Today, as they thumbed through a magazine like The National Enquirer, Kathy Lee and Hoda, the NBC talk show hosts, declared that according to what they were reading, January 17 will be the worst day of the year and June 17 will be the best day of the year, that is the day I turn 5000000000000000.
I just finished Nora Ephron’s book entitled I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections and this is what my parody of her sounds like about the age of Fifty. Fifty, I’m not suppose to turn 50, 50 is for old people. Fifty is for my Mother and all the people wearing Alfred Dunner and elastic waist band pants. Fifty is for people with severe chicken neck and a lot of grey hairs. Fifty is for church suppers and the Friday night fish fry. Hey wasn’t it just yesterday that I was 28 and my younger sister taunted me with the words: “YOU WILL BE THIRTY, THIRTY.” Nope, fifty is not for me.
Molly isn’t turning 50, a few years younger, she fought a horrible cancer and died in her mid 20s. Jim, my brother’s friend and a gentle, fun, outgoing soul, he isn’t turning 50. Somewhere in his 30s the lottery of life gave him a seizure condition which caused an early death. I thought of these two as I drove to the dentist today. It’s cold out, my lungs hurt from a recent bronchitis and I’m sure both, with their enormous zest for life, would wish to be here and have a little lung pain and the gift of being 49.
Nora Ephron also points out in her book that she did not really get it until she was fifty. “In fact looking back I was clueless until I was about fifty years old.” The most ironic thing about aging is that as we get it more and more with each year, our bodies and minds let go of it. It would make more sense if we got it when we were young and full of the energy needed to do something with it. But then again, maybe we tried that and through time, realized certain truths that would have stymied us in our youth.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~here is a poem I wrote on New Year’s Eve, sad things happen but good things do to
I snapped photographs of our surroundings and I decided to make the video I promised my husband, Radames. It gives us a document of the seasons here in the Northeast.
I set this visual story to Claire deLune because my lifelong friend’s father, John A., use to greet me with that nick name as he lifted his head up from his garden beds to say hello. Between my friend’s home, nestled among trees and flowers and perennials, and my Grandmother’s gardens, I learned to appreciate nature; the smell of the earth after a good rain; and the beauty of color that pops out all year as the light hits the earth.
I visit gorgeous gardens and natural places and my favorite are like these pictures, I walk in and feel the magic, the light, and the love.
I picked Tazz up in 1993 at an animal shelter, he stood a day away from euthanasia. I lived alone, several miles from my work and life community and I wanted a cat to keep me company. Tazz has gone through everything with me. Always present with affection and purrs. He is so old that before my aunt died in 1995, she made a figurine replica of him, which I still display.
At first, I was not sure our relationship could work. I put him in time out more than once when he climbed up a fabric wall hanging and was unreachable. I started reading cat books and the vet said to speak his language. When I needed him to behave , such as, stop clawing at the furniture, I began hissing and soon he began growing out of his kitten phase.
Tazz ruined three rugs, a couch, and annoyed the heck out of our dogs, two of which he outlived. In the last three years, he spent much of his time sleeping with his wife, Honey Bunny. I am sad to write I have taken for granted that Tazz would always be here.
So, last week, when he started a rapid decline with only 1/4 of his kidneys functioning, I wanted to do whatever I could to keep him around longer. He is on blood pressure medicine, potassium supplements, and periodic subcutaneous fluids. It sounds ridiculous, how can I do this for an animal that has lived long when people suffer without health care. I know I am not alone. According to Jon Markman on moneycentral.msn , “Americans lavish $36 billion a year on pampered pets.”
The only answer is that this little warm bundle of fur is always happy to see me and he is the only creature that was part of my everyday life in 1993 that is still part of my everyday life. Perhaps it is nostalgia that is motivating me to fuss and just the need to say a proper goodbye.
I tune in to MAD MENand I feel like I am watching childhood from an adult’s point of view. I remember the cocktails and the cigarettes that were present in so many places back then…my friend’s father downing a gin and tonic at lunch with no thought. Last night Don, the hero, asked his secretary to stop him at 3 drinks. Drinks he takes from his office bar as soon as he becomes stressed.
It took me years in social work and education to get the addictive relationship between people and alcohol or any drug really. Andthis is how I see it after watching LEAVING LAS VEGAS twice and working with people in rehabilitation.
