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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where did my Saturday morning go - the internet and me

This morning I woke up relatively early, seeing as I did not go to work out, and as I padded around the kitchen I decided to make a "to-do" list for the weekend.   I have not done this in forever and frankly it needs become a regular part of my life again.  I find I rarely have a truly productive day without a list.

 I wrote down my regular chores - dust, vacuum and mop first and second floor and do the laundry (which these days includes a time consuming trip to the laundry mat on the other side of town as I await the delivery of my new dryer (NEXT Saturday), then I added a few ME things such as yoga, reading, make Christmas list, watch a recorded TV show or movie, check-in with my favorite blogs, and write a post.  I made a relatively good cup of coffee, which is essential to my weekend morning happiness, let the dog out, fed and watered her, then headed back upstairs to start stalking, uhmm, I mean reading blogs.  This is how I learn what works on the blog-a-sphere and what does not.  Everything I read is basically about house and home, DIY...which is decidedly not what this blog is about, but I have not found anything similar to mine yet so I treat myself to one of my not so secret obsessions - home-keeping.  I'm such a throw back!

Well, reading led to clicking to this and that link, trying to follow people on Pinterest and Instagram, etc. and before I knew it the door bell was ringing to bring me out of my internet induced stuppor.  As I rushed downstairs I realized the frig repairman had arrived, which meant over two hours had passed and I had not really done a thing!  I mean I did read blogs, but two hours worth?  What is wrong with me?  This is what the internet does to me - takes over my life when I go onto it.  I do not understand how people can get anything done when they are on the internet reading blogs, checking out Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and whatever else there is out there.  It just consumes me.  PLUS, I find it not always super user friendly when I try to enter a give-a-way or figure out what all the different ways are you follow people (Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and LinkedIn).  And why do we need so many choices for following?  Are they actually necessary?  These are the things that end up sucking my time away and they are not intuitive for me.  Does everyone really have the time to follow other people on ALL the options available and which options are really the best ones?

The repairman is now gone.  I have started the laundry, found some new cool blogs which I am following and have connected with them on Pinterest and Instagram, have almost finished my blog post, and still there are too many things I did not start or complete and it is nearly noon.  I have been u for hours!  When this happens I feel compeled to swear off the internet.  Too much distraction, too little time.  One of my favorite cousins, a youngish mother of two and nursing student who also is the baker for her husband's restaurant, announced to us at Thanksgiving that she had shut down her Facebook page and was closing her cellphone account, to which my daughters cried, "But how will we connect with you?"  Uhmmm, how about email or that old fashioned thing called a home phone?  She expressed her frustration with the constant plug-in to the outside world, how anyone can reach you anywhere and how her time gets lost when she enters the internet.  Here she is, a thirty-something year old saying all the things I have been thinking and fighting against since Adam brought the internet into my life back in 2003.  

Another thing I struggle with when reading blogs is I find myself ever so slightly jealous of those who can make their blogs their profession.  Are they supporting themselves or are they supported by their husband's job which allows them this luxury?  I do not begrudge anyone the gift of being their own boss, but sometimes I feel so jealous.  Being in control of my time and being able to work from home at something I would actually enjoy would be a dream come true.  I wonder if I had gotten on the proverbial bandwagon back when it was all just a flicker if I would be abe to actually "work" at my blog instead of squeezing in time here and there on the weekends after a long frustrating week at work when what I really need to be doing are errands and chores, etc.

Just more questions about life and where it is taking me.  This is my path, as Grace's friend likes to say.  I want to change my life in some way, honestly in many ways, and I need to figure out how to do it.  And I need to learn how to manage my internet time effectively so I don't get sucked into the void. 

I'm off to the laundry mat and a few errands.  I hope I will be able to cross off more than just a few things from my list by the time my weekend is over.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanks for coming...Thanksgiving

This past long weekend I had all three of my children home for Thanksgiving.  I was so excited as the days grew closer to their arrivals, having thought about the things we would do together and how restful it would be.  It seemed as if we would have so much time together this year.  After all, this Thanksgiving break they would spend almost their entire holiday with me.  In previous years it has been time here and time at Avery's, and the back and forth has been hard on them and hard on me.

