aging, friendship, grandparenthood, inspiration, marriage, parenting, Uncategorized

Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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anxiety, grandparenthood, mindfulness, parenting, Uncategorized

Holding On

Hi,

It’s been too long, I know – most of you have understandably moved on to more reliable (and probably far better) musings.  What can I say that you haven’t read before?  Transitions are not seamless for me – that’s an understatement.  Cognitively I recognize that every beginning requires a transition to something else, movement is far preferable to stasis, new adventures are uplifting – yada yada yada…Internally, I ache for breath, tiptoe around my life until I get my bearings and slip through the day as unobtrusively as possible.  For all of the bravado, I stand before you – a wimp.

I have found it impossible to write, for I find the current climate so negative, toxic, skewed to the vitriolic that I can’t find my voice in this cacophony.  I don’t want to contribute to the noise; if anything I would like to turn the volume way down.  Waaaaaaaay down.   How about if we whisper for a while?  We might listen to each other more attentively.

Which brings me to my quiet, sacred moment of grace.  I have the gift of watching one of my granddaughters once a week.  I don’t write about the babies often – suffice it to say, I am every besotted grandmother who finds her grandchildren magical, perfect, amazing; every mom who marvels at her sons as adoring, devoted, gentle dads who are awed by their own children.  It’s hard to write this stuff without hyperbole

Bu that’s just the segue – sorry if I went on too long.

Sophie will soon be eleven months.  We get a kick out of each other, we really do.  We make each other laugh, hold each other tight, she places her head in the crook of my neck and I place my nose to the crook of hers and I tickle her.  She’s starting to walk and toddles with determination – stout of heart, if not necessarily equally strong of leg.  Up and down the stairs, slapping each step with little hands that grab and clap and point and propel her up, up, up.  When she laughs at the Sirs, her nose wrinkles.  Between cruising the house and the neighborhood, reading (of sorts), engaging the dogs, and her ‘learning’ toys – we’re pretty busy.  And when it’s time to nap, there’s no negotiation – she can fall asleep in her high chair.

She wakes a little disoriented and as I lift her up, she places her head on my shoulder.  Within a moment she has found her spot, falling back to sleep and I lie down on the couch.  I place one hand on her head, the other rises and falls with her breath.  I try to count her eyelashes, trace the little pucker of her mouth as it drops open.  I feel the pads of her fingers, softer than cotton.  And in her breath, I find the breaths that I find so elusive these days.  In this moment, we breathe together.  Perhaps she can feel my heart,  as I let mine adapt to the rhythm of hers.  There is a reverence to this kind of quiet.  This is what we’re here for.  And if we’re fortunate souls, we dial it down so that we can feel it.

She wakes and we look at each other – my eyes wide and grateful, hers dreamy and a little unfocused.  And then she sees it’s me and smiles, rubbing her face against my shirt and receiving kisses from the Sirs who are ready for her to chase them once again.  Our little respite is done, the awe lingers.

Soon, Sophie will start day care, for it will be time for her to hang out with her peeps and engage with the world.  We will still have our time, our moments.  These little girls and the generosity of their parents have given me my breath, in these times when it can be so hard to breathe.  And they offer the greatest grace of all – to love, to love, to love.

 

 

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grandparenthood, life lessons, love, parenting

Some Days Define Magic and Miracles and Stardust

May I introduce you to Sienna Reese – the most perfect daughter of my son and daughter-in-law.  This little girl was made in love and born in love (with a powerful dose of determination, grit and strength on her mommy’s part) and is welcomed to the world with a full heart from so many – including this new grandmother.

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There are no words for experiences like this…they get caught in the throat and can’t be fully formed.  Ironically,  I came across this post from The Story People, and it felt right for today.  To rediscover that place.  Perhaps I was never more at home than when I was holding my children against me.  Welcome home precious child, welcome home

courtesy of The Story People
courtesy of The Story People
anxiety, inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness, motivation, parenting

Stuck In The Mud

That feeling of spinning your wheels, your body rocking with the car thinking it’s going to help in your efforts to dislodge it.  Wishing someone would come along to give you a push, yet recognizing that you haven’t seen another car for miles.

The karma truck is stuck in the mud.  I think it’s ok though – either I’m on the verge of getting back on the road or I’m making peace with the fact that sometimes you just have to put the damn thing in park.

Why so stuck?  Who knows really.  A friend of mine was describing this blog to his wife and said I write about ‘all this touchy-feely stuff’.  I explained how my initial motivation was to print out a year’s worth of posts and give them to my sons. Ok – it’s been a year and a half – now what?  My intent is not to hand them a tome.  I will never curate with the best of them, nor will I write with the best of them.  My sister told me that writers have discipline – I’m sure she’s right – she’s a truly outstanding writer.  I don’t think of myself as a writer – I feel like I’m more of a gusher, spewing forth foam and fluff and occasionally a stream of water that catches the light.  So you can see why I’m a little mired.  What is this blog to be now?  I’m trying to figure that out.  Filter out all the nonsense and distill my thoughts down to the most basic.  What do I want this to be?

