Saturday, July 28, 2007

Who Jumped Into My Body?

Yesterday I opened the back door and actually breathed in the summer air without retreating fast to my crisp air-conditioned kitchen. Instead of my usual "Ugh. It's hot. My hair" I was "ahhhh. The sun. Feels good."

Scratch my concern about my hair because it's been straighened the new Brazilian way. But I'm dumbfounded that I've spent a lifetime avoiding the sun, the beach and convertibles and yet just this morning I couldn't wait to be outside manuvering a push broom to sweep my front steps. Then, I grabbed the garden hose and like an old lady warning "Get off my property" I nosed the nozzle at my driveway. I saw a rainbow. It was wonderful. It was invigorating. "Look Jimmy, I'm outside!

If Jimmy is watching me, I know he's pissed. He would beg me to go to the beach. I hated the scratchness of the sand. He'd promise to drive his convertible slow enough so my hair wouldn't look like a rat's nest. Of course, he lied. How do you do 20 mph on the Long Island Expressway? He'd conjole me to have coffee with him on the deck and I did...until the sun got too intense. (6 minutes)

I happily lived in a dark cold cave and now that Jimmy is no longer alive I suddenly appreciate what he wanted me to soak in with him. LIFE. Yet, if he hadn't died I never would have deeply known how fragile life is, how the sand can hug my heel and my arch and make walking a whole new almost life affirming experience. I guess, it's not always about the shoes.

I so regret that I didn't take more strolls on the beach with him and that we rarely just sat together sipping a cold drink on a hot deck. It took losing him to understand.

Don't get me wrong, though. I haven't turned into a nature freak. I may be seduced by the smell of freshly cut grass, but I'm still not about to roll around on the lawn and risk staining my white pants.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lucky Me - 07/07/07

I'm baaack. After nearly three months of sitting on my hands (not literally) here I am blogging again. I wrote my last post almost a full year to the day that Jimmy died and it felt then like a natural ending for the blog, too.

Also, people "in the know" warned "If you put it all out there on your blog no one will buy your book."

To those "in the know" people I say, "You don't know squat." People "not in the know" know just as much. This leaves "people who only know a little" and they voted "undecided." Some didn't come out to vote. They just stayed home and washed their hair. All this is not important. What is important, at least to me, is that I am eager to write and fill in these last three months.

After the dreaded year anniversary passed it clicked into my thick head that this is it, my life is going to continue on without Jimmy. It's not that I expected him to come back. I just didn't expect it to get easier. It has. Something shifted.

Coming home to an empty house is not as jarring as it was. It no longer feels so weird to make plans without checking. Only a handful of months ago I'd be out and suddenly I'd panic. I'd need to be home. I felt out of place wherever I was.

These days I'm fairly comfortable shopping, traveling and eating alone. "It is what it is" I tell myself. This says nothing, but somehow explains everything.

Memorial Day Weekend I took off my wedding ring. Why? I'm not sure. My friend's six year old who knew Jimmy looked at my hand and asked, "Is that a wedding band?"

After I nodded yes I wondered if maybe this was the time. It was spontaneous in the sense I didn't plan to do it, but I was aware that once it was off I wouldn't put it on again. That night I had a long talk with Jimmy in the closet. He understood. I feel married and not married and I needed to look at my ringless hand and remind myself. It was a way of moving forward.

Gene, my bereavement shrink laughed when I told her I talked about it with Jimmy. She said, "That reminds me of what widows do when they're ready to remarry. They go to the cemetery to ask for 'permission.' I told her I understood that. She smiled and said, "Isn't it interesting that none of these husbands ever say 'no?'

So, tomorrow is my birthday, my second one without Jimmy. Four of my closest couple friends are taking me out to dinner at The Crescent Beach Club. I've learned that the trick to not feel like a fifth wheel is just to be myself and to keep reminding myself that that's enough. It's hard to sit there and watch the intimacy between two people, but when they begin to bicker it helps.

My birthday, tomorrow is 07/07/07 - the reason I've always felt I'm a lucky person. I was 27 in 7/7/77. I don't remember that being a particularly great year, though.
It's clear that feeling lucky is a state of mind.

Recently, a new doctor asked me questions and I was forced to face that my life doesn't look so good on paper.

