Words Are My Diamonds

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“Good words are worth much, and cost little.” – George Herbert

We just celebrated Mother’s Day and I requested “words” as a gift from my children. Words are important to me not just because I’m a writer but because after the flowers die, candy is eaten and gifts put away “words” last a lifetime. Though the card was store bought, my son told me how he felt about me including inside jokes and humor but also observations about our relationship. He had me teary eyed after the first sentence.

To write and be able to express yourself, show someone you love and appreciate them is a task everyone is capable of. I’m hoping he will write heartfelt cards to the future love of his life and his children. I’ve saved all of his cards so someday he can peruse them and travel the journey of his childhood from baptism, birthdays, holidays and more. I’ve written letters and kept journals for each of my children. In the so-called connected world we live in, writing may seem passé but for me each crafted word means so much more than a typed out sentence somewhere on the internet or even a sparkling diamond. For those who have received love letters, which I hope is not a thing of the past, the tangible joy of reveling in that moment and feeling loved is priceless.

Parenting teens is not easy, especially when I often find candy wrappers strewn throughout the house and what looks like the aftermath of an earthquake in his room, I sometimes feel unappreciated. Of course, I know he loves me but even a Mom likes a little affirmation. He’s nearing the end of his high school career and the pressure of junior year has worn him down. I often feel guilty that we pepper him with too many orders and don’t recognize that he is still a kid, a teenager and that all this pomp and circumstance is not as important as launching a human being, one who thinks, loves and knows who he is, off to college. He is sensitive, kind and thoughtful and his words reminded me of that.

It’s hard to get children today to think about why they are fortunate. I tell my kids often, “There are starving kids all over the world” and they roll their eyes. I believe the act of writing, thinking about their message, planning it out and considering the receiver is a way for them to reflect on their life and the relationships they have. In this case, for my son to write about me I’m guessing that he thought about all that I do for him as a parent. His words confirmed that. For me, its confirmation that he is thankful and appreciates the home and life my husband and I have worked to create.

I didn’t have an agenda for any of this when I asked for words but I’m glad I did. In a time where kids are programmed worse than the Energizer Bunny, an opportunity to slow down, think about their emotions and relationships is time well spent – so the next time I find a sock in my dining room I may not have a coronary!

 

The Unsung Heroes Of Mother’s Day

 

file2801302980272There are all types of mothers and the honor of celebrating Mother’s Day should be theirs as well.

I just read author Anne Lamott’s view on Mother’s Day. She doesn’t celebrate the holiday nor has she indoctrinated her son to bestow her with fanfare. Her points include a forced type of sentimentalization and at worst a day for those who have lost moms, aren’t moms by choice or infertility, those living alternate lifestyles, women who have lost children or those who experienced damaging childhoods to feel left out.

I get it. In the 70s as a sixth grader who just lost my mom, I dreaded Mother’s Day. The question, “What are you doing for Mother’s Day?” prompted anxiety. While everyone was making Mother’s Day cards in class, I wasted time. My siblings and I felt alone and tended to ignore the holiday with an exception of a cemetery visit.

Despite my experience, I don’t entirely agree with Lamott. Our calendars should be slotted with a day to celebrate motherhood. I believe that all mothering whether biological or spiritual should be honored. I do, however, agree with Lamott that reaching “a level of love and self-sacrifice” is not exclusive to parents. So here’s my list of unsung heroes, whether they have biological children or not, who deserve recognition:

