Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Winter Cleaning

This weekend the weather felt like Spring so while neighbors put up their Christmas lights Doug dragged the outdoor furniture into the garage. Until last week the '64 Avanti was in that spot. So many changes.

It was impossible to look at the furniture without thinking that a whole summer season has passed without Jimmy stretching out on the chaise lounge and telling me,

"No. We don't need new furniture. Just relax here with me. I heard
all the outdoor furniture stores are closed."

My mother-in-law has been (or should I say, my has been Mother-in-law?) nagging me to find her old photos from her wedding and 'the early years' Jimmy and his brothers were growing up. Jimmy's brother's wife had volunteered to put them all in an album.

It must be nice to have extra time like that. I have better things to do. Namely, Boston Legal, Medium, Heros, Desperate Housewives and Deal Or No Deal." Oh, and of course, The Office.

Somehow, years ago we ended up with Fanny's life in our basement. I have no problem tossing it back to her except that her black and white photos are no longer in a separate box. They got mixed with my life - in color - but not in living color - if you know what I mean, so I put off going through them.

I shook my head and wanted to tell Fanny that although my house is filled with photos of Jimmy I know they're there but I don't need a fresh rendition of "Through The Years." I wanted to tell her that. What I actually said was "Okay. I'll try to get to it this weekend."

I lied. I had no intention of going through those photos. I keep the winter coats in the same closet downstairs so I had to climb over the overflowing boxes of pictures to get my coats to bring upstairs to the coat closet. Jimmy had many more coats and jackets than anyone would have thought. He tended to wear the same one or two all the time. I guess, that's typical of a guy.

I remembered bringing his jackets downstairs last Spring after he died and thinking there's no reason to ever bring them back up again. There they were again.

A box of gloves and scarves had to be hoisted up and spilled out to change over the upstairs closet with more winter stuff. As I lifted I looked and saw a photo of Jimmy at Disney slapping five with Mickey Mouse.

I was hooked for the next four hours looking - often with a magnifying glass -how did that get in my hand? And, I saw our whole lifetime of events jumping out at me. We were happy in every one of those pictures and of course, we weren't always happy. But, when it's a bad time or a sad moment or a serious event only the paparazzi snaps a picture. For some reason they never followed us around.

When I was done I had Fanny's photos isolated in one box for her. I gave her the Jimmy photos from before he and I met. After that, I rationalized he was mine. Three boxes captured our 33 years of marriage and several before that - our engagement party at my Studio apartment in Queens, many years of opening presents at Christmas with the kids from infants to footie pajamas, around the table with family and friends at holidays, some dead, some dead to us... the kids with us on vacations, the usual times that make up our usual lives. Most moments only I'm left to remember.

Damn. All I wanted was my winter coats.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Photos from Thanksgiving 2006

Me and Sky.

Jax and Glenn - 30th birthday cake

Uncle Doug eating Sky's foot

Hosts - Connie and Trif

Photographer & God-daughter Katharine & boyfriend Pete

God-daughter Kristi and fiance Matt

Me and 93 year old Yai-Yai singing away...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thank Heaven For Little Girls & All The Grown-ups Too

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I lost a pound. Every time I sat down to eat Skylar pulled me up to play. This granddaughter diet is terrific.

Maybe it was the steady diet of good friends on Thanksgiving that helped me lose that edge of sadness that weighs heavily, too. As we laughed and joked and teased each other I felt lighter.

The dread of spending the first holiday without Jimmy became something else. For me, if turned into exactly what Thanksgiving is all about. I doubt if the pilgrams had me in mind when they made a turkey dinner and all the guests showed up ready to give thanks wearing those silly buckle shoes.

Still, as the pilgrams bowed their heads to count their blessings, thankful that they didn't poke someone's eye out with those weirdo pointy hats they were definitely on to something huge and I owe them big time. I never really got it until now. It took losing my husband to be grateful for all the wonderful friends and family members I have.

Before I get too sickeningly sweet let me add that not all friends and family members are included here. Oh, pleeez...I lost Jimmy - not my mind. Tragedy brings out the best and the worst in people. Although I lost a pound, I gained clarity and clarity is what I am grateful for.

Seeing that traditions are fragile, my kids and I broke from traditon and spent Thanksgiving with old old friends who knew and loved Jimmy best. He was there with us on everyone's mind and in every one's heart. We just had a little more room at the table and several servings of apple pie left over.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why The Long Face?

Jackie and Doug with 'Skypa' our future triple crown winner.

My father-in-law would bet on two cockroaches crawling up a wall. Anything for action. Jimmy inherited the gambling 'bug' and after our honeymoon in Las Vegas
I caught it, too.