Doc: Are your parents living?
Me: Well, my father died in 1967 at 57. My mother is still alive. She's 82.
Doc: Is she in good health?
Me: Um, it's hard to say. We haven't talked in several years.
Doc: Any siblings?
Me: (Nervous laugh) My sister died 10 years ago, complications from crones disease.
She was 50. I'm beginning to feel like 'Queen For a Day' here.
The doctor glanced down at the form I had filled out...
Doc: I see you circled widow...
Me: Yeah. Just last year. Burkitts Lymphoma.
Doc: (nervous smile) I'm a little afraid to ask, any children?
Me: Oh, yes. Two. They're fine! They're fine!

My life doesn't look so good on paper. This is true. I'm kind of like the lost dog: Description: He has three legs, a chewed ear, and missing patches of fur. Answers to the name "Lucky."

Hey, life throws you lemons - just add vodka.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Measure of a Year

April 13th came and went. Tomorrow, April 18th, was the date of Jimmy's funeral. We said good-bye that day and it began the year that just passed.

April 18th was also our "Date-a-versary." Our first official date was April 18, 1968. Jimmy was eighteen and I was seventeen. We played Pitch and Putt, nine holes of golf. It was boring, but I told Jimmy it was great.

In those days most girls pretended to be into football or cars or all kinds of sex, or sex at all when they weren't. Soon I stopped pretending. I didn't want to have to play golf again. Or have the burden to remember to act excited about Ringo when I was really into Paul.

I remember I wore yellow. Lots of yellow to the golf course. I had yellow opaque tights and yellow hot pants, a silky yellow top and later, years later Jimmy told me how stupid I looked.

"It was like looking at the sun," he said. "the sun with big tits."

We used to go to the airport to watch the planes take off. I don't remember why, but we did. It was free. I guess that's why. We'd sit on the log in front of Carvel eating our ice-cream and I made fun of Jimmy because he always had vanilla in a cup with peaches. "That's a desert for a little old Italian man" I'd tease.

Friends and family tell me Jimmy would be proud of me now. They say this past year I've handled myself with dignity and courage. I don't know what that means, really.
Each day kind of fell into the next and decisions had to be made.

Jimmy's limo business is still up in the air, but I'm less frantic and more at ease about the outcome. I learned what a receivable is. I've attended business meetings and been on conference calls and sometimes I actually understand what is being said. Sometimes I even say something smart.

I sold two cars, a couple of horses, bought a new oven and redid the basement to be a playroom for Sky. We took a family trip to Aruba. These are some tangible things that measure the year.

The intangible is the love and support from my kids and from my friends. All have been beyond loving. My children are strong and caring and I try to fill some of their void and lessen a bit of their pain. But, I can't be Papa Bear for them.

I tend to hide away and do my best imitation of a hermit, but then an invitation for dinner draws me out. I'm a sucker for a glass of red wine to start.

I no longer avoid running into people in my neighborhood dreading their looks of pity or shock. I still feel more comfortable with my family and friends who knew and loved Jimmy. I feel safest at home and no, real estate brokers, I'm not selling the house.

I'm not dating. I've had some offers. That began at ten months. I clocked it. It's both flattering and disturbing.

I belong in a category that sets me apart. Widowhood is sad and strange and I miss Jimmy all the time.

Still, I wonder what next year will bring.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Continuing The Blog

I went to a writer's conference this weekend and although there were conflicting answers by "people in the know" most told me it's fine to keep the blog going even while planning to publish much of this material.

Was that a run on sentence? I guess I should have attended the grammar panel...

When I began this blog I planned to end it when the year ended. I reconsidered that, too. I realized I'm not ready to stop blogging just like I need to hold on to Jimmy's clothes.

Of course, I can afford to be sentimental. I don't need the closet space.

Will blog again tomorrow...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Year

March 14, 1950 - April 13, 2006
Much loved
Deeply missed
Always in our hearts
Love forever, Carol, Jackie, Glenn
Doug, Skylar and your Mom

This was in Newsday yesterday and I really should have added "and Jimmy's many many friends who loved him and misses him, too."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter At My House

Last Saturday I sat at my mother-in-law's kitchen table between her and my brother-in-law, Charlie. Every Easter for at least the past 25 years my family has gone to Charlie and his wife Gabie for this holiday.

Here it was the day before Palm Sunday and nothing had been said about Easter. I didn't get an e-mail requesting my famous chocolate pudding pie. Jackie, my daughter didn't get a phone call asking if Skylar eats ham. Nobody sent up a smoke signal to say,

"We're telling you to come at 3:00, but this is Carol time...since you're always late."