We did get to do some fun stuff, such as baking cookies, pies and brownies and doing girlie stuff like shopping for makeup and doing our nails while watching fun TV shows I had recorded.  Maggie and I took the wonder dog on a hike (before the older two got home) in western mass the sunday before Thanksgiving, which was exhausting but lots of fun!  Upon our return home, the three of us piled onto my bed with the new tarten flannel duvet cover and fell asleep while watching some random movie.  We were so tired and achey!

Thanksgiving night we celebrated with our friends Ellen and Andrew, their three girls and Ellen's brothers and their wives.  We had a lovely time, talking and laughing, telling stories and listening to stories.  It was very similar to the Thanksgivings I enjoyed growing up, when our family would come together with various friends of my parents who were divorced, widowed or childless...just a large extended family group, sharing our great good fortune and feeling thankful for the bounty of family and friends.

But then Sunday came.  The house had been full of laughter, and fighting if I'm to be 100% honest, but it was full and happy and warm, and then there was no one.

What I noticed more pointedly this time is that the time the girls and I had together really flew by.  They were here and then in a wink they were all back to their lives which have nothing really to do with me.  This has been a hard transition and tonight I realized why.  For the first time since 1987 I am truly utterly alone in this world.  When Avery left, I had my children.  It was the four of us.  After Adam died, again, it was the four of us.  Then Daniel came into my life and when Jane and Maggie left for school last year, I had him to share the daily-ness of life.  He softened the blow of their absence.  As a single parent I never really got to experience the loss of all three of my children from my daily life.  However, now Daniel is gone as well (very recently, but that is another story for another post) and there is no one to soften the emptiness left by his absence and the girls' absence now.

As has been the case for much of my adult life, in the midst of loss and sadness I feel tremendous gratitude.  I have closed a chapter in my life with Daniel, and while this is a painful and sad transition for both of us, we are trying hard to adjust our love affair to friendship.  I am grateful for what we shared together the past few years and the ways in which he opened up and expanded my life.  I was a deeply sad person when he came to court me and within no time he had me smiling and laughing whole-heartily, something I was not sure I would ever do again.

I feel utterly blessed to have my three girls.  While I did not end up with the family I dreamed of and worked so hard to create, I have a family none-the-less and they have brought me so much joy.  I am beyond proud to be their mother.  They continue to inspire me in ways I did not know children could.  They also annoy me regularly, but  I cannot imagine my life without them.

I have experienced awesome love in my life.  I have experienced tremendous loss as well.  I have learned to lean into each experience life has thrown at me.  I am eternally thankful to be able to feel such strong emotions and be able to let them wash over me, as difficult as that is sometimes.  The memory of each of my children's birth is so vivid to me.  All these years later I can still feel their soft warm bodies lying on top of mine just after I brought them into this world as if it were yesterday.  The memory of falling in love each time and the fantastic joy and ultimate pain each relationship has brought me is palpable.  Life is really tough and messy and inspiring and wonderful.

And now my life is rather lonely.  I feel deeply the loss of Daniel and I miss him when I come home at the end of my day.  I miss my three little women, probably more now than I have before.  I think Daniel softened the loss of them from my daily life by his presence.  Many changes are happening in my life right now.  Many losses, yet again.

My home is empty now.  Everyone is gone and the holiday is over.  Thanks for coming.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Welcome to your fifties - my list

This post was inspired by a young woman's blog about the year leading up to her 30th birthday.  I wish I had found it when I turned 49, because just maybe I would have started my blog sooner and set out to make a list and see where it would lead me.  Unfortunately, I did not stumble upon it until recently. And, to be honest, I am just a smidge suspicious of such lists.

