Ford. It’s not a Maserati. Nobody cares. This is not to cast aspersions on Fords or the people who drive them. It’s just in this particular case, the jerk of the moment happened to be driving one.  We all witnessed several crashes as reported by Google Maps; fortunately, from my vantage point none appeared to be serious or life threatening. The last eighty miles I began talking to Siri as if she were human. Hey, when you’ve been stuck in a car for close to ten hours your mind starts to play tricks. I was so over I-95, I was ready to leave my car by the side of the road and hire a hot-air balloon, an irrational plan, but I.was.done. So I asked Siri to get me to Frederick the quickest route possible other than I-95. She instructed me to get off at an exit three miles down the road and I had a relatively easy drive the rest of the way to the hotel.

My intention the next day was to leave after the luncheon following the life celebration to head back to North Carolina. When I hit more traffic, nothing as bad as the previous day, but enough to tire me out and my eyes became heavy and I realized how dangerous that could be I stopped for the night and after three attempts, found a hotel and slept like a baby. And by digestive system the next day on the way home was remarkably quiet. Praise the Lord. I should mention when I arrived home and exited the car, I reached into the backseat to retrieve my bag. At that very moment, a large bird flew overhead and deposited his lovely, difficult to remove white excrement on my Camry leaving my roof, window and door well represented in the assault. I was fortunately spared. The metaphor was not lost on me. What a weekend. Shit happens, I guess.

Time is a Four-Letter Word

May 24, 2021

The last few weeks have caused a jumble of emotions for me. I am still trying to sort things out and understand why things happen the way they do. And I doubt I will ever know, because knowing why is not in my wheelhouse. I am, after all, a mere mortal. The unfolding of events and the impact they have on my friends, loved ones, acquaintances and people I don’t know have hit home for me in a palpable way. The “stuff” that’s occurred has been a kick in the proverbial teeth and has given me pause about so many things. First, let me tell you about my friend, Patrick. He died last week. He was handsome, sensitive, kind, selfless, and brooding, despite his friendly, smiling demeanor. He was only 32. And he was an addict. He had been successful at being clean for several years and was working hard at staying that way. For some reason, he and I connected and he saw me as a mother figure. We shared some pretty heavy conversations and I hope during the relatively short time I knew him (he was one of the first people I met when I moved south two years ago) that I added something to his life. All I know is that when I heard the news of his passing, I was devastated and unrealistically wished that somehow I could have done something to prevent his tragic choice on the last day of his worldly life.  For now I can just look at old texts and photos and smile. I am glad Patrick was in my life. His life mattered. It mattered to me and I will never forget him. Unfortunately, my gene pool and that of my husband is filled with people, living and deceased, who are possessed of addictive personalities and many have struggled with substance abuse. I pray every day that those who continue to fight their demons can find the strength and resolve to win the battle, to wake up every morning and know that “TODAY I am going to win.”

I have heard from other friends and family who have lost loved ones in the last month and I have extended my sympathies or condolences or whatever words of comfort that feel so incredibly inadequate in easing the pain of loss. It’s really all we have, but it’s a gesture and these gestures actually mean a lot. I know because I have experienced it first-hand. I urge anyone who is hesitating – DON’T. Life is just so damn precious.  A friend found out the hard way that she and poison ivy are mortal enemies. She is finally rounding the bend of a severe reaction, just after having major electrical damage to her home after a storm. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger eh? All I could do, as a friend, was offer assistance, if needed, and frequent encouragement. I hope it helped. For me, my challenges the last month pale by comparison: four-figure car repairs, three-figure veterinarian bill and another estimated close to four-figure veterinary procedure, and then my dentist tells me with that concerned look, which I am convinced is taught in dental and medical schools, that I need to see a periodontist. (Maybe it’s time to master the art of gumming my food.) As I reflected on these happenings, never bemoaning the fact that I chose to spend my career in the non-profit world, but still doing the math and I wondered at least a little, what might have been had I enjoyed a more lucrative field during my peak earning years.