“I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the last twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.  Help.  Thanks.  Wow.” — Anne Lamott. The woman is onto something.  [If you have never treated yourself to a book by Anne Lamott, please give yourself that gift].  Getting to the fundamentals.  Every morning when I’m out with the Sirs, there is a silent exchange between me and the stars.  First I whisper my gratitude, for to neglect to recognize what I have been given is folly and hubris and stupid.  The list is long.  Then I quietly marvel – how can you not marvel at a sky wallpapered with stars?  Or the words “I love you”?  Puppy licks (even from an especially mischievous one).  The intensity of the yellows and the oranges that inform the landscape on the mountain?  And finally, I say “Please”.  And I cry.  Every time I consider the request, I cry.  I feel a little like Holly Hunter‘s character in “Broadcast News“.  My therapeutic cry.

Am I sad?  No.  By the time I get to ‘please’, I’m overwhelmed.

And so we come full circle…I am more than shmaltz and less than Dostoevsky.  I am sitting in ‘park’ despite an urge to rock this baby out of the muck.  I’m old enough to know that we all have moments like these and young enough to feel impatient and itchy.  It feels good to write this to you.  It’s been too long.

inspiration, life lessons, love, parenting

Following Some Great Advice

LouAnn who pens the fantastic blog onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com, accepted a gauntlet – to devote one post a week to write about one’s blessings.  I like the idea, especially given all the other topics that one can entertain.  And for me there are at least three days in any given year which are deserving of individual mention.  Today is one of them.

Thirty two years ago today, I became a mom for the first time.  I would become a mom two more times – another wonderful boy two-plus years later, and one more gift that came as part of the package that is Andy (and in many ways he helped seal the deal, because I fell for that little boy the moment I met him).   But today it is about the man who can claim this day as his birthday.

I am not going to go too far back in time – for it will make his eyes roll and may somehow diminish the present.  Yet, I hold thirty-two years worth of moments (longer if one were to include the lengthy conversations we had before he actually appeared).  I have known him and loved him longer than he has known himself.  That gives me a pretty decent perspective on the qualities that make the man.

He’s a really, really good man.  He’s smart and dogged, determined and stalwart.  He loves his wife tenderly and holds their relationship tenaciously.  He still wants me in his life.  And I love being a part of it.  Sometimes he worries about me, other times he is probably frustrated by me – much of the time we just talk about the stuff of which life is made.  He has gotten certain traits from me, but he is far more his own incredible concoction of talents and flaws than anything else.  I take no credit – he has much credit to take.  And I am blessed to be his mom.  To have been a part of his journey and the keeper of some of his secrets.  To have been provided with the opportunity to laugh and cry with him, celebrate and grieve with him, ponder and occasionally just punt when there seemed like nothing else to do.

Time has accelerated since I became a mom, because its passing has been marked by their development and growth, stumbles and leaps.  I have often wished that it would slow down a bit, for I consider myself way too immature to be the mother of such phenomenal adults.  Part of the blessing I guess, is that in my heart,  he is (as his brothers are) my boys, my heart and my soul.   I always knew I wanted to be a mom, even when I was too young to know they ways to become one.  But my greatest legacy is not that I am a mom – it’s that I’m the mom of these men.  Happy Birthday my magnificent boy – you are loved beyond all measure.

(And those this isn’t a video of you, the song of course is for you)

discretion, life lessons, love, parenting

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.

 

humor, love, parenting

An Ode To Puppy Training

 

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Bogey, Oh Bogey

My patience has been lost

Your puppy licks are heavenly

Your belly is just boss

 

But Bogey, dear Bogey

Your head is incredibly hard

Your habits indiscriminate

Instead of in the yard

 

I do not mind the teething

The chewing or tripped-upon toys

The relentless teasing of your brothers

For you’re still a baby boy

 

Dear Bogey, my Bogey

Why is it you can’t see

How wrong it is to squat in the kitchen

And look at me as you pee?

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friendship, humor, love, parenting

Update From Under The Round Table

Well the past thirty-six hours have been a bit tiring, but the Sirs are slowly beginning to accept the interloper who is desperately seeking membership.  Personally I think he’s trying a little too hard, but I’m sure that his canine brothers would disagree.   We are succeeding at the whole ‘going potty’ thing (with a couple of exceptions), the crate experience and following the King around like a dutiful royal subject.  Our days look like this…

We play…

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Everyone gets a little territorial – as in, ‘he will NOT share my seat that the table’

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We get sleepy

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We pass out

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And so it goes…And as soon as this little guy gives me a few moments, I will write about something else entirely..

humor, life lessons, love, mindfulness, parenting

Welcome Sir Bogart

Well, we had a very calm ride home and so far, so good…The Sirs are a bit ambivalent – and Archie did try to share Bogey’s lunch…It’s been a challenge to get him out of Andy’s lap as you can see…

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And now it’s nap time, and the newest Sir is making it very clear that he values his privacy.

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Something tells me these next couple of weeks are going to make blogging a challenge – time snatched between trips to go potty.  But he is awfully cute..

discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, parenting

Holding August

Many associate August with the fading days of summer,  final trips to the beach, last gasp efforts to take it all in so that some of that warmth can stay in our bones as we turn towards the fall.