I can’t find you anywhere and I miss you so. You are the only one who can soothe my aching soul with the warmth that caresses my insides while I search to numb the pain by finding love from the outside. I do not know how I will get more of you or at least enough for today. There are the old beer bottles that sit waiting for redemption. I will get up and get them now. ‘Ooh, I can’t quite do it, my stomach seems to bounce up to my throat when I rise. Maybe later. ‘
It’s later my dear Alcohol. I just woke up, ok there are enough bottles for return to buy a pint.
The store was busy, I grabbed you as soon as I could and put you under my coat.
Turkey vultures ride on the thermals overhead looking for food while I drive below on this sunny day. They circle the farm fields and I drive by Dunkin Donuts, the antique shop, and into the drive…exhausted, I wait for the Mack trucks to pass and then I walk over the street to retrieve the mail. I look down to see a beautiful light purple aster with petals spread as the crimson, orange, and mustard yellow colors of withering fall plants surround it. I open the mailbox, a bill. I walk in the house, collapse on the coach, and wake up to my friend’s email announcing a link to cakewrecks. I click to this blog; decorated cakes gone bad. I guess just professional cakes, my sponge cake that ended up served in a punch bowl in May would not make it.
On a Thursday at Notre Dame High School in Southport, NY, my friend and I had no classes scheduled after 1:15pm, one April in 1977. Transfer students from a public school to the catholic high school, we hated all the rules: green sweaters every day, no clogs, and prayer to start the day. We were leaving for our native public school in the fall.
Its warm out, the grass is a brilliant emerald-green, and we want to escape. “I bet we have enough money for a cab.” We dug through the pockets of our green polyester skirts and counted our coins.
“I’ll call the cab Natalie and tell them to meet us on the corner, that way we will be off school grounds.”
We walked to our lockers, stuffed some things in our book bags, and met in the hall. “I think we will be ok.” I tell Natalie, “the cab is over there and no one is around.”
School is not due out until 3 and the cab will get us home by 2:30, before our usual 4pm. We live over the bridge about 2 miles from each other and a good ten from the school.
We walked out the door across the long driveway, and between two tall pine trees. The field lay between us and our freedom: the yellow TAXI. Walking across the green grass, freedom ahead, I looked at my friend. We smiled, success so close. Then suddenly, the shrilllllll of three whistles stopped us in our tracks. ‘could those be for us?’
We turned around to see the nuns of Notre Dame marching toward us. As I recall it was Sister Carmella, Sister Edmund, and Sister Mary Walter. The nuns angry, dressed in black habits and dresses head to toe, as they walked toward us. This isn’t going to end well, we knew. It led to at least one detention and writing 100 times on the board: I will not leave school early.
Lesson Learned: if you break the rules, there are always whistle blowers.
It was also at this time that I realized that there were some rules that were just dumb. Why at almost 16, could we not leave school during our free time? Dumb as they were, I knew I would have to obey rules if there were consequences to myself or others, but on that April day, I wanted to see how much I could get away with.
In college, I later learned, that we, as a collective, need to submit to rules to avoid chaos (the social contract). What would happen, for example, if at an intersection there were no red lights or stop signs? Could the members of the society drive safely to and from work, could people survive if everyone’s right to go through the intersection when they needed, superseded the need of the common good to have a regulated stop and go pattern, could the community survive and thrive?
This week in the news, headlines abound about education reform. I am a former teacher, ten years in a public school and eight in community education, and I laugh when I see the scapegoat this time, why, it’s tenure, all those teachers sitting on their duff following rigid union rules not to work overtime, etc. and collecting their paychecks. It is true that I have seen tenure , in a few cases, contribute to lousy teaching. But, if we need a scapegoat, why not look at the elephant in the room.
The biggest problem is when there are no rules to follow. When the individual right of the student to walk across the grass supersedes the need of the institution to put boundaries in place to keep order. If the student and his or her parents fight for the right of the person to laugh even though there is a test in session which affects 32 other students; if an individual fights for her right to burp in the middle of class because after all it is after lunch, and if an administrator can not be bothered chasing down a kid with a machete pulled out in your afternoon history class because it’s not in the administrator’s assigned part of the alphabet, how can the rights of the collective student body to listen and gather information be upheld.
a nice hot summer with lots of vegetables and flowers and fruits to pick
little rain, except for today, which was cool, misty, and actually soaking into the ground as I walked with my dog through the wet marshland and felt the coldness through my sneakers
the beaver pond, 3 acres, constructed over several years, beginning in 2006, wiped out some time between the last photo and sighting of a beaver patrolling, July 22 and last Sun, Aug 8, when we noticed its disappearance
for us, it seemed bitter-sweet, new life will take over and the beavers have cleared a field in the middle of a growing forest, but all the birds, etc. seem to have migrated elsewhere, except for a great blue heron which was scouring up some fish in a little pool when we went down today to check it out
For Aunt Margaret, who would have been over 100 years old today July 14.