I asked, "Hey, Charlie, what's going on for Easter?"

He pushed his hair back in a nervous gesture. I could tell it was a nervous gesture because his hair was already neatly slicked back. He stuttered something about their good dishes being packed away since they're in the process of selling their house. I didn't catch the last part because he drowned out the end of his sentence with a self concious sip of coffee.

Before I had a chance to respond, "That's fine, but when were you planning on telling me this? Easter morning?" a peculiar conversation began between Charlie and Fanny.

Charlie: "What did we do last year?"
Fanny: "You know, I don't remember."
Charlie: "Let me think...
Fanny: "I have such a good memory. Don't I have a good memory? I must be losing it."

I silently moved my head from Charlie to Fanny, from Fanny to Charlie following their words like the ball in a tennis match.
Finally, I blurted out,

"Well, let's see - if Easter last year was next week Jimmy was in the hospital. And, if it was the week after, he wasn't anymore."

You can imagine the embarrassed groans of "Oh, yeah" from the two of them, Jimmy's brother and mother.

I don't expect everyone to remember, although most of my friends, do. It's kind of like we all expect important events in our lives to hold the same importance to everyone.

So often when I ask my friend what she's wearing to some event she answers,
"I think I'll wear what I wore to Lori's party."
Does she really think I can picture what she was wearing? I don't even remember what I wore.

As I said, we haven't varied the holiday in twenty-five years, so I can't imagine why there would be any confusion, anyway. So much for extended families. The best definition I ever heard of family is:

"Family is doing things you don't want to do with people you don't want to do them

I mentioned to Doug that Aunt Gabie isn't having Easter this year fully expecting him to shrug and say "Let's skip it." Instead he said, "Then, you have it."

Oh. Okay. Yeah. I guess, I could do that. I love that he expects of me what I don't expect of myself. Last summer he saw a stack of bills I was going to bring to Jimmy's assistant to pay for me. (Rae used to pay all our bills even when Jimmy was alive) Doug said, "You can't pay your own bills?" Since then I have.

Doug is a great combination of a helpful, loyal son but he won't take over. He knows I'm capable and I rise to that. It's working.

Tomorrow we'll be twelve people around the table and one little three year old running around looking for hidden Easter eggs. Tradition continues in it's own new way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Dream

Some mornings I have an awareness that Jimmy floated into my dream, but he hasn't played a starring role...until last night.

In my dream I'm sitting alone in a theatre. I seem to know the people on stage and suddenly Jimmy is there and he says,

"Let's go sit with the Luxury people." (Luxury is the name of a
Jimmy's company that I'm trying to sell)

I go with him and I sit down, but we're all the way to the side and it's hard to see. Everything looks out of focus, too.

That's it. I woke up. Later in the day I called my friend Mimi Scott who's an actress and a therapist figuring this is a perfect dream for her to analyze.

She said,

"You're making decisions independently that are making you feel good
rather than just going along. You're learning to trust yourself."

I think she's right. I thought about all the choices I made over this last almost year and and as hard as it is to make them alone, when I do, I feel stronger and more grown-up.

I believe if Jimmy came back tomorrow I would challenge him more. Although, I didn't in my dream...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thank You

The comments to this blog have been incredibly kind and sensitive and many people have told me that they read entry after entry at one sitting. They tell me not just to praise me, but also to blame me for making them stay up until 3 o'clock in the morning. I'm never quite sure how to answer this. Read faster, start earlier...what can I say?

I am simultaneously stunned and thrilled that my experience resonates with others and while it helps me tremendously to write, forcing me to pinpoint my feelings, it seems to be helping others, as well.

My goal is to expand this blog into book form. I'm working on a book proposal now and I'm searching for a new literary agent. I'm pretty sure that if I'm lucky enough to get an agent who will find "Poor Widow Me" a publisher, some bigshot will tell me to stop the presses on this blog or certainly limit the content. We can't have a fairly large chunk of the book's material out there on the internet while trying to sell the book.

I'm writing this now for two reasons. One, to thank everyone who has been reading and commenting and two, maybe you've noticed that I used to post approximately twice a week. I am purposely slowing down my entries to be about once every ten days so I can keep the blog active and yet not give away so much content. Capice?

