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Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

Lucky me. Bob and I are flying today and even though we traveled to DC to obtain a Global Entry pass, and we are TSA pre-checked, I was randomly selected for “additional screening.” Which means Bob sailed through the metal detector while I told the nice TSA guy I won’t be scanned in their machine and had to wait for the female pat-down agent.

Life is funny that way.

I was talking with Great Grandma Ada about the crossroads we take in our lives. She had the chance when she was newly married to Bob’s father, to move to a lake community in NJ and join a country club. Her friends were building something new because in those days almost all clubs were “restricted.” That meant no Jews allowed.

Because her father owned a small bungalow colony with a big Victorian house for her sisters and their families, she opted out of the lake house. And looking back, which we tend to do as we age, she wishes her sons had learned to sail on the lake.

Instead they made different memories – skating on the frozen pond with their grandfather and tending to a bountiful vegetable garden.

There were a number of crossroads in my life. The most important may have been when I decided to stay in NJ and work as a semi-social worker. I’d been dating a guy who was a friend of my brother, and he was heading to California for a doctoral program. I was living near that lake at the time, and he asked me to go with him.

My foster father Daddy Jim was dying and I said “No.” That’s when Ada saw me at the hospital, visiting my Dad every night. Driving back to the lake from Jersey City. And the rest is history.

If I were religious, I’d say nothing is random. If I were scientific, I’d say chaos is inevitable. I’m more of an agnostic, and I try to learn from the universe.

Here is a son teaching his 93 year old mother a few tricks on her iPad!  C35B0D13-F3DF-43D9-B59A-309A1AC9B1CF

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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It’s warm and rainy in Nashville today, the first day of winter. Our car smells like wet dog and the house still smells like latkes. This will be my second Christmas with Bob not working the ER; but, the Bride will be and her Groom will be in the MICU, sooo we’ll be doing some grandparenting on Christmas Day!

It’s been a busy week, but the highlight by far was yesterday’s Nutcracker. We all ubered downtown to see the Nashville Ballet. The scenery was stunning, the orchestra was phenomenal, and the ballerinas were perfect. The Love Bug sat entranced; like the daughter of two scientists, she asked if Uncle Drosselmeyer’s magic was real? And she waited patiently for the ballerinas to appear, and laughed as it actually started snowing on the audience during intermission!

Her Mama played a reindeer in the Berkshire Ballet’s Nutcracker when she was the Love Bug’s age.

Some of you may know that I was a dancer in a previous life, and was thrilled to dance the opening waltz myself at the ripe “old” age of 35. If I was asked when I was the happiest in my life, those moments on stage, dancing, were among the best. Maybe it’s the Flapper’s influence, she would slip out of her bedroom window as a teenager to meet her friends and dance to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. And once the Bug was born, she tied a stuffed pink ballet toe shoe over her crib.

I asked the Bride if she had any memory of being under La Mère Gigogne’s (Mother Ginger) skirt? She said, “I remember being dizzy!”

It’s a dizzying time of year, but my wish for you today is that you stop and breathe for just ten or twenty minutes. Step away from Amazon on your computer. Pet your dog or cat and put on some Tchaikovsky, with a cup of hot tea on the side. Try to let your mind wander, or meditate. Practicing self-care can easily be forgotten when Hanukkah and Christmas demand so much attention. Remember that “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts!”

And that the days, and therefore the sun when it reappears, will lengthen. We are beginning that stretch towards Spring, which is how I like to think of the Winter Solstice – not as the shortest day, but the beginning of longer daylight hours. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/winter-solstice-2017-first-day-winter-definition-space-science/?_ga=2.23714169.2115897125.1513975428-807897739.1513975428

May you and yours have a peaceful and joyous Christmas. And thanks in advance to all those doctors, nurses and emergency personnel who will be working on Monday. You are truly doing God’s work.

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Weekends blur into weekdays after retirement. Routines become malleable after moving from the country to the city. Today we might go out for lunch, or we might not. September is always a busy time of year, but with impromptu wine and cheese parties popping up, where we meet our new neighbors – “Oh, you moved from Chicago two weeks ago?” – and try to remember their names and their dogs’ names, I forgot what day it is, until I remembered.

The phone call from Great Grandma Ada, telling me to turn on the TV

The shock of standing alone in Rumson, across the shipping lanes from Wall Street

Calling the Bride in a government building in DC, then she suddenly hangs up

Listening to her voice hours later, after she walked back to Adams Morgan

Calling my sister Kay and my nephew Robert, who live in Manhattan

Waiting to hear from Bob, who was waiting for casualties at a dock

Waiting for the Rocker to return from high school, not knowing where he was

Driving on empty streets to the Red Cross to donate blood

Talking to a neighbor, who was walking her baby frantically up and down, up and down the street and rambling about knitting booties for rescue dogs

This morning the Bride told me she was having a hard time waking up. It could be because she worked yesterday and then afterwards threw a party at her house. It could be because it’s an overcast, cold day in Nashville. Or it could be because waking up to this day every year brings our fragility into sharp focus. Because sixteen years ago we woke up to a nightmare followed by funerals with empty coffins.

We remember our neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue who perished in a Tower. We remember our friend’s mentor who was a judge on one of the planes. This morning we vow to #NeverForget all those innocent people who lost their lives going to work, the rescue personnel who perished and became sick from digging in the Pit of millions of tons of steel and the ash of human remains. And their families. We will always remember.

