Sunday, November 27, 2011

When Your Daughter Turns 35…

Me and Sky
Oh, my…there is no amount of Botox or Restylane or any of the fillers on the market today that will transform me to 45 now that my daughter is 35.  Her big mouth gives me away, not to mention my face that screams 50-something.  I know I’m old because I’m happy at 61 that some may guess I am ONLY 55.  Yikes!
Tonight we all went out to dinner to celebrate my daughter turning 35.  Oh, and just for the record – no – even at 35 we are not friends. If you’re friends with your adult daughter you give up the right to tell her – among other things – that her skirt is too short.
There we were – our family – Fanny, my mother-in-law, my son, Doug, my nephew Chuck and my daughter’s boyfriend, Angel.  Oh, and that real angel, my little granddaughter, Skylar, who I take every opportunity to tell that she can do and be anything that she wants to be.   Tonight she responded by bombarding me riddles and hopping on and off of my lap. Hey, she’s only 7 and a half!
My own words made me wonder, though, what would I have done differently with my life if I was back at 7 and a half and from a sane, loving family?  I’ll never know…but I do know that at least I was aware enough to recognize the right man when he came along.  I grabbed him and married him at 22 and started popping out a family four years later.  Voila…there they were tonight…at the table…That wasn’t a mistake.
I don’t remember why, but at some point during the evening Doug quoted comedian Louis CK .  “You’re not a real woman until a little person comes out of you and then walks all over your dreams.”

Did that happen to me? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No…Who knows?
do know that I’m still here and hopefully I’ve got a few good years left to maybe, just maybe, do something semi-sensational and put a positive dent into a few lives.  And, how lucky it was that my son brought  press-on mustaches so we could take these goofy pictures to capture the moments that keep us young and silly and smooth out the wrinkles naturally.
Still, tick-tick-tick…ahhhhhhhh!
Doug, Skylar & Jacki in photo

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are These the ‘Good Old Days?’

As we were raising the kids, I assumed that it was ‘our time’ because the older generation told us so.  Yesterday, on Thanksgiving Day, I heard myself parrot this to my Goddaughter, Katharine, who is pregnant with twins.
“I’m sure it’s going to be hectic, honey, but try to enjoy it.  It’s your time and it goes so fast.”
Then I wondered if it’s really possible to press pause and soak it all in.  Can we recognize ‘the good old days’ as they are happening?  Another thought popped into my head. Something may be at risk here.  If we look  back and label ‘the good old days’ will it stop us from believing that ‘the best is yet to come?’
I poured myself another glass of wine and noted Katharine was drinking water.  I loved being pregnant, (when else can you do nothing and be so productive – after all, you are making a human being!) but I love wine, too.
I left the kitchen, walked into the living room, and looked at my son, a 30 year old man.   I see him and I see the future and that feels right.  I don’t miss Dougie, my little boy, I guess because it was a gradual growing.  Doug caught my eye, winked and smiled. After dinner, our plan is that he and my nephew and I are off to Atlantic City together.
Six Thanksgivings have passed since my husband died and we never picked up our old tradition for that day again.  Each year my kids and granddaughter and nephew and I are ‘taken in’ on Turkey Day by my very close friends Connie and Trifon and their tribe.
At first we felt like orphans, our noses pressed against the window, but we’re comfortable now and tease them – “Hey, can we have a drumstick to go?  We’re spending the rest of the holiday at a Blackjack table.”
So, I question tradition.  What is it, after all when this year even our substitute tradition has changed.  And, it wasn’t just the skipping off to a casino…
This year my granddaughter, Skylar spent Thanksgiving with her father, and his girlfriend and her family complete with new ‘cousins’ and ‘grandparents.’  To spin the positive for Sky I tell her that the more people who love her, the better, but I leave off how permanence can be fleeting.  My little girl is aware of this already, though.  At seven, she learned it way sooner than I did.
My daughter Jacki opted to be with her boyfriend’s family for the holiday.  It’s good for her to watch and learn the dynamics of a possible new brood.  And, next year, who knows?
So, did I have a happy Thanksgiving this year?  It was fine enough.  Maybe the trick is to just keep making memories and maybe one day we may actually refer to today as ‘the good old days.’

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alone Again, Happily…

Friends and family are so concerned about me “being all alone in that big house”  that when they visit from out of town they stay with me and willingly give up room service, mints on their pillow and they unselfishly abandon all sense of privacy…theirs andmine.
It’s a freakin’ love fest each morning to witness the parade of cheeks with sleep lines and lips with no lipstick stumbling down to the kitchen in their pajamas or whatever odd combo of tee-shirts and sweatpants they decree as comfy sleep wear.  They greet me with “This is so great to see you first thing in the morning!”  Luckily, their bleary eyes can’t tell that at 7:00 AM I’m not quite ready for my close-up.
But, I’m gracious and accommodating –because my mother was not.  She had a strictly enforced ‘kitchen closed’ sign and by the sad hunch of my father’s shoulders I suspect soon after I was born she also shut him out of the bedroom.   In those days, a visitor to sleep over?  Take my place, pleeese.
For whatever shrinky-dink reason, once Jimmy and I were married our house became the place to stay and despite the missing silverware from time to time, he and I always enjoyed the late night talks and the early morning coffee with strange feet in slippers resting on the coffee table.
I still love company – please don’t write in or call and say, “Whoe…I thought you enjoyed our little visit.”  I did.  I’m just glad it’s over, that’s all.  I’ve gotten used to the quiet and being able to say to myself, I ran out of peanut butter…who cares?  That’s so much more relaxing than standing in the supermarket texting “Do you prefer chunkie or smooth?”
And, even after guests go, they leave behind a phone charger or favorite blouse and this bed and breakfast has to mail it back.
One of the short moments in POOR WIDOW ME is:
Living Alone
The ice in the glass had melted, but it was still there on the kitchen table.
Nothing moves if I don’t move it.
-    -    -   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   -
Today I might phrase it more like this:
Living Alone (I wish) 
The ice in the glass had spilled all over the night table leaving a big fat ring that will never come out.
Thanks for ruining my stuff.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

What is Normal, Anyway?

