The Years Spin By and Now the Girl is 50

Dear Mom:

So I have moved 50 times ’round the seasons.

And my dreams have lost some grandeur coming true.

There were new dreams along the way.  Some of them still matter; some were fantasies of youthful exuberance and abject cluelessness.

I am not scared of growing older.  (Ok, I am not happy with droopy eyelids you gave me.)

And now I drag my feet to slow down time (or the circles, to keep the Joni Mitchell motif).  Really, to hold onto to the stories and memories of you, Dad and the older generation.  I look at the old pictures to remind me of the people who made me (for better or worse) the person I am today.  Those fallible, lovable and wildly eccentric (ok, our family once was poor, so I think we only qualify as “crazy”) people.

I am starting to forget some of the stories. Dad has forgotten almost everything. I can’t lose you any more than I already have.  And I need room to experience and remember the joys of your grandchildren, all three wonderful boys, and especially my little guy, SOS.

Years ago, when I imagined turning 50, I thought I would have security, maturity and direction in life.  And I fully expected that you would be telling me the story about my birth, as you always did.  Life doesn’t conform to expectations; they are really hopes and desires locked into a time and place.

Even though life at 50 is nothing as I expected, I feel lucky looking in my rear-view mirror and I am (cautiously) hopeful about the road ahead.

Ok, maybe I am scared a little about the road ahead.  I have to remember that I am strong and the road these past years hasn’t been a cake walk and I am still standing.  And I have to draw on the memories of those who made me strong without wallowing in the past.

But it is hard when you, my biggest cheerleader, are gone.  And sometimes, late at night, when the world is too much with me, I need a guiding hand, a loving voice, and my Mom who had lived through so much, quieting my fears.  I try to imagine you.  It doesn’t always work.

Tonight, we had a pre-birthday dinner.  SOB and I fought over the check.  (Could you tell her to let me win just a few times?)  SOB and I told the stories you would have told about SOB’s birth, BOB’s birth and my birth on our birthdays.  The same stories, over and over again.  And they get better with each telling.

One of the best stories concerns SOB’s birth.  Aunt Gertie, who had three sons, waited until you opened your eyes to storm into your hospital room and screeched at Uncle Leon [Dad’s brother], “See, Natie could give Elsie a girl!!”  Mom, you always said that was the most painful part of childbirth.

Have I mentioned recently how much you would have loved and adored HOSOB?  Such a pity you never met.  And I know you would be so happy that Cousin Gentle rounds out the crew.  I know, I know, why can’t Dallas be closer to New York?  You tell me, Mom.  You are as close as they get to the Big Guy.  Ask Him to work on plate tectonics or something.   See what you can do.

Mom, you are the missing person at every gathering, every simcha and every sad time.  And I miss your warm hand always reaching out to hold SOB’s or BOB’s or mine.  Even at the end, you always reached for us.

And we still reach back, hoping you feel us across the great divide.

I love you forever, Mom.

~ Blogger

The Wholeness of Life

Alfred Nobel made his fortune in creating, manufacturing and selling agents of destruction (dynamite, etc.)  He was called the “merchant of death”.

SIDEBAR:  I got this information from Wikipedia and I am happy to cite this source.  Are you listening Rand Paul?  Also, Randy (may I call you Randy), citing Wikipedia is ok for a blog, but not in a speech if one is looking to fill the Oval Office.

Posthumously, Nobel set up the Peace Prize(s).  Seems a little like Andrew Carnegie, a psychopath in life who wanted to be remembered as a generous and civic-minded man.

While I tease SOB about getting the Nobel, I love that she was awarded the Wholeness of Life Award, on Thursday night.

photo(17)The award is given to a person who is an exceptional teacher, mentor and professional, embodies compassion in the treatment of patients and their families, and exemplifies the gold standard of commitment to patient care.

SOB is grateful every day that she gets to go to work and help people.  She doesn’t think she deserves the award.  (She is wrong.)

I had to tell SOB not to ruin the ceremony by being too self-deprecating.  Anyway, the evening was all about Mom, whom I was channeling, who would have been over the moon at the award and a little miffed that it took so long to recognize her first born.

Nobel, Shmobel.  He was not a good guy and we don’t need his stupid, stinking award.

