Family Camp

Like any other family road trip, this had to start with an invasive procedure because SOB needed to make sure that I was healthy enough to drive 8 hours to Cape Cod for family orientation weekend at camp.  (SOS is going this summer; I am not, although in my mind, I am at Wingate, 1972-81.)

Of course, SOB had to take a picture of the ENT doctor’s putting the scope up my nose and down my throat.  The doctor waited about a second after he injected a numbing agent to start the scope.  Needless to say, I felt everything.

photo

After the scope, SOB declared me fit for travel.

“I feel so much better now that we had this procedure done.”

“Who ‘we’, [SOB]? I was the one with that camera up my nose and down my throat!!”

“Details,” concluded SOB in a most satisfied manner.

*******************************************************************************************

It was an epic schlep to cold and rainy Yarmouth.  I forgot that camp is outdoors.  Even when we were in the bunks, we were not that much removed from nature and all those creepy, crawly things.  And, certainly, not the cold and wet weather.

SIDEBAR:  I was (must have been) far more rugged as a child.  Now, I merely whimper in the drizzle.

There was no heat in the bunk where we stayed.  ACTUALLY, the camp owners FORGOT to tell us about the heat, so we just froze unnecessarily.  Well, at least SOS was comfy in his super-duper-good-for-the-tundra sleeping bag.  POB and I were not so fortunate. Will (you know who you are), I am deducting from camp tuition any co-pays on any cold meds POB and I need to purchase this week.  And we are expensive patients.  Just sayin’.

I tried to give SOS a wide berth so he could feel independent and get to know the camp and its lay-out on his own.  But, there were some activities that I had to watch.  It was Mom who made me watch when my little baby was in harm’s way with only one life preserver (not discernible in the photo).  photo

Mom wanted me to feel her anxiety, and more importantly, continue her tradition of writing psychotic letters about real and imagined horrors of sleep-away camp.  To channel Mom, I need a mental (and actual) picture on which to concentrate all my anxiety while he spends SEVEN weeks away from his loving (read:  over-protective) mother, doing any number of life-ending activities.

And I didn’t even show the picture of archery WITH REAL ARROWS.

SIDEBAR:  Ok, Will (you know who you are), I am deducting sedatives from the camp tuition.

SECOND SIDEBAR:  Pearl (you know who you are), you are so lucky that Mom didn’t do the same.  Just sayin’.

Put one of those arrows in my heart and get it over.  Mom, if you are listening from Heaven, WALK AWAY FROM THE PHONE.  No grandchild of yours is playing with bows and arrows.  Did I mention that each arrow is doused with curare?  OOOOOooops, but Heaven is not listening, thank G-d.

Because of the rain, campfire was indoors.  (no, Mom, they have sense enough not to start a REAL fire indoors.)  The current owners invited those of us who had been campers in decades past to light the fire (figuratively).  It was moving.

It was also a passing of the torch from one generation to another.

The place had echos of the camp of my youth, but it is a different camp.  A camp that SOB, BOB, and POB can share with SOS, but different enough that it will be his special experience alone.  And that, for all my nostalgia, is what matters.

SOS had a great time, in the rain.  Which means, he will have an extraordinary time in the sunshine this summer.

The question is: will I survive his summer away?

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Weekend

Dear Mom:

I miss you and, just between us, Mother’s Day is really all about you.

But CLSFOB (camp/law school FOB) helped me reach an epiphany.  We were talking before the weekend (she, too, is a mom) and she wished me a happy Mother’s Day.

I, of course, responded:

“It is about my mom and she is gone.”

“Wow, so [SOS] doesn’t celebrate you or anything?  It is just a sad day?”

“Well, I didn’t mean it that way…”

SIDEBAR:  Ok, yes, yes, I did.

“But he should be able to celebrate!! Does he feel the heaviness?”

SIDEBAR: OK, CLSFOB, I get it.  Sheeeesh.  I should introduce you to SNOBFOB. 

“Move on, Counselor, you’ve made your point.”

I was getting testy because CLSFOB hit a chord.  But she was right.  

So, this weekend, I have tried to be more open to taking my position as MOM on Mother’s Day. And it feels good.  Ok, not so good, but better than I thought.  But I am not going to say that CLSFOB is right again.  Nope.  Not gonna do that.