And so it goes
the life running through our bones and our space and our blood
we create a structure full of ivory china laced with gold
and little pretty pots of flowers lining the shelf
real or fake, does not matter
our days go by, slowly some, swiftly others
the sun gleams into the living room, early morning
brisk, fresh air, we bake the cookies in late October to
be stored for the gift in late December
the spring comes with its sweet bird song
we visit Aurora to see the geese, so many geese
and Thursdays not spent there, spent somewhere
a luncheon, a shop, it goes on and on
and the structure we have made
Church on Saturday or Sunday
the neighbors, oh that Jody Rhode, what is he up to now?
no family to speak of, some connections down there in Binghamton
and slowly, we start to
until one day, we wake, and we pack for the hospital
no need to look back, we know that our journey’s end is here
and we know that the structure we leave behind
really never stood anywhere except in our mind.
The story behind this poem…
Aunt Margaret was our adopted aunt and she spent holidays and Saturday evenings with us throughout my childhood and into my thirties, when she died of old age. She treated us like family and we did the same. Aunt Margaret taught me many things over the course of my journey with her but most important, she showed me how important it is to be intentional.
Intentional in that what we do, say, write, and how we do it, counts, everything. I need to remind myself of her example. We need to think of the consequences of our actions and the feelings of others.
Every year at Christmastime, she asked me to go out to dinner or lunch with her one evening and help pick out gifts for her to give my younger siblings. I usually researched ahead of time and then brought a list with me. One specific year always comes back to me at Christmas.
It is cold out and dark, only the Christmas lights and lanterns shine in the town streets. Blustery, the snow kicks up into swirls on the road and sidewalks as we trudge from store to store, looking for the gifts. The gifts, one each for all five of us, will arrive on Christmas day, wrapped in paper and ribbons and little candies, each in different papers and each designed specifically for the recipient.
We walk down an alley way toward what was the Gorton Coy building and department store. To the right, we enter a charming little restaurant, I have no idea what the name of it is now and I do know it is gone, washed away like a lot of things during the Flood of 1972. We sit down to a prime rib dinner and there are little pieces of evergreen under a lighted candle in front of us. We chat about many things, stories told over and over, etched in my mind now.
Aunt Margaret adored her father, a German immigrant who made a lot of money in the stock market during the 1920s. You can see from the picture below that she was well taken care of, the fur around the beautiful little girl illustrates this point. She never mentioned that I recall, loosing so much during the Stock Market Crash of 1929, but it became obvious to me as I learned more about her. Aunt Margaret became for the times a big woman and a very devout Catholic, she never married. Her schooling must have ended at high school as she worked her entire life in a furniture store as a clerk. Just not the life I see for the little girl in the fur. Despite this, she never appeared bitter, just grateful for everything people did for her and for each day on the earth. Intentional in all her activities.
At the end of our dinner, she told me the story about why you must always come when your parents call you.
“I was playing with my friends and I heard my Father calling and calling me. I did not respond. He told me several times in the past this was not a good behavior and that he expected me to come when he called. I am about 12 when this happens and it is in the summer. ‘Margaret, Margaret, come home.’ I continued to ignore him.”
“Later that day, I arrived back to the house. Father looked at me and said, ‘You know that pony you wanted, well, it’s been here and gone. I told you young lady, to come when you are called.’ I felt bad but Father was correct.”
A little harsh in my mind given what we know about a 12 year olds natural proclivity to rebel against parents. All the same, it showed the consequences, not getting the horse, to the intentional behavior of not responding to her father’s request that she come home.
At the end of our meal, Aunt Margaret said to me, “This Christmas, I am going to give you a gift that you can keep forever and someday, you will hopefully, look back and say that my old aunt gave me this and you will remember me.”
We walked to the car and I said I was excited to get the gift. I waited patiently for it to arrive on Christmas day and as a girl, felt like I was growing up, when I opened it to find a beautiful engraved stone box for keepsakes. I think it is the only gift I have still from the Christmases of my childhood. I use it and I’ll never throw it out, I will just have to find someone to pass it to, along with the story of Aunt Margaret. Perhaps that was her intent.