To Honor A Memory

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If my mom were here to celebrate her birthday, she would be eighty-six years old today.  It seems a bit surreal to think that she has been gone for eight years.  In our eulogies, both my sister and I acknowledged that she was a complicated woman, and arguably a complicated mom.  That was said and is written,  within a far broader context of how deeply she loved us and how much we loved her.   Not a day goes by…

I spoke to my parents everyday.  And when work kept me from my 9AM call, my assistant would call her to tell her I would call later.   It was a simple thing to do;  it made her feel good.  Honestly,  I remember sometimes it felt like a requirement instead of a joy.  She knew I spoke with my dad everyday until he no longer could (often acknowledged with the half-serious comment “you always loved your father better”) and I knew that if I ever curtailed those calls she would be deeply hurt.  Ironically, I still look at the clock at 9AM and feel the incompleteness that comes with a conversation that no longer occurs.

Why do I write something about mom on her birthday?  Because I want her memory to remain as alive to my children as it is to me.  Because I want those who know me to know that she was a remarkable, vibrant, artistic, beautiful woman.  Because some passages take a very long time to find one’s way through, and it’s possible that some  never really end.  Because my beloved niece still wears her grandmother’s gold whistle around her neck.  And because when my sister laughs so hard she ‘strips her gears’ (as my dad used to say), it evokes a delight in my heart that reaches far back to another place and time.  Dad and Deb laughing so hard they’d eventually start to hiccup and mom’s laugh bringing her to tears as she would hug her stomach with a delicious pain.   I was good for a laugh.  Don’t get me wrong – I was also good at causing my share of frustration too.

I re-printed her obituary from the New York Times last year and I will do so again this year.  Perhaps wherever she is, she will know how much she is missed,  how much she is loved and how today each falling leaf seems to echo her name.

“….Dee was the loving mother of daughters Deborah…and Mimi… .  She was the proud grandmother of Matthew…, Aaron…, Tess…, Seth…, Spencer… and Paul…, and generous mother-in-law of Roger … and Andy… .  She was the devoted wife and indispensable partner of the late Jack W. Jerome.  Dee was born and spent her early childhood in Vienna, making her one of that shrinking cohort who experienced and survived the monstrous storm of Nazi violence.  Her father and mother, Michael and Miriam Intrator, took the family out of Austria shortly after the Anschluss, making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France.  The family made its way to Portugal, where on August 16, 1941, they found passage among the 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe.  Dee’s children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence.  Her intelligence, humor and immense energy were a gift to us all.  Our family is particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return earlier this month of her eldest grandson Matthew, from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”

My dad died shortly before Matt left for Iraq.  Mom waited for all of her grandchildren to be home and safe.  I refer to that time as the year I didn’t breathe, for all I knew was that I drew breath when I knew Matt was breathing – and we weren’t in touch enough for me to know with certainty that he was ok.  There are some things I’m just not prepared to write about – my heart censors my fingers.  As it should be.  The point is not to return to that time, but to remember that today’s mom’s birthday.  And she would have been feted and celebrated.  As it should be.  So for mom – your birthday is etched in my heart.  I miss you.

 

The New Work of Age: Deep Thinking

I have been having many conversations with friends of mine about what the second half holds. The key perhaps is in re-defining one’s understanding of the concept of ‘doing’ – turning that energy inward and valuing it as much as one valued all those years of externalized effort. Some thoughts for this morning…

Any Shiny Thing

Good Friday morning, everyone. My friend Dorothy Sander wrote today’s post. Dorothy blogs for the Huffington Post, and her blog, Aging Abundantly, is another joyful resource for those of us in the second half.

This is her response to “I Don’t Want to Live Forever”. I felt empowered by Dorothy’s words. Hope you do, too.

How very sad that advancing years seems to spawn despair and a sense of hopelessness and fear. About ten years ago, in my early 50’s I watched my parents journey through their last days, one dying at 89, the other at 97 and the thing that struck me then was exactly that. They couldn’t figure out how to live without “doing” something. I vowed then, that I would try to figure out a better way to die so that I don’t have to die in despair.

I have been wrestling with my own version…

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When The Heart Hurts

“There comes a time when the world goes quiet and the only thing left is your own heart.  So you better learn the sound of it,  Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” — Sarah Dessen

Perhaps it’s just the uncertainty of the sky this morning.  Long drives over the weekend punctuated by emotional family moments that are both joyful and sad.  Certainly too full to be explained without further reflection.  Maybe it’s just a day when the heart has to ache.  The uncomfortable nexus where what we feel meets what we give and/or receive.  Feeling the summer’s departure and perhaps not being ready to say farewell.

