The art of racing past the pain

Shortly after Dad’s injury, SNOBFOB took me to lunch, to guide my entry into the “new normal” of my family responsibilities.  She ever so gently (ok, Jewish-gently) inducted me into the club of people with dead and dying parents.  It was also a little like when your mom talked to you about the joys of tampons.  You knew you needed the information but you really wished you weren’t old enough for the conversation.

SNOBFOB set about to prepare me for the ups-and-downs, the despair and the acceptance.  The rollercoaster.  As only someone who has lived this can.

In the months since, SNOBFOB has tried to help me see what is doable (and the best way) and what is not doable.  What is and IS NOT my responsibility.  What I can and CANNOT change.  I am not always good at setting limits.

So, just yesterday, over lunch, SNOBFOB hit me with a whopping reality check:  I do not need to take on every enfeebled family member’s problems and still I can keep my promises to Mom and Grandpa. I know what SNOBFOB did for her parents and aunts and uncles.  She can tell me to slow down or “chill” or stop being so damn depressing.  It was so incredibly LIBERATING.  Because Dad I can handle, but . . . .

Today, SOB and I were reviewing the past week’s worth of Dad-related snafus, bizarre behaviors and tense moments.   And, the tone of our conversation was, well, (new) normal. 

The new normal is getting to be ok.  Not great, but ok.  And I can even laugh and have fun during the ups-and-downs.  In fact, the laughs and the fun are much more important now.  Precisely, because life is a roller-coaster. 

Thank you, SNOBFOB, my very wise friend.

Songs in the Key of Life

This was a particularly hard weekend.  In the Jewish calendar, Friday was the 9th anniversary (a Yahrzeit) of my mother’s death.  We went to synagogue together:  Dad, SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB) and I.  We endured the endless rituals that preceded the recitation of the names of those with Yahrzeits and saying the mourner’s prayer.  Each year, SOB and I ask each other “why is Mom on the list with all the dead people?”  Both of us pull out worn pictures of Mom and run our fingers over them.  I also have an emergency Mom slideshow on my iPhone in case we still do not feel her presence.  “Blogger family does death” is not for the faint of heart.  We pick every scab, open every wound, dredge up every Hallmark moment.

Dad loves the Oneg (the after-service nosh and schmooze) especially when there are Bar and Bat Mitzvahs the next day because there are really good hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us wanted to get out of synagogue because HOSOB and SOB were particularly afraid that my constant transgressions might cause a biblical conflagration that would consume the congregation and they didn’t want blood on their hands. Wow, they think I have power.  I surveyed the attendees at the service and I assure you that there are others whose trespasses run afoul of Big Ten (the Ten Commandments) constantly and consistently.  So, my snarkiness and anger at G-d (we are not close, G-d and I) pale in comparison.  Mom might send a flicker to remind me to mind my manners, but there were way bigger fish should G-d want to fry.

Dad poured himself a wine in a water glass (good thing he is still steady at 91) and dug into the not-so-very-kosher looking edibles (it is a Reform synagogue, but STILL).  The Onegs also attract homeless people who don’t abide by ritual cleansing before entering a house of worship.  They should eat and be full, without curling my nose hair.  But I digress.

SOB and I were heartened when people came over to say Shabbat Shalom and tell us that they still remember Mom and miss her.  Each said that how shocking it was to hear Mom’s name on the Yahrzeit list.  Once we counted 10 people who remembered Mom, we were ready to have dinner.   We made sure she lived on in others, even nine years later.  Mom was indeed remarkable and her memory is a blessing.

We peeled Dad away from the cheese tray and went off for some indigestion-inducing Indian food.  We had a lively conversation because, around Mom’s Yahrzeit, Dad is really clear-headed and “present” in the way he was when Mom was alive.  As sad as it is to hear her name on the list with the dead people, the people who remember her and our presence at synagogue invigorate Dad.  He said he feels as if Mom is right next to him.

The conversation went along crazy tangents about Dad and others his age finding new companions and his comments about the capabilities of men his age made us need to stop the conversation and move to another direction.  His comment about what an 85 year-old man can really do with a 45 year-old made us laugh, cry and turn purple.  He is still married to Mom, he says.  Somehow, it makes us want him even more to find a companion to fill his days in his final years.