To tell you the truth, I feel a little like a mom with Dad.  And I think SOB does, too.

I had the “Dad call” this weekend.  SOB was in the ICU and saving lives (just not ours).  So, I had lunch with Dad on Saturday and we all went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today.

I chronicle the days so BOB and SOB feel like they were there.  The emails are entitled “This Day in Dad”:

“Dear [SOB] and [BOB]:

I had lunch with Dad today. Dad tried to hide those scam solicitations [that target the elderly] from me when I picked him up. But I commenced a search and rescue mission with critical help from [home aide]. I rescued Dad from an entire shopping bag’s worth of scams and shams. In the midst of the junk, there were important papers. Aaargh.

We may need new night people. They do nothing apparently and Dad cleans up after them. They don’t help him with personal hygiene. That’s a big part of the job.  But, I don’t know if I can deal with trying out new people.  I am tired just thinking about that process.

Worked up an appetite by the time we got to the Coffee Shop of the Undead. I ordered a large Greek salad and a hamburger deluxe and the waiter asked if we expecting another person. I replied that I am quite hungry and quite capable of finishing both before my companions finished their meals. I didn’t disappoint.

Dad wondered why Sam wasn’t at the coffee shop.  I had a moment:  was Sam no longer UNdead?  But, phew, it turns out that he is still alive, but failing unfortunately.

We had a perfectly lovely lunch. After I left, he handed [home aide] a sweepstakes envelope with a check in it to mail. He didn’t want me to see it. So he is not as clueless as everyone thinks. She called me and I told her not to mail it.

Then, because I am a glutton for punishment, I went to ULOB’s bank branch to get more information for AROB’s nephew so he can have a proper paper trail of what was transferred to ULOB when AROB died.  I get why he is stressed out but I really want to introduce him to some “chill” meds.  Now I feel bad thinking that because it turns out he was spending the day with AROB’s newly discovered UNdead sister in the psychiatric facility.  He is a good and kind man. I am not as good and kind.

End of Report.

Love, [Blogger]”

Of course, these emails engender discussion:  BOB wants me to take away his checks (I did that once before and he just went to the bank and got more) because he can’t discern good charities from bad ones and he likes to enter sweepstakes. BOB worries that Dad is well intentioned but vulnerable and impaired.  SOB observes (correctly) that he likes to feel generous with charities but maybe he will accept some oversight (not so confident about this part of the assessment).  I think that he really needs to conserve resources but I cannot take away his checks but I don’t want him to think he is running out of money.  Too emasculating.  With no more emails flying, the debated ends.  Because I have the final say (for now), I render a reasoned decision (for now).

Decision for the day (mine):  We continue to run a loose ship, with BOB dissenting.  I have no extra time to be the enforcer.  It will not be perfect.  It just has to work.  Most of the time.  We will review the status quo weekly and re-calibrate as necessary. Signed, [Blogger], President of Dad, Inc.

*********************************************************************************************

Today, we had a great time at the Met.  SOS walked a lot with Dad.  They are quite bonded.  I can imagine how happy you would be seeing them together.

After the Met, we went to a coffee shop that just doesn’t cater to the Undead.  What a nice change in scenery, but the turn-over in big tables was not as fast.  At this coffee shop, the patrons probably buy green bananas.

********************************************************************************************

So, after almost 11 years, this was my first Mother’s Day where I accept wearing that mantle.  I will never forget you on Mother’s Day or on any other day, ever.  It is just that being mom to SOS and in loco parentis to Dad may entitle me to an honorable mention today and a little celebration.  Then, again, SOS didn’t make cards, so I tortured him and now I am not such a good mom.

I love you,

Blogger

Uh, oh, another “Dear Mom” blog

Dear Mom:

I know you are watching the events as they unfold down here on Earth.  Dad is remarkable in the ability of his body to heal so quickly — and just days shy of his 92nd birthday.  Ok, the mind is another thing.  That is a bit of a mixed bag.

Dad’s week has been packed with life and all of its emotions, from heart-breaking to uplifting, from triumph to quiet desperation, from funny to painful indignity.  And we, the kids, whether in person or on the telephone, have been on the ride along with him.