In fact, I am canceling our trip to Oslo.


Hard of hearing? Well. . . .

Dad has always been an optimistic and happy man.  So, he forgets the bad stuff, which is great for him and us.

Except when it comes to filling out forms about medical history.  And Dad needed to complete one as part of his Life Alert system service.  So, voila, instant family activity helping Dad recreate his past and present issues.  Some families go to museums for outings; we go over past illnesses, trials and tribulations.  Usually, right before a meal.

Sidebar:  For the record, today we went to a museum en famille.

Last Sunday, right before dinner, Dr. SOB (with SOS as her helper) did what she does “at the office”; she took a patient’s medical history.  This time it was Dad’s.  (Actually, she keeps a detailed one on each of us, but it was a good memory exercise for Dad.)  SOB helped SOS pronounce the words, like “emphysema,” etc.  Dad responded with the answers.  Then we corrected him on relevant issues.

But sometimes he didn’t hear that well.  SOS said “neurological” and Dad asked “urological?”  (I guess he does know his issues.)  In the middle of the recitation of possible respiratory ailments, I interjected, “hard of hearing?”  Even though I was on the other side of the room, Dad turned and said, “No, dear,” with a watch-yourself look.  Then, SOS was asking about skin ailments, and Dad (for whom none of these words is new) needed SOS and SOB to repeat them a few times.  So, I interjected, “hard of hearing?”  Dad shot me another look.  Ok, I don’t know when to stop.

The medical history was more arduous because my Dad was having trouble hearing or understanding.  So, from even farther away from him, I interjected, “some wine, anyone?”  “Yes, please,” Dad quickly responded.

He isn’t really hard of hearing.  Sometimes, he is practically deaf.  But, mostly, he is just tired of listening.

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 . . . .

The Wedding Dress Part II

Dear Mom:

First, I never thought I would get married.  Second, I never thought that if I ever did get married, it would be without you.  I will be 48 (52 if you’ve read my other blog entries) at the wedding, so what did I expect? You ask.  You’re right.  But I am your last born, the baby of the family.  I expected that you would live until, I don’t know, forever.

I know you are hovering in Heaven, but, right now, that is not good enough.  And I am a conscientious objector when it comes to G-d but, because your soul cannot have dissipated into nothingness and because POB (partner of blogger) and I found each other, I hold out some specter of belief in some divinity in a world that is otherwise in decline.  So, it is big that I believe, and this belief thing is, how they say these days, “on you”.

As an aside, does this Jewish guilt work on the other side?  Am I wasting my time here?  Drop a lightening bolt if guilt doesn’t matter in the hereafter.  I won’t tell anyone.  I promise.

So, I couldn’t call you when POB and I found the dresses.  (Did you register any guilt feeling? Ok, I drop the question.)  You would have been so excited about it (and relieved that we didn’t make you schlep to SoHo).  You would ask about the wedding plans and then let your preferences be known in a velvet fist way that sounded soothing yet non-negotiable.  Confrontational and gentle all at the same time.  You should have been Secretary of State.

Thank G-d DOB (Dad of blogger)is healthy (for a 91 year-old) and seems like he will be there, G-d willing.  (There I go again, with the G-d thing.  I might lose my objector status, if this keeps up, so really let me know if guilt works up there.)

Speaking of DOB, I spent Sunday morning trying, in vain, to reconnect him to his email and the internet.  SOS (our son, source of sanity) came with me on this mission of uselessness.  I got DOB all reconnected and did a learning-by-doing tutorial that I custom-tailored for him.  I did that tutorial more times than I can to tell.  Nothing.  NADA.  He can play Free Cell and access his list of  of charitable contributions without assistance.  But, when it comes to the Internet, he can’t really type, he can’t really see the screen and he can’t really understand how to read and send emails.  Still, he is righteously indignant that he doesn’t have much personal email in his inbox.  SOS tried really hard to understand why DOB didn’t really understand computers, the internet or, quite frankly, the 21st century.  Imagine if I listened to BOB (brother of blogger) and tried to get DOB on Facebook.  Neither DOB or I would have survived the attempt.

But I digress.  Back to me. I mean you.  I really mean you and me.

