Friday, April 24, 2015

Clean Break


After seven solid years, a period of time that we set aside in our lives for "being available" and for retiring from what we were doing before, we're getting ready to move again.  The property selection and purchase have taken a lot of my time and taken me away from what I like best to do in the mornings, write.  But, there's always a story or a word in my mind.  I'm sure that the people who tell me that they "can't" write have the same thing going on, it's just that they publish their thoughts before writing them down, by speaking them out loud.  Once you've published, it simply isn't going to work the same way.  So, I keep the thoughts, juggle them around in my own brain, and hopefully, find myself with my fingers on the keyboard, ready to bring it all on.  While I refer to myself as a person who only writes essays and opinions, I somehow think I'm more of a memoirist in hiding.  So much of what I write is based upon what I am experiencing or have experienced and oftentimes, I use the tool to make more sense of it all or as my personal documentary.

This morning, my brain received another prompt.  As I waltzed around my living room with my dance partner, the dust mop, the words "clean break" broke through.  I was unusually happy to have received such a prompt and that I had the time to play with it, to wonder why those words had come to me.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about Proprioceptive Writing and for those who read that and still do not understand it, this is a classic example.  In processing the words, I ask myself what do I mean by them and where do they fit into a bigger picture or a future write.  I'm delighted to think that I have acquired the skill and that I can put it to good use.  That far surpasses my experiences in trying to learn Algebra or how to string pearls.

The day after we had the offer on our condo accepted, I visited with my father and during our conversation, I asked if I might take Mom's set of pots and pans on to the new home.  A few years ago, when she was feeling well, she bought a nice set and now, they sit in the kitchen cabinets untouched.  I figured it was a reasonable request, one made to a man who eats frozen dinners exclusively.  He said "I'll have to think about it" and my heart sank.  I became angry and bitter about the answer.  After all, I was there, having coffee with him, coffee that I brought, after doing his grocery shopping for the week, a chore I have done for the past three years without failure.  I politely replied that it was okay and vowed to not ask again.  The following week, after grocery shopping, we sat down to coffee again and now it was his turn to bring it up.  "When are you moving?" was the question.  I replied and then, "I don't want you to take anything from the kitchen".  I was not surprised but in an instant I got the picture.  It was a total epiphany in one tiny slice of time. And as I thought, a bolt of lightning went through my head and the words "when we die, we understand everything" appeared.  No, I wasn't dying, but all of a sudden.......I understood.  "Okay, Dad, I get it.  You want to leave everything just as it was when Mom was here, don't you?" He nodded and seemed relieved that his rejection of my idea was not going to be met with an emotion.  "It's fine. I think it is very sweet of you and I totally respect that". And then, I thought of the coffee pot story, one to which I had attached so much sentiment.  Not long after Mom died, I asked for the large electric pot to replace a broken one at our house. Why would he ever have need for a ten-cup pot? Instead, he told me to use his credit card and buy myself a new one. I seriously mistook the gesture for one in which he might have recognized all the favors done and thought it nice to have a new coffee pot in return. Alas, I was wrong, I understand that now.

I'm not Mom.  I don't want to be Mom. I look a lot like Mom but I'm Lynn and every time I show up, I bring a vision with me. Mom. Granted, some people who lose people they have loved, are happy to have carbon copies who are still alive.  My Mom was that good, that loved, that irreplaceable, my father's One-And-Only, and I'm a constant reminder of what he no longer has.  Sure, it's hard for him but think about how incredibly difficult it is for me. He probably would be happier were I to open the door and throw his groceries in.  He sits in his sun-room with me, drinks coffee, only to be polite or to have the minimum of social contact required.  He does not enjoy it nor do I.  We both do what we have to do and I'm not always certain that what we do is good for either of us.  He needs to really feel her loss, to really get it that she is not there and never will be. That she will not be clanking pots and pans around.  He still needs to grieve.

In orthopedics you learn that there are two basic types of bone fractures, simple and compound, that one is less complicated than the other and heals quickly. A simple fracture in totally internal, along clean lines. A compound or Greenstick fracture is one in which the bone actually bends, sometimes penetrating to the outside, and they are nasty little fellows.  They take more time to heal, cause more pain and more complications but eventually, they do heal, scarring is very likely to occur, and the affected limb might look different. My father has suffered a massive compound fracture.

I need a clean break.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Search Over

Just like the pilgrims, our search is over. And, we're probably just as surprised as they were when they first hit the shore in America.  Our ship was out there, floundering around for months.  We knew we had to find a new home, one that would make us feel free and happy, the owners once again of our own lives.  We had endured a cruel, harsh Winter and as we sailed through it, it was hard to keep the final destination in sight.  With the knowledge that we have a lease on our lovely apartment that will expire in July, we set out from our comfort zone and embarked on the journey that would eventually lead us to what we call our "Five Year Plan:".  We could have stayed on, signed for another year and thrown thousands of hard-earned dollars into the bucket of an already overly-endowed land lord.  It would have been so easy but also so bad for us.  Another Winter surely will come.  But, there was greater motivation.  We live in a lovely setting, we have a great view from the back of our apartment, onto a pond where we see ducks and turkeys and birds, so many birds. From the front of our apartment, the view is entirely different.  We see old people, a parking lot, garages filled with cars, most of them silver or grey, that never, ever move. I can't help but feel that we are surrounded by people who are just passing time, waiting to die.  They never go anywhere, their cars, parked in the garages attest to that.  Rarely does one see a light on through a window in the evenings, making it possible to imagine that everyone has turned in, called it a day, before the sun has set.  We're simply not ready to be a part of this scene and so.........we're moving.  A nice condo awaits us, on the opposite side of the Cape, in another town.  We'll be home-owners again and we're very, very happy.Very happy.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Incubate