It was a cramped place and Dad is hard of hearing so we had to talk very loud.  Dad says there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  I tell him he can’t hear when the ear doctor recommends a hearing aid.  At various points in the conversation, I needed to repeat things right into his ear so he could catch the conversation.  I always started by saying, “I love you Dad and you need a hearing aid. . . .”  He laughed and repeated that his hearing was excellent.  But then why was I screaming into his ear?  “Everyone mumbles.”  Look, everyone needs a good dose of rationalization every single day.

POB (partner of blogger) left a Yahrzeit candle out for me to light in Mom’s memory.  The acts of striking the match and lighting the wick really personalize the moment in the way a recitation of a prayer in a congregation cannot.  In the darkness of my kitchen when my family was asleep, I lit a candle to remember my mother and bring light into the darkness she left behind.  Imagine Carly Simon’s song about losing her mother.  Weep.

HOSOB had lunch with Dad on Saturday and took him to a museum.  Dad called each of us Saturday night, a little bored and somewhat despondent.  Imagine Jim Croce’s “Photographs and Memories.”  It is a hard time for all of us.  We are glad he reached out but we cannot fill the void.  We can just be on the other end of the phone line.  I wonder how much that helps him but I hope it eases the loneliness.

Dad is man with a past much fuller than his future.  I love him because he kind, generous and able to be vulnerable in front of his children, and acknowledge our love and trust our decisions.  Enter a medley of “Sunrise, Sunset” with a smattering of “Circle Game” and “Life is Eternal”.

But then there is Sunday night dinner.  The weekly ritual during which my father pushes my emotional buttons the way Cole Porter could make a piano sing.

Since I was kid, Dad and I fell into this rhythm that a 8pm on a Sunday night, we would get into an argument about something.  Many times, neither of us had any basis for our opinion.  Other times, one was indeed an expert (me, for example, when it comes to life as a lawyer in law firm) and the other (Dad) was not.  Most times, it was about politics; sometimes it got personal.  Mom and SOB used to set their watches by the argument because it was more regular and constant than any clock in the house — 8pm.  Mom and SOB also tempered the “conversation” and brought us back to civility.

Over the years, we have dinner earlier because of SOB (son of blogger, our source of sanity), so the argument starts promptly at 7:15 and lasts to 7:45pm.  Usually, Cousin Gentle, CB (cousin Birder), HOSOB and SOB come over, too.  So there are plenty of people to help Dad and me back from the brink.  Tonight, everyone was busy. Dad came over at 4pm because he was lonely.

Tonight’s argument was triggered by my young cousin’s desire to go to law school and my visceral “NOOOOOO!!!!” response.  I thought he should do something with a better business model and that could not be outsourced, like plumbing.  My point was that law school is not the default choice of this generation if the student was paying for his or her own education.  For me, it was easy.  Mom and Dad were paying.  But life in a law firm is hardly the easy life or the cash cow it was a generation ago.  Dad wouldn’t listen to me and continued to discuss how important and rewarding was the practice of law.  He did admit that it was snobbery that precluded him from considering non-professional avenues.  I applaud his self awareness.

Of course, I went to law school because I was not fit for medical school and I didn’t want to be a pariah in my family.  I guess I wanted some acknowledgement, at long last, that my parents’ dreams were not mine and didn’t turn out the way everyone imagined.  I wanted Dad only to say, “we did the best we knew how.”  That would have been enough.

These arguments are about mental exercise and the eternal struggle between parents and children for acknowledgement, acceptance, honor and respect.  We have settled the struggle, more or less, but there are occasional border skirmishes.  But we always leave the table hugging and kissing and saying “I love you”.  And then, if SOB is not present, I call her immediately after I come back from putting Dad into a cab.  I must download the events — for guilt, for the collective memory, for the continuity of family.  What guilt you ask?  The guilt of putting the welfare of sick people in the hospital over the mental health of her sister.  SOB should be indebted to me for decades to come.  [There must be some song from old Yiddish theatre that captures all of this.  If I find it I will update my blog.]

