Pick A Card, Any Card…

I always wonder how magicians do it.  Being quite naive and slow to track a sleight of hand, I’m one of those excellent candidates that others shake their heads at, wondering how I could have missed it.  I miss it every time.  So when in the audience, I never volunteer.  I’m too easy.  Andy figures out all of these tricks – it’s part of that male mystique of his that requires the provision of an acceptable answer.

Lately I feel like I’m the one trying to figure out the scheme.  And as usual, I’m not exactly blinding anyone with my brilliance.  Rather, I’m letting each moment happen and have surrendered to the limits of my intellect.

In the past few weeks, there has been a health scare with my son (he’s totally fine – but if you think I could string two coherent words together at the time, you’d be giving me way too much credit).  I stayed awake – certain that if my vigilance failed for a moment, something awful might happen.  I’m not sure I was breathing, yet I must have been, ’cause I’m writing to you now.  As soon as I heard he was ok I saw myself as a puddle on the floor.  No longer with any form or substantive thought.  It doesn’t matter whether or not he understood my reaction for it wasn’t/isn’t about me – he’s the child (even though he’s an adult), I’m the mom.

One of my sons completed his MBA.  This is his second Master’s degree – both completed while working full-time at one of the most unforgiving consulting companies when it comes to time and billing (let me take that back – all professional service firms are unforgiving when it comes to time and billing).  Yes, I whooped when they called his name (but at his request, I didn’t yell “Go baby!”).  These men o’ mine are no longer men o’ mine – they are husbands first.  And I wanted my mama lion role back (with no disrespect to either one of my lovely daughters-in-law), mourned the loss of the role I know well.  Chuffing at the opening of my lair…

Andy’s parents are moving to CA to be closer to their daughter and her family.  The weather will be kinder. the opportunities greater for my father-in-law to golf, my mother-in-law to get involved in some activities.  Andy’s up there helping them get organized until he makes it home today.  We’ll go back up together on Wednesday.  I’ve been here before; there’s nothing about it that’s easy.

My cherished friend going through the ebbs and flows of possible transitions – not knowing from one moment to the next whether she’s going-along-to-get-along or passionately caring about the life choices ahead.

So I wake each day with a hint of worry attached to my coffee cup.  My shoulders a bit more bent.  Roles change all the time, relationships morph because that’s what relationships do.  The earth always moving beneath our feet and relying on our sense of balance to remain upright.

And yet…I am acutely aware that everything is ok.  I caught two blue jays yakking it up yesterday afternoon (wow are they loud).  The early morning stars shone with such clarity I wept at their beauty.  I gratefully accept the morning’s invitation.  Somewhere inside I am as full and fortunate as any one person can be.

I am going to take a page from some of my fellow bloggers and take a bit of a hiatus.  It’s not good-bye of course, just some time to fiddle with the idea of blogging, maybe change the paint on the karma truck, rotate the tires, shift gears so to speak.  It’s time – we’ve been on this road together for a long time and rather than lose the company, I’d prefer to pull over and park this baby for awhile.  Get outside, renew, re-think, restore.

And maybe, just maybe when I get back, I’ll be able to tell you just how the magicians do it.  See you soon.  Much love…m

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Juggling Reality

I’m not the most graceful person – never have been.  I can trip over nothing, miss the lip of my coffee cup, bump into a wall – and that’s just walking from one end of the kitchen to the other.  Would that these were marketable skills.  What I typically balance well though are the variable weights of the thought bubbles in my head.  Have you ever stopped to consider how many disconnected thoughts jump around your mind in a five-minute period?  Some complete, others rejected.  Some stubbornly intractable, others as ephemeral as a breeze.  So we go through our days.

Perhaps it’s the disparate qualities of these thoughts that make them manageable.  When life events collide, and the thoughts are connected despite the qualities that make them each unique – well, that’s another story…that’s the stuff of which headaches are made.  Juggling – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Over the last few days, much has happened that is disparate yet similar.  Andy turned sixty.  My aunt passed away.  Our well temporarily ran out of water – literally.

Sixty is an impressive number.  A bit frightening even though the alternative is far scarier.  And this generation of ours is making sixty look damn good.  My daughter-in-law added a perspective I hadn’t considered – a birthday just makes you one day older than the day before.  Well that just means that Andy is 59 plus a few days.  And he wears it well.  But when he looked at me yesterday and simply said “I’m sixty years old”, I felt the weight of those words.  He is surprised naturally – how did we get here?  I’m still wondering whether or not he’s going to ask me to go steady.

We also had just come home from the funeral service for my aunt.  I hesitate to write too much about her, for as much as I loved her, there are four cousins of mine and six grandchildren who are the rightful authors of her story.  She was a vibrant, social, politically passionate spitfire with a great smile.  I remember lots of family moments at her house.  Her husband and my dad (they were brothers) singing “The Bluebird Of Happiness” before collapsing in tears of laughter.  Laughter.  That’s it.  I remember laughter.  I choose to remember laughter.  And how loving they were to my children.  Her last years were stolen by Alzheimer’s – an unforgiving thief.

And she was the last of my parents’ cohort group.  The last of my aunts and uncles.  It suggests that my sister, cousins and I are now next in this ineffable path.  I find that a difficult thought to hold onto for very long; I want to drop it, so I can pick it up when I’m ready – and yet it feels like it’s covered in Velcro.  I’m not ready for all the ramifications of being a grown-up.  My hunch is none of us are.  I am in love with life and I am angry that it has to end as we know it.  My head aches.  My heart aches.  And the sun rose this morning as it always does.