Big difference, though. I can spend hours in a casino but horse racing is stupid. In between races it's just twenty minutes of waiting around with nothing to do. Oh, right. I could 'handicap' like Jimmy did - calculate past races, figure in if the jockey is having a good day, blah, blah, blah.

My method requires none of that. I choose a horse who has a cute name. Sometimes he catches my eye to psychically send me a message.

"Pick me - I feel frisky today."

Guess who won more often? Actually, neither of us. That's why betting on horses is stupid. More stupid than betting on horses is owning horses.

Jimmy inherited that obsession from his father, too. Charlie owned a few horses and loved them so much that growing up he told Jimmy and his brothers,

"I fell for your mother because she had ankles like a filly."

When we started dating I would check my ankles. Do I have ankles like a horse, too? Before long it was clear that Jimmy liked me from the waist up...whoe... since my children are reading - enough said.

Over the years we had several financial ups and downs. When we were up Jimmy bought horses. This quickly brought us down again. He would shake his head and say again and again,

"I love this game, but I have no luck."

Really? I hadn't noticed. In 1990, we actually had "Country Day" entered in the 116th Kentucky Derby - I have to admit that was a thrill - until the evening before the race when Country Day took a bad step and had to be scratched from the race.

Derby week in Kentucky is magical when you're an owner. Our family was treated like royalty until the foot incident. The next morning we were already old news with nothing to show for it but a lame horse and an printed program to prove we could have been contenders.

It's silly to list all of the horse disappointments and disasters, but there were plenty - To me, horses = disappointments. And, horse people seem to make excuses for everything.

"My horse would have won if it wasn't for those other two who passed him." Duh.

Today, however, I am the sort of proud owner of James Scibelli Racing Stables, Inc. I inherited four two year olds - a hobby/business that I groaned and moaned about all these years. Each month I pay exorbitant fees to trainers and vets. My hand wobbles writing these checks as I realize these freakin' horses get more new shoes every few weeks than I get in a year. They have four feet and they're running around (literally) a lot more than I am, but still...

Why don't I just sell them? Because I promised my son Doug who loves the track and spent so many memorable moments with his Dad in the paddock and actually in a few winner circle photos, too that we will play out his father's dream. One of these four two year olds that we're left with may be 'the one.' (at least champion enough to earn his keep and pay for his own shoes)

So now that Doug and I are 'partners' he explained a few papers I've found and phone calls I've gotten these past months. He confessed that

"Dad had 50% of this horse - Oh, and 25% of that horse. He would tell
me, 'Don't tell your mother.'

Nice. Some widows find jewelry meant for another woman or love letters - I find a half a horse here and a quarter of a horse there.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 25th Skypa, the first of our two year olds will be running his first race at Aqueduct. Jimmy had named him Skypa because his father was Stravinsky and his mother was Garopaba. It fit perfectly because 'Sky' was for Skylar our granddaughter and she called him 'Pa.'

I'm so much more excited about this race than I ever could have imagined. I wish I could have had this enthusism for racing to share with Jimmy. I know he was hurt that I wasn't one of the wives jumping and hugging their husbands as they watched their horse glide over the finish line.

Here I am, though, caught up with the possibility that as strange as it sounds just maybe in death Jimmy's luck may have changed. Friends say he will be there with us at the track. Just in case his bad luck lingers I hope he stays away until the outcome and meets us in the winner's circle.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Carrie Fisher Says It Right

This morning I read that Carrie Fisher is opening a one woman show this Wednesday in Los Angeles. I'm a fan, but I'm not about to rush off across the country to see her.

Still, the article quoted her and I felt it was spot on.

In her show she sums up:

"If my life weren't funny, it would be just true. And that would be

I can't believe I'm quoting Princess Leia.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some Things Never Change

So, I went to Atlantic City. I didn't go with my girlfriends. I went with my good friend Marty...who Jimmy and I have known for more than 20 years. Am I spelling out p l a t o n i c loud enough? Along with us was George and June who grew up with Marty.

What do four old Jews do when they walk into a casino at noon? They head straight for the brunch. After we piled up our plates like we were being executed in the morning we dug in and it got real quiet. My stupid mind began to wander...

"What am I doing here?"

"Jimmy would have gotten the omelet."

"This is banana cake? Ugh. I thought it was vanilla."

"I don't think I brought enough money."

"There's always the ATM machine."

"Last time I went over to the ATM here Jimmy caught me. Oh, God...I remember actually
looking over my shoulder and being nervous - like I was stealing."

"Everyone took care of themselves. Jimmy always brought a surprise back for the

"Oh, there are the people who stroll around and play music - I hate that."