Of course, notwithstanding the sometimes harsh words, Dad is coming with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow, because  . . . he needs us and we need him.

Happy New Year

Hello.  Yes, it has been a while.  I hope you had wonderful holidays and are looking forward to good things in 2012.

I took a true blogcation.  Time to reflect.  Time to re-calibrate.  Time to chill.  Time to ponder the fragility and resilience of human beings.

Yes, that last sentence was a lead-in to talk about Dad.  Before I discuss some moments in the last two weeks in the lives of two dutiful daughters, I would just like to prepare you for the cosmic fate that will befall me for being snarky about my father (Mom, aren’t you looking out for me?):

Not Lightening, BUT (click)

Dad spends four half-days each week at his sculpture studio, doing as he says, “chopping stone”.  He is really quite good.  And that he can chisel stone into art at any age, let alone, at 91 years old, is well, remarkable.  He is remarkable.

But, let’s get into the nitty gritty, shall we?

The sculpture studio was closed for the holidays so he was on involuntary vacation for two weeks.  Dad lives without Mom because of two things: his art and his family.  He needs both (and, well, so does his family).

Dad is a lovely man and so it isn’t hard to want to spend time with him.  Because we lost Mom, we know how precious is the time we spend with him.  And he needed us more than usual.

SOB (sister of blogger) tried to find a movie that Dad would like.  It needs to be historical and, if it is about an atrocity or two, so much the better.  (For example, he never tires of seeing movies about the Holocaust or the Great Recession.  So, no light-hearted holiday fare for Dad.  Dad needs to leave a movie with a healthy dose of righteous indignation (why DOES SOB constantly say that I am Dad’s clone?).

Iron Lady, about Margaret Thacher, seemed like a winner: a mean, Conservative, Cold War warrior and leader of the UK who broke gender barriers (never mind Indira Ghandi and others), all with a hairdo that withstood whipping winds and never-ending London drizzle.  Better than New Year’s Day or Kung Fu Panda II.

SOB is always upbeat if unrealistic.  She emailed me: “I’m going to meet Dad – lunch and movie – Thatcher.  I expect that he won’t hear any of the dialogue. Bet you $1 million that he says all actors mumble.”  (Dad has yet to realize that he has a hearing impairment.)

From the movie, she texts:  “The movie Iron Lady is great – Meryl Streep is of course fabulous.  [Blogger] — I will give you $1 million if you can guess what Dad said after each and every preview – and another $1 million if you can guess what he said at the end of the movie, as tears were going down my face. I await your response.”

[Sidebar:  The truth is that SOB and I go for broke like this all the time, we bet a couple of million every day.  We never actually hand over our 401ks and deeds to our homes, etc. because we figure we will true up in front of the gates of Hell (SOB promised to come down with me instead of going up to Heaven because she would miss me).  After the first gasps, POB (partner of blogger) and HOSOB (husband of SOB) are don’t bat an eyelash as SOB and I casually wager more than the value of our worldly possessions.   Who can keep track anyway?]

Thinking that SOB gave the answer away in the first email, I confidently texted back: “At the end of the movie: all the actors are mumbling.  After every preview, what kind of nonsense is this? Is this what we are teaching our children?”

I lost according to SOB: “End of the movie – beautiful, touching scene of Meryl Streep, and tears are streaming down my [SOB’s] face, Dad says: ‘What a strange movie, I won’t be recommending it.’  After each preview – Dad says in a stage whisper [with an incredulous and disgusted tone]: ‘G-d Amighty…'”

Also, Dad “stage whispers” at the top of his lungs.  AND, if you knew my dad and his intonations and what thoughts and phrases follow which, you would know that the judges might be split on whether I got the response to the previews right.  Just sayin’.  But like I said, we have the rest of our lives and purgatory to figure out who — SOB or I — really won.

We saw Dad the next day and he thought the movie was short on the historical, political backdrop and too heavy on the emotions.  “But what are people learning from this movie?”  “Dad,” I said, “people who go to the movie know about Margaret Thacher.  It is all about the commonality of the human experience, whether you were Prime Minister of England or an apple vendor.  And, the acting brilliance of Meryl Streep.”