  • Aunts – Blood or honorary, many aunts have taken children under their wings by spending time with them or tending to their needs during troubled times. Love to all my aunts!
  • Teachers – The ultimate nurturers their job goes beyond teaching, touching lives in positive ways. Miss O’Farrell if you are out there, thanks for printing my poem in our class yearbook and making me believe I could write.
  • Siblings – Siblings often fall into a caretaking role, naturally or due to need. Here’s a shout out to my brother who, at 10 years my senior, often guided my sister and me.
  • Neighbors – For all those neighborhood “moms” who keep an eye out for the kids, bake cookies or simply impart a kind word a celebratory wish is in order.
  • Your Friend’s Mom – If my daughters’ friends need me, I would be there in a heartbeat!Love to my best friend’s mom who drove us everywhere and taught us to be brave!
  • Cousins – Spending time with younger cousins, caring about their life, sharing interests…cousins are often so much more than playmates.
  • Foster Parents – The unsung heroes for so many needy children.
  • Grandmothers – Many a wise grandmother has helped raise a child. I’ll never forget my grandmothers who came to this country as young mothers, and though they never worked outside the home, their work was cause for celebration.
  • Mother-In-Laws – Thanks for the jokes Rodney Dangerfield, but many of us have been doubly blessed. The years I lost with my own mother, I gained with a mother-in-law who taught me how to make chicken soup, was there for me when I had my babies and showed me the value of tradition.
  • Two Dads – If you are being raised or were raised by two dads, you were mothered (love that verb)!
  • Spiritual Mothers – A coworker or a friend who listens and has been there for you I would say a sappy Hallmark card is in order!

I’m sure there’s more to add to this list but my advice is to honor and acknowledge someone special in your life, who may not have taken a traditional path to motherhood, but helped raise, influence or love a child.

College Pick-Up

IMG_1637The Real Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

It was nearly nine months ago that we drove away and left our soon to be 18-year-old daughter at college. Numb from the Herculean task of packing almost the entire contents of her childhood room (not recommended) into our car and then unfurling it into a dorm room with a roommate with the same idea it’s hard to believe we will be retrieving her shortly. At the time, I was certain I was suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder from the college process, the bells and whistles of senior year and college shopping to feel anything but exhaustion. Yet, sadness did cast over me, back at home, when entering her uncluttered room and setting the table for three. My dog Harry lobbied for the spot but I wasn’t that insane yet.

Somehow the year droned on, busy with life, work, writing, my husband, son and assorted pets. I never really had that big moment, except the first time I entered her room after she left and it was likely the lack of stuff that did it to me. I was really joyful, happy to shed the college process nightmare and see how life would unfold for her. Like most moms and daughters we are close but we did a lot of bickering senior year, the pressure of applying to college, finalizing an art portfolio and squeezing her entire life into our Acadia for the drop-off caused friction. I was happy to be Mom again and not stage manager which is what I felt like.

Now we will be on our way to pick her up. She’s still looking for a summer job and she’s crossing her fingers. It’s not the big college internship but it’s a job. For me, I’m going to take a deep breath and have her lead the way and make peace with her stuff (truthfully, I’m terrified of the invasion). I’m not sure what I will be dealing with next. I do hope she’s different but not too different. I know she does laundry, makes her own appointments and can solve problems herself. So, I’m not offering laundry service or stepping into those arenas. It will be an adjustment for her as well. She will miss her friends from school but get reacquainted with her high school friends. It’s going to get some taking used to for both of us but I’m glad she will be home for the summer. I need a little more time to get used to the fact that one day all that stuff will be gone as she strikes out on her own.

Prom: Tiaras & Treachery?

5358704690_13b0ac0fc1_mI’m reposting this tongue-in-cheek essay about the prom with a serious note to parents to encourage your graduating senior to be kind and inclusive, avoid the “prama,” help out friends who may need dates and be careful!

Somewhere between tuxedos and tiaras, the prom has become a cesspool of treachery. Who’s to blame for the veiled drama this evening of pomp and circumstance delivers? Sorry to say that most of it is orchestrated primarily by girls, some not all, who are determined to make prom the night of their lives brandishing a “take no prisoners” attitude.

Perhaps Disney is to blame for some of this throwback sensibility by feeding, these girls didn’t grow up with the “Frozen” anthem, a steady diet of fantasy by way of a handsome Prince saving the day. The prerequisite ball, adoring fans and the final kiss have been imbedded in the minds of, otherwise intelligent, girls on the cusp of college and many wonderful things. Reality TV may also be to blame by parading female contestants vying for the same man via the “Bachelor”, it so makes me pine for The Dating Game. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have lowered the bar so low there is no bar, except everywhere on that show. Lest we compare the “Rose Ceremony” to the “Promposal” – don’t get me started.

