Thursday, July 21, 2016

Are We Survivors THAT Needy?

Last night I dreamt my late husband was sitting next to me wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and tie. Talk about “all dressed up and nowhere to go…” 
Jimmy hadn’t aged a bit. I was just about to ask him what moisturizer he uses, when I opened my eyes, shook away my sleep and sat up knowing he’s been gone for ten years. He’ll always be 56.
dreamstime m 47447673I just turned 66 and believe me, very few 56-year-old men would date me unless his name is Quasimodo. Hence, I’m too old to date my dead husband. That realization shouted out how long a decade is.
In my dream I kept playing with his beard. The thing is Jimmy never had a beard. Mickey, my boyfriend, does. I pet it often. I woke up wondering what that meant. I didn’t tell Mickey, afraid he may think that I’m thinking about Jimmy as I touch his beard. I’m not. It was just a stupid dream.
Or was it a sign? I stopped looking for signs ever since, well, ever since years went by and I never got one. Early on my nephew Chuck saw his Uncle Jimmy twice a week.
Once I walked in the house and he said, “You just missed him.” Occasionally, he’d have a message from Jimmy. “He doesn’t like this green color you painted the kitchen...He liked your hair better before you cut bangs...He wants to know why your screen saver isn’t him.”
I’d say, “Chuck, your Uncle wasn’t all that observant in life. As a matter of fact, if I rearranged the furniture and dyed my hair purple he may not have noticed. I have a feeling these feelings are yours!”
Every so often I’d get a compliment. “He’s very impressed that you learned how to pay your bills on line,” Chuck would relay. That one was actually a two in one accolade because bill paying was Jimmy’s department and my computer skill stopped at turning it on.
As any widow or widower knows, honing new abilities is necessary. We adapt because we must. We drag out the garbage cursing the full stretch of the driveway and back. We fume because we didn’t sign up for this. We look up to heaven, “I’m getting older, but you wouldn’t know about that! You and I used to bounce from the car at a rest stop. Now I’m stiff and creaky after a 20-minute ride. I hobble to the Ladies Room and barely make it.”
As Bette Davis said and I said in my last post, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Life gives and takes. Poor Jimmy missed out on the joy of being with our grandkids yet he doesn’t have to deal with play dough in his hair. Does he see the humor in this? Does he see us at all?
When the ceiling fan fell, our one year old had just crawled away. Did he protect her? Maybe, but where was he when I left my phone in the cab?
Some report they find shiny pennies on their nightstand and out of nowhere white feathers float about. Aren’t those “universal” signs? How did that come to be? Are we survivors that needy? I wave away that “nonsense” and yet, there’s something familiar about that Robin Red Breast who edges closer than the rest.
Could Jimmy possibly be an inanimate object? Did he turn himself into a tube of lipstick so we could sort of, kind of kiss?
Sometimes my dog Tony, a little guy who only barks when the doorbell rings, stares at the wall and wags his tail. He barks and barks. There’s no sudden swish of cold air they say arrives with spirits, but I give Tony a treat so he’ll bark and alert me next time. And, maybe next time I’ll see Jimmy and it won’t be in a dream.

For some crazy reason comments can't be left here so if you feel like putting in your two cents (not literally) please email me at: carolscibelli@gmail.com

This blog was originally published in pathfindermag.com 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Being a Writer is Not for Sissies


At her 4th book signing in two years I gushed to the author “I can’t believe how prolific you are!” There was zero comprehension in her face. She said simply “That’s what I do.” I begin to tell her that I too, am a writer, an author, but so many days go by that I just don’t get the urge. Then, her face said, “Move along” so I did.

Off the line I read her inscription “Carol, hope you enjoy this book” and I knew that night I would read the first fifteen pages, put it down and click on demand TV. Or I might play video poker on my phone, fall asleep and dream about getting four of a kind.

Interviewers ask, “What books are currently on your nightstand? Now I can name her title along with the others I haven’t read. Which is my favorite? That’s easy – the one I use as a coaster for my wine glass.

After I left the signing my schedule was wide open so I did what I do most days to avoid writing. I shopped. I convinced myself that it was going to rain so I bought an umbrella since I was three blocks from my apartment and God forbid my hair gets wet – although I straighten it and have it professionally blow dried twice a week.

My husband left me well heeled. Damn him! Didn’t he know I would nap the day away, then sleepily eat take out while watching terrible news clips of people much less fortunate than me but with way more spunk?