So, I won't count this as a post because that wouldn't be fair and we all know how fair life is, right? I'll post a new entry tomorrow and from now on a little more sparcely - once every 10 days or so.

Thank you for reading and thank you for your encouragement. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bad Time To Be An Idiot Savant

I remember dates like Rainman counted toothpicks. Don't be flattered that I remember your birthday. I remember Mrs. Friedman's birthday and she was my second grade teacher.

My memory for dates is a talent with no real value, like baton twirling. Occasionally, I've reminded others about an upcoming birthday or anniversary and I've saved the day, but being an idiot savant is definitely not bankable.

Jean, my bearevment shrink warns me (and she oughta know - After all, she boasts every time that she's treated "THOUSANDS" of grieving people in her career) that as it closes in on the first anniversary people experience film like memories that are difficult because it's like watching a movie for the second time, but now we know the terrible ending.

She's right. I wish I could turn it off. I'm remembering dates and seeing scenes from last year even more acutely now. This past Saturday, the 10th which was the 11th last year was my brother-in-law's 65th birthday party (his actual birthday is March 6th) and Jimmy drove 45 minutes to his house in New Rochelle.

Thirty-three days later he was dead. How is this possible? Today, it's exactly 11 months and tonight last year we went to our friend Mimi Scott's reading. I didn't drag him like I did with some events. He liked Mimi and he didn't want to disappoint her. He threw up in the men's room.

Tomorrow would have been Jimmy's 57th birthday. I don't have to be an idiot savant to remember that, of course. I'd be a plain idiot to forget. I realize this.

The 15th was his first catscan, casting the beginning of concern that the pain Jimmy was feeling was not just indigestion. On the 22nd he had an MRI.

Also, on March 15th, this Thursday a year ago, Jimmy said something to me that I will never forget no matter day it was. As we waited in the doctor's office before his catscan with no reason yet to feel there was anything seriously wrong, he kept fooling around saying, "Sayonara. See ya. Nice to know ya."

Then, he stopped smiling, became thoughtful for a moment, and like it just occurred to him he said,
"Wow. What a life changer for you. It will be an adventure."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Music stirs so many memories and feelings that I've been forced to listen to the news while driving. I'm up on current events more than ever before. Jimmy used to have a perfect comeback if someone brought up a news story that he had no clue about. He'd say,

"I haven't been following that story."

It implies that he's aware of EVERY OTHER story, just not that one. It's very effective, unless it's something big, like "Anna Nicole Smith died? I haven't been following that story." For ones that grab the headlines for weeks, you have to make up your own story, like,

"I just woke up from a coma."

Lately, though, the news is even more depressing to me than hearing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. I can hear "My Girl" a song Jimmy sang to me at my 40th birthday party or "Hero" the ballad I put on the "This is Your Life" video I made for him when he was 45. They make me sorta smile.

There's a wistfulness surrounding me when I hear our song, "Our Day Will Come." We dated since 1968 and I remember so well waiting and waiting for 1972, the year we'd finally be married. Finally...we were 22.

I shake my head in amazement that our day came and our day went and now it's over. The story of us has ended. Jimmy's cousin Lew and Carole Yevoli made a Cd for me soon after Jimmy died with varying renditions of "Our Day Will Come." Last week I was able to listen to part of it.

Music makes him alive to me now and while there's a yearning, I don't move away from it or change the radio station so quickly like I did even a month ago. I feel us together dancing or what our interpretation of dancing was. After all, a white middle aged couple trying to look cool doing the the ancient cha-cha can be a hazard. Caterers should be instructed to put orange cones around the dance floor.

And, I can never again think of dancing without hearing what Jimmy said to me just weeks before he died.

"I wish we had danced more."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An Honest Woman

Jean, my bereavement shrink told me I'm a very honest woman. She said it like she doesn't come accross one often and that is just weird considering every other session she throws her hands up in the air and announces, "I've treated thousands of people."

Just in case I might mistake this 70 something for a new kid on the block, she repeats, "Not hundreds, but thousands."

I get it. I get it. Each day she sits in her high back leather chair with her feet up on the ottoman, holding her huge mug of coffee (I'm assuming) and tells another poor widow or widower or worse how everyone experiences grief differently.

I object. I doubt there are "thousands" of variations on the death theme. I doubt it a lot. She seems to take great pleasure repeating my questions.

I ask her: "Why am I mad at him, lately?"