[Sidebar:  Of course, I didn’t see the movie before I weighed in emphatically, but it is a free-for-all in our house and no one is required to be encumbered or constrained by fact or physics.  And I only started liking Meryl Streep when I realized she was growing old gracefully and not getting face-lifts.]

Dad rolled his eyes and looked displeased.

He was still complaining about the movie a week later. So, it was a successful outing.

STILL, if only the director had thrown in some World War I or II footage — anywhere, in the credits or in the middle of a poignant emotional scene — it would have saved the movie for Dad.  It would have also relegated the movie to the ranks of “Springtime for Hitler” and that cult fave, “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”.  But, SOB and I would have been grateful.

Maybe, there is an uncut version somewhere . . . .

Time Again for the Stupid, Stinking, Painted Ponies (with apologies to Joni Mitchell)

Dear Mom:

SOB (sister of blogger) and I had dinner tonight.  FILSOB’s (father-in-law of SOB’s) death has startled us anew about the fragility of life and the incomprehensible temporal divide between life and death.

FILSOB’s death also made us think of you, even though it is a week early for the “dark days” — the time, 9 years ago, when you started your month-long goodbye — December 13 to January 10.  In truth, the “dark days” of 2002-2003 were not all sad; some, in fact, were the most honest, most hilarious and most screwball-comedic of our lives.  The others were, well, depth-defying in their crushing pain.

You died before your peers.  They were there to mourn you and comfort us. What will happen when Dad, MILSOB (mother-in-law of SOB) or FOPOB (father of partner of blogger) — each should live to 120 like Moses — dies?  Who will still be alive, other than us (G-d willing), to mourn them?

Marty Hertz from the synagogue died and his funeral was today.  SOB saw it in the paper and told Dad.  He was grateful to SOB for telling him and glad he went to pay his respects.  He heard that most people get these announcements on email and so he wants us to fix his email so he can have access.  But we have tried dozens of times, and then we get calls from Dad saying, “somehow I can’t get on”, as if it has nothing to do with his pressing buttons in an arbitrary and explosive fashion.  The definition of crazy is to keep trying day after day, month after month, to teach Dad how to use the Internet.  So, since you’ve been gone, your daughters have become certifiable lunatics.

(As an aside, BOB (brother of blogger) wanted us to sign Dad on to Facebook.  What a nightmare that would be.  I told BOB not to have a thought about Dad unless he cleared it with SOB or me first.  Talking Dad down from the Facebook ledge took some serious cajoling.  “Are you telling me I CAN’T be on Facebook?” Dad asked defiantly.  “Yes, yes, I am, Dad — not because we don’t want you to be on Facebook, but because you can’t master email yet.”)

What to do about the email Bulletin of Death from the synagogue?  SOB and I decided that we will ask the synagogue to put us on the recipient list.  Then we can call Dad every day for his Day in Death minute and recap the day’s sad events.  That way, he’ll get the news and we will keep what is left of our sanity.

SOB and I can’t linger on the negatives for more than an hour or so.  We also talked about all of the fabulous life experiences you and Dad gave us.  You had no role models for parenting.  You both grew up poor and in dysfunctional homes.  And yet, you gave us things you never had and were loving and wonderful parents.  And your loving relationship has been a model for your children.

We, your children, are the culmination of generations of strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, stubbornness, love and combativeness.  Who will remember you, your parents and grandparents when SOB, BOB and I are gone?

Maybe, by remembering us, our children will remember the part of you that is in us.  Because your time on this earth cannot be forgotten.

I love you, Mom.

~ Blogger



A Traditional Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, we gathered the usual suspects around the table.  We also had two new people, a young girl from Paraguay and a colleague from Zurich.  SOB (sister of blogger) thought I should issue a disclaimer to my foreign colleague that this was not a “traditional” American Thanksgiving.  Clearly, we are not traditional.  No, sir.  Evidentiary exhibit no. #1: we have brisket instead turkey.

Then, more food than anyone should eat in a week covered the table, and there was more waiting in the kitchen.  I sighed.  SOB and I looked into each other’s eyes and we had to acknowledge that our Thanksgiving is as traditional and American as anyone else’s.