      “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries- deal with it.”  ~ Mean Jean, 2006

All the widows in the bereavement group groaned as the leader said, “I know you keep waiting for your life to get back to normal, but the reality is what you consider ‘normal’ is no more.  Now the challenge is for you to find your ‘new normal.’
This was five years ago but I can still see Ruth, the widow who sat next to me, practically jumping out of her chair to shout “I object” like she was in court demanding to approach the bench.
I remember thinking, Get a grip, lady and while you’re at it change your f%$#@ seat!  I don’t need Perry Mason to be sputtering and spitting all over me.  Hell, I’m grieving, too, you know!
I have no idea what happened to Ruth and if she ever found her ‘new normal’ which is as elusive as the “G spot” but for her sake, I hope she’s found one or the other or both.
Ruth never would have survived the techniques of Mean Jean, my one-on-one bereavement shrink.  If there is a ‘snap out of it school of shrinks Mean Jean graduated with honors.
She was typically rough when she brought up ‘the new normal.’  But since she often used fruit to explain life I found her gruffness entertaining, not to mention, healthy.  I always left her office craving a banana.
“Listen up, Pumpkin” she’d begin. “Life has thrown you lemons. Yes, it’s the pits.  Why? For one: Life is not a bowl of cherries.  For two: Refer back to the lemon analogy.”
Mean Jean’s mantra was, “Did you feel peachy all the time before your husband died? Of course not. Well, now you’re going to have many more of those crappy days.  Deal with it.”
It’s been years since I’ve gone to Mean Jean, although, I always think of her when I bite into an apple – or if I hear the word ‘delicious.’  Macintosh doesn’t come up very often.
“New normal doesn’t come up in conversation often either, but I’ve figured out and maybe you have, too, that’s it’s something that just sneaks up on us as we are busy living our life.  The flavor from the gum is gone and we keep chewing and don’t even notice.
And, today, I noticed just a little bit.  I was on a tour of my friend Barbara’s walk-in closet.  She’s a real clotheshorse and she was showing me something she had just bought.  I glanced to the left and noticed men’s shirts and pants and suits and ties.  Quickly, the Nancy Drew in me assessed that must be her husband Michael’s’ side of the closet.
I felt an immediate twinge – an awareness that Jimmy’s clothes are gone and this is what our closet used to look like.  (except my husband was a bigger guy and he had less clothes…I guess, factoring that in equals everything out and so Michael and Jimmy took up the same closet space.)
The point is the twinge didn’t last.  Even last year it would have lingered.  Today it was gone and replaced with How did I manage to fit my clothes and his clothes in the same closet?  There may have been a hint of boy am I lucky to have all that space to myself about to surface but I’ll never admit to that.
So, have I found my ‘new normal?’ Well, after all is said and done, as I write this, it’s Saturday night and most of my friends are out with their couple friends.  It would be beyond weird for them to call and say, “Why don’t you and Jimmy join us for dinner?”
And, it’s okay.  I know I said it was okay long before it was okay, but now it truly is okay.  It’s normal for me to no longer be part of a pear.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

For Adults Only

 Amazing–I couldn’t play the piano BEFORE my husband died…
Traveling alone feels natural to me now.  How did that happen?  It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote Three in a Row, a moment in my book that describes how foreign it felt to me to be the odd one in a row of three sitting on an airplane.  In part it reads:
“I looked over at the seat next to me and saw a woman my age resting her head on her husband’s shoulder.  The only arm I had to rest on was the armrest, and I was sure all eyes were on poor widow me.  I stood to stretch, and scanned the rows of people, three across.  A couple and an odd one were in each row.  Now I’m the odd one.  Then I saw a row where no one seemed to know each other.  I guess people do travel alone…I just never thought about it before, like so many other things.  Being cozily married had, in some ways, kept me insulated and smug.”
My crackerjack editor, Randi Cushnir, warned me that a reader might have a hard time believing that a woman who is past the ‘age of awareness’ (I think legally that’s seven) counted on a husband to print out her boarding pass and she needed his engineering skills to finesse 15 pairs of shoes, 4 pocketbooks and 9 outfits into her carry-on.
Randi didn’t feel it was in my best interest that I project a clueless and helpless image. I get it.  And, she was right 95% of the time with that kind of stuff.  Yet, in my travels (alone)  I’ve talked to dozens of widows who admit that they finally feel self-sufficient and capable for the first time in their 60-something lives.   They are excited to participate in life as an adult.
They also revealed to me they are enjoying ‘something’ more than ever.  I am sorry that I can’t share what that ‘something’  is because I’m sworn to secrecy.  Hint: rhymes with Rex.
Perhaps that was off-track.  The point is many of us baby boomers who got married young stayed babies.  When our husbands died we were suddenly lifted out of our highchairs and plopped into the driver’s seat.
Of course initially our heads spun around but in time we saw there is no denying that Cabernet tastes much better from a wine glass than a sippy cup.
A toast:  ”To being a grown-up.”