It is crazy how something as anti-feminist as parents walking their child down the aisle seems so quaint and wonderful now.  If only we could hold hands as you walked me down the aisle.  Yes, life has dulled some of my sharp edges and quieted my doctrinaire ways.  Because life, love and loss are complicated and our responses to them are idiosyncratic.

But what is simple is that I wish you were here to celebrate with us.

Really, come visit in my dreams and tell me about guilt in Heaven.  It is the least you could do after having left us almost 9 years ago.  (Did that rate on the Heavenly Guilt-o-Meter? Just asking.  No offense intended.)



Epic and Less-Epic

Saturday, POB (partner of blogger) and I had an appointment at a bridal salon.  We arrived fashionably late at the SoHo boutique.

We were greeted by a girl who looked too young to drink or smoke legally. She is our WDE, wedding dress expert.  I wondered, “Expert? Expert? Do you get a diploma in this?”  I started humming “Beauty School Dropout” (how else does someone become a WDE?) but stopped in a great show of restraint and good manners.

We were ushered into this large room with a rack of sample WHITE and off WHITE dresses on either side.  WDE says in a half question/half statement, “There are two brides?”  Yes, I said, motioning to POB and me.  She looked surprised momentarily, but recovered surprisingly gracefully.  Nevertheless, I immediately started rethinking my haircut next week.

She offered water and wine.  I asked for red wine.  Pause.  Now she had the upper hand — what kind of idiot asks for red wine in a room with white dresses?  Ooooops.

The dresses looked so, so, so, soooooo bridal.  I know, I know, what did I expect?  But, but, but, after 12 years and a child, I just didn’t see us, in this room, with a WDE of the tender age of 23 (I asked; ok, she is marginally beyond the legal drinking and smoking threshold).

We decided to take turns trying on the same sample dresses (some were a little worn out and in need of a good cleaning or retirement).  POB put on a dress that was spectacular.  I tried it on and we all scrunched our noses.  POB tried on another dress — half tried it on, because she knew she hated it even while she was putting it on.  I, however, loved the dress.  And so it went.

We settled on a different dress for each of us (so no match-y-match-y ookiness), but we wanted to put a hold on them until January.

Why? Because we had appointments at Kleinfeld’s, the wedding mecca for Jews.  We thought we should experience this rite of passage even for our non-traditional wedding.  At Kleinfeld’s, each bride is limited to five guests at the appointment.  Really?  I was surprised.  I was told that I need to watch, Say Yes to the Dress,” and then I would understand the limit.  But I didn’t understand why I would bring anyone.  Another reason to go — I obviously need a lesson in my heritage.

WDE, who is young but still good at the hard sell, convinced us that we were losing the opportunity to have these limited edition dresses and we might not be able to purchase them in January and then there wouldn’t be enough time, and then what would we wear . . . (I was thinking, we would wear a dress of all the money we saved by NOT finding dresses) . . . .

Then I had a vision of one month before the wedding, my combing through the Lands End catalog for dresses, with free shipping and complimentary flannel nightgowns.  I started to feel a little sweaty  — panic or hot flash?  Oh, damn this wedding craziness!!!

POB and I looked at each other.  This WAS in fact the least we could to find dresses.  And we always do the very least we can do.

I handed my credit card to our young, yet sly WDE.  I emailed SOB (sister of blogger/bride) and my college friends (the Soeurs) — so, no turning back.  POB and I don’t have our mothers (on this earth) but we have our 10 sisters:  SOB, SOPOB (sister of POB) and the Soeurs. Now that I think of it, we would have just made the Kleinfeld’s limit, without a seat to spare.  Pheeeewwwww.

It absolutely gets better

As a girl (in the 1960s and 1970s), I was fearless, self-confident and wholly comfortable with my body.  That is, until I became a teenager.  Then, as quickly as a flip of a switch (or so it seemed), everything changed.

Aside from the raging hormones that could have alone turned me into an alien, I had unfamiliar feelings and longings.  And I didn’t fit neatly into the role of a 14 year-old girl who had to wear skirts (dress code) to school.  But, generally, I liked the way I looked.  And I liked the way other girls looked, too.