"Why do YOU think?" she responds. AHH...can I kill her and get away with it? I wonder.

"Why does it bother me so much that he never cleaned out the garage? Should that matter now? Damn. I'm a terrible person." I say, slumping further down on the couch.

Again with the "Why do YOU think?" But, something shifts and I sit up and tell her that if he had cleaned out the garage I wouldn't have to see the sides to Doug's old bunkbed, the gray lacquer cradenza from two houses ago and the stupid outdoor cushions that fit chairs that are long gone. I'm stuck seeing them through only my eyes and there's no one here to say,

"Oh, God, remember when Louis the decorator made us buy that?"

She has that 'It looks like we're getting somewhere look.' I furiously tell her that I'm not going to ask her why I'm focusing on the bad stuff. I already know. She bates me with a "Why?"

"Because there was so much of it!" I say, feeling PMSY even though I haven't gotten my period in five years. She puts down her coffee mug, takes her feet off the ottoman and leans towards me, "No", she says softly, "You're trying to not miss him so much."


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Living In a Refrigerator

Jimmy hated the winter. He was a big guy so it was always surprising to everyone how quickly he felt the cold.

"This wind goes right through me. Why do we live here? It's like living in a refrigerator" he'd growl and then throw in a couple of 'brrs' and shiver for extra drama.

Naturally, I called him a baby and if snow was convenient I'd scoop it up and throw it at him. If this is painting a picture of a playful snowball fight ensuing and ending in a major sex scene by the fire, it didn't go that way. It never went that way.

Snow to Jimmy an anti-aphrodisiac. In fact, it was probably the only thing that didn't turn him on. (although he did appreciate the hot chocolate)

"Why do people ski?" he say. "I like sand beneath my toes."

This morning as I looked out at the driveway that was transformed to a skating rink I thought I heard Jimmy's voice, "HA!"

I had to be in the city by noon for a luncheon for a
Gotham Networking luncheon at the Friars Club. My car looked like an igloo. Again, I heard "HA!"

"HA! Yourself" I said to a nearby photo. "It's invigorating and fun and scrapping off the car will be a challenge!"

Finding and then putting on my snow boots on was the first challenge. Locking the door behind me was another. The lock had froze and my key wouldn't slip in. I went back into the house and turned on burning hot water, poured it into a paper cup, then "ouch!" doubled the paper cup.

Splashing burning hot water on the lock worked and I smirked as I turned the key. As I inched like Tim Conway on the old Carol Burnett Show down the steps towards my car I slipped and hung onto the mailbox. Then, I realized I left the scrapper in the house and had steady myself and climb up again. The lock was frozen again. I stood outside with no hot water.

Brainstorm: I'll go in through the garage. I gingerly got down the steps and slid across the driveway to the garage door. I put the code in and open sesame - the garage lifted up and I went in - to the garage, but the door to the house was locked.

The 'fun' part was pretty much over and 'invigorating' had turned to freakin' freezing. I felt like a contestant on Survivor, except for the fact I was decked out in a cute little mink jacket, my neighbors were 20 feet away and it had only been 15 minutes.

As I ice-skated over to my trunk where I prayed I kept a scrapper I slipped again and this time grabbed hold of a skinny tree on the side of the driveway.

All these near misses made me think of what could have happened. If I had fallen and landed on my head I may have lived and been a burden to my children or choice number two I could have smacked my head even harder and been reunited with Jimmy.

Another "HA" somewhere inside my head gave me the wherewithall to balance myself. I would never hear the end of it from him if living in a refrigerator killed me.

Literally, I'd be hearing "HA! HA! HA" for all eternity.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My Shrink Sounds Like Jackie Mason

I'm beginning to attempt to use the word 'died.' Jean, my shrink says that 'passed away' is a cop out. She says that people fumble with the word 'die' to keep their loved one present.

She insists, "Jimmy didn't pass away. He died." Is she reminding me?

Her tone is biting and too aggressive for me. I'm feeling fragile. I've taken a few steps back and she needs to take it easy with me. Shouldn't she see this? Is this tough love or is she trying out new comedy material on me?

She doesn't stop. "If he passed away where did he go?" She waves her hands and as they float in the air she hesitates like she's waiting for the audience to get the joke.

The cackling of her imagined fans 'dies' down and she continues. "I also hear '"I lost my husband." ' I tell my clients. "No. He's not lost. He knows exactly where he is."