One thing that my friend, Patrick, used to say to me when I would put on the mom hat and chastise him for being an idiot over some stupid behavior, was the much-used cliché, “You only live once.” Despite his untimely death, I know he was on to something. And while I have been thinking a lot about my life since I turned 70 last year, lately I have really been honing in on it. What do I want to do with what’s left of my allotted time? LIFE. It’s a simple four-letter word that speaks volumes and it covers so many things. It’s not about how big your bank account is or how many pairs of shoes you have or what your zip code is. It’s about your existence. LIFE. It’s about how you choose to spend your TIME, a finite grouping of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. It’s how you choose to live and spend that time. Will you be a solitary soul or will you seek out a kindred spirit? Will you marry? Stay single? Will you have a family? What will you do that gives you joy?

For me, it’s all about time. I don’t want to waste any more time. If I had a bottomless bank account, I would travel the world, with my high school friend, Joanne, as my guide. She is my hero. But since I don’t, I plan to make it a point to take at least a few trips a year. My girls cruise is already booked and my feelers are out for another trip in the not so distant future. I cannot sit at home and waste my time. I am not a television person – unless I need to fall asleep. I plan to continue seeking out new projects with my Rotary Club. Helping in my community gives me a sense of satisfaction. What I won’t do anymore is stress over things which I cannot control. I find that when I worry about stupid shit, it really affects me physically as well as emotionally and when people in my life do the same, it puts me in a bad mood. Think about it. In the overall scheme of things, does it really matter if there’s a place for everything and everything in its place? Do you HAVE to have the latest fashion and designer purses? Doesn’t the $8.00 bottle of shampoo do the same job as the $30.00? Be honest. Will you be remembered for that fancy car you drove or more for the fact that you took the time to pick up the phone and call someone who might need a kind word?  I am purging “stuff” out of my life. I have enough clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, household gadgets, artwork, etc. It is such a feeling of freedom to relieve myself of all the crap that doesn’t mean as much to me as it used to. And it frees me up to spend my time on me and the people I care about, especially my grandchildren who are growing up before my eyes.

Which brings me to the physical me. I look in the mirror every day. I see a 70-year-old woman who isn’t grotesque by most standards, but in all honesty, I can acknowledge that time hasn’t been kind in some areas of my physical being. There are obvious indications that gravity has reared its ugly head. I have bags under my eyes and bags over my eyes that I suspect any day will overtake my eyelids and drop down to my cheeks. My ass is the size of Rhode Island. My granddaughter loves to jiggle my upper arms. My massive heaving bosoms are kept aloft by virtue of well-made bras with seemingly indestructible underwires. Sorry for the visual. All I can tell you is that if said underwires suddenly failed and my “girls” were to become unfurled, chances are they could take out a small child. My stomach is beyond help. No number of sit-ups will flatten this gelatinous mass of flaccid flesh. My fourteen chins are here to stay. Would I ever consider plastic surgery to erase what time has wrought? In a word, no. I recently downloaded Justine Bateman’s book, “Face – One Square Foot of Skin.” She lays bare the hypocrisy in Hollywood and the unnerving pressure women “in the industry” experience on a daily basis to fool Mother Nature by regularly going under the knife. I personally could not do it. Altering my face to the point that the skin is so tight that it’s unrecognizable is some scary shit in my opinion. If it makes you happy by all means go for it. Bateman makes the case for just embracing the natural aging process. And she has faced much criticism and bullying for doing just that, with some cruel comments about how “awful” she looks. People can be so unkind. And the obsession with weight is out of hand. I don’t want my granddaughters worried about numbers on a scale. You would be surprised at how much they and other kids their age pick up when they overhear adult conversation. The self-deprecating comments about one’s weight—it makes an impression and sometimes a lifelong obsession. Instead of subtracting time, I am looking to add time to my life. I try not to eat bread or sugar, mainly because they make me feel sluggish, not because I want to weigh a certain number. As for plastic surgery, I wouldn’t object to maybe a little microdermabrasion or a chemical peel now and then. But, there will be no cutting and tugging and lifting anything on this old girl’s visage. Take it or leave it. I’m proud of where this face has been. Plus, I don’t want to waste time. I want to use my TIME well. I want to LIVE my LIFE.