Except, I was supposed to be looking at boys.  Once I realized my “mistake”, I knew “fitting in” was something I would have to study, like any other subject in school.  And I figured it would be hard, like Biochemistry (yes, I was precocious at 14), but I was smart and a good student.  So, I thought, “I could do this”.

It was harder than Biochemistry and you couldn’t learn it from a book.  My high school girl friends were “into boys” in such a natural, innate way. I withdrew into myself because I knew that this difference was too basic and I couldn’t fake it.  I wouldn’t make close friendships because I had this secret and this unease about where friendships ended and romance could begin.  I needed to keep people at bay.  Invisibility was my goal when it came to talking about boys, what you did with boys, make-up, etc.  Just blend in.

All through high school on Saturday nights, I used to take long walks around the East Side so my parents didn’t know that I was friendless or weary of feeling like the outsider.  Only years later, did I learn that someone else was doing the same thing because she had the same issues, except her route was different enough so that we never bumped into one another.  We would have recognized each other because we knew each other from camp and Hebrew School.

Inside, I was confused and sad and I knew, just knew, that my troubles were my fault.  How could I fix something that I couldn’t even talk about?  I medicated with food and alcohol.  Brilliant.  I added significant weight gain to my problems.  And nothing makes teenage life worse than being fat.  Now I was a liability to be around if you wanted to talk up cute boys.  I was less than background; I was avoided.

I remained heavy through my college years.  I was still struggling with wanting to be straight and not wanting to deal with this horrid, scary secret. On campus, a right-wing newspaper printed the names of the members of the GSSG (Gay Students Support Group).  I was secretly grateful that I was too scared to join.  I remained anonymous but I saw the effects of being “outed” on some of my friends. What happened to them confirmed my every nightmare.  “Out” meant parental disapproval (and worse), no chance of having children and discrimination. I wanted my parents to be proud and I wanted a family.  But I also wanted love.  What did I do to deserve this fate?  I had to have done something so unspeakably wrong to be exiled to a long and lonely road.

But sometimes the desire to feel whole can make a person go to crazy extents.  During college, I kept trying to put myself in situations where I might meet lesbians but only at a distance.  Two girls giggling in a bathroom piqued my interest, but I stayed in the background.  Invisible.  My comings and goings seemed mysterious enough so that my friends assumed that I was a Soviet spy meeting my handler.  No joke.  They still tease me to this day.

When I was graduated in 1985, I resolved to live a double life – try to marry a man and have an emotional (or romantic?) relationship with a woman. I had a hard time keeping up with the lies about why I was a no-show with my college friends or why I spent so much time with a particular woman when my mom would ask. I was a handful of shards of glass, each reflecting a portion of me, but not adding up to the whole.

I joined a gym to relieve some of the stress of my life and because I simply got sick and tired of literally wearing the weight of my troubles. I joined a gym to stop the “you would be so much more attractive if you lost some weight”.  I really channeled my anger and fears into exercise.  I was angry at G-d for making me gay and I was fearful of what would happen if I acted on those feelings.  Maybe you can imagine how sweating buckets can calm you down and make you so tired that you needed to adjourn those quandaries until the next day.  And, the next day, and so on.  I used work-outs at the gym to avoid my issues.  The upside was that I was really getting into good shape.

When I got thin, the family’s mantra “you are so thin and pretty now, I am sure the boys are knocking down your door!” returned.  In truth, I tried boys.  There was one lovely man I came close to marrying.  But he sensed the issues that lay right under the surface and called me on them.  “Do you need to sow some wild oats or should we just not have female housekeepers?”  And then, “should I wait?”  “No,” was my anguished answer.  (“If only you were female,” I thought.)  G-d bless him and his family forever.  (He has a lovely wife and two adult children now.)

In New York City in the 1980s, there were still no positive images of lesbians, let alone images of feminine lesbians. What was I thinking throwing away a solid relationship with a wonderful man? But, he and I both deserved to find our heart’s desires and soul mates.  At least he did; I couldn’t see how I was going to meet someone.  I didn’t want to be with a butch woman; I was a woman who wanted to be with a feminine woman.  They were invisible (unless they were on the arms of butch women). I was looking for a hypothetical feminine, pretty, Jewish (not essential), well-educated, funny and slightly neurotic lesbian.  Whoa, tall order.  I figured I would be alone for the rest of my life.  If it sounds sad, you can be sure that this is an understatement of how I felt.