These days, as I approach my fiftieth birthday (three months away), I seem to be constantly finding links to essays and articles about lists - the things you want to accomplish before ---.  This has me thinking a lot about my life, where I've been and where I want to go.  I think I am in what is refered to as a "reflective stage" in life.  I guess we all go through that at one point or another, maybe more than once for some.  While I have been through a lot of turmoil and change since I became an adult, I have not really felt I had the need or time to give much thought to reflecting upon my life.  That is not to say I have never turned inward to look at myself.  I've done that plenty.  I'm a champ at looking at myself and trying to figure out what I am doing wrong...but that is not the kind of thing I am talking about.  I am talking about taking stock of your life, making the decision to make changes and then seeing them through.

So here is my list...
  1. return to school - creative writing and marketing/communications
  2. write for at least 30 minutes every day - i do have a full time job
  3. publish on this blog no less than three times each week
  4. learn microsoft office suite like a pro
  5. train like a pro for the spring rowing season - starting now my mentality is up, up, up!
  6. break an 8 minute 2K at CRASH Bs in february
  7. finally organize - the right way - my home office
  8. get my house in order and repaired just in case i want/need to sell it
  9. take a 50th birthday trip to a country i've never seen
  10. throw out or give away every single item in the house that is not important or useful
  11. get my finances in order
  12. update my will
  13. organize the last 21 years of photographs into books for the girls
  14. find a church community that will feel like home to me
  15. do something social at least once a month
  16. read a book each month 
  17. get back into going to concerts
  18. do more out-of-door activities with friends, my dog or just myself
  19. commit to a philanthropic group and participate at least once each month in some way
  20. commit to yoga for a year
  21. finish a knitting project for each of my children - scarf would be easiest
  22. pick needlepoint back up and finish one canvas by 12.31.13
  23. return to serious baking and make it a part of my life again
  24. make one really interesting and possibly challenging meal each month - this is a BIG reach for me, so I need to start small
  25. communicate with my family of origin members on a monthly basis by writing to them - i have kinda fallen off the face of the planet and i think they are rather annoyed with me
For now this is my list.  I am going to get a head start (by three months) and see how many of these things I can cross off my list by my fifty-first birthday in February of 2014.

Since 1987 I have been a wife, a mother, a single mother, a wife again, a widow and a single mother again.  I have never really done anything for myself.  I know, really?  Nothing for yourself?  Be honest.  Well, I am not a martyr, not even remotely so.  However, somewhere along the way I made a decision, and I am not sure it was conscious, to be the one who makes sure everyone else has what they need to be happy, fulfilled and successful.  I did that for my first husband Avery.  I worked and supported us while he went through graduate school and completed his Masters in English Literature.  When he decided he's rather go to law school than complete his PhD, I threw my support behind him and continued to take care if the day-to-day in order for him to realize his dreams.  After all, his dreams were our dreams, right?  I never gave one thought as to what I really wanted out of life once we decided to get married, except eventually I wanted to have a family.  I wanted to be a good wife and mother.

Fast -forward to today - I have (almost) raised three children.  One will embark on her life after college next year, the middle one in two years and the youngest, well she still has a ways to go.  (Keep your fingers crossed, please.  I could use all the support I can get!)  But essentially with two children soon settling into their own lives, one still working on it but away in school, and the recent end of a very important three year relationship, my house is all but empty now.  I have a lot of time on my hands to think and mull over things without the girls to look after or a beau to plan things around.

I think this is an important time in my life.  For the first time since 1987 it is all about me.  I still have some responsibilities to my children, but I no longer have 24/7 responsibilities to anyone other than myself.  It will be good for me to spend a lot of time alone, doing the things I used to love and challenging myself to do some things I have thought about, but have been too busy or too afraid to try.  I kind of look at this time in my life as NO MORE EXCUSES!  There is nothing, except finances, standing in my way and I am not going to let finances get in the way of opening myself up, reaching for a career rather than just a job, and having the life I deserve to have.  I can figure out the financial end of it.

