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.