Somewhere, on the other side of town, was a woman in a relationship who was wondering if she would ever meet her soul mate, her heart’s desire. We would have recognized each other if we met because we knew each other from camp and Hebrew School.

If I was going to leave a relationship with a wonderful man because of this “girl thing”, then it was high time I started gluing the shards of my life together.  Even though my father’s “I would welcome him as a son-in-law” echoed in my head and threatened to push out my brains through my ears, I tried to be open and honest with my family, my friends and, yes, me. And that required coming out.

My told my friend NYCFOB (dear NYC friend of blogger) in a cab, “you know my boyfriend John?  Her name is [girl’s name].”  I could see her brain working; a lot now made sense to her.  “It changes nothing between us,” she said simply.  She gave me a gift of a lifetime – in those few words, she said to me: “I am your friend even if you lied to me because I get that you thought it was necessary.  And I don’t care about the gay thing.”  Then, “who else knows?” She needed to know whom she could call and with whom she could shriek about some serious scoop. I still think she doesn’t know that we know that she has the biggest heart and a wellspring of love and acceptance tucked beneath a New Yorker’s veneer.

As for my parents, let’s just say that their rejection was hurtful and ugly, although it had a happy ending. Imagine a nice Jewish girl whose grandparents were the pre-World War II remnant of Russian Jewry, and parents who were poor children of immigrants of the Depression Era.  That means I was raised to need my parents’ approval on a daily basis.  Imagine that nice Jewish girl being cast out.  The gym was my haven.  I could sweat and lift weights and expel some of the anger and hurt I felt.  As I processed all the changes and charted a rough course for my life, I started not to want to be invisible or ignored anymore.  I had arrived – 115 pounds, toned body, good looks.  I was ready to fit in and conquer all social settings – gay or straight.

So, I joined a hip and groovy gym. It is a rule of life that if your gym is hip and groovy, you will work out in a sea of tall and beautiful women in that blond, willowy way with perfect gym outfits.  I wasn’t ready to be “out” because I still preferred ambiguity. Secretly, I wanted cute boys to talk to me as some sort of vindication of my sexual appeal – that men might want me even if I wanted women.

The muscled, handsome straight (and hell, even gay) guys talked to them and not to me.  Even the trainers didn’t pay attention to me.  I was still invisible. I know it doesn’t make sense, but nothing relating to body image, sexuality, and desire has anything to do with logic.  It was probably because I was too scared that if I came out, there was no going back.

Life got a lot better over the years.  I realized that you have to be a little out in order for people to find you.  Family hurts healed (with my mother’s wanting to ride on our synagogue’s Gay Pride float and my father’s making a huge stone sculpture of two women with a child). I had good romantic relationships (and some horror shows, let’s be honest).  I was happy.  I had friends.  I was an up-and-coming lawyer.  I found my groove.

Still, the gym was complicated. Working out made me feel strong, in control and let me expiate work anxiety and stress.  I started to understand that maybe I didn’t fit in because, for me, the gym was not my primary social outlet.  I went there to get sweaty and release endorphins.  Ahhhhh.  Still, I wanted to be noticed.  I know, I know.  It doesn’t make sense but it is what it is.

At Rosh HaShanah evening services in 1996, I was living the quintessential lesbian drama – my present girlfriend sat to my left and my ex-girlfriend sat to my right.  I was looking up at the ceiling, finally introducing myself to G-d. (This alone should have wiped away my sins for the year.)

In the midst of this bad movie, I heard a singing voice I recognized.  I turned around and I saw her. She was my best friend at sleep-away camp when we were 10 year-olds.  We went to Hebrew School together through senior year at high school.  I thought, “she is too cute to be gay”.  It’s that internalized homophobia ingrained in many of us who came of age in the 20th century and, no matter how we try, it still sometimes slips out.   (And I had very attractive exes.)