“Yup, we lost our home” the couple clinging to each other croak. “But we have each other, Charlie, our pet pig and the man up above.” Their heads, as though choreographed tilt up together and just as they began a small salute to I’m guessing God, a branch from a charred tree cracks, sways and lands inches from Charlie.

“We’ll be just fine,” they say. The horrified reporter, forgetting her microphone is on backs away from them, blurts out ‘jinx’ and the screen switches to the anchor.  

I watch and wonder if it’s worth it to get up from the couch to heat up this last slice of pizza.

Note: Title adapted from Bette Davis quote: “Old Age is No Place for Sissies” which, of course, is also true.

To comment please email me: carolscibelli@gmail.com  
I know there's a 'comment box' - but...not to get technical, because I can't - safe to say the only way to comment is to 'contact me' or email me. Thanks! Carol 




Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Interviewing Santa

This piece was originally published in a similar version in Pathfinder:Guide for the Widow/er's Journey

I assumed it would be impossible to interview Santa Claus so close to Christmas. Why would he agree to talk to poor widow me? He had nothing to plug. He wasn’t starring in a movie; he hadn’t written a book and he was too lovable to run for President.

Since Santa’s toys are basic, wooden and old fashioned (similar to Melissa & Doug puzzles) I communicated the old fashioned way. I called him...from my landline. I didn’t text him because how could he text me back with those chubby fingers?

Santa, THEE Santa did call me back and not from the North Pole. He was in Macy’s Department store, THEE Macy’s on 34th Street – from THEE movie “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Santa suggested we meet in the men’s room during his bathroom break. Really Santa? That’s just creepy. He clarified. He meant the Men’s Department. He needed a new black belt. His was 150 years old. It was time. I guess elves only make toys.

Santa looked sad. I thought it was because Macy’s didn’t have a belt in his size. There was more, much more to this Christmas story.

CS: Santa, there are plenty of stores in the city. One is
    bound to have a size 92 waist with a gold buckle. Can
    you do silver?

SC: It’s not that, Sugar.

CS: You remember that my nickname was Sugar when I was a
    kid?

SC: I remember everything. Is your mother still whacky?

CS: No.

SC: That’s good.

CS: She’s dead.

SC: (Santa starts to cry)

CS: It’s okay Santa. She’s at peace now and not annoying
    everyone.

SC: No. I’m crying because Mrs. Claus is very sick. I’m   
    afraid I may lose her.

CS: Is that possible? Aren’t you guys immortal?

SC: I thought so too. Apparently, a loophole in our
    contract. Who reads the fine print?

CS: You should give coal to lawyers and the little kids who
    will grow up to be lawyers!

SC: Carol I’m Santa Claus, not Cruella Deville. Anyway,
    Doc from the seven dwarfs warned Mrs. Claus not to eat
    so many of the cookies she bakes, but the smell...she
    can’t resist. Now she’s at risk.

CS: At risk for what?

SC: Cookieitis – Deadly. She’s beginning to have symptoms.

CS: Tell me what you’re most afraid of.

SC: What if she dies? I’ll be all alone.

CS: You have the elves and Rudolph.

SC: Your husband died and you had friends and family around
    you. Did it help?

CS: Not really, but maybe if I had elves. (laughs) Sorry.
    You’re right. I was lonely and it was scary for a long
    time.

SC: I’m terrified I won’t be jolly anymore. Kids all
    over the world are counting on me to be freakin’ jolly!

CS: You won’t be jolly for a while, but little by little
    parts of your old self will peek out.

SC: You mean first I’ll shout out “Ho!” and then the next
    week the other “Ho!” and then two days later the third
    “Ho?”

CS:  And, eventually you’ll put it together again with a
     “Ho Ho Ho!” And your ho-ing will be genuine. You’ll be
      happy!

SC:  I could never be happy again without Mrs. Claus.
     Anyway, the pickings are slim up at the North Pole.

CS:  You’re a catch, Santa. You work from home at a
     seasonal business, you’re a natural with kids, and you
     drive at night!

SC:  I’m depressed. I should throw myself into my work.
     Maybe I’ll make Christmas twice a year!

CS:  Running away from life isn’t healthy, Santa...wait,
     twice a year means more presents for me! Terrific idea!

SC:  Or, I’ll close up shop.

CS:  A hasty decision. Think of the elves on Unemployment.
     Hallmark will plummet and I own stock!