To my friends and loved ones who have experienced loss these last several weeks, I am sorry. To my friends and loved ones dealing with misfortune or illness, I am thinking of you. All these things are a reminder that time stops for no one. They are a reminder that none of us can predict the future. They are a not so gentle prompt that NOW is the TIME to LIVE your LIFE. So, I for one am getting rid of the things in my life that are unnecessarily tying me down and keeping me from utilizing MY TIME to its fullest potential. This may or may not include people too. I am weary at being the person on the giving end often not being reciprocated. Not a complaint, just an observation. Perhaps it’s time for me to divest myself of folks who don’t make time for me. I know on whom I can depend and whom I can’t. It’s OK. Just saying it is therapeutic. TIME’s a wasting. I need to LIVE my LIFE. Because as proven by my friend, Patrick, whose life ended at age 32, there is just never enough time. You only live once.

Snippets

April 8, 2021

Do you have recurring dreams? I have two that intermittently wend their way into my psyche – and they make no sense to me at all. I’m pretty sure that’s their purpose; but more about them later. I decided to use this blog to discuss what I like to call the many “snippets” in my life, little moments that I can’t shake, that I remember for whatever reason, often at the most inopportune times. Some are obvious in that they represent seminal moments and predictably have shaped who I am and who I have become. Others are simply fragments of time that happened to me, little occurrences that, inexplicably, have stuck around as little reminders of my past. To me, they have no real significance, yet I remember them again and again. They are my snippets. Other memories, which take up more than a few minutes and traverse an abiding intrusion on my time, I have decided to call my “snuppets,” because they are larger than a snippet, but equally hard to understand in terms of why they are such a part of my mind and soul. Don’t bother checking, snuppet is not in the dictionary. I have considered delving into the writings of Drs. Freud and Jung to see if any of what I am experiencing has an actual name or condition, or if I am, as I fear, just simply weird. So, if you’re game, bear with me on this review of my snippets and snuppets. I will try to make it snappy. None of this will be in any type of chronological order. It’s not supposed to be. That would make too much sense.

Snakes are scary.

I had seen the snake a few days earlier. He had slithered into the garage. Any self-respecting husband would have killed the MFer. Not my self-respecting husband. He simply gently guided him out of the garage. A few days later, as I blithely walk inside the house from the garage, there he is half coiled, half upright, looking at me from a doorway with those beady eyes full of attitude as if to say “you didn’t expect me to stay away did you?” They say adrenaline provides one with an exceptional boost of strength. I am here to tell you it’s true. I dropped my purse and keys, with my left hand grabbed the railing and with seemingly the strength of a bodybuilder somehow flipped my terrified self around the corner and up nine steps in what I swear was one leap – at least that’s what my recollection was. A neighbor rescued me and took care of the errant reptile. I think this story qualifies as a snuppet. It needed to be told. I still quiver when thinking about it.

The pain of losing the ones you love never goes away.

I have lost both my parents (expected), two brothers, one at 27, the other at 45, my husband and my grandson. I think of them all and have specific memories/snippets about each constantly. I have a particular “Michael Moment” when I think about my brother who died of leukemia at age 27. Whenever I reach a certain intersection, without fail, he comes rushing to mind and invariably I will have a rush of memories, shed a tear as I remember a conversation, etc. I don’t know why. It’s sad but it’s also comforting and it does help with the mourning process. A “sub-snippet” that still kicks me right in the gut was the phone call from my daughter telling me through wrenching sobs that my grandson had died. I will never forget the anguish in her voice and I will never get over the sorrow of my husband questioning why God took that baby instead of him. It was a pain like no other. This snippet is replayed over and over. And it sucks. And I cry every.single.time.