I looked for her after services, but she had left in a flash.  Ten days later, at Yom Kippur service, I was carrying the Torah around the synagogue during a ritual where the Torahs are marched around the sanctuary. I saw her again. POB (soon-to-be partner of blogger).  I knew somehow that we were living in parallel bubbles that “kissed” ever so slightly over the years.  We were both in relationships and just looking for friendship.

Our friendship was deep and supportive.  We leaned on each other when things got hard in our relationships.  We pushed each other to re-invest our emotions in those long-term relationships.  Nevertheless, our relationships ended between 1998 and 1999.  In spring of 2000, we realized that we were each other’s intended ones.  We fell into a happy rhythm of life together and started to think about having a baby.

Still, the gym was an important part of my life.  Sometimes we would go to the gym together after work, around 8pm.  We didn’t work out together; we needed our separate areas at the gym. I was working out the toxicity of life as a young partner in a law firm; she was just getting a fitness work out.

Then my mother had a recurrence of breast cancer.  I needed a punching bag and boxing gloves.   Our gym had those.  I watched others and then just copied them.  Tears would stream.  The rings on my fingers under the boxing gloves cut into my flesh.  I was bleeding and I was punching G-d as hard as I could.  In summer 2002, POB and I had a little boy.  In January 2003, my mother died.  I needed to punch out my unspeakable pain and sadness, but with newborn and two working moms, there was no time for the gym.

2002 through 2008 were rough years.  Setting aside various economic and professional upheavals (which don’t matter much in the end, anyway), POB’s mother’s chronic illness worsened to a point that hospital stays on respirators were not uncommon.  Ultimately, she died.  Our son presented with some developmental issues, which are resolving (something for which we are grateful everyday).  There was much joy and happiness, of course, in those years, but joy and happiness don’t make for interesting writing.  And besides, as a neurotic, urban-dwelling Jew, it is my cultural duty to emphasize the gut-wrenching, the embarrassing, the bizarre and the ooky.

When our son was six years old, POB and I were able to clear some personal time in the family schedule.  I chose to return to the gym.

What a difference six years makes. My first day, I was in the locker room and to my horror I discovered that I packed form-fitting running tights that go down just below my knees and a geeky t-shirt that stopped at my waist.  Two things to note: I couldn’t remember when last I shaved my legs, and if this outfit looked good on me, I wouldn’t need to go to the gym.

Now, our son is 9 years old.  He is 70 pounds and still jumps in my arms when I come home, so I need strong leg, stomach and arm muscles so as not to end up in traction. Now, I do sit ups and pull-ups.

I hate pull-ups but I do three sets of three (sometimes four).  And all the gym boys think it’s really cute that a gray-haired, middle-aged lady can do unassisted pull-ups.  No, joke — I get compliments, fist pumps and high-fives from male trainers and regular gym rats.  And they give me technique pointers.  And I know that some of the women are watching me. They are not checking me out; they are wondering how they could try a pull-up when no one is looking.  At long last, the “buff and beautiful” (even the trainers) notice me and talk to me.  It took some gray hair and a few pull-ups to be the belle of the gym.  Of course, now I don’t need that kind of attention.  At 47, I have lost some elasticity and agility, but age has given me determination and self-confidence, and, yes, helped me negotiate a comfortable detente with my body.

And now I am visible at the gym? The gym gods must be crazy indeed.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my life, my family and my wholeness.   It does get better.

~ note from Blogger:  Special thanks to the Soeurs for editing and remembering and loving me, in all my guises.

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 bet

DOB (dad of blogger) came over for dinner.  We were without reinforcements.  And SOB (sister of blogger) and I had the bet.  SOB said DOB would sing Sholom Aleichem within an hour of arrival and I bet that it would be well before then.

About one-half hour into the visit, DOB was in the bathroom for too long and, well since he is almost 91, I became concerned.  “Dad, are you all right?”  “No problem,” he shouted, “just a little [insert scatological issue].”  I had to call SOB at the hospital about intervening events that might either delay the bet or give me an automatic compassionate win (depending on the judges).

SOB was adamant that the bet was still on.  SOB is tough, but loving and caring.  So, the bet was still on.