Is there anyone out there who is, or has been, at a similar crossroads?  Were you nervous, frozen or running toward change?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Every voice counts, every person matters - in America any way.


it's your voteToday is Election Day.  I remember well my first election - November 1980.  I was away at school and my father insisted I register for an absentee ballot.  Ok, it’s time for total exposure here - I voted for Reagan.  I cannot be sure I would do that today, but at that time in my life I was very much swayed by my parents' political leanings and they were strong Southern Republicans.  I do remember listening to Reagan on the television and being very carried away by his whole persona.  Today a colleague and I were talking about oration styles among presidents and we agreed (my colleague is a staunch Democrat) Reagan was amazing in that way.  I mean, after all, he was an actor.  Ok, so he was only a B rate actor, but apparently he learned what he needed to in order to be an effective public speaker.  You can bet my classmates (at the all-girls boarding school I attended in New York) gave me the hardest time for voting Republican.  It was the first time in my life I had been surrounded by Democrats.  Don’t laugh!  There were certainly plenty of Democrats in the southern state where I grew up, but it was largely Republican.

I am registered as an Independent.  I was not always registered this way, but as I got older and began to really read about politics and think about what I was reading and then spend time talking to other people (of all political leanings) about what I was reading, the more I understood that it is not always necessarily about political party.  Or rather, it should not be about political party; it should be about issues and, in part, about seriousness of purpose.  For instance, I have lived in Massachusetts for 13 years and I voted for Ted Kennedy every time until the end, but I have not once voted for John Kerry.  I spent a lot of time reading about each man and what they did for their constituents as Senator.  In the end, I felt Kennedy took his job very seriously.  He lived for his job and he cared tremendously about the welfare of all of us.  While I am sure John Kerry is a fine man, and believe me, there is much in Ted Kennedy’s personal life that I do not respect, in the end I felt Kerry did not do the job as well or with as much seriousness of purpose and I did not want him to represent me.  I am sure my father rolled over in his grave every time I cast a vote for Kennedy.

But I digress.  I did not write this post to be on a soap box about my political leanings.  I just wanted to remind anyone who actually reads this blog that as Americans we have the great privilege of having a say in who runs our country.  There are so many countries where people have no say or woman have no say, but in America we now all have the right to cast our vote and take a stand.  This has not always been 100% true in America.  It was not until early in the last century – think about it, less than 100 years ago – until all Americans, regardless of race or sex, were given the right to vote.  (In 1920 the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote and before that, in 1870 the 15th Amendment gave people of color the right to vote.)

So, let the Democratic Process continue.  Get out and exercise your right to vote.  We owe it to all the men and women who fought at various times in our country’s history to ensure we all have that equal right.



Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Men in My Life - Part II : From my journal, September 2008


My life is now measured in stretches of time – his illness, his “recovery”, illness, “recovery”.  Continuous back and forth, not really knowing what to expect next, but this has been my life for three years.  I never saw it coming six years ago when we met.

Fall is approaching and as I write these first words I sit in one of his favorite spots – our back deck, over-looking his beloved patio and garden, which due to our financial difficulties (spurred by his illness), is now overgrown.  I think how sad it is for him to look outside our room, his prison, at what has become of his sanctuary.

St. Francis stands under the small tree at the front of the garden looking sadly at me, as if begging me to rescue him and his once spectacular surroundings from the weeds and overgrowth choking the life out of everything, so carefully designed and chosen.  It has become a metaphor for the illnesses that are now choking the life out of Adam.  And yet I feel paralyzed to do anything – be it save this former paradise or save him. 

Every vessel and organ is leaking fluid into his burned and ravaged body and there is nothing they can do to stop him from dying.  Death for him will be slow and arduous they tell us.  For him I wish it would come more swiftly, to save him from the emotional and physical pain of withering away piece by piece, month by month, day by day.  To lose oneself slowly, knowing what will come, is torture for this man.  While it has not always been so, he can now face this irrefutable truth with grace and dignity.  The years we spent not understanding or knowing nearly ruined him, and us.  With the final truth has come the much needed acceptance.