Was I destined for prison or hell?

Another snuppet. Picture this if you will: I was four years old. We were living in Manhattan and I was supposed to be napping but what I was really doing was surreptitiously chewing a piece of Dentine gum and hiding the rest of the pack under my pillow. It’s pretty well known that four-year-olds are not exactly sophisticated in the criminal behavior department. You see, I had stolen, yes stolen that pack of gum earlier that day at the neighborhood market while out with my mother and two siblings. When my eagle-eyed mommy noticed my fidgeting and confronted me, I folded like a deck of cards with the ensuing tears and the dreaded “wait until your father gets home.” (As an aside, I am proud that I never used that threat with my kids. They were equally afraid of me as their father.) So, Daddy comes home. Mommy apprises him of my dastardly deed, and I am sure that I will be spanked, dinner will be withheld and no cartoons for me. What other punishment would I face? Little did I know that I would be tested to within an inch of my little four-year-old life. It would be a frightening prospect that would scare this little girl straight. Come on people. It was a nickel pack of gum for God’s sake. Pay attention to the word “God.” So, off we go to the grocery store to confess to the manager and to return the opened package as well as a nickel out of my little piggy bank. I was appropriately contrite and solemn. We left the market and began to walk home when suddenly, Daddy spied a police officer on the corner. He chose to stop and tell him of my evil deed. Mr. Police Officer was suitably horrified and explained to me in his stern manner that every criminal sitting in prison started somewhere, maybe just like me – with that one little pack of Dentine. I listened intently, but dry-eyed. I was thinking, “OK, I can get through this. We’re almost home.” Not so fast, little one. We were half a block from home when Daddy said, “I want you to tell Father What’s His Name what you did this morning.” This is when the hysterics ensued. I begged, cried, pleaded, “PLEASE DADDY, I learned my lesson, PLEASE DON’T MAKE me!!!!!” I was traumatized. Of course, Daddy, the stubborn Irishman, was undeterred. He dragged my screaming crying ass up the steps of the church where I had to tell Father What’s His Name my terrible sin in between my hiccups, snot, tears, gasping for air and general mental distress. Today I have TMJ and can’t chew gum at all, but I still have this damn snuppet. Ugh. Thanks, Dad.

Was I invisible or just insignificant?

Most people who meet me in adulthood refuse to believe that I am basically shy. I was painfully shy – withdrawn – as a child. I was so ill at ease that I would do everything I could to escape scrutiny. My comfort zone was being a helper – to my mother, teachers, neighbors, siblings. I was not comfortable in social settings, in my own skin. Conversation with adults and peers was painful. I just did not have the tools to master the skill. Today, you cannot shut me up. I am not sure where or when I turned the corner. Maybe I needed to grow up – or experience a few unpleasant moments that have since manifested themselves into my basket of snippets that continue to remind me of who I once was. There was that time when I was three years old. This was before we were living in Manhattan. We were living in the Finger Lakes region in Waterloo, NY. I even remember vividly what I was wearing – a red and navy plaid two-piece toddler ensemble, very fashionable I am sure, along with complementary red sneakers. I was leaning over my mother’s shoulder as she was feeding my newborn sister. In hindsight, I am guessing my mom was exhausted and urged me to go play across the street with my “friend,” Cindy. Cindy was the Alpha in the relationship, and I was her willing lapdog. She had beautiful blonde curls and I worshipped her. So, I blithely skipped across the street to visit my queen. I knocked on the door, giddy with anticipation. Cindy’s mom answered the door, alerted Cindy to my arrival and I waited outside preparing to soak up the greatness that was Cindy. Nope. Nope. Nope. Cindy sashayed to the door in all her four-year-old perceived haughtiness, stared down at me as if I were dog excrement, and told me in no uncertain terms that she was playing with so and so and she didn’t like me anymore and proceeded to slam the door in my face. What makes this story all the more pathetic (I was such a loser) is that my mom witnessed the whole sad scenario from our doorway. I stood there for what seemed like an interminable amount of time just staring at the door and shifting my weight, thinking I suppose that somehow, my Queen would have a change of heart and that I was just dreaming when I heard her say that she didn’t like me anymore. Surely this wasn’t happening. Years later my mom told me how she wanted to rush over and hug me, because I looked so sad and pathetic. What a loser.