Speaking of entertainment, prom is rife with conundrums such as finding the “right date” and then “group.” The group, for those not versed in prom vernacular, are candidates who go through a sorting process and form a cohesive unit who then proceed to carry on the festivities after the prom. That’s if you’re not kicked out of your group before the shining event. The post festivities include another party, because the prom in and of itself, does not deliver enough grief. The after party carries even more import than the prom itself and must include some sort of regal transportation for 50, magic carpets excluded, and a fantasy castle by way of a Hampton’s house.

For the “right date” rules of friendship do not apply, which means that you can lose a best friend since middle school for the right to nail a prince. All of this mishap and maneuvering can obliterate what you spent your high school years building like friendship and a sense of community. Yet, it’s so worth it in the end as you glide across the ballroom snag your shoe on your dress, fall on your date and realize you’ve spent so much time in the restroom that you’ve missed the chariot to the castle and now that you’re face to face with your date you realize you he’s no Prince and from the way he’s looking at you – your Princess days are numbered.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/38389614@N07/5358704690″>Tiara</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Still Deciding On College?

My Alma Mater, Fordham University

Decision Day Advice!

It’s been a long year for high school seniors and their parents. The emotion, drama, hype – the hushed conversations while avoiding that question, “So what college is so and so going to?” Take it from someone who’s been there, this too shall pass and in many ways, with the halo of high school over, things get better. I’ve developed a list of considerations before you choose:

  • ‘Dream’ School – Your child is steering the way and they are the only ones who will make their dreams come true. Certain schools will open a few more doors but perseverance, grit, determination and hard work will be the final barometers for success. Rejection at a dream school means dreams can be realized elsewhere.
  • Brand Name – Ever since I vied for those Jordache jeans, I’ve been acutely aware of the allure of the “brand” and the fact those jeans never fit well. An education should not be reduced to the shallow allusion of a “brand.” College is a big business, so shop wisely and don’t shell out your hard earned money for a “name” that may not offer your child their major or the best opportunities. If Harvard comes knocking that’s fine but with 5% acceptance rate the majority of us won’t be wearing Harvard sweatshirts.
  • Major is not a Minor Matter – At this stage of the game, you know if your child will be heading off to major in Neuroscience. Students need to think about what courses they’ve enjoyed and been successful at. There are many resources and career aptitude tests out there that can help chart a course. This could save tons of angst when your child discovers they want to be a Marine Biologist and there is no program at their school. A little homework can provide insight into a potential major and the type of institution they should attend.
  • Curriculum – College is school! I’m sure “senioritis” has hit and their attitude will make you wonder if they realize they are signing up for four more years! I made my daughter review the courses she would take at the schools she was choosing between. Many colleges have core curriculums so a review of those required classes is essential!
  • Waitlisted – Start a “campaign of interest!” Call, send a letter or email with news such as awards or achievements or just let them know you are still interested! Do not take this personally; colleges are overburdened with way too many qualified applicants. Though some schools pull only a few students off the waitlist, without the effort, you’ll never know.
  • Money Matters – With the skyrocketing cost of college, it’s important to consider all offers! Now is the time to call and/or write an appeal.
  • Raise Your Hand – Interested in a special program (such as Art or Music)? Encourage your child to call the department or visit. Some departments need students, this may help advance their application or gain aid.
  • Visit – Get rid of preconceived notions. After a while, info sessions/tours start to blur, visit and get a feel for the students. Ask your child if they can picture themselves at the school.

College is just the beginning of more hard work ahead. Change is imminent. Their decision may be spot on or they may transfer. What won’t change is their drive and ambition. They should seek out the best opportunities tailored to meet their goals.

Sorority Rushing

small_85271515Strokes your ego or kicks you to the curb?

I don’t believe in absolutes, not viewing the world as black and white but weighing different shades of grey I was open to my daughter’s foray into rushing for a sorority. It wasn’t as though I didn’t have an opinion, I wasn’t crazy about it, yet I didn’t have enough ammunition of my own to burn out the fire. I went to a college that was void of  Greek life and if they did I likely wouldn’t have been a part of it. I prefer to make my own friends and they don’t need to be connected to each other. The herd mentality did not seem to appeal to my daughter in high school but freshman year has been going great with good friends who were all rushing.