We went from feelings of sheer terror in taking Dad for a walk around the block (would he fall?) to POB’s dancing with Dad in the house to the sublime — a soft shoe routine in the supermarket, he with his cane (and his home aide ready to catch him) and I with a new mop that we desperately needed.  But later he couldn’t get up from the table without help and was dizzy, so he needed a long recuperative nap.  So, we will do soft shoe when we can, but we aren’t ready to go on the road. We do what he can do and no more.

We spent days going through pictures, reminding him of the family.  He is getting really good at this.  He remembers you, without any sort of coaxing.  One of his home aides told me that Dad talks about you and how he is still married to you and still in love with you, no matter that you died 10 years ago.  He told her the secret — that you appear somewhere in all his paintings.  He knows your spirit lives in the house.  And, of course, your portrait remains as evidence that this is your home.

In a weird way, I think that the home aides are a blessing.  Dad can talk to them all day.  Now I realize what life has been like for Dad these last few years.  If Dad can’t go to the studio to sculpt (he hasn’t been able to for a few months) and he isn’t with us on the weekends, the days between are deafening silent and slow.  I wanted to cry for his loneliness.  But now he sings for his home aides, offers them a cocktail (which they refuse) and the house has noise.

But there are hard moments.  Moments filled with the indignity of aging and a child having to care for a parent as if he were a baby.  And, when he is discombobulated, the air seems to fill with a toxin that hurts my lungs.  There are also less profound crises, like the day there were no bananas for breakfast and Dad was not strong enough to go to the store or be left alone.  Imagine, a reasonably successful New York lawyer unable to answer client emails because she has to bring bananas for breakfast.  Still, he asked, “how much a pound did you pay?”  “Before or after I add in the cost of the cab to hand deliver these to you, Dad?”

At least today, there was levity amidst the crazy talk.  Aunt Glue and Cousins J and K came to visit.  Aunt Glue and Dad were both a little off, but they enjoyed their conversation.  The rest of us didn’t quite understand the conversation, but I tried to let go of reality and roll with it.  Cousin J tried to correct Aunt Glue’s somewhat vague statement, and I asked her, “at this table, what does it matter?”

Aunt Glue and Dad, the remnants of our greatest generation, stronger in body than in mind, gained fortitude and joy from each other’s presence.  Aunt Glue is the only one alive who knows to call Dad by his original, Yiddish, name, Nachum.  “So, Nachy”, she said, “tell me all.”  I wanted to live in that moment because she has said that in the same way for as long as I have been alive (and longer), when they were strong and infallible and blazing the frontier.  When Dad was Dad and you were alive.

At least Dad has you, always.  As do we, your children.  But, in these moments, I wonder why I had to grow up.  I love you, Mom.  And I love Dad, come what may.

Love, Blogger

 

 

 

Our Camper

After a summer of day camp, SOS’s last week at camp was sleep-away.

He was adorable in his red baseball hat and red shirt (that was his color-war team) and his blue shorts.  Our little boy sleeping away from us.  We kissed him good-bye on Monday morning, in the house, because we simply couldn’t in front of his friends.

Sidebar:  I learned the “no-kissing” rule on the prior Tuesday, when I walked him to the bus pick-up and SOS turned to me as we were in the middle of 110th Street, “E-Mom, you can leave me here.”  “DUDE, I am not leaving you in the middle of a busy two-way street!!!” As he was harrruumphing, I walked him to the sidewalk, said hi to his counselor and waved to him as he was off with the other campers.

Our hearts’ heaviness at his being away was, however, immediately lifted by the sheer elation of being untethered to a child’s schedule and needs.  Recall that when you have children under 12, parents can’t spontaneously go for a romantic walk (ok, not so romantic in the sweltering heat of New York City) without having planned for a babysitter.  Which then defeats the spontaneity.

The camp has a website where parents can email children and see pictures of the days’ activities.  We saw SOS in that same cute outfit day after day after day.  While we later learned that he showered and changed his underwear, he still thought it was ok to put on the same muddy clothes each morning.

He is a boy and this is camp.  There is hope:  he changed his clothes for the Thursday night dance with the girls.