When he is in the hospital he lies in a bed far too small to hold his 6’3 frame, now just a bag of bones with beautiful serene blue eyes looking out at a world he can never fully be a part of again.  When he is home, too weak to go out and too tired to converse, his world consists of our bedroom with a wall of windows overlooking the garden.  We planned the renovation that way when we decided to marry just five years ago.  Although he had been ill, we had no way of knowing this was where our great adventure would lead.  Everyone thought he was a miracle and would live a decent long life.

Four years ago on a bright, crisp September afternoon we exchanged our vows right on the spot where the garden path begins.  Ours was a small gathering of a very few friends and our parents.  We stood with our children before God and promised to love and care for one another for the rest of our lives.  He wanted to begin our adventure in his favorite spot, where the path leads into a world set apart, alive with color and infinite promise.  Now I am sitting here alone, the one who is taking care until the end and there will be no one left to care for me should I fall ill or, worse, when I face my own end.

In spite of all this, it is hard not to smile when I think about the man I unexpectedly fell in love with, not too long after we met.  He likes to tell people I picked him up in the bargain aisle at Target.  We did meet there, purely by accident, on a cold rainy February afternoon while he was buying detergent.  The store is located in the next state above ours, a good 20 minutes north of the town in which we both lived.  How we happened to be there on the same day at the same time was fate to be sure.  Our town is a small town, where nearly everyone knows everyone else or at least has heard of everyone else.  We vaguely knew who the other was; we had just never met.  In fact, we shared many of the same friends so it seems impossible our paths had never crossed in the three years I had lived there.

His closest friends, Ellen and Andrew, attend the same church I do and at that time I met Adam we were very friendly acquaintances.  My closest friends, Anne and Robert, were two people he and his former wife had known very well in past years when they were all members of that same church, and they had socialized quite a bit over the years.  Even more coincidental, is the fact that I knew his former wife from church and was somewhat friendly with her.   In retrospect, I guess it was only a matter of time. 

The day we met at Target I happened to be shopping with my friend Anne.  If I had not, Adam and I never would have met that day.  It’s rather intriguing to think about the way it all played out.  Anne and I were eating a pretzel and talking when she noticed Adam walking by in front of her.  On a whim, she waved him over and, as she likes to say, the rest is history.  Now here we are, facing his end, our end, together.  Never in my wildest dreams...it just seems so unlikely.  All our plans, all our hopes and dreams.  The path we have taken from that cold day in February to now has been strewn with so much joy and sadness, anticipation and regret, fear and loathing.  It seems we have lived a lifetime together without the benefit of having shared a lifetime together.  
  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Men in My Life - Part I: My Father


I have loved three men in my life, not counting my father, my uncle, and my god-father, not to mention the mad crushes I had on various male teachers who I idolized, some of whom were decidedly gay and all highly intellectual.  Let me start this again.

I have been in love with three men; two of these men I married and one I spent three years with in my late 40's.  As I suppose is the way with all love affairs that do not last forever, each man appeared to me to be someone rather different from the person he really was.  That is not to say all three were terrible people, because that is simply untrue, but it is clear to me none of them, in the end, was the right one for me.  Often I think about the men who have been a notable part of my life, the men who came long before anyone stole my heart, and how they set the stage for the way in which I view myself and the qualities I have wanted to find in a mate - the ever elusive man of my dreams.  Thus far I am zero for three.  However, for the life of me I cannot understand why. 

My father is foremost in my mind, as he is one of the most influential people in my life although he has been dead 13 years now.  So much has happened to me in those 13 years.  In fact, I would say some of the most signifiant experiences of my life have happened without him here to help me navigate.  I always turned to my father for advice whenever anything difficult came my way.  He was good at listening and helping me to parse out what was really important and was able to keep a steady head when I was freaking out with anxiety and fear.  He was also the buffer between my mother and me, but that is another story for another time.

He was the kind of person everyone loved, adored and respected, men and women alike, although he certainly was feared by some.  Mostly I think people feared not measuring up to what they thought his expectations were.  He held himself to such a high standard in every way, but I do not think he always expected others to be like him.