She shopped for new clothing and was genuinely excited. I listened and suggested some Google searches in case she wanted to delve more. She was beginning to sound like she was repeating the party line when she advised me to “trust the process.” I was proud; she recounted interviews where she shared her love of photography, art major, high school yearbook skills and work experience. I believed the interviewing stage was a worthwhile endeavor. Disappointment started early, after visiting 12 houses she was asked back to six, some of her friends were asked back to nine and some three houses. She felt she had good conversations with two of the houses and had already developed some favorites. The next step she was asked back by two and she texted me letting me know she was dropping stating,“It’s not worth my time unless I love it.” She did not feel either house suited her. Her friends were continuing on in the process. She seemed fine but I could sense she wasn’t. I personally thought that it may not be for her but she went for it and for that I give her credit.

Now the hard part, she began to question the process, “How could they make a judgment about me after a five minute conversation?” The whole “speed dating” mentality started to bring her down. She questioned her looks, her intelligence – the rejection was a blow to the ego. She was the first one of her five close friends to leave, three more would follow. It was hard for her; the school was abuzz with excitement. College was beginning to feel like high school, where impenetrable groups were the norm. While I believe many women do have wonderful experiences as members of a sorority the process indisputably either strokes your ego or kicks you to the curb. How can women do this to each other? Surely, there has to be a better way. She began to see how superficial it all was. Additionally, girls were advised that it was very rare not to be offered a bid which turned out to be untrue as many girls were left without bids.

Her freshman dorm, morphed overnight into a hotbed of drama, whispering, crying, hysteria as some girls experienced their first rejection. Many pondered what they were lacking or did wrong as the process you are supposed to “trust” does not provide feedback.

So this week, the new sorority sisters at her school ran through the streets and dorms celebrating their bid. The celebratory mood overshadowed bruised egos, strained friendships and for some heartbreak.

While all will fall back to place again and those not chosen will find other paths and those who eventually pledge may find happiness, the process should be questioned by all young women. I found this quote from a wonderful article titled, “Why Sorority Recruitment Is Horrible And Needs To Change” written by a woman who breezed through recruitment just to find out when she was on the other side how debasing recruitment can be:

“…why do we have a selection system that forces such incredible women to judge and reject other women almost arbitrarily? Why do organizations based on sisterhood pick their members in a way that destroys the confidence of so many young women? We should be encouraging and welcoming new women, not sorting them based on high school activities and 20-minute conversations, tossing many out along the way. Sorority recruitment has become a rigid, overly-structured, needlessly stressful numbers game. You can’t explain “quota” and what Nationals expects for your chapter to a PNM who can’t understand why, after what she thought was a great conversation, she wasn’t asked back. We say things like, “…really, don’t take it personally–they don’t know you after one conversation,” but none of it matters to a young woman who feels as if she’s been told, “We don’t want you.” Women are still fighting for equal rights and equal pay in this world–the very last thing college women should do is tear down new college women.”

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/okiboi/85271515/“>Joe_Focus</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/“>cc</a>

 

 

Watching My Son ‘Go-Go’

IMG_0198Sixteen is a swooping comet of happiness, acceptance, irreverence, doubt, fear, rage and honesty.

There is female dialogue for 16. Parties, glitz and glamour although anyone who has known a 16-year-old girl will attest that sweet is an oxymoron. The age is a struggle for independence, acceptance and poorly applied makeup. What about boys? I’ve recently read some beautiful essays about ages and what they represent and I’ve decided to explore feelings about my son growing up and moving on.

We’ve gone from wide-eyed orbs casting a happy glow to grunts and an occasional smirk. I still see him dipping French fries in pools of ketchup with his friends at his side. He was always jumping, leaping, grabbing for something he thought was too far but not far enough for limbs on springs. The world was intoxicating and waiting for his introspection. His physical abilities were complimented by an imagination caught on fire by words. This was a child who wanted to speak and created his own vocabulary, until the cognitive abilities kicked in. He named items based on function, a ball was called “go-go” thrilling him with how it traveled unfettered and sometimes unstoppable. I remember laughter, starting as young as several months when he watched his sister run around the house, pure joy at the notion of being fluid and free. Every adventure from pogo sticks, riding bikes to drawing with chalk was embraced with gusto. Blowing bubbles on a sunny afternoon, adopting a dog, rescuing a kitten – his eyes danced with freedom and joy.