In truth, SOB and I feel best when there is so much food that no one could possibly go away hungry.  First, if a guest had a “clean” plate, that meant there wasn’t enough food and the neighbors would whisper that we didn’t come from a good home.  Second, my grandmother always said if the Russian army showed up at your door and you had plenty of food, they would leave the women alone.  Coincidentally, these precepts handed down from generation to generation drive us to mimic the conspicuous, over-consumption that is our American Thanksgiving.

We were, in fact, sooooo American that, even though it was brisket and not turkey, DOB (Dad of blogger), like so many patriarchs hating to turn over the reins of family celebrations, muttered “under his breath” (but so loud that the neighbors could hear), “I could’ve done a better job of carving.”  Gee, thanks, Dad.

SOB, we have arrived.  We are no longer an immigrant family.  We ARE America.


Sometimes a lollipop is just a lollipop

Our son, our source of sanity (SOS) is not a candy freak.  He prefers ice cream (vanilla, only) and french fries.

He still has Halloween candy left over.  Every few days he asks to have a piece of that candy as a treat.  Everything in moderation is our mantra.

DOB (father of blogger) is a retired dentist.  Growing up, we were not allowed to have candy at all.  Imagine what it is like to have to hand over your Halloween candy in exchange for raisins.  No wonder I hate Halloween.

Tonight was family dinner.  DOB came over at his usual 4:30pm and he and SOS watched Life of Birds, while SOS explained some of the finer points of the species they were viewing.  DOB was amazed at his grandson’s knowledge.  POB (partner of blogger) made a fabulous meal.  SOS was engaged and engaging at dinner and DOB was again amazed at his grandchild.  DOB was surrounded by family.  A great night for all of us, especially DOB. 

That is, UNTIL . . .

SOS asked for a piece of Halloween candy and picked a Tootsie Pop.  Then he came back to the dinner table with it.  I glimpse DOB:


followed by


followed by the deep breath that means impending


“This is very bad.  You are introducing a corrosive agent into [SOS’s] mouth.  If a child has one of these every day, there will be damage to the gums, enamel, the placement of the teeth in the mouth . . .”

I stopped listening but I imagine that soon the fact that my son is sucking on a lollipop will inevitably lead — through perfectly reasoned logic — to nuclear confrontation with Iran.  So, I wanted to ratchet back the hysteria a little.

“It’s only a lollipop, Dad.”

SOS (sister of blogger) gave me a look that said, whaaaat were you thinking saying that?  How long have you been alive?  Will you never be able to converse with Dad without me as referee?”

Only a lollipop?  [said in a slightly outraged toned] Well, as you remember, you did not have any candy when you were young and aren’t you glad?”

SOS is right; I need her always as referee.  I could have ended the conversation right there by agreeing.  But no, no, no, I had to dig in deeper . . .

“Well, actually, no.  For years, I couldn’t stuff enough Snickers Bars in my mouth because, because, because  —- ” “the Forbidden Fruit?” (Cousin Birder offered helpfully) — “yes, EXACTLY.”

I saw my father’s face and I immediately promised him that SOS would always have very little amounts candy, drink copious amounts of fluoridated water, and hold hands crossing the street, and . . . ., all the while knowing that DOB will be re-hashing this episode with SOB over the coming days fearful for SOS’s future and our parenting skills.

I start chanting in my head: “Sometimes a lollipop is just a lollipop, Dad.” Sometimes a lollipop is just a lollipop, Dad.”Sometimes a lollipop is just a lollipop, Dad.”

Sigmund Freud said something similar about a cigar; that sometimes, a cigar is just cigar.  Sigmund added a caveat: “, but rarely.

The Sum of our Lives

Don’t ask why I had reason today to meditate on the meaning of life and death, legacy and detritus.  For the purposes of this entry, please just accept that I did.

Much of the meditation happened today on the Cross Island Expressway, the Long Island Express Way, the Throgs Neck, the Northern Parkway and any number of other main arteries in and out of New York City.  Given the timing and the traffic, there was much time to ponder (and outrage that the tolls got to be so expensive).  Another story for another day when I am musing about driving as a contact sport.