When people talk about him they recall his gift for story-telling, the way “he filled a house rather than a room”, his warm and gregarious nature, his firm hand-shake, his booming laugh, his always stylish attire, his beautiful and impecable manners and his lightening quick temper.  I remember him the same, but would add he had a rather salty tongue.  I once asked him why he swore so much.  I guess he learned it working on the oil rigs in Texas and when he was a soldier in basic training during World War II.  It had become such an ingrained part of his own vernacular, he never really noticed how much he cursed.  I do not remember him saying anything foul, but he did say God-damn-it and son-of-a-bitch an awful lot in his every day communications.  I am not sure I have heard anyone since swear with such fluidity without being foul mouthed and trashy, but those were two things he never was.

My father was an avid reader of history…American and European, ancient to modern.  He especially enjoyed reading the arduous histories of war and the battles fought.  He was the person who read to me.  I have no memory of my mother ever reading to me, although she read every night before turning out her light.  My father was the one who read me the ancient myths of Rome and Greece, as well as the fairy tales from my fat cream-colored book of The Brothers Grimm.  (Snow White and Rose Red was my favorite, in case you are wondering.)  He was also endlessly quoting beautiful, as well as saucy, poetry and taking me outside to point out the various constellations in the night sky, relating them back to the myths.  I regret I can no longer hear in my head the colors and textures of his beautiful speaking voice.  I think he could have had a career in radio or as a voice-over artist.  His voice enveloped you and made you instantly feel at home, at ease, at peace.

My father is the reason I started writing.  When I was but five years old, he would encourage me to make up little rhyming poems by sharing with me the ones, some short and sweet and others quite long and hilarious, he wrote on a regular basis.  (My parents' group of friends were very big on composing poems to read at the parties which celebrated each other's birthdays, anniversaries, travels abroad, etc.  They were a very lively and artist bunch and all of that energy and creativity were a part of our own every day lives growing up.)  The first poem I remember writing was "every night the crickets snore, right beside my bedroom door.  i can hear them when they go crick, crick, crick."  Nothing to stop the presses, but his enjoyment of my expression was enough to make me believe I could be a poet.

He was a smart man, but not exactly what I would call an intellectual, although he pursued intellectual growth constantly.  I think he spoke eloquently because he read so much during his lifetime, and perhaps because of this he ordered my siblings and me to read all the classics of childhood and young adulthood.  I think he felt the stories would encourage us to dream big and reach beyond our safe little affluent world to explore and open our minds.  It was not uncommon for us to have lively discussions about Gulliver's Travels, Tom Sawyer or The Last of the Mohicans around the dinner table, just as the war and watergate were a part of our dinner table conversations.  This was the 1970's.

He wrote voraciously – filling a notebook with his favorite quotations and notes about what he read, and he wrote letters constantly; letters-to-the-editor of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc., as well as wonderfully engaging letters to his friends and family on a regular basis.  Even when he was away on a trip, for business or pleasure, he wrote letters and post cards.  He was also a big time record keeper.  Not only did he keep each and every letter he received in a file bearing the sender’s name, but he either typed his letters in triplicate or made Xeroxed copies of his handwritten response and filed it away with the letter to which he was responding, and all of these he kept organized in one of several tall fire-proof filing cabinets in the corner of his dressing room/study on the second floor of our home and against the wall in his office downtown.  Another peculiarity of his was to keep a hard-bound Marion Webster dictionary in nearly every room in the house, including his bathroom.

He was strong, athletic and manly but approachable and trustworthy.  He had a reputation for being someone "who’s word was his word.”  He was a diligent hard worker, who always did as much, if not more, than those around him.  All my life we had “people who worked for us”  and I do not recall once my father sitting around while any one of them took care of us, his land, our home or our grounds.  He was a very physical person, who was always working with the horses, building fences, moving, branding or inoculating the cattle, mowing the lawn, hauling dirt, planting trees, or helping mother weed the garden and move furniture – she was forever rearranging the house.  He was reliable, ready and willing to do whatever needed to be done.  Because of these and many other qualities, it is accurate to say people were drawn to him.