Gee, I cannot wait for adolescence.

Of Blessed Memory

Mighty (a Soeur of Blogger) gave me a hankerchief to hold during the wedding ceremony. 

I really needed it when the rabbi mentioned our mothers being with us in spirit, and most especially during the reading of the Ketubah.  For the wedding contract, it is customary to refer to the betrothed in relation to her parents, as in:  

“[Blogger], daughter of [MOB] of blessed memory and [DOB]”.

Of blessed memory.  Only here in spirit.  Only cosmic tears of joys from MOB on her daughter’s wedding day because she is of blessed memory.

POB didn’t want to have a picture of her mom out during the reception, so I didn’t have one of MOB.  But SOB promised to bring the portable shrine to our mother, in case we needed to reflect and weep. 

I thought about MOB all day and just knowing that the portable shrine was in the room made me fine without needing to look, touch and feel the pictures of MOB.

Of blessed memory.  Gone but never forgotten.

A Present From My Son

POB, SOS and I were walking along the Hudson River this evening, talking about the upcoming wedding.

SOS started speaking haltingly, not knowing whether to raise a topic.

“Tell us what’s on your mind, buddy.”

“It’s a surprise.  For the day of the wedding.”

Uh oh, I thought.  I don’t need surprises at our wedding.

SOS noted my deep breath.  “I can tell you but you need to act surprised on the day.”

“Sure, bud, tell us.”

“I can tell you in clues and hints.”

Okay, he is reading too many detective books.  “How about starting with a big one?” I offer helpfully.

“It will happen in the morning before we leave the house.”

My sigh of relief was heard ’round the world — no surprises AT the wedding.

“That will have to be really early, then, because we have to leave for our hair and make-up appointments,” cautioned POB.

“That’s not a problem.  Just leave out the fruits you like.  Actually, if you could fill up the blender with fruits, yogurt and the protein stuff and then leave it in the refrigerator the night before, that would be great.”

Ok, so SOS is making us breakfast in bed — as long as we make it.

Sidebar:  I have visions of a future of “happy birthday, E-Mom, I got you a present.  I charged it on your card.”

“Bud, that is terrific.  SOooo sweet of you.  Mommy will set up the coffee maker.   Remember to push the button, ok?”

“I can do that.”

“You know, buddy, it sounds like a GREAT surprise.”

My new trainer

My fitness trainer abruptly left the gym and I think the city about ten days ago.  I am worried about him.  But enough about him, let’s turn it back to me, because I need Michelle Obama arms for my wedding.

He texted me and suggested one of the other trainers whom I will call FTOB (fitness trainer of blogger).  FTOB is very, how shall we say, vivacious.  She spontaneously lifts people off the floor when she is happy.  She likes to take dance breaks, which makes me think of the Ellen DeGeneres’s show (the episode I saw) during which she danced with her guests. 

Still, the clock was ticking and I have an unforgiving dress.  I called FTOB and scheduled an appointment.  She is high energy and very effective.  But while I was learning from FTOB, I had to teach her two things: (i) I don’t have a booty and (ii) I don’t have ta-tas.  As to the first, I have a tushie, behind, derriere, butt or any number of variations of those words.  As to the second, I have breasts, a chest or, if necessary, boobs. 

No-no-no to ta-tas.

FTOB was awesome about this.  The second session contained no references to the “b” or the “t” words.  Strong work, FTOB.

FTOB has a FauxHawk (modified Mohawk, where the the sides aren’t shaved, just very short).  In this last session, her hair was slicked back and it looked like it was all one length.  “I love your hair!!” I exclaimed, almost matching her general exuberance.  “You think so?  It got wet and I gelled it back.  I am getting it cut soon.”  Ahhh, it was only a temporary NoHawk. 

So, in a moment that can best be described as my mother inhabiting my body, I blurted out, “You know, I asked [my old trainer] once to introduce us, because I wanted to say to you, ‘You have such a lovely face, why do you have your hair cut that way?'” 

“Really?”

“A good haircut can make all the difference,” I said.

I think we were both shocked at the exchange and I was a little weirded out having had a Freaky Friday moment with my mother in my body.  And FTOB is so good natured that she took it in the spirit in which it was meant — concern.