Then there was that one Christmas. I was about nine years old. Some of my friends have heard this story. But the pain remains, and it bears repeating. Certain slights that have morphed into snippets, or in this case, a snuppet, leave a mark that smarts. I think I may have mentioned this to my therapist once or twice as well. I remember it well. It started in August. I told my mom that all I wanted for Christmas was a Patty Play Pal doll. For the uninitiated, a Patty Play Pal doll was a life-size doll which could wear clothing the average two to three-year-old could wear. I dreamt about the one I wanted. She had honey brown long, straight hair with bangs. She had freckles. She was so cute. I would be her nurturing Mommy. We would have a magical relationship. There were other PPP dolls, but honey brown hair was the one for me. Despite being from a large family, I was confident that my wish would be granted, because my parents were good about providing us kids with a good Christmas each year. Fast forward to December 25. We all waited with giddy anticipation to enter the living room where Mom and Dad and Santa had dutifully arranged all the gifts into well-organized piles around the tree. When we were finally permitted to enter, I turned the corner and saw with joy that my wish had been granted. There she was! Patty Play Pal with the beautiful honey brown hair stood in the corner in a pink and white pinafore waiting for me to embrace her! I was filled with joy as I ran towards her! In fact, there was another PPP too, her sister with short curly blonde hair, I suppose for my middle sister, six-years-old, who may have, in passing, mentioned to Mom, that she wanted the doll for Christmas too. Wait! What were those words I was hearing? “That’s not for you, dear. Your gifts are over here.” My mother motioned to a gift area on the other side of the room. But, there must be some mistake. There was no Patty Play Pal doll here. Instead, there was a record player, which apparently was deemed more appropriate. MY Patty Play Pal was given to my three-year-old sister, who was understandably over the moon with happiness. How could I squelch her joy by making a scene? So, I kept my mouth shut. I was devastated. No one ever knew. I hated confrontation and I didn’t want to cause trouble. But it still haunts me. Hence it is part of my snippets and snuppets. Sigh. I never got over it.

A quick snippet. My parents were entertaining some relative(s), whom I don’t recall. It was chaos as usual. We were grilling steaks, which was a treat for sure. The food was getting passed around and somehow, I kept getting bypassed because I was helping Mom with the little kids. I never got any steak or potatoes. The only thing left was some tomatoes and lettuce. And I was starving. No one noticed. I think I am starting to sound like a martyr. Stop it.

My first and only experience as a bully – and it changed the course of my life.