I'm squirming and becoming teary yet also finding this oddly funny. This sounds like a routine
that Jackie Mason might do.

When they told me Jimmy had ____ in my head I knew that meant he was ___. I never expected my husband to come back, walk in the door as so many people who have lost loved ones express.

Still, it's almost impossible for me to say he ____.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl Tradition

Superbowl at our house has been a tradition long before HD TV and flat screens and huge screens. For 30 years at least a dozen guys would gather around our 27" televison and later our 35" and last year, Jimmy's pride and joy, a 60" screen.

The grid for the pool was posted on the kitchen wall and nearby there were wings and cannoli's and Fanny's meatballs, food enough to feed the entire NFL.

Jimmy was the loudest among the loud and the funniest among the funny. He would fall to his knees and curse at the coach or heckle a player rooting like he was at a live game. Women were not allowed so I was never there, but I know this.

It always puzzled me that Jimmy was so unbending about the 'no woman' policy. He was normally extremely bendable. A brat like me could never be married to him if he wasn't.

This day was totally testosterone. Poor, displaced me, would have to find someplace to go. It wasn't easy in the early years when Jackie and Dougie were little. Superbowl games are always in the evening into the night.

After several years I saw it was senseless to argue. He did the shopping and the cleanup and before long Doug was one of the boys along with his friends and it was just Jackie and me seeking a quiet haven without a tv.

Me, being me would use it to my advantage all the rest of the year. Whenever I wanted him to go someplace with me or if I wanted to go with just my girl friends without him I would pull out the Superbowl card. It usually worked throughout the rest of the Winter and into the Spring and then again mid-January as Superbowl Sunday was around the corner once again.

The last 10 years it was a non-issue. I would go out to dinner with my cousin Marion and other friends and see a movie. I still used it against him, though. That was almost as much a tradition as the Superbowl party itself. It was our dance.

Today, it wasn't me who was displaced, but Doug and all of his and Jimmy's buddies. Everyone scattered. For Doug, Superbowl without his father must have felt like this past Christmas all over again. He went to a sports bar in the city and some friends joined him. Others stayed home with their families.

And, for the first time in 30 years I could have stayed home. It was quiet, too quiet. I went a few towns over to Vera's house, our friend from Junior High School who I've reconnected with.
She and her husband Jeff had a huge Superbowl bash...both men and women. There was enough food to feed the entire NFL. Missing were Fanny's meatballs.

I won the pool twice and I talked with old high school friends. It was comfortable. Back at home there were no hefty bags to be thrown out and no lingering food smells or friends with hoarse voices.

Tradition is a wonderful way to stay close, remain connected and make memories, but when the main link of the chain breaks, it's over. Jimmy's Superbowl parties are now in their own Hall of Fame we'll always refer to as 'the good old days.'

Friday, February 02, 2007

Photos From Aruba - Captions By Sky

"Hey, is Daddy copying me?"
"When I grow up I want to be just a silly as them...wait, I am!"

"Grandma loves me."

"That's my Grandma under that hat."
"I don't remember this restaurant."
"I think I like this place!"
"He's cute!"
"I have a very funny family!"

"Is Uncle Doug wearing my daisy?"

"Wow...The ice-cream cones are much bigger in Aruba!" "Mommy's tickling me again."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Life Is a Beach

We got home from Aruba last night and not a moment too soon to watch all the shows I had tivoed. My plan was to unpack immediately but "Desperate Housewives"and "Medium" was calling to me, similar to the way Jimmy would say,

"That Rocky Road ice-cream is singing my name. I can't ignore it. That would be rude."

It was good for us to be together and begin to feel complete as a family. Skylar was the star, enthusiastic about EVERYTHING...the beach, the pool, her sand toys, the casino (okay, that was me)

Being on vacation brought back memories of other vacations. In Puerto Rico when Doug was Dougie (and sometimes Dougsie-Wougsie) Jimmy and I tried to explain to him that 8 year old little boys aren't allowed in a casino. Dougie said,

"I'll just tell them I'm here to play 'the marble game.'"

We all flew to Vegas when Jackie was 14 and Doug was 10. Fresh off the plane and still in the airport Jackie took a handful of quarters from me and ran over to the row of slot machines. As she began to slip them in an airport Nazi goosestepped over,

"The children must stand 10 feet away from the machines" she said.
I answered, "Then, how can they get the quarters in?"