"A request? Yeah. Go away!"

"The flute is right in my face."

"Are we supposed to stop eating?"

"The guitar player is looking at me with pity. Oy...like Cindy said it's like I have 'widow'
stamped on my forehead."

"Wait a minute. The guitar guy sees us as two couples. He doesn't know. Wow. Maybe
when I see people give me that look - they're not. I feel like a fifth wheel.
That's where it's coming from. It's coming from me."

After that brilliant epiphany I told Marty and he said "The guitar guy WAS looking at you with pity. He assumes you're with me."

Walking through the lobby, passing the statue and getting into the casino was hard. It wasn't harder than I anticipated, though. In my mind, I had already gone through all the possible 'triggers.'

Lots of people sound like Jimmy in a casino. Loud booming voices come at you from everywhere and big guys hunched over a blackjack table or crap table are a major part of the scene. I was braced for that, but I wasn't expecting was to feel
fine at the blackjack table and the three card poker table and the slots. (I try them all and lose at every one of them -every time)

Jimmy was a bigger player and so most of the time we gambled separately and then met up and entertained each other with stories about fun dealers, lucky hands, weirdo people at the table, etc. Of course, that part was missing, but, I realized this still can be my enjoyment, kind of a hobby. Zipping over to a casino now and then is not like dancing alone.

The casino enviroment brings such a variety of people and many of them are elderly.
Seeing older people out and about doing what Jimmy loved so much brought home again how Jimmy was cheated. It makes me want to go back in time and let him know -

"You won't be old. You don't have much time. Do what makes you happy."

Those of us who loved him and are left here are doing just that these days. This is why I'm glad I went. Of course, if I had won I would have been more glad. Some things never change.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Into The Closet

I have a running conversation with Jimmy in my head that only stops when I'm asleep. I doze off and we both rest in peace. This is not all that different from our marriage.

I'm sure his version of heaven didn't include hearing me whine, "Why can't you help me find my keys? Wait a minute...are you deliberately hiding them so I can't go out? Will something bad happen to me if I leave the house today?"

Then I wonder if he's protecting me from harm so that he doesn't have be with me again so soon. That's my theory for my mother-in-law's longevity. Fanny's husband's been dead for almost 25 years and he's probably up there whooping it up. Our loss will be his gain...or the end of his fun (for all eternity)

When I really want to have a heart to heart with Jimmy I go into the closet. Surrounded by all his shirts and slacks and shoes I am more with him than anywhere else. It's easier to find than the cemetery. And, let's face it, there's no pressure to bring flowers.

The other day I needed to talk with him about whether or not I should go to Atlantic City to gamble. Casinos have always been our playground. On our honeymoon we went to Las Vegas. Just last January we spent New Year's Eve in Atlantic City and two weeks later we were in Vegas for a few days.

In July I made plans with Barbara and Judy to go for my birthday and I cancelled a week before. It just didn't feel right. I couldn't imagine walking by the familiar statues at Caesar's or seeing a heavy set guy leaning over the crap table. Jimmy's voice would be the voice I'd hear each time a "Yo - Eleven!" would ring out throughout the casino. And, okay - I felt guilty that I was still here able to enjoy what he never could again.

The day we had chosen to go was July 6th - the day before my birthday and only day in the history of New Jersey that they closed the state for 24 hours including all casinos. I don't remember the reason for that political move by the governor, but I do remember getting the heebie jeebies thinking if I hadn't cancelled I would have been convinced Jimmy was pulling some strings saying, "Oh, no you don't. You're not stepping into a casino without me!"

Now it's seven months and I stood in the closet waiting for permission. Defensively, I told him I was pretty sure he would have gone by now if I was the one who died. I promised him I wouldn't bet more than I usually do. I knew as soon as I said that it wasn't true. I took it back.

"Come on" I said - "You know I'm going to bet a little heavier without you to answer to." I felt his exasperation. He was sensing that I was experiencing a new kind of liberation, something a wife never feels within a marriage and if it's a good one, shouldn't.

So, now I'm liberated. I'm standing in the closet explaining myself to four rows of neatly folded sweaters.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Celebrity Baseball

At Yankee Stadium - Jimmy holding 'the duck' and me.

Each season brings it's own memories. This year's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers made me react as I do every year...."Who cares?"

True, I'm not a baseball fan, but even New Yorkers who ARE baseball fans had zero enthusiasm this year, too. If a New York team’s not in it we’re not into it. Jimmy was a Yankee fan and I'll bet he wouldn't have even watched.

Seeing glimpses of the World Series on my way to another channel and closing the paper on the Sports page did bring back the memory of game two of the Subway Series in 2000, though.