Until his mind caught up with his body, he was free to dream and roadblocks were nonexistent. As school became more like school, there were flickers of self-doubt, usually dampened by achievement, but still lingered in the air. At times, spears of his peers would reignite doubt, leaving flying embers. Yet, success and praise were his elixir. Art, writing, thinking, learning quickly and the ability to sit and concentrate made him an endeared student. He discovered books and characters and learned about the power of escape. Grade school innocence swooned in my head and clouded my vision for the tsunami ahead.

The first two years of middle school brought the calm before the storm. The smile was still there, going in a boy and leaving for high school not quite a child or a man. Hormones lurked in the shadows, snipers, ready to attack. He met disappointment and injustice head on, little pieces of his innocence chipped away. His smile eclipsed, tucked inside for occasional appearances, replaced by reluctance, doubt and fear frosted with sarcasm. I could see the boy inside, trapped by influences I could neither control nor stop. The world was moving, forging ahead and I want those orbs to look at me again and smile. I wait. Sixteen is a swooping comet of happiness, acceptance, irreverence, doubt, fear, honesty and rage. I’m no longer infallible and he’s found out I never was. This time 16 is slipping away, leaving me with every step from learning to drive, taking the SAT, girls and college ahead. Sixteen doesn’t have time for me. I tell myself he shouldn’t have time for me. I capitulate and hope to see his mouth move in upward sweeps to greet me.

He once told me, “Mommy if you die, I would cry but I can’t cry forever.” There was wisdom at three, the sense to know that life would roll along and picking up the pieces would be necessary for survival. I loved being his epicenter, he would wait for me, when I went out, telling his grandfather that he needed to sit by the window and watch for me. He would worry about me when I was out shopping, while I grabbed moments of solitude and freedom. We have switched places. I worry now, wondering how I can stave off the darkness he will encounter knowing full well he will “go-go” no matter what I do and he’s already on his way.

A Year Without A Christmas Tree

medium_5250149045-1Being grateful for this year’s conifer

He was there to fix the clogged shower, part of owning a house is you get to know the plumber or electrician. Somehow between talking shower heads and the weather he shared his story. His daughter, a drug addict who just delivered a baby would rehabilitate only to spiral back into addiction. He was burned out from years of providing help which only led to disappointment. When he left he said, “I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years.” His words washed over me, especially the part about the Christmas tree.

It takes effort to put up a Christmas tree, whether artificial or real. A tree is the embodiment of the holiday season for Christians. A shelter for gifts and, though pagan, it serves as a symbol of hope, renewal and celebration. It’s hard to get on that train when you are suffering.

Growing up our family had a year without a Christmas tree. This was the year my mother died and my father declared we wouldn’t have a tree. I held it against him; we were already wrestling with so much loss, and not having a tree set me off on a path of ambivalence about Christmas trees. As fate would have it, I married a man who has to cart home the largest tree in the nursery. Our first year of marriage and pretty much every year thereafter I’ve struggled to fill the tree. I’ve done it all from silk poinsettias to a more sparse look the first years. We’ve now accumulated enough ornaments to trim a large tree. I can now understand my father’s resistance to putting up a tree that year, perhaps he thought it was a symbol of inappropriate celebration or the task was too laborious. The labor part I get, since I’m married we’ve had lots of tree challenged moments like the time we thought the tree was crooked when the stand was defective, we replaced the tree and all its accessories only to find another “leaning tower of tree” or the time we strung lights around a seven foot tree to find we couldn’t plug it in because we were left with the female end. We’ve also had years with “tree blackouts” you know how one light goes out and there goes all the lights or the year the cat found shelter smack center in the middle of the tree and wouldn’t get out.

It’s taken a long time, but our tree has grown into a tradition, well despite the lights, that I look forward to. I treasure childhood ornaments and those that my kids have made through the years. For a long time, I carried that treeless year with me and have learned to appreciate the freedom to celebrate. I’ve learned as life moves on that the unexpected can hit like a ton of bricks but the indefatigable human spirit never ceases to amaze me. All we have to do is read the first few pages of the newspaper to be struck down by despair and we all share heartbreak of some form but somehow there’s always that glimmer of hope, that persists, even when we think it’s not there. So I hope my plumber finds his tree again and I’m going to be more grateful for this year’s conifer, despite what happens to the lights, and what it represents – time with family, faith and enduring hope.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/bas68/5250149045/“>Bruce A Stockwell</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/“>cc</a>

 

Saving The Baccala Salad Of Christmas Past

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 8.50.36 PM

Lucys’ hands – the masterful creators of homemade Italian food for over 70 years.