When my son was selecting his college, he was very young.  A precocious child, he was skipped a grade in elementary school, making him younger than his classmates and, at the end of high school, perhaps a bit too young to start the rest of his life.  It was a situation with which I was familiar, having a January birth day that allowed me to enter school early after not even having attended Kindergarten.  It wasn't mandatory in those days and I was a fiver year old first grader, something that I know impacted on the rest of my school days if not the rest of my life.  In both cases, parental poor decisions might have been made.  Guilty as charged.
So, the selection of college came, scholarship was offered, and our young man went off to a school that was highly regarded by the Christian Brothers who drummed such choices into their flocks of students, and the result was a totally unproductive and unhappy first year of college followed by some very uncertain times in our house as we had to patiently sit back and wait.  We weren't quite sure what we were awaiting and as the weeks went by, I found solace in my old belief that there are some chicks that simply need more time in the warmer, that incubators in hospital nurseries were proof that living-breathing humans aren't always fully equipped for their solo flights using their tiny lungs without support, that their lack of fat would stop their lives should they come in constant contact with variations in temperatures too soon. I used these thoughts as a mantra, pulling strength from them as each day passed into the next, a summer that brought long and troubled days in place of the carefree ones usually associated with time between school years.  Instead of moving ahead toward fully responsible adulthood, we had to accept the fact that our first-born was slipping backwards, or so it seemed to us and all who knew us.  This surely was not the plan but what was the plan? Was there even a plan? I needed a new mantra.  I was the one who needed to formulate a plan, to find the ring to catch and ride the carousel to its end so I thought and I thought and I came up with this, which made all the difference.  Our son can't pack his bags for the rest of the journey because he does not yet know the destination.  When he does, he will collect all that he needs and be on his way again. I made this announcement to my husband and everyone else who was willing to listen.

Eventually, the bags got packed,the Internet discovered (no, not by Al Gore), and we, the anguished parents got to see the fruits of our labor of patience and understanding.  From the incubator emerged a young man who was almost ready for the real world. One who just needed that extra time to find that which would supply the passion to keep on going, a way to communicate that was new and almost unfathomable just a few years before.  Yes, he returned to school.  One of his choice, not the Christian Brothers in New Rochelle.  One that was exactly right for his needs.  And he did graduate and he made decisions outside the warm nest and today, he has a wonderful job as a software engineer for a large company.

I've used the same lines, the one about the kids who need more time, the one about not being able to pack if you don't know where you're going, many times over the years.  I hope that it helped quiet the anxious souls of other parents who came to me in the workplace seeking guidance or maybe I've had the privilege of using my wisdom to help more than one little chickie get through a scary day at a job that asked for grown up behavior from one who was still a child. And now, I find myself faced with a situation not that unlike the one my son was in twenty six years ago. We need to pack. We don't know where we are headed. The time is coming to make decisions and it's all so hard because we don't have anyone older than us who can push us back into the warming oven, give us the chance to breathe with assistance, to let our bodies adjust to a new age, a new way to live, a new place if that is the choice we make.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Fires

It's writing group week again and I have to prepare for Thursday.  We're meeting at my place and I'm hoping it will be a sunny morning. We'll gather around the dining room table, the one that is right in front of the ceiling to floor windows that make up the back wall of that part of the apartment.  No need to bring folding chairs from their hiding places, I have eight perfectly comfortable chairs that slide easily into their own places at the table.  That's why, when I saw it in the store, I made an instant purchase.  It was always in my head, that dining room set, and when the snap decision to buy it was made, it was easy to justify.  A place for the whole family.  The grandchildren will not have to sit elsewhere, not have to use odd chairs, but forever will have their own places at the table and there will be lots and lots of room for all.  I love that table.  It's my version of a farm table, not exactly rustic but not formal either.  It wasn't new when  we bought it, rather it was painted over by the seller, in colors that, in their neutrality, made a statement up against the backdrop of tree tops and the beautiful pond below. That table is as important as a family member, so important that during a house hunt, it became a deal breaker more than once.  There had to be a place for it, no matter what. Second in line is the fireplace.  If the table is my lifeline, the fireplace is my heart beat, my pulse.

The prompt for this week's write is the word "Home".  Sounds easy.  I find it to be anything but.  I'm having a hard time with that word but must admit, it has gotten me through some sleepless moments over the
past few nights.