It turns out she has a girlfriend who likes her hair.  “Well, then, don’t listen to me; listen to her.  But if you are single again, listen to me.”

Oh, Mom, next time, give me some warning, ok?

This day in Bloggerville

Forgive me, Joni Mitchell.  But it is my birthday and I can’t help but fixate on my mother (z”l) and these ten birthdays since she died, so I made up a verse:

♪ And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round . . .♬  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5HXT0bn7QY

♪Ten birthday cakes and candles come ‘n gone now,
brown hair has turned to gray hair ’round her crown.
She is joyful, even happy ‘though not completely,
’cause Mom won’t see her in her wedding gown.♬
 
♪ And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round . . .♬ 
 
The Blogger family 1966 (I was 2).

 

Dear Mom:

Ten wishes on ten birthday cakes that will never come true.

Every year on your birthday, SOB recounts what you said on your last one, December 11, 2002: “if only my wish could come true . . . ”  I get it.  Hope, reined in by reality.

Dad remembered to call (SOB reminded him).

Remember my short-lived practice of sending you a “thank you” note on my birthday?  The first year, you thought it was very clever.  And then, as you did every year, you launched into the apocryphal story of my noble birth.

SOB and HOSOB sent flowers.  I am giving SOB the silent treatment because I told her to focus on her re-certification exam tomorrow and that she was excused from familial obligations.  If SOB doesn’t realize that I am giving her the silent treatment, I will wait until exactly one minute after her exam to tell her.  It is the least I could do for my big sister.

BOB sent me a positively hysterical email:

“Hope you are having a good day. Maybe you are even playing hooky from work, having a leisurely breakfast with [POB], planning to have lunch with [SOS], getting a relaxing workout in or nap after lunch, then go out to a nice sushi dinner and enjoy a nice glass of wine, read with [SOS] at bedtime, and watch an old movie before drifting off to a relaxing night sleep… or NOT. You are probably getting worn out by some asshole lawyer or ungrateful client and worrying about getting paid or getting business. The life of a lawyer.

Seriously, I hope you do get to enjoy your day. We are all looking forward to coming up in a few weeks. Everyone here sends love and hugs.

I love you,

[BOB]by”

BOB nailed it. Very funny and very true tableau of life as a lawyer.  But actually I did take the day off, because you and the wedding loom large on my birthday and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

This is our unique day; we were one, and then we were two.  48 years ago, I emerged from you, cranky and crying.  plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  That’s what POB would say if I said this to her.  Yep, she’s right.

I blew out one candle for me and lit another (a Yahrzeit candle) for you.  Because this is our day.

Now that you are gone, I carry you inside of me.  (Just so you know, you are looking slim in our wedding dress.)

I love you,

Blogger

The Old Neighborhood

I grew up in the East 50s near Sutton Place.  DOB still lives there.  Most times, he likes to come see us on the Upper West Side — “The travel gives me a way to pass a few extra hours,” DOB says.

Nevertheless, every now and again we take out our passports and travel to the East Side for lunch.  DOB has started to favor a coffee shop closer to the house.  I think because the old coffee shop is three blocks away and down a hill.

When we were seated, an old man next to us asked if we were new to the neighborhood.  “Our family has lived here for over 50 years!” I replied jovially (at least I thought so).  The old man said, “I was just going to tell you what’s good,” and then he sighed in that loud annoying way to show he was exasperated and feeling under-appreciated even though his help was unsolicited.  Or, maybe I yelled at him, “What’s it to you, bud?”  Of course, I didn’t but you would think so based on the tone of his response.

Wow, I thought, the old neighborhood has gotten cranky with age.  Maybe because all of my parents’ contemporaries (who are still alive) have grown old and cranky in the old neighborhood.

Shortly after we shut down that random act of neighborliness gone horribly wrong, I saw an old (old) friend of my parents walk in the door.  He was with his female companion of 30 years or so.  Our families had gone to the same synagogue and we kids went to Hebrew School with his daughter.

I immediately got up and went over to greet them. They thought I was SOB because they said that they see her on the street when she visits Dad, implying that I am never around.  I paused, counted backwards from 10 and determined that they didn’t mean it the way it sounded.  Except, they certainly did mean it the way it sounded.