Sometimes food is well…more than food

I should be the last person to save the baccala salad. I had never even heard of baccala salad until I met my husband’s family. Though I’m of Italian descent the family traditions my grandparents brought back from Italy which included making fresh fettuccine and laying it out on a bed to dry faded with the next generation. My mother who referenced a dog-eared New York Times cookbook and favored Jacques Pepin endeared herself to a more American palette. Her mother was a good baker but her culinary skills were limited and she subscribed to a minimalist approach to eating. Whether it was the hardscrabble life in the Italian mountains or the immigrant experience they did not revel in excess. My paternal grandmother was a better cook but she too knew her way around stretching dinner, with a family of six to feed. Since our family typically ended up as guests, my sister and I married without the holy grail of foodstuffs that define holidays. Enter my husband’s family, this is a clan that doesn’t fool around and the calendar year represents a tour de force of indispensable holiday dishes.

Christmas Eve is the feast of the seven fishes which means the menu must feature seven kinds of fish. What it doesn’t mean is that you can get away with a simmering bouillabaisse or paella. The feast includes baked clams, shrimp cocktail followed by your choice of linguini with white clam or lobster sauce. The courses continue with fish salad a melange of calamari, shrimp, scallops, mussels, polpo, olives and celery in the correct proportion as well as baccala salad. Baccala salad is a light concoction of escarole leaves, lemony dressing and savory baccala and Greek olives. The dish strikes a perfect balance apropos for any nouveau restaurant menu, so when my sister-in-law told me we were skipping the baccala salad I spoke up.

I’d like to say this is all about the baccala salad as I’m feeling triumphant about reprising its role in our seven fish fete, but it’s about so much more. My mother-in-law Lucy’s traditions are sacred to her and she’s passed the baton to her family. Lucy has sensed the tides of change, we’ve scrapped homemade lasagna on Christmas day, citing its heftiness and vetoed cardoon the stalks of the artichoke on Thanksgiving. We are holding the torch for the next generation but also trying to shed some of the labor and calories of Christmas past. However, this year Lucy is not well. We’ve taken jobs away from her and the changing menu is unearthing fears we all bury and some of it with food. Italians do a wonderful job of washing down fear with a finely fried zeppola. It’s brilliant and though we believe we have struck a delicate balance of preserving tradition and our sanity, we ordered fish salad to save the washing of seven different pots, Lucy will make baccala salad and its presence will serve as a resounding reminder of the importance of tradition, family and love.

 

There Are Many Ways To Say Goodbye

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I wrote this June of last year, reposting to honor my father and November/Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month.

Facing a parent with dementia…

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 8 older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence and prevalence of this disease is on the rise. As we age, many of us will face this disease with our parents. This piece was written to raise awareness and in tribute to my father.

Until I received a very strange phone call two summers ago, I didn’t realize how many ways there are to say goodbye.

My father was on the line and he wanted to know if I was sitting down because he had great news.

“I just inherited a million dollars,” he exclaimed.

I don’t come from the type of family that bequeaths a million dollars. When he told me his fortune was from a childhood friend he hadn’t spoken to in 70 years my concern rather than his bank account increased.

I soon learned that it is futile to disagree with someone who is suffering from dementia. At 87 years old, my father survived World War II, widowhood with two small girls to raise and most of his old age sans too many bruises all to become master of a strange universe. It was sudden and difficult to come to terms with.

Dead relatives have resurfaced and have invited themselves to Thanksgiving dinner. All kinds of celebrities have become distant relations and I’ve even found myself with a new brother. More heartbreaking is my father’s insistence that my mother, who passed away 38 years ago, is still alive and spends most of her time at the Waldorf Astoria waiting for us. He often queries if we have seen her and becomes upset if we haven’t. Though in his own way, he ponders why he hasn’t seen her.