There’s a chill in my body that seems centered in my chest that radiates into my arms.  As if they need to stay close to my body and not approach the day outstretched with anticipation.  Sometimes you need to just hold yourself.  Wrapping yourself up in whatever warmth you extend out; trying to retain that heat.  And if one were to ask what’s wrong, the best one can do is shrug, perhaps whisper “I don’t know”.  I’m just aching for what I miss.  And I’m furious that given all that I have, I should even think of feeling anything but grateful.  And yet…sometimes, even Pollyanna sounds insufferable to herself.  Let it be.  Tomorrow I may fly again.  Tomorrow I will marvel.  For today though, I am chilled.  And I will listen to my heart, not diminish its longing or sorrow or misgivings – for days like this shouldn’t be denied, or they will last far longer if ignored.   Time to grab a sweatshirt, accessorize appropriately and just accept the day for what it is.

courtesy of The Story People
courtesy of The Story People

Practically Perfect

“They say that nobody is perfect.  Then they tell you practice makes perfect.  I wish they’d make up their minds” — Winston Churchill

Oh Winnie (we’re on informal terms), I am with you pal.  Accepting that we are all so imperfect (even you Win – you had a weirdly shaped head and drank more than your fair share of alcohol – I’m just sayin’…and what about that temper, hmm?),  able to choose the road less traveled with the right intention and the wrong shoes, discovering once lost that we’ve reached a dead-end (while walking without a compass – I still don’t know how to use one, but some people find them handy).  Striving, reaching, folding inward…reflecting upon the answers to questions with a million possible choices.  Perhaps we are lucky enough to find a perfect moment in between all the others, and arguably that’s pretty damn good.  We all know that nothing holds up under intense scrutiny – a perfect rose, an exquisite smile – if gazed upon for too long morphs into something that is slightly wanting (and occasionally a little weird-looking).

I accepted this reality a long time ago – and yet, I’m still searching.  And I’m an idiot.  I have been on a quest for the perfect pair of jeans, the perfect cosmetic blush, the perfect pen for decades (decades,  I tell you).  Straight jeans, boyfriend jeans, jeans with spandex so I can look thin and not breathe, dark jeans, bleached jeans, expensively ripped jeans, bootcut jeans.  I have a long torso and short legs (imagine trying to dress a fireplug), and still wonder if all jeans require that there be a gap at the waist that permits you to catch a lovely breeze while you’re walking.  A pair of jeans that are well-worn and soft, comfortable to a fault that don’t provide the opportunity for me to end up with a self-inflicted and seriously painful wedgie.  Jeans that will close without holding my breath and a zipper that moves easily without the need to lie down on the bed to ease its movement.

I’ve  just about given up on this one – I buy ’em bigger these days, because I just can’t abide by things that hug me so tightly I begin to feel light-headed.  How do I look?  Probably like a representative from Munchkinland who didn’t make it into costume in time.  I am completely aware that Vogue isn’t calling anytime soon.

Make-up is just one big come-on and I fall every time.  Each color is “wonderful for any skin tone”, “gives you that natural flush”, “just apply on the apples of your cheeks and you will look instantly refreshed”.  No I won’t.  I look like a frightening marionette or my application is so light that people ask after my health.  “Coral” looks  like I’ve got navel oranges affixed to my cheeks; pink as if I’ve strategically stuck on cotton candy so I can grab a taste throughout the day.  Brown?  Don’t ask.  If I pinch my cheeks (as some fashion editors recommend) I hurt myself and am left with two welts.  So why am I still bothering?  Hope my friend, hope.  It’s stronger than reality.

Which brings us to my obsession with pens.  Those who remember me from my work days know that my preference was always to use a fountain pen.  Italic nib, so I could write pseudo-calligraphy and remain questionably legible.  I wanted a pen that would float along the page, no sound of scratching, ink flowing evenly and with the sort of fluidity that the end result would almost have to be equally flowing and beautiful.  I also thought it would improve my illegibility, transforming it into magnificent penmanship.  Cheap pens, expensive pens, I have committed to so many, only to discover that I am fickle and that my expectation keeps changing.  I really understand that there may not be a connection between the loveliness of a pen and the words that I write (a bitter, bitter pill to swallow – “I coulda been a contender”).  But I believe there is some writing instrument out there that is going to be close to transformative.  David (davidkanigan.com) wrote of the “Perfect Pen” yesterday and I felt my heart begin to race.  Could it really be?  And it’s available at Office Depot?  No specialty store?  No secret password to gain egress to some high-end pen shop?  You know where I’m heading today.

And yet I know that I will like the pen.  I will not love it, for it is not a fountain pen – but perhaps it will inspire sentences that leave you breathless, wondering with awe how I could even conjure such flights of fancy and delight.  I think I’ll wear my two-sizes-too-big-jeans over there and just keep hitching them up (true I probably walk like a short Walter Brennan but people give me a wide berth) and mix the corals, pinks and browns together before lightly dusting them on my cheeks.  It may seem that my face needs a good washing after that, but what the hell.  Totally unkempt woman walking into Office Depot in search of perfection.  No one will believe it.

Lost

I keep returning to this poem, to these words – with my heart saying ‘yes’ and eyes wet with tears. Happy Sunday all.

Radiating Blossom ~ Flowers & Words

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
 
~~ David Wagoner ~~

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