My father loved music and took particular pride when my mother played the piano, as she was classically trained and could easily have enjoyed a career concertizing.  He had a very sweetly sad baritone, with little to no range, and spent many hours standing behind my mother singing with her the “popular” composers of their day – Porter, Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, and Hammerstein.  Their song was “Love Affair” from the original movie An Affair to Remember.  They were so cute singing together, a quiet tenderness between them, and I remember thinking one day I will have someone to watch over me and sing with me, just like my dad. 

He was undeniably handsome as a young man and he aged pretty well.  Standing six feet he was tall, although the “runt of the litter” within his family of seemingly giant men and women.  In his high school year book he is referred to as "Adonis, the body beautiful" and was a very good athlete through college.  With all of these gifts, he was not an arrogant man.  He certainly was possessed of a healthy ego, but I do not believe anyone who knew him would describe him as ego driven.

While television was not loved by my parents, my father called it the idiot box, we watched The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie together each week and often as the show closed I would see him wipe a few tears from his eyes.  He had such a tender heart and loved stories of family.  In my memory he was a lot like Pa Walton and Pa Ingalls - strict, strong and hard working, but equally loving and accepting of his children.

Some important lessons I learned from my father were never forget where you came from and while money and professional success could help to ease your every day burdens, it would be your family and friends who would give your life real meaning.  My father worked extraordinarily hard to be successful in his profession and he was, but his family was more important to him than anything else.  He was home for dinner every night and while he did work in the evenings, and sometimes on weekends, he did this at home and was available to us.  I've often wondered if he would have put his family formost in his life if he had been born in the last 50 or 60 years and had to deal with the terrific high cost of living and raising a family in this day and age.  It seems so hard to live a life of integrity now, but I like to believe he would remain someone who was true to himself, even if he had to navigate the world today.

Along with my father's somewhat corse language and quick temper, his other less stirling quality was (what I now think of as ) a borderline obsessive-compulsive personality.  He kept personal and business records in triplicate (which caused no end of frustration for my mother who has carried out a portion of his business since he died and the amount of records has been overwhelming and far too time consuming for someone who is also highly organized, but far more efficient) and had drawers specially built-in to his dressing room so he could have one drawer for his solid colored socks, one for his patterned socks (having both a summer island cotton and a winter fine wool collection, which we would switch out twice a year), one drawer for his solid boxers, one for his tartan boxers and another for his handkerchiefs (which he carried in his back pocket every day - bandana styles in various color combos for casual and beautiful Irish linen ones for dress), along with other drawers for his golf shirts and shorts.  Each particular piece of clothing was folded in a certain way, but he never imposed that upon anyone else who might do his laundry.  I watched him quietly refold his clothes so they would fit, as he preferred them, into each drawer.

There were drawers in his desk and credenza, both at home and at his office, arranged in obsessive detail with old cigar boxes of varying sizes to hold his Pilot felt-tipped pens (yes, one box for each color: red, blue and black), mechanical pencils, collection of high-end colored pencils (which he used for the map work required in his profession), rubber bands, tape, a stirling silver letter opener and a pair of stirling silver desk scissors, etc.

He knew exactly how many of every item was in each box and had arranged them in a way as to know immediately if someone had borrowed something and had either neglected to return it or had not replaced it in the correct spot.  I know it sounds as if I am exaggerating, but believe me this is the truth.  Now that I am older I realize it was rather whacky, but at the time it was just the way he was.  He never punish us for touching his stuff, but he did not like it if we did so without his permission and we were read the riot act if we did, or at least I was because I am pretty certain none of my siblings really cared about any of the stuff in his desk drawers.

My father had beautiful shoes which he would polish once a week, even if they had been worn just once.  One of my favorite things was to sit on the floor of his dressing room while he sat in one of his leather arm chairs, pulled out his wooden polishing box and went to work meticulously caring for his shoes.  The smell of the polish punctuated the air sharply and the whisking of the brushes often went in time with the music of Glenn Miller, Petula Clark or Vikki Carr, which he played on his 8-track tape player.  This ritual usually took place on Saturday afternoons.  Some times he would listen to a news program on the ancient large metal AM radio that has belonged to his mother.