All the studies on bullying suggest that the bullies are in pain, have been bullied themselves and are insecure. I am certainly not an expert, but from my brief time as a bully, I think I can safely say that it’s true. When I started high school, I was still suffering from shyness and insecurity. I was a total dork – skinny as a rail, braces, no discernible sense of style, limp hair, zits, and no social skills. So, where do I go to high school? That’s right: an exclusive, upscale all-girls, Catholic school attended by many upper crusty young ladies. I obviously was not one of them. I was not to the manor born. I was a poor schmuck from the burbs – and did I mention I was a total dork? But, I must say, I for the most part enjoyed my time there – for the most part. After four years, I managed to carve out an existence, make my mark, find a group of good friends and get a good education. It was difficult in the beginning, but I managed. It was that whole insecurity, shyness thing. One day in the cafeteria, I demonstrated the classic bully behavior. I chose to make myself feel better by victimizing someone weaker than myself. It was almost too easy. She sat alone as she often did. She was hunched over, eating her lunch, her eyes downcast. She was likely very similar in her demeanor as I, insecure and shy times ten. Physically she wasn’t attractive by common standards – swarthy complexion, the dreaded unibrow, hairy arms and legs. And her uniform had a huge ink stain on the blouse portion. As we stood in line next to her table, which is a shy kid’s worst nightmare, being forced to be the center of attention, I felt and heard the words coming out of my mouth. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I know they were sarcastic, snarky, unkind, and hurtful. And they were designed to embarrass her. And to make me feel important. Well, let me tell you, it didn’t work. In fact, before the words even crossed my tongue, I had instant regret. I KNEW it was wrong. I KNEW they were sarcastic, snarky, unkind, and hurtful. And I KNEW they were designed to embarrass her. And they didn’t make me feel important. They made me feel awful. They made me feel like a jerk. But the thing that surprised me the most was her reaction. Her reaction? Her reaction was NO REACTION. She just kept eating her sandwich as if nothing had happened. Was it because she was used to this type of treatment and had learned to simply tune it out? I will never know. But what I do know is that that moment in time changed me forever. It taught me so much. It taught me to treat others as I wish to be treated and to be empathetic. I raised my children with the Golden Rule as their standard and to stop and count to ten before they consider treating someone badly. That day changed me forever. (If any of my classmates from high school want more information, contact me privately)

Keep reading. That day in the cafeteria didn’t end my “relationship” with that young girl. Who knew that irony was going to kick me in the ass sixteen years later? John Belushi had just died. My second child was sixteen months old and had been admitted to the hospital with a serious bacterial infection and was dangerously dehydrated. As the nursing staff and various physicians were ushering me out of the room to prepare to hook my screaming daughter up to IV fluids, I am approached by the attending physician who was there to explain to me what was next in a very calming and professional manner. She was quiet, dignified, and obviously very caring. She made me feel better immediately. I looked into her eyes. There was something familiar about her that I could not put my finger on. It would come to me. Right now, I had to concentrate on ensuring my daughter’s well-being. Over the three days of my daughter’s hospitalization, my husband and I were both impressed by this doctor and her care of our baby girl. She established an instant rapport with her. She had a soft, melodic voice and achieved a level of trust that is difficult to describe but suffice it to say in a 16-month-old’s world, she was her buddy. She spoke to us at every juncture of treatment and always kept us informed. She was kind, friendly and had a beautiful smile. And then it hit me. She was my bullying victim from high school. She had grown into her looks, was quite pretty and was someone who obviously had more compassion and empathy that I could even hope to possess. As this realization washed over me, I realized I had to say something. But what? On the day of discharge, when things were less rushed, I simply asked her if she had been a student at our mutual high school, knowing full well what her answer would be. She acknowledged she had but stated she transferred to another school in her junior year. That was it. I struggled for several years over whether I should have used that moment to apologize to her for my horrible behavior back in tenth grade. I still don’t know what the right answer is. I will, however, be forever grateful for her kindness to my daughter.

This blog is getting a little long-winded, eh?

Nobody picks this girl’s pocket and gets away with it. Hell no!