Watching Sky dig in the sand reminded me a trip to France when Dougie was 11. We were on the beach and he was playing in the sand. I said,

"See, he's not too big. We should have bought him a pail and shovel."

Jimmy motioned for me to see that Doug was facing away from the water and staring at a topless woman. His eyes were glued to her chest while his hands unconciously built too huge mounds in the sand.

That was the moment we knew for sure that he's straight.

I never liked the beach. First you get hot. Then, you get wet and then you end up hot with wet sand sticking to areas that sand is not supposed to be. Jimmy loved it. He could never be too hot. He'd walk outside on the stickiest day and declare,

"What a perfect day!"

Perfect? I could barely breathe. Perfect for a heart attack.

So there we were on the beach sifting sand on Sky's little feet to hide her toes, letting her dribble sand over ours and then wiggling them free to watch her giggle. All the elements were there to make Jimmy smile. Maybe he was.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Family Vacation

I'm writing this from Aruba. I know, poor me...sun, beach, pool, casino...Went today with Jax, Glenn, Skylar and Doug, something Jimmy and I talked about doing and probably this would have been the year.

In many ways it's a good thing we never took a family vacation with our adult kids. This is new territory. We're making new memories.

Skylar is 2 years and nine months and as we stepped on to the plane I heard groans from the passengers as they prayed we'd sit anywhere but near them. Kids on a plane is almost as bad as 'Snakes on a Plane.' Actually, snakes may be slimy, but they don't
scream out,

"I have to go pottie! Right now!"

Other than the normal kid stuff Sky was a perfect passenger and less noisy than the snorer behind me. I sat on the aisle across from Jackie and next to a couple in their sixties. (she was 60 - snuck a peek at her immigration form)

She was so sweet and sincerely interested in what her boring husband 'James' (yes, kill me now) had to say that I was 30% impressed and 70% nauseated. I tried to be honest with myself as I wondered, 'Did I listen to Jimmy so intently and respond this kindly to him?'

It reminded me of the conversation I had a few days ago with my friend Cathy, a widow for eight years.

"Howie and I were such kids. If I found someone today
I don't think I could ever love him as much, but I know I'd be kinder.
I wouldn't yell at him,

"You're fat, stupid and your mother's insane!"

I watched the woman next to me put her head on her husband's shoulder and I panicked, afraid at some point during the flight the fact might come up that the only shoulder I had to lean on was the arm rest. I looked around. Three in a row on Jet Blue, but a pair in each row.

Jimmy and I always held hands during take off and landing. It began at the beginning - on our honeymoon. The flight attendant sensed we were on our honeymoon and brought over a small bottle of champagne. Ever since then we held hands hoping for at least an extra bag of peanuts.

As our plane's pace quickened down the runway for lift off, my wonderful, sensitive daughter reached over to hold my hand. Nice, nice start.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ironing The Sheets

I just took the sheets out of the dryer. They were still warm and as I folded them I remembered at the very beginning of our marriage 22 year old Jimmy would iron my side of the bed to make it "toasty."

This sweet, romantic and seemingly gallant gesture was not completely unselfish. As he patted the mattress to call me to bed he would say,

"I made your side toasty - Now, you can make it hot."

Ten years or so ago it popped in my head.

"Remember when you used to iron the sheets for me?"
"Yeah, but now they're permanent press."

Recalling all the small moments that made up our life together is now my new life with out him.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We Were The Lockhorns

In our empty nest, dinner time was a free for all. Jimmy and I behaved exactly the opposite of the good manners we stressed to our growing kids. We talked with our mouths full, interrupted each other and often didn't bother to use a fork. No more need to set a phony good example.

I've noticed that eating alone frequently turns civilized people into grunting pigs. I have a leg up here. My table manners can't get any worse. It's kind of interesting in a disgusting way, but in a restaurant you can tell who lives alone by the way they 'forget' soup is to be eaten with a spoon and cherry tomatoes are not supposed to be picked out of a salad and flicked into the bread basket to score two points.

Eating alone sucks. My cooking sucks and I miss Jimmy's sarcastic comments. We used to say we were just like our favorite cartoon, The Lockhorns. Leroy, the husband would wisecrack about his wife's cooking, "If I say I like this, Loretta will you promise not to make it again?"