Sidebar:  As nice as this man is — he really is — he took me aside at a gathering shortly before my mother died and after having met POB, “make your father happy; find a man.”  But back to the situation at hand.

There were so many ways to handle this affront to my being a good and attentive daughter:

  • I could dredge up ancient gossip and unpleasant truths about his long ago divorce.  Nah, that is too aggressive.
  • I could just smile.  Nah, too passive.
  • I could be could let slip that Dad usually comes over on Sunday nights for a home-cooked dinner.  Ahhhh, passive yet aggressive.  Perfect.

Sidebar:  Don’t you love when being passive-aggressive is the reflection of your best impulses?  So, so, rewarding.

I did let that fact slip using a tone that suggested that his daughter never cooked for him.

“You must be a good cook!”

Really, that’s your response?  That’s all you got for me after my exhaustive mental gymnastics to figure out how to preserve my dignity and protect my mother’s pride in her children?  Really?

There were two other people whom Mom knew who walked in during the course of our lunch.  But I was too exhausted to go over and say hi.

 

Good Medicine

I have been sick this week.  I stayed home one full day (Tuesday) and, by this afternoon (Friday), it was clear I was not recovered.  My colleagues even told me to go home.  The COB even cheerfully took over responsibility for some thankless and unglamorous tasks so that I could just go home and climb into bed.  A true colleague.  Our assistant, who usually tortures me in that negative affection type of way, was actually kind and looked worried.  I must have looked bad.

I came home and collapsed into bed.  I was almost immediately overcome with the need to sleep.  As I was dozing, I half-dreamed of being sick as a kid.

Mom would hug me and say, “my poor tsatskele [Yiddish endearment], if I could have this for you, I would!”  Then she would kiss my forehead to check for fever.  Then she would direct me to my bed.  And to be doubly sure that I didn’t have a fever, Mom would get one of those mercury thermometers (on the list of pre-1980 household hazards) doused in rubbing alcohol (for sterilization) and tucked under the tongue.

“Tea and toast and rest” was the basic remedy.  If needed, I could have aspirin and, at night, cough suppressant. Mom would set up the vaporizer — that contraption that made steam heat and bred bacteria — to clear my clogged sinuses.  Ok, maybe a little Vaseline on my chapped nose and lips, but Mom was very cautious about its use. When she was young, there were instances when sick babies who suffocated because mothers applied Vaseline too liberally in their babies’ noses.

Throughout the course of my cold, she administered loving hugs and kisses liberally and got up every few hours during the night to touch my cheek and make sure all was ok.

There weren’t many over-the-counter products then to relieve cold symptoms.  But my mother would have had none of that.   If it was just a head cold to suffer through, a little extra tender loving care (and tea and toast) was medicine enough.

Mom was a working professional, so if any of us was sick during the week, Leta, our nanny, would be in charge.  But Mom lingered in the mornings, and came home early. Dad also canceled his last patient so he could be on hand for the evening love-not-drugs fest.

Leta was no slouch when it came to smothering us with love, under any circumstance.  And when one of us was sick, she outdid herself.  Leta would pour half a cup of sugar in the tea because she thought it was heartless of Mom and Dad to ration sugar (my Dad was a dentist, after all).  And she prescribed sucking candy (a banned substance in our house) as throat lozenges.

Sidebar:  I don’t think I told my parents about the candy and sugar and the other broken rules until after Leta died in the 1990s.  That was our secret with Leta.  Mom and Dad would have certain rules, and Leta would ignore those rules, much to our delight.

And, of course, my grandmother, Mom’s mother, couldn’t bear that any of her little darling grandchildren was sick.  So, she would come laden down with food like stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, and a whole host of time-honored Jewish-Ashkenazic comfort food.   Grandma and Leta had a grudging respect for each other which over the years turned into real affection, but when one of us was sick, it was all-out turf warfare.  No wonder Mom went to her office.

Even with today’s magic potions, Nyquil or Dayquil or the equivalent, there is no better medicine than Mom’s hugs, Leta’s smother and Grandma’s food.  Just thinking about it makes me feel better already.