So, then there was the time I was in college. It was a Friday night. We had cheap tickets to some off-Broadway show. We were getting on the subway and it was mobbed with people. I always try to be aware of my surroundings. As I am getting on I “just knew.” I had a purse on my left shoulder and it suddenly felt lighter. I turned around and the “gentleman” behind me is suddenly turning around in the crowded train, making a U-turn and making his exit. Without a thought, I grab his arm and in a loud, but ever so polite voice, say “Excuse me, sir, may I please have my wallet back?” My roommate is shocked and muttering “what the hell?” My other friends and passengers are all wondering what is going on and stop screwing around and the nearby cop is approaching. This is all taking place in a matter of seconds. The thief is dressed in a suit and has a coat over his arm. He reaches under his coat and at that moment I am flinching because I am convinced he’s either going to shoot or stab me. But this dude needs to understand that my father will be REALLY PISSED if I lose my wallet. I don’t need that kind of bullshit right now. It’s far easier to deal with a pickpocket than the ire of my pain in the ass Irish dad. So, the hand comes out from under the coat, holding not a gun, not a switchblade, but my wallet, which only had two bucks in it, because earlier I had taken the twenty-dollar bill and put it in the front pocket of my jeans. Anyway, lesson learned; now I only buy purses with zippered tops.

Another empathy-teaching moment

I am not sure if it was this specific order of nuns, but the sisters that taught me in grade school were, I am convinced, particularly cruel and in the cases of some problematic students, often borderline sadistic. One snippet in my memory occurred in the fourth grade. There was a boy in my class who was clearly troubled on so many levels. Thinking back and utilizing what we know in today’s jargon, I would say that he was on the spectrum. He was also overweight, awkward, and a poor student, but overall, a likeable, sweet, and sensitive kid. I always had a soft spot for him. He sat behind me in class. On our first day back to school after Christmas, he was fidgeting with the new watch he had received instead of paying attention. Without warning, Sister Mary Inflict Pain walked over to his desk, raised her ¼ inch thick yardstick and wielded it over her head in all her angry sexually repressed fury and brought it down in one fell swoop onto that poor boy’s watch, shattering it, all the while screeching at him in her Irish brogue. I will never forget his bereft cries and later the look on his face as I turned around to help him clean up, after the bitch walked away. He was just so sad. I couldn’t understand why a so-called person of God would do that.  I often wondered what became of my classmate. If he became a serial killer, I think the nun would have some explaining to do. What a cruel human being.

A few final thoughts – maybe call these snippettes?

That time I got hammered with then Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. That dude can drink. It was at a function where his then wife and several other people, including a friend of mine were being honored. I had the good luck of being seated at the same table. A good time was had by all. He and I were the life of the party.

That time I inadvertently insulted an 83-year-old woman on an elevator on a cruise ship implying that my eyesight was better than hers, (because I was younger) when attempting to see the buttons. A textbook case of open mouth insert foot. She was pissed off, rightfully so, and boy did she let me know it too. I was appropriately embarrassed and made a half-hearted attempt at an apology. Sometimes I just don’t think. I keep telling myself that I wasn’t trying to hurt her feelings. I just engaged the mouth before the brain. It wasn’t the first time and sadly I predict it won’t be the last.

Recurring dreams – what do they mean?

At the beginning of what I believe is my longest blog to date, I mentioned that I have two recurring dreams. I have no idea what they mean. Anyone with any experience in the study of dreams (Oneirology) and who has a theory about these two, very different scenarios, please reach out. The first is pretty benign. I’m young, under ten, in Riverside Park in NYC and a Good Humor truck drives in and my mom buys me a Creamsicle. That’s it -pretty uncomplicated. The second is a lot darker, much, much darker. In fact, it’s downright disturbing. In this dream I find myself in the middle of the Charles Manson murders of actress Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969. But I am upstairs, in bed, reading. I hear the commotion, have the presence of mind to turn out the light, remove the sheets, unscrew the light bulb and stuff myself and the sheets and hide under the bed to escape the slaughter. Does anyone have an answer? Was I destined for greatness somehow and wasted my life or am I just a weirdo?

I am questioning myself a lot these days. Decisions I have made, what my future holds, what more I want to accomplish in the time I have left. What I do know is that revisiting my snippets (really, I don’t have a choice, because they are always with me) provide me with some clarity, but always some questions too. If you read this long blog through to the end, I thank you for your patience and indulgence. This has been one of my more personal endeavors which I have found strangely cathartic. Thanks for reading/listening. Now, where is the bourbon?