I used it as a mantra for meditations that I counted on for a return to sleep.
 The opportunities were boundless.  Home improvement, home schooling, home equity, home maker, home base, home grown, home goods, home style, home land, home made, home page, home fries, home owner, home fires, home life, home plate, home cooking, home spun, home body, home plate, home, home on the range. You get it.  There are a gazillion more but I'll hold onto that fact and perhaps use it again when I am up in the middle of the night thinking about my safety and security again.  Maybe I'll meditate on a quest to discover why so many of my "homes" are attached to words like "life, plate, cooking, fires, base and maker". These came to me in a flash.  I had to sit and think of others while writing this today and it was taxing, so I stopped.

I'm just not sure what and where home is to me or even what I would answer were I asked, "So, Lynn, where do you call home?" It's probably best that I never become a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune lest I make a total fool out of myself and Pat Sajak for having asked that simple question.  I suppose the answer would and should be "Pat, I'm a New Yorker", and then I would need the next five minutes to drive home my point......bagels, lox, cream cheese, the Yankees, the Bronx, uptown, downtown, subways, taxis, pretzels with mustard, hot dogs from carts on the corner, the fruit man who doesn't want my pennies, sidewalks, beeping horns, marriage proposals from strangers on street corners, buskers, busking on subway platforms, buskers on the street, buskers in Grand Central Station.  Grand Central Station!!!!  Home is where the heart is.

I'm feeling conflicted and confused.  The Winter wraps are finally coming off.  I knew where I had to be last season. I was stuck and I missed my life.  I need it back.  We're looking for a new house now, waiting to find just the right one before lease-renewal time is here.  We're racing against other people who are emerging from their own Winter cocoons and the idea of spending twenty minutes in a house that has a For Sale sign on its front lawn, and making a decision so huge, is scaring me to death.  I'm not sure that I will ever be able to refer to a house as a "home".  I don't think I have it in me.  But I do have the fireplace and I do have the table and the chairs and wherever I go, they go and whoever sits at that table will define what it is that I call home, if only for that time they are there. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ninety One

Today would have been my mother's ninety first birthday. Damn, I just wish she had made it to 90.

I don't know where I was last year on this date, or what I was doing or thinking but for some reason the day came and the day passed but not before I placed a bouquet or flowers at the Blessed Mother shrine at the church where my parents worshiped for many years. We did not have nearly as much snow last year so placing a glass vase filled with flowers was not as out of the question as it seemed this year.  I have a different plan for honoring her with her birthday so close to Easter.  I'm sure she would approve and forgive me for not venturing out in the cold rain today.

I could write volumes, in fact, I'm sure that if I scrolled down over the hundreds of posts that I have completed here over the past years, I would find that I have already done that.  I've never been at a loss for what to write about my mom.  She really was an amazing woman and you would only have known that after meeting her had you not been an old friend or family member.  We always knew it.  She never, ever gave herself the credit that she deserved nor did she ever boast about her accomplishments.  My mother was one very beautiful woman and I know that she must have been told so many times over but she redirected the spotlight and was quick to point out the beauty of someone else. She'd stop strangers on the street to pay them a compliment, knowing that her words would carry weight in one's self-esteem department.  She never missed an opportunity to do that.  A compliment, coming from her, would have brightened the dullest of days, that's how pretty she was.  My father knew it.  She was a mere sixteen years old when he first laid his eyes on her and from that very moment, he knew he had found the love of his life.  The made a handsome young couple and as the years went on, they became role models for anyone who would ever fall in love again.  We thought my father would die within months of her death. We really did.

Alas, this is not a the proper forum for eulogizing Mom.  Her memory resides deep within my heart and always will be alive therein.  I'll never hold a candle to her but will always be grateful for any similarity.

I'm saddened but also incredibly disappointed that she did not make it too far beyond her eighty ninth birthday.  I'm also very proud that she made it that far.  Her final years were spent in pain and the knowledge that she would be leaving us at any time.  She had not one, but multiple cancers, all of which she faced with courage and dignity, oh my God, such dignity.  She taught us all a lesson in how to conduct yourself in the face of adversity and how to accept whatever God planned, with grace and faith.  I just wish she could have made it into her nineties because she so richly deserved to have made it after coming so far so well.

Happy Birthday Angelina Ballerina!


Monday, March 23, 2015

3 Days Before My Mother's Birthday

This is going to be a rough week.

It started out rough, a round trip drive to a birthday party in New York.  Fifty people, screeching babies, small, hot room.

Round trip drive on a sunny Sunday. No real traffic issues going.  Hated to end it and, on the first lovely day in a very long time, go indoors to face a crowd.  Not my favorite thing.

Trip home, glided right through as if Interstate 95 was opening her heart to me and as the sun set, I felt like I was driving on velvet and that a gigantic magnet was pulling me home. My home. Safe, warm and free from judgments, from the noise, the crowd. Blessed relief.

I remember my mother telling me that in all her life, she never had a surprise party.  In fact, I doubt that in all her life, she was ever the center of attention, that she always took a back seat, allowing her family to have places of honor. I remember how many parties she threw, how many little nice times she planned for my father's birthdays.  I remember the love she had for her grandchildren and the ways she honored them with special celebrations, carefully thought-out and personalized gifts.

And I sat in a hot