He was someone who loved to travel and he now travels between two different worlds –  the world that seems to agree with the order of things and the one inhabited by the past lacking order or control. The characters who surface in this new world range from those who’ve left big gaping holes like crater in our hearts to others who just flitted by.

The old world barely exists and the new world doesn’t. After the initial shock and denial, I decide to participate in both worlds not understanding either. Meanwhile in my own world, I’m missing a piece. I have a wonderful story to relay and I think my father would be a great audience and then I pause and remember that it would be too arduous to explain. From a wonderful conversationalist he has become taciturn.

I wonder about loss. Is this a legitimate loss? If it feels real, it must be. If that’s so, his premise is not that far off. I pine for our laughs and for his wry and sardonic quips. His generosity always outpaced what he had but he loved to offer help.

Alternatively, he is at times more satisfied than he’s ever been. The pre-dementia father could be unhappy.

We all have many sides to our personality. Forever changed irrevocably my father is here and gone. Now we travel together, he revels in the past while I yearn for it.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/batega/1865482908/”>Josep Ma. Rosell</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

– See more at: http://thatgirlisback.com/there-are-many-ways-to-say-goodbye/#sthash.2Dyb92Cr.dpuf

A Mother’s Day Wish

get-attachment-164.aspxIf I Could See You Again…

If I could see you again, I would agree that red doesn’t go with purple as you often said, and that life is for the living. I’d also thank you for teaching me the beauty of creating – experiencing the joy of taking a blank piece of paper and painting it with your thoughts or color. I’d thank you for showing me how to experience life beyond your means, to break through the barriers of money and class to defy convention. I’d thank you for introducing me to the value of education, not because it’s right but because knowledge is power. The kind of power that can help you pay the bills but also the kind of power that cannot be taken away. I’d thank you for valuing books, the stories, the words and the thoughts behind great minds. I’d also thank you for never allowing a silly thing like money hinder you from being the most elegant woman in the room. I’d thank you for understanding what true taste is. I’d thank you for not allowing that love of beauty or impeccable taste prevent you from being empathetic, the kind of empathy that would seek out someone in need and offer help without acknowledgement or fanfare.

If we could walk side by side one more time, I’d thank you for showing me that there are no limits to one’s creativity. When shopping wasn’t an option, you learned to sew. I’d thank you for my one-of-a-kind communion dress dotted with daisies, that I may not have appreciated back then among the veils and glitter – but I now realize was truly a fashion statement and a wink to conventionality. I’d thank you for teaching me resourcefulness and that talent resides in all of us. If we could sit down for a cup of tea, I would thank you, a woman born in 1925, for raising a feminist and for warning my sister and me to build careers and be able to rely on ourselves. This was one lesson learned the hard way for you, a young widow without the opportunity to pursue an education. If I could see you again, I would tell you that you taught me more in the short 11 years we shared on earth than many who’ve had a lifetime with their mothers.

If it were possible to see you again I would thank you for introducing me to art. Waking up to a table filled with paints, brushes and canvases showed me that a mother deserves time of her own to dream or pursue passions. If I had one more moment with you, I’d thank you for showing me what bravery is – the kind of bravery to stand face to face with your mortality and still worry about training bras and math homework. The type of bravery to endure sitting in a wheelchair with a beautiful robe on and lipstick and smile and tell us everything will be alright when you knew it wouldn’t be.

If I could see you again, I’d thank you for not being perfect and for being okay with that. I’d thank you for losing your temper sometimes. I’d also thank you for bringing beauty into a house that needed it, whether you painted on the walls or decided on a blue and silver themed Christmas tree. If I could see you again, I’d thank you for throwing the best birthday party a ten-year-old girl could have and for showing me how ingenuity and creativity trumps anything store bought.

If we were to meet again, I’d tell you that I’m proud to be your daughter and I’m woeful we only had 11 short years but I’d tell you that you provided me with a lifetime of lessons. You taught me what life was about and what it wasn’t. For that I’m eternally grateful. For some of us our time on earth is short and others long, it’s what we do here that counts and for me every step I’ve taken is for you to be proud of the woman I’ve become.

If I could see you again, I’d wish you Happy Mother’s Day – the passage of time has taught me that life is a gift and I thank you for bringing me into this world and giving me the gift of life.

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