With DOB back in the living room, we discussed certain issues relating to the pain, tightness and possibly a little blood relating to the unnamed scatological issue.   I think, “this is sooooo not what I bargained for.” But time was running out.  I thought, “how will I explain to POB (partner of blogger) that I literally bet the house on whether DOB would sing Sholom Aleichem within the first hour of his arrival?”  This would not go over well.  POB might even cancel the wedding and kick me out with a frying pan, like Felix Unger’s wife did to him. Determined not to be a divorcee on a 1960s TV sitcom, I became desperate.

Desperation propelled me into action, even though I know that the final accounting between SOB and me on these types of bets will be at the gates of Hell.  [As an aside, SOB claims that she engages in this kind of infantile behavior to make sure she goes to Hell with me because she would miss me too much if she were in Heaven.  Haven’t I a wonderful sister?]

With little time left, DOB starts singing “Happy Birthday” to TLP (our son, the little prince) to whom we have sung happy birthday ad nauseum.  However, DOB never tires of singing random songs like, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” or “Yes Sir, She’s My Baby”.  In what can only be described as a Hail Mary play, I say, “well, that is better than singing Sholom Aleichem!!”  And, G-d bless DOB, he starts singing at minute 58 and 45 seconds.  I call SOB at the hospital, “I won because even though I affirmatively coaxed him into singing it, there was a whole lot of information beforehand that was unnecessary for the non-doctor child to know!!”

SOB, a saint of a woman, wanted to come and save me.  I said, “no, but we will call this a draw, ok?”  She agreed.  What an awesome sister.

POB asked, “why did you have to call your sister twice?  She usually reads things on your blog and then you discuss.”  I didn’t want to tell POB how close we came to financial ruin at the gates of Hell (of course, she’ll be in Heaven, hanging out with our Moms).

A typical Sunday night chez nous.

Aleichem Sholom

A point of clarification on my last blog entry about SOB (sister of blogger) and DOB (dad of blogger) and the documentary they saw on Sholom Aleichem:

Sholom Aleichem was the great Yiddish writer/playwright’s nom de plume.  It is a Yiddish variant of the Hebrew “shalom aleichem,” meaning “peace be with you”.  The correct response, is “aleichem shalom.”

Shalom Aleichem is also a song for the Sabbath (check out this video):

(Translation: Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.  May your coming be in peace angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He. Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.  May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the supreme King of kings, the Holy one, blessed be He.)

It is relevant, in some miniscule way, to this blog entry.

Today, SOB took TLP (our son, the little prince) to have lunch with DOB and then see the movie, “Cars2.”  TLP was telling SOB and DOB about his favorite parts of camp and he mentioned that Shabbat services was a Friday high point.  Now, there is a totally irreligious reason for this:  TLP gets an extra snack of grape juice and challah.  SCORE!!!! 

Unfortunately, even though no one even mentioned Sholom Aleichem for almost 7 full days, DOB immediately launched into his off-key rendition of “Shalom Aleichem” in full voice for the, er, um, benefit (?) of all within earshot — other patrons of the diner and assorted vermin hiding to get away from the cacophony.

So, two irreconcilable desires derive from this episode:  One, we all agree never to mention anything about Shabbat ever again in DOB’s presence, even the innocent references made by TLP.  The other, is to see how quickly we can trigger the song in DOB at any time and all the time.  The first option would save our sanity but the second option has a slightly mischievous appeal even though it would be tantamount to mutual assured destruction.

SOB and I are dutiful and loving daughters.  Which do you think we chose?  The latter of course.  And, to make it even crazier, we bet on it.  With each other, we only bet in the millions of dollars so we are always going for broke.  It seems appropriate since we are betting on our sanity and that of DOB.

DOB is coming for dinner tomorrow night.  SOB has to work, so I have the advantage.  I might meet him downstairs so that I trigger it even before he crosses the threshold. I am the evil younger sibling.

But, SOB needn’t worry about transferring assets so quickly.  There will always be new bets, even more cynical and macabre bets, long before the Final Accounting is due.  (And, as I understand, Hell doesn’t take cash or credit cards.)

But until then, hum with me:  Sha-lom a-lei-chem, mal-a-chei ha-sha-reit, mal-a-chei el-yon, mi-me-lech ma-l’chei ha-m’la-chim, ha-ka-dosh ba-ruch hu. . . . ♫