He also made fun of her hair (check) and her out of control shopping habits. (check) She countered with his laziness, his love affair with laying on the couch, "Leroy could stand to lose a few pounds, but he rarely stands." At a party, Leroy was rested and ready to flirt with all the busty, sexy women. (check)

Each morning at breakfast right after Jimmy dropped butter on his shirt, went upstairs to change and came down again I would read him The Lockhorns to give him material for later on at dinner.

I just started reading it again. I may have to stop. I miss my Leroy.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Sign

It's not like we never talked about death. We did. Jimmy concluded that he would go first and he had facts to back him up.

"First of all, I'm a man. Minus me seven years right there.
Second, you probably haven't noticed, but I'm about 100 pounds

We compared family history and that balanced. Aside from my father who died at 57 (a brain tumor brought on by my mother's aggravation) my sister at 50 (drugs, alcohol and taking herself too seriously) 'everyone else' in my family managed to glide into their late 80's and even 90's. Jimmy's Dad died at 72 and all his aunts and uncles on his mom's side lived into their 90's. Both of our mothers are living - mine is 82 and Fanny is 88.

Jimmy insisted (and the insurance company agreed)that my driving record put me at risk for an accident even though backing out of driveways so far has been my most major fender bender. Jimmy believed in God because of all the 'near misses' I had. "Someone must be watching over you." he'd say.

I slather on body cream and a host of moisturizers each night and we would joke that one night I would slip right out of bed and hit something vital or if I'm lucky, my head.

I love irony (not ironing) and sometimes I thought maybe I was going to die first because it would make such a good ironic story. After all, I'm the one who's in better shape and not responsible for the finances, etc. I have less stress. If I had a sudden heart attack everyone would say, "Oh, my God. She seemed so healthy." Jimmy would be shocked, too because he always said "My wife will never have a heart attack. How could she? She has no heart."

One time near Valentine's Day I was going to have a procedure (okay, liposuction)and
as a pre-op I needed to have a cardiogram. I saved the sheets of paper that showed my heart graph, enclosed it in my Valentine's Day card and wrote, "See - Proof - I do have a heart!"

Most of the time I agreed that yes, I would be left. Jimmy would go first. A few years ago my grown nephew asked me over and over again why we don't have a dog. "You love dogs," he said. "You should get one." he repeated again and again. I stuck to my answer, "Someday, I'll get a dog."

He continued "When? When? When?" like a five year old. Finally, his eyes opened wide and like he solved a big mystery said, "Oh, I know when...when Uncle Jimmy dies, right?"

I nodded sheepishly. I thought it would happen, but I thought it would happen 20 or 30 years from now.

With all our talking we didn't make a plan for contacting each other from the grave. Friends ask
"Do you sense him around you, in the house?" Aside from feeling closer to him when I'm in our clothes closet I really haven't felt his presence. I'm not sure if I feel cheated or if I'm glad.

We had over 30 years to put our heads together and decide, "Okay, if you go first I'll come to you each evening at 10PM and tap you on the right shoulder. Remember, when you feel that it will be me.

Why didn't we ever do that? Maybe, it's best. I would keep looking over my shoulder even more than I do now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What Do Widows Look Like?

I stare at women and wonder if they're married. Everyone needs a hobby. I stood behind a woman at Duncan Donuts the other day and she was so annoyingly bubbly I knew I'd see a ring on her finger.

As her wedding band taunted me I consoled myself with, "At least her manicure is dull and lifeless."

My view isn't that married people are happier. I'm not delusional. Married people are lighter. Sharing the load of life with someone frees us to hum silly songs and whistle favorite tunes as we skip down the street like Mary Poppins.

Don't get me wrong - I've never been a hummer or a whistler or a skipper. I've giggled uncontrollably but that usually involved an illegal substance. More recently, I sigh. I hear a long drawn out, "Ahhhhh"and realize it's coming from me...poor widow me.

To look at me you probably wouldn't know I'm husband less because I wear a ring on my left hand ring finger. It's diamond begets and small stones within a yellow gold band. Jimmy had it made for me over 20 years ago.

When I was feeling exceptionally happy with him I would switch off and wear my original plain gold band, the one from our wedding day. Jimmy never knew this. It's not like in the middle of a fight I would announce,

"Timeout. We'll go back to arguing as soon as I take off this gold band and put on the diamond one. HA! Just keep it up buster!"

When he died I was wearing the diamond one. I've told him I'm sorry, but now it's too late to switch.