After the mourning, and the tearful yet loving remembrances, comes the task of disposing of a deceased person’s worldly possessions.   Remember that bumper sticker, popular in 1980s or 90s, that adorned really expensive cars, “He who dies with the most toys, wins”?  Did the people in those cars think that they would be buried with the stuff?

Actually if that kind of acreage weren’t so expensive in this part of the country, that would be a great idea and soooo much easier on the rest of us.  No one would have the task of reducing it all to cash for the benefit of the heirs.

I don’t believe that “stuff” is the sum of our lives.  But it does bog down the survivors in details that make us forget those we mourn and celebrate the lives they lived.

What I learned today:

  • If  you believe that “stuff” is the sum of your life, just ask an auction house what you are worth and the answer will freak you out.

  • Things that carried enormous sentimental value or were mementos of wonderful experiences now become “stuff” to be sold off for distribution in accordance with a last will and testament.

  • If you want someone to have something when you die, give it to them in your lifetime, so you can see them enjoy it.   That someone may not be alive when your executor tries to carry out your wishes.
  • If you love your family and friends you will have only two nickels to rub together at the end of your life, because you will have given the rest away during your life time.  POB (partner of blogger) wants to time it just right, so we have EXACTLY two nickels, lest people say “they didn’t have TWO nickels to rub together!” (What would I do without my own personal reality check?)


Sunday Dinner

FOPOB (father of POB (partner of blogger)) is a hard guy to pin down.  He doesn’t like to “commit” to coming over for Sunday night dinner when he is in the City (and not at his beach house).  This weekend was no exception: he wasn’t able to say yes or no when asked again yesterday. He’d let us know.  Ok.

In fact, he let us know by coming over at 3:15pm, unannounced.  That’s so early even for MY dad who would come at 9am, if we let him.  That’s ok.  I couldn’t even emerge from the bedroom until 3:45pm.  Then I felt guilty and let POB escape to the kitchen.  At 4:15pm, FOPOB was itching to watch the Giants game.  And in a slightly-passive-but-really-overly-aggressive move, I told SOS (our son, source of sanity) to keep FOPOB company, believing full well that SOS would get bored within 5 minutes and start trying to convince FOPOB to change to either Nature or Discovery channels.  And it would drive FOPOB nuts.

You think that wow I can be awfully mean sometimes.  Yes, yes, I can.

Somehow, despite my best-laid plans, SOS started to get into the game.  (My son:  the child who went from worrying about the euro crisis to watching people gratuitously concuss each other in 48 hours.  I am having whiplash and I will remind him of this indignity until the day I die or the guilt kills him — whatever.)  The Giants versus the Redskins.  The Redskins?  Really?  Do we still have teams with humans (in this case, Native Americans) as mascots?  Haven’t we progressed as a civilization?  Oh, wait, that is my way left-of-center whine.  I am a centrist now.  I digress.

FOPOB was impatient at cocktail hour (6pm) because the Redskins (pause, take a deep breath) were beating the Giants.  And, because HOSOB (husband of SOB (sister of blogger)) and CB (cousin birder) were talking about bird nerd things that even a loving and adoring  sister-in-law and cousin could not possibly abide.  SOB was seeking shelter in the kitchen with POB, leaving me to referee the “boys”.

So I threw out random things, like the blue inner feathers of a mallard and the way hummingbirds make their calls with their feathers, to bring the conversation within normal nerd parameters.  Nothing doing.  DOB (Dad of blogger) rather adeptly tried to steer the conversation away from what could have been mortal boredom (did I mention how much I adore HOSOB and CB?) by musing about the difference in conversations he had when he was our age 20 years ago.  OK, DOB, that was 40 years ago when you were our age, but who is counting.  Yes, it was just after the 60s and you were wearing mustard colored bell bottoms and Mom was wearing floral halter tops, “hostess” pants and Elvira the Vampiress make-up, but I am sure your politics had sound bases. Still, he had a good point.