SC:  I’d hate to disappoint the children, though. Don’t you
     have grandchildren?

CS:  Yes, umm, of course, the children. It’s all about the
     ummm, children. Screw Hallmark. What kind of heartless
     person worries about stock prices at a time like this?
     I was just kidding.

SC: My cheeks will never be rosy again. She pinches
    them...sometimes a little too hard, but I like it, if
    you know what I mean...

CS: I do. So it’s Mrs. Claus who puts that twinkle in your
    eye.

SC: Yes, except one December 23rd when I was up against the
    deadline. We had Chinese food delivered to the
    workshop. The girl who brought it was a doll.

CS: A doll like a toy the elves make?

SC: Not quite. Let’s just say I almost put my slinky in her
    stocking!

CS: Santa!

SC: I said “almost.” Hey, I’m only human.

CS: No you’re not.

SC: Whatever...Ohh... Mrs. Claus is Face timing me! See?

CS: (looking into the iPad and waving) Hi Mrs. Claus. Long
    time fan, here!

SC: (to Mrs. Claus) You look wonderful, honey...And,
    healthy, like the old you! You seem full of energy
    like Rudolph did right after we got his nose to stop
    blinking!

    You are healthy? You’re cured? Doc said so?

    Santa spun me around and kissed me on both cheeks.
    The store’s piped in music played “White Christmas”
    and he began to sing along.

    He winked at me as only Santa could and then he
    skipped away towards the shoe department, holding his
    iPad close to his beard. I think he was kissing the
    screen.

    Outside of Macy’s, the beauty of the season was unfolding.
    The first winter's snow was starting to stick right there 
    on 34th Street. Even the grownups were giddy; They were 
    gliding and stomping and loving the sound of the crunch under
    their boots.

    Did Santa singing “White Christmas” make it snow? How is 
    this possible with global warming? The temperature here in 
    New York is 70 something...in December! It couldn't be snow! 
    Perhaps some editor was shredding my latest submission and
    tossing it from a building above me. It wouldn't be
    the first time.

    I tasted it. Nope. It was snow all right - Magical snow conjured
    up by a relieved Santa. I was thrilled to be the first person to 
    report this story, however Santa could have warned me. I was
    wearing four inch heels.

    But, hold on, I had met Santa Claus, THEE Santa Claus
    and Mrs. Claus was going to be okay and there would be
    a jolly Santa and Christmas this year!  

    Still my shoes were ruined and my hair was wet and
    frizzy.
         Merry Freakin'Christmas!
   

   
















Tuesday, December 01, 2015

THANKSGIVING - WHAT DO I HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR?

A version of this post was originally published in Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey
Holiday time begins with Thanksgiving. It should be mandatory for first and second year widows/ers to shout out “What do I have to be thankful for?” Go ahead. Embrace your bitterness!
While Aunts and cousins are taking turns announcing they are thankful for their husband’s promotion or for their gorgeous new home it is the perfect time to broadcast that your husband has also changed addresses. He now lives with God, a more loving roommate than you were, but not as sexy.
Loved ones never touched by tragedy will insist you have both drumsticks and all the peach pie you can eat. Enjoy because by year three your celebratory spirit will most likely kick back in. The yams with marshmallows will taste almost as sweet as when your family was in tact.
If you’re dating now and you ask the host to bring your new plus one for Thanksgiving dinner just know that this year you’ll have to concede the drumstick to Aunt Edna. Her husband died in August. She's on the front lines. You're a vet, now. And, anyway, your widow card has expired.
Even though nine Thanksgivings have passed since my husband Jimmy has, holidays spark my memories. A turkey on a platter reminds me of the year my husband proudly trotted out the turkey and in full view of everyone seated and salivating, the bird slid off the platter and splattered all over the dining room floor.
My husband picked up the turkey, put him back on the platter and on the way back to the kitchen announced, “I’ll just bring out the other turkey.” Naturally, the ‘second’ turkey was presented to the crowd already sliced. Nice job, hubby.
We tend to eat extra and with greater gusto starting on Thanksgiving and continuing straight through New Year’s. But, hold on here! We lost our spouse. Aren’t we entitled to wolf down 14 potato latkes? And, when Uncle George brings the kids a chocolate turkey so big it’s practically clucking, we have a responsibility to teach them to share, don’t we? After all, we’re the Last Grandparent Standing!
Stuffing our faces is our way of saying we are doing our best to keep up the holiday spirit. Since some of us are back on the market, though, we may resist putting on the pounds. A study from the doctors at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical center has discovered that the music we listen to while we eat may affect the weight we might gain.
They measured the energy expenditure of 20 infants born preterm while listening to Mozart in their incubator. The findings showed Mozart lowered by at least 10% the quantity of energy they used. This means the babies may have been able to increase their weight faster.
This screams out: Do not listen to Mozart! You may be in danger of looking like the ‘before’ photo. Turn on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” even if it depresses you!
So, go ahead and have that fifth glass of eggnog. Just be sure that when you lift your glass to make a toast the background music is lowbrow, like Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. By the way, I used to think that song was funny…until I became a Grandma.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Easy to Hang on to His Clothes If You Don't Need the Hangers!