The well feels a bit dry as you can probably tell.  The well guys were here already this morning and needed to swap out a part, advising us to keep the power off for a couple of hours to give the well a chance to refill.  It seems like good advice.  Sometimes you just have to power down and give it all over.  Cry a bit.  Accept that there are questions without answers or at least fight them with less vehemence.  Let the sun hurt your eyes as it warms your skin.  It’s okay.

RadiatingBlossom.wordpress.com posted a poem yesterday which has stayed in my bones.  It seems a far better closing thought than anything I could offer.

The Thing Is –  Ellen Bass

To love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

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Amulets, Talismans And Charms, Oh My

So I decided it was time to clean out my closet.  This in and of itself is hardly post-worthy.  It was a matter of necessity – I couldn’t walk inside.  I started with the five drawers that are in there – not that this made the path any clearer, rather it was a manageable place from which all other organization could start.  I am nothing if not optimistic.

My top drawer is for underwear.  My own unsubstantiated belief is that most people put their underwear in the first drawer.  Call me crazy, but assuming one has a reasonable level of hygiene, clean underwear is the kind of staple one relies upon regularly, ergo its premier location.  The point is – I go into that drawer a lot.  I know what’s in there – despite the lack of symmetry and color coded rows.  There was a lot to discard – when articles of clothing have lost so much elasticity that they become caricatures of themselves, they need to go.  I will also cop to keeping some jewelry in there (which I will now move if you’re thinking of breaking into my house).  The point which bears repeating – I don’t expect breathless moments that make no sense to present themselves as a result of scrutinizing the contents of my underwear drawer.

To abbreviate this little tale – once the contents were emptied, two things remained that I swear to you I had never seen before.  A sealed envelope from the funeral home that handled the arrangements for my mom and the eulogy I had written.  The words I wrote for my dad were buried with him; I didn’t really want anyone to have those words but him.  I had chosen to keep my mom’s – not sure why.  What I did know was that over the years, I had misplaced it, and had torn apart my ‘spaces’ looking for it.  Could I have put it in the drawer and just never seen it?  Possibly – but the words are written in purple ink – they show up against a white backdrop and would be just about impossible not to see.  In a silence that engulfed my head like a wave, I read it.  I remembered every detail of those days.  In the sealed envelope?  My mother’s wedding ring and the little gold earrings she wore daily. Mommy’s wedding ring.  My sister has dad’s, I had mom’s.  Why did I not see this before?  That I would have it in my possession and not have held it? If I close my eyes, I can see it on her hand.  I can almost feel her skin.  Why did I find this now?

I have no doubt that there are many logical explanations for this, yet I can counter each one of them with a strong conviction that I have been to the bottom of my underwear drawer many many times before, and these things were not there.  Lori reminds me that there are some things that just can’t be explained, and I believe that to be true.  Is this one of those events?  Perhaps.  It begs questions like why now?  What’s the message?  Am I missing something that I should be seeing in these moments of mine?  Is it just the universe’s way of reminding me that there is no talisman that one must hold that is more powerful than love?  Maybe it was just mom giving me a ‘atta girl’ for finally cleaning out my closet.

“Love is the vital essence that pervades and permeates, from the center to the circumference, the graduating circles of all thought and action.  Love is the talisman of human heal and woe — the open sesame to every soul.” –  Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Her wedding ring is now on a chain on which I have a charm from my sister.  I hold them both in my hand until they’re so warmed that their essence travels through my skin, traveling to a space in my heart that is kept for those I miss – guarded and protected by walls I have tried to make impregnable. There is no surprise that my mom would find the one entrance – she was always persistent.

As the sky reluctantly lightens and the air holds this peculiar pre-snow quiet that forces you to listen, two birds alight on a leafless branch.  They are not going to break the spell with chatter and idle conversation.  We hold our respective places until I’m too cold to stay outside and the Sirs are no longer inclined to patiently wait for me to come inside.  I whisper “Hi” and “Thank you”.  I wonder about all I don’t understand and under my breath I add “Please”.   Please let there be so much that defies explanation; let me graced with so much time that I can continue to be amazed.

Giving Thanks

Before you head off for parts known, before you begin developing a familiar intimacy with your ovens and stoves, before your refrigerator begs you to refrain from adding one more thing…

There are so many clichés associated with being thankful – and I doubt that I will come up with anything new. Yet, in advance of the arrival of our family, I felt the need to extend my thoughts to all of you.  I’m thankful for so much and words fail me (which I submit is a good thing).  I am truly blessed with a family I adore, a husband who humors my nuttiness and sons/daughters-in-law who accept that their mom is as corny as a Hallmark commercial.  I have an amazing sister who I adore and will miss on Thursday (along with my nephews and niece who will be having their own family Thanksgiving in NY).  I can appreciate the beginning of a new day and I can delight in the feeling of snuggling into bed at day’s end.  I have a body that complains each day and yet we’re still getting along.  I know bountiful love.  We’ve got three pups – two of whom are perfect and one who is re-calibrating the spectrum of mischief that I used to consider part and parcel of puppyhood.  Our home is my sanctuary; I have never felt safer.

I am thankful for all of you who have come to read this blog, write to me and share your thoughts, inspire me with your encouragement and humor.  I love that I have learned so much from your posts, taking to heart much of what you have written and incorporating it into my being.  My friends – in cyberspace or in my physical reality – you are in this orbit of gratitude which circles rhythmically through my life.  And so, you all should be told as often as possible, just how much you are appreciated.  Would that we took the time to say these things more frequently than once or twice a year.  For those who are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday – I wish you stuffed tummies, full hearts, TUMS and love.  Actually, this thought holds regardless of whether there’s a turkey in the oven.  I’m heading deep into the heart of cooking territory for the next few days, so I send this to you now.  Thank you for being who you are to me.

 

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.