I was sitting next to my husband in a seat he could have scalped for big bucks or given to one of his begging buddies. I felt unworthy.

“I know you don’t care about the game, but if I come home and tell you I saw celebrities you’ll kill me!” he said.

When Jimmy died this Spring so many fellow Yankee fans told me that his antics at the seats were more fun to watch than the game. I nodded remembering my first game with the man they called “The Duckman.”

Yankee Stadium was vibrating inside and out. It was the first time two New York teams faced off since the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. Even I could see this was a big deal and it would draw a Kodak crowd.

From the second we parked our car in the lot for season holders and ball players I was on high alert for a celebrity citing. Famous people start and end at this point and I was ready for the fake bump in, a little system I invented, but never had the nerve to do. Basically, you inch towards a celebrity pretending not know it’s them and then stumble into them. This forces them to say “That’s okay” to your “I’m sorry” which qualifies as a ‘conversation.’

Jimmy’s seats were the legend seats, first row behind the blue wall, with an incredible view of third base straight ahead if you want to see the players run home or an even greater view of the Saturday Night Live seats to the right, if you wanted to see what Jack Nicholson smears on his hot dog. Guess which way I faced the entire game?

Jimmy’s loud heckling voice had been known to rattle the opposing team as they warm up just a few feet from us and because he was funny he got the crowd laughing and hooting along with him. At crucial games he brought out ‘the duck’ a tiny (one inch high) yellow rubber duckie. He waited until the Yanks really needed help and then he’d stand and show the fans his good luck duck, but also as he put it, “I want to show the duck the crowd.”

We never named the duck. He was always simply, ‘the duck’ and superstitious fans near ‘the seats’ would yell to Jimmy “We need the duck!” Jimmy told me once, an employee of Yankee Stadium came by and with a straight face said, “Mrs.Torre would appreciate it if you bring out the duck now.” I never believed him.

This day we sat near P. Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy) who sat next to the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Jimmy yelled over,“The two best rappers in New York!” They smiled and waved and I’m sure I heard the Reverend say, “That’s The Duckman.”

Penny Marshall, a huge Yankee fan, was nearby, too. She posed for a photo with me and as she whined about the score Jimmy leaned over and used Tom Hanks line from her movie “A League of Her Own”, “There’s no crying in baseball.” She laughed. Jimmy made Penny Marshall laugh. Then she said, “Yeah, I knew I should have cut that line.”

My husband was having a conversation with a celebrity and he didn’t even have to do the fake bump in. Suddenly, I was loving baseball. I had no idea the game was so much fun.

The best was yet to come, though. The game was over and the Yankees had won it 3-1. People in all variations of Yankee and Mets wear were bopping out of the stadium to the piped in Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” The parking lot was a maze of cars, vans and limos and one frustrated policeman was attempting to direct the traffic.

Jimmy jumped out of the car and ran over to help him. As I rolled down the window to yell “What are you doing?” I saw Paul McCartney hop out of his limo and heard him say in that adorable English accent, “I’m going to help the big guy.”

There they stood side by side, my husband and my favorite Beatle, waving their arms and getting the cars moving. I watched Adam Sandler run over to shake Paul’s hand. Because Jimmy seemed to be Paul’s pal he shook his hand, too. Bill Murray appeared and did the same.

My mouth hung open as Paul McCartney strolled back to his limo, slapped five with my Jimmy, and said to him,“I think it was the duck.”

I went home with a celebrity that day and of course he got lucky that night. These days I keep the duck on my night table next to my bed and the night when David Eckstein of the St.Louis Cardinals, (a bird team a duck may prefer) drove in the game winning double I held the duck up to Jimmy and told him in Paul's English accent, “I think it was the duck.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What If We Lived Life Backwards?

Okay, I admit it - the following is not original - It was sent to me by my ex-ex bereavement counselor (yes, I quit group number 2 - if only it had been this easy to give up smoking)

I've racked up three sessions in two groups - if I join another I'm hoping to get credit for the six I suffered through, but I have a feeling I'll be told it doesn't work like that. Yeah, well, so far it hasn't worked PERIOD.

Anyway, the source of the little ditty is "A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative" by Roger von Oech. If you have a moment, check out his amazing website.
I'm going to put it on my blogroll http://www.creativethink.com .


The life cycle is all backwards. You should die first and get it out of the way. Then you live for 20 years in an old-age home, and get kicked out when you're too young.

You get a gold watch and then you go to work. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement.

You go to college and you party until you're ready for high school.

Then, you go to grade school, you become a little kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating, and you finish off as a gleam in somebody's eye.