A version of this piece was in the Pathfinder's Magazine last month. 

My husband used to say, “If it’s a Kodak moment, we don’t need a Kodak.” If that’s true, as long as our memory is still in tact, maybe it's not all that crucial to hold on to mementos.

What we widows/widowers keep or easily toss is as individual and intimate as our marriages were.

That said, at some point I needed more closet space. My wardrobe was expanding because no one was there to sarcastically remark, “Do you really need another pair of black pants?”
I know. You'd think a man who was married for over 30 years would know that women can never have enough black pants or black anything, actually!
Here it was a year and a half since Jimmy died and the closet was jammed with black everything. My daily habit of bringing my morning coffee into the closet and reading Jimmy our horoscopes while I sat cross-legged on the floor, was reduced now to on average once a week. 
I noted that my visits weren’t social, anymore. Our closet - my closet was turning into a closet again. I’d go in and take my clothes out. Period. Sometimes I’d blow a quick kiss and mumble, “Hiya, Jimmy, love ya.” More often, I’d come and go and I didn’t speak to him at all, just like in real life when we were mad at each other.
The day when I was fresh back from Bloomingdales with no room to hang my new outfit convinced me that perhaps I was being much too sentimental holding unto my husband’s clothing and the much-needed hangers they were on. Let’s face it; it’s easy to hang onto stuff when you don’t need the hangers.
Cleaning out the closet to make more room for poor widow me was not as traumatic as I was afraid it would be after my friend told me about memorial quilts, sometimes called memory quilts.
The memory quilt was a wonderful idea because I wasn’t really getting rid of his clothes. I was condensing them into a blanket for snuggling.  
I took all of his shirts and pants and even ties, ones that my husband wore most frequently and had them cut into four-inch squares and sewn together with a backing. Voila! A forever quilt!
Jimmy really wasn’t much of a clotheshorse, so that quilt could have been the size of a napkin or a potholder. Okay. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
I made one for each of the kids. They were thrilled. For an idiotic second, since it was such a magnificent thought and deed, I imagined that that year I could get away with making their “Dad Quilt” their one and only Christmas present.
Who am I kidding? popped into my head. After the gushing stops and the tears dry next would be ‘What else did you get us, Mom?’
My daughter has her quilt over the back of her couch in her family room and my son has it spread on his bed. I visit Jimmy each time I visit them.
I almost made one for myself, but I didn’t. I thought ahead. I wasn’t dating yet, but I knew at some point I would and what if ‘new guy’ sits on my couch next to my late husband’s entire wardrobe?
And, what if ‘new guy’ happens to be wearing the exact same pattern shirt as one of those little squares? Talk about a mood changer...

In my first bereavement group the one and only widower announced to us widows that he “got rid of” his wife’s entire wardrobe the day after her funeral. If ‘stunned’ could make a noise the room sounded stunned.

Collectively, we knew not to be judgmental, but our silence shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you, Mister?”

Cold widower melted right before our eyes, though, as he struggled to express his needs to eliminate all of his bad memories. Her clothes represented the four years that his wife had suffered. 

“There was not one blouse or pair of pants that gave me a good sentimental feeling,” he explained.

“When I looked at her orange top it made me sick inside. She was wearing that the first time she sat in her wheelchair and she called her jeans and blue blouse her lucky chemo outfit. Obviously, not so lucky...” His voice trailed off and he had tears in his eyes.

Our leader smirked as if to say, “I told you to wait and hear him out.” I guess she was relieved that she didn’t have to break up a rumble.

The next week nine horny widows brought him in a casserole.

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