He kept a small dorm size refrigerator in his dressing room/study to house his secret stash of small-sized glass bottles of coca-cola, bags of his favorite miniature candy bars (milky way, snickers, butterfingers) and often a box of nutty buddy ice cream cones.  My mother was not big on junk food, although she baked beautiful cakes and delicious cookies for our dessert each night.  Sweets were limited and closely watched, so in order to have the things he liked when he wanted them (because you can never trust children not to eat candy and ice cream if it is there), he would keep his own stash in his little frig and I may have been the only person who felt it was my place to go in and swipe one or two candies from time to time.  He never got mad as long as I did not take the last of anything.

My father loved me without question.  He was not a comparative person, so I never felt I did not measure up to my older siblings or smarter friends.  I certainly pissed him off regularly and he expressed disappointment plenty of times when I did something stupid and foolish, but I never felt I was not good enough or lacked anything in the way of brains, talent or beauty.  In fact, through my father’s eyes I learned I was incomparably beautiful and while that did not jibe at all with the way my peers saw me, it certainly helped to ease the bitter sting of adolescence and the teen-age years.

There was no pretense with him.  He had grown up with tremendous advantage and those who came before him were remarkable people.  He was surrounded by gifted intellects and creativity, and an endless bounty of love and acceptance was poured out over him during his formative years.  All this in turn made him kind and caring toward others, empathetic, eager to help in whatever way he could, and able to shower upon his youngest child endless unconditional love and encouragement, even in the midst of telling me what I was doing was not acceptable and I could make much better choices.

He was not perfect and we certainly argued often and loudly, but my father was not a grudge holder and he apologized when he knew he was wrong.  I remember that about him, since others in my life have either been unable to apologize or have always had an excuse as to why they have done or said something unkind or flat out wrong.

I miss him still and wish he were here to know my children and for them to know him.  Their lives would have been enriched, and he would have felt blessed.  My life certainly would have been different in some ways if he had been here, but then I would not be who I am today if certain things had not happened to me and I had not been left to figure it out on my own.  As much as I wish he were still here, it is impossible to know which path would have been better for me.  If it is at all possible, I hope he has some view into where I am and how I got here, and I fervently hope he is proud.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Is this the beginning of a beautiful relationship?


In 2007 my husband suggested I try my hand at writing a blog.  I was both excited and terrified by the idea but, in the end, never followed through.  There were many reasons, some quite complicated, as to why this never came to fruition.  Mostly I think it was fear.  When I was a young girl, maybe 13 years old, my father told me he thought I would be writer when I grew up, that I would have lots of stories to tell, but even then I think the fear was greater than the desire.

As the years passed me by, I have often thought if I were to write a book I would have to decide where to begin and when to end, but I was never really able to decide which story I would tell.  I feel as if I have been many people in my life or rather maybe I have lived several different lives thus far in my lifetime.  I am not actually sure, but now it has come to me that a blog would allow me to start somewhere, anywhere, and then scoot about my life sharing stories as I felt moved to do so.  I think all these years I have been stuck at “where do I begin?”  Honestly, I really have no idea because as my life progressives there are new and different concerns taking up space in my mind.  Which time in my life is the most compelling?  Which parts do I share and which ones should I keep private?  What stories would provoke the most interest in my potential readers?

Today I start my journey to be a writer.  I will begin here and move about the years as I remember them or feel the need to share a particular time and place in my life.  Sometimes my entries may be more like a stream of consciousness from a journal, rather than a story.  I expect to jump between decades, so far there have been five, as there are days and weeks I am totally engrossed in the here and now and others when I am far more reflective or nostalgic.  I do not foresee any particular rhythm or reason to the flow.  I think it will simply become what it is meant to be.  

This is my memoir, but it is still unfolding as I go.