FOPOB, who had a moment to shine, instead said flatly that the conversation was boring, he’d rather watch his team lose and did anyone realize that Casablanca was on TV tonight?  I poured everyone more wine.  DOB mentioned he liked it and I told him it was NOT Trader Joe’s $3.50 special Merlot.  “Really?”  DOB was genuinely surprised.  I excused myself to the kitchen where POB was hiding out.  I asked POB to kill me before SOS ever had to have this conversation with me.

Thank G-d Cousin Gentle arrived.  And time to eat.  FOPOB wanted to take dinner-to-go but we locked the door.  SOB had to take a call from the hospital.  SOS wanted to run back and forth from the dinner table to the TV in our room to watch the football game.  I considered Crazy Glue to keep him in his chair but I settled on the Evil Eye of Doom and Despair that I inherited from my mother that kept us in line.  It is amazing how a few moves of the facial muscles can subdue a child.  It worked. Luckily, I also still have the brute strength in my arsenal, if necessary.  But only for a little time more.

At the beginning of the meal, we toasted the many sides of the family that were present.  We toasted our good fortune in being together.  We remembered the victims of the attack on our Nation 10 years ago.

At some point in the conversation, we started talking about the different sources of the Bible and how women may have been writers.  HOSOB asked what I knew about this.  So, of course, I held forth, but with a caveat.  I started with, “Unencumbered as I am with fact or knowledge about the subject matter . . . .”  Cousin Gentle was impressed that I said this.  I was shocked.  I thought this was an implied caveat in any conversation in our family history because clearly Uncle Loud, Cousin Gentle’s father and DOB, would have otherwise been mute for most of their lives.

After that, someone complained that the chicken was salty.  Someone wondered about having added marjoram (a spice I still don’t understand) to the quinoa dish.  FOPOB wanted to take dessert to go (keep trying, dude) in order to watch Casablanca at home on his ginormous TV.

So, we were deep, we were shallow, we were loving, we were honest. .  .and in so doing, we gave meaning to the statement:


I love you all.

Carpe Diem

Tonight SOB (sister of blogger) and I had dinner with our uncle.  He is 81 years-old.  He has been in a slow decline in the last two or so years but able to dance (his life-long passion) and go about his life.

Unfortunately, he has aged rather dramatically in the last month.  So, SOB and I needed to convince him to let us help.  Just when we were bracing ourselves for the image we had, when he walked into the restaurant, the even further downward trajectory was so profound that it was hard not to cry.

He has our aunt, his partner of 60+ years, and he has SOB and me.  There is no one else close by.  (And our aunt has her own medical issues.)

He always said he lived every day as he wanted.  He said he hated going to sleep because he never wanted to end a day.

But living life on his terms and according to his muses often meant that he didn’t show up for his family (his parents or my mother — his sister) in their times of need.

I guess carpe diem means different things to different people.

As SOB and I helped him into our aunt’s apartment building (they have always lived separately), he lurched for the elevator and forgot to look back or kiss us goodbye.

Life on his terms.

The world is too much with me today

I have been close to many in my life who did not have children.  They were/are blood relatives or relatives-by-love.

Now, another set needs SOB’s (sister of blogger’s) and my help.  These two people were the heroes of our youth, the fun and youthful aunt and uncle.  They had lives in theater, dance, and the arts.  They knew interesting people and were “mod” when “mod” was cool.  They lived life on their terms and expanded our imaginations behind where our parents tried to direct our paths.

They are old now and much diminished.  A generation slipping through our fingers, as we try to make the twilight comfortable and the darkness not so scary.  They once were kings and queens of their destiny and audaciously bohemian in their lifestyles.

And now their nieces, a doctor and a lawyer exactly as their parents had planned, must introduce — gently, very gently — the calculable reality.

Because even free spirits need grounded guides through the indignities of aging.  But we have to learn their terms and conditions for aging.  There is no room for hubris in thinking we know what they want.  We have to ask and we have to listen.

When Mom died, we knew what she wanted — we had talked about it for years, as the cancer began to win — and it was easier to do what needed to be done.  It was excruciating but the details and the path forward were clear.  How ironic.

And yet I am concerned and sad, but not “down” because we are trying to do what must be done in the gentlest, most honest way possible.

Wish us luck.