Not me.  For me, it is a far more complicated month than that.  I was born in August, I got married in August and my dad passed away in August (these three moments in time did not happen in the same year if you were wondering).

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When you’re a child, summer birthdays are like always drawing the short straw.  Your school friends are away, so there’s no big birthday party.  I was always at camp, so I got to raise the flag, people sang to you at lunch and I was able to receive a call from my parents.  The good news was that the call usually came during swimming, so I managed to avoid the changing room.  But the whole allure of theme parties, giggles, gifts and giddiness are just not part of the summer birthday equation.  Over time, it all evens out – and one comes to appreciate that the celebration is not in the number of people surrounding you in the moment, but the number of people surrounding you always.  The reminder that to many you are special and loved, and to some you are just an afterthought.  I don’t say that with ill will – it is what it is.  I’m beyond rich in the love department – and I don’t need a day to remind me of that.

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Andy and I got married in August.  We get a little giddier this time of year – although it’s been more than twenty years since I broke out in hives under the chuppah and Andy and the rabbi walked me gently through my vows as my little one twisted his fingers in my dress asking for cake.  There were toasts – my dad insisted on reading his despite his failing voice and already-compromised health.  I don’t remember it all, but it began “Once upon a time there was a princess who met her prince..”.  His voice was hard to hear – even with the microphone – but the magic was clear.  The kids got their cake, my nieces jumped up and down with preschool exuberance, taking credit for this union (and were it not for their friendship their respective aunt and uncle would never have met).   We began our life with the knowledge that we weren’t lucky – we were blessed.  When we’re smart enough to remember this, we still are.

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And then at month’s end, I continue to say kaddish for my dad.  It is difficult to write about this without being maudlin, so I’ll aim for brevity.  He loved me in a way that worked for me.  I in turn drove him crazy.  When he left, he took all my secrets – every single one.  I censored little, though I’m sure he would have preferred if I had censored more; but I gave him all I had and I don’t think he ever doubted that.  And I ache when I think of him, I miss him with a longing that I can’t define.  Years ago I downloaded a voicemail he left me on my birthday – singing Happy Birthday and ending with “I love you sweetheart”.  I have to turn that cassette into a cd, just to hear him one more time.

Time – August plays a game with  my head when it comes to time.  I move from moment to moment without volition, allowing events and memories to wash over me as water from a cascading stream.  It has to flow in this way, and I have to follow its lead.  It isn’t easy, I slip, lose my footing, but ultimately remain standing.  Sometimes life compresses, other times it expands.  August is.

“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” — Haruki Murakami

 

discretion, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, music, parenting

Gone Fishing

That’s not true – I don’t fish.  I like the visual though – sitting on a boat in still water, line dragging in, bobbin bobbing, silence interrupted only by an occasional gurgle caused by some minor disruption to the water.  The lapping of the water as one adjusts their seating.  I have no need to catch anything – it’s at that point that my revery turns a little discomfiting actually.

But we are heading to the mountains with the majority of our children for a long weekend.  You may remember that this is an annual treat for us all – a chance to play board games, nap, golf, spa, read and catch up with each other.  Oh, and the occasional winery thrown in for good measure.

I apologize for flying below the radar this last week, only to re-surface to write you that I’m heading out of Dodge for a little while.  We’ll leave last week in the past and when I return next week I will be back to my sort of prodigious self (well hardly prodigious when compared to so many of you, but it’s a relative thing, yes?)

I’ll be checking in while we’re gone – and maybe even squeeze out a paean to the mountains majesty and the overwhelming delight in all being in the same place for a little while.  But I leave you now with one of my favorite songs from the wayback machine…Chris Rea – enjoy and I’ll ‘see you soon’…

discretion, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness, parenting

For All The Dads

Some men know that they want to be dads – the-kind-who-are-always-there – dads.  Today is your day.  Some men know that they will never be as flummoxed as when an adolescent girl attenuates her irritation over nothing by intoning “D-a-a-a-a-d” with dramatic flair reminiscent of Sarah Bernhardt and Camille.

For every dad who first danced with his daughter by having her stand on his shoes (and there was a time when shoes were polished, but let’s not go there).  The dad who threw pitch after pitch, went to every game, and in an act of incredible love and extreme foolishness continued to try to impart guidance and direction to ears and minds that were destined to follow their own path (as it should be).

For Andy, my favorite father-in-law and brothers-in-law, for David and Bill and Russ and Ben and all those friends of ours out there whose love for their children (and fur kids) is so palpable I can almost match the beat of my own heart to yours.  It is a delight to honor you today.

And for the dad of all dads (at least in my eyes) – my own.  Whether I was hanging upside down on the bunk bed pretending to be dead (I was eight, it was a gag – it didn’t work), looking for grapes in a bowl of Cheerios, walking to school with you almost every day for twelve years (and then commuting with you into the city), or watching the unadulterated mutual adoration between you and your grandsons – you were an amazing, involved, funny, smart, occasionally snarky, willing, curious, surprise-filled, loving dad.  And I still think of you as ‘daddy’ – and you’ve been gone for nine years.  But it’s your day too – and I miss you and celebrate you today.

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