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Picture from National Geographic archives – 6 months after 9/11 while the Pit still burns

 

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My heart goes out to Texas during Hurricane Harvey. And in particular, a Houston family of five we first met in Nashville years ago, who lived for awhile in Cville; they escaped the storm yesterday, on their oldest child’s birthday, and are now sheltering in Austin. Thankfully.

The Rocker was only 7 years old when a nurse and her husband/firefighter rescued him and his big sister from the December 11th No Name Storm. He dragged his lovey Wiley Coyote along through the flood. Our newly renovated Rumson home was taking on water from the Shrewsbury River, and we were miles away at a conference. Airports shut down, as did I, until I could hold them again.

Someone told me yesterday that refugees from Katrina are still living here in Nashville. She said her brother is a master electrician, and he was on his way to Houston to volunteer. Then she told me he would stay in Texas, as the insurance money flows in for rebuilding, construction workers will have plenty of jobs.

I remembered the Nashville flood of 2010. A newly married Groom, exhausted from late night hospital shifts, woke dreaming his dogs were swimming in the basement. Which of course, they were! The Bride was stuck in her ER, her car on an upper level in a flooded parking garage. I couldn’t wrap my head around a landlocked city flooding, I thought the moon and tides of our coastal towns dictated devastating storms. I was wrong.

An important dam outside of Houston is beginning to overflow as the reservoir rises over its banks. “While spillover would not cause the Addicks dam to fail, it would add more water to the Buffalo Bayou, the main river into the fourth largest city in the US.
Flood officials are also concerned about the Barker dam, which also controls the Buffalo Bayou west of Houston.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41081629

I hate to see this tragic event politicized. Democrats criticizing Republicans for calling for a smaller government while also asking for FEMA aid. Republicans continuing to support  a president on his way to Texas to offer what? Empathy, I’m not sure he’s ever heard of the word. Sorry folks, I couldn’t help myself. Still, chances are he’ll use the limelight to blow his own horn.

But maybe this time, we could forget the political minefield for a moment and all come together to help our fellow citizens in Texas. Because we all are in the same small boat, and the sea is so very wide. You can donate your money, or your blood, or if you can manage to get down there with a skill, your sweat and tears too.

http://www.redcross.org 

Happy Birthday to Mikey in Austin, we miss you buddy but we’re glad you’re safe with your family! Your friend Moana sends you hugs and courage!

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My heart goes out to Sen John McCain, 80, who was recently diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain cancer. His glioblastoma was found “incidentally” in medical parlance, in that doctors were removing a blood clot that was associated with this condition when they found the culprit. It’s the same kind of tumor that killed Sen Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden’s son, Beau.

It’s the same cancer that killed my Father.

My Father was a pharmacist in Scranton, PA. He had survived the Great Depression and was raising five children with the Flapper. At first, it was only headaches, but later he lost the use of his left arm. My sister Kay had to help him actually grind medication in a mortar at the back of the drug store while her younger brothers read comic books up front. Psychology was a relatively new field at the time; a psychiatrist told my parents that they should have another child because my Father had “lost the will to live.”

I am that sixth child and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his glioblastoma. The Flapper always joked that I was the only child she had planned! My Father’s friend, an ophthalmologist, noticed his bulging retina and sent him back to the university hospital where they operated on his brain right before Christmas 1948. I was three months old. He died in April the next year, he was only 47. Our Year of Living Dangerously was just beginning.

Although I may not have agreed with Sen McCain’s policies over the years, I have always considered him a true patriot. And unlike many politicians, he didn’t couch his words in innuendo. He played it straight and tried to be fair and work across the aisle. His daughter, Meghan, Tweeted:

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father. He is the toughest person I know. The cruelest enemy could not break him. The aggressions of political life could not bend him. So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other. Cancer may afflict him in many ways: But it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.”

But this type of cancer is a very cruel enemy indeed. Survival rates are devastating – only 14 months average with 5-10% alive five years after the diagnosis. Will he choose to fight with chemotherapy and radiation, or will he choose to battle Mr T on the Senate floor? Looking at his recent statements to Sen Lindsay Graham, I think he may do both!

Something happens to us when we are reminded of our mortality, when time begins to shrink. Bob said after his cervical surgery, he had less patience with hospital shenanigans and employee’s misbehavior. Before surgery he may have forgiven a surgeon’s harassment in the OR, for example. After surgery, not so much.

McCain is a war hero, and he is already criticizing Mr T’s strategy, or lack thereof, in Syria and Afghanistan. But if you recall, that other Lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, was instrumental in getting President Obama’s ACA passed while he was battling this same cancer. If John McCain were to bring both parties together to salvage healthcare in this country, his legacy would be outstanding. I wish him well on this battlefield.

And check out the Google Doodle today. It’s celebrating the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, who coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” He predicted the internet but I wonder what he would think of Twitter. It was a key factor in Mr T’s election, and has taken the place of greeting cards as our politicians send heartwarming thoughts to McCain in 140 “characters.”

I don’t know which brother’s arm is sticking out behind the Flapper, but this is one of the few pictures I have of my Father.    IMG_0991

 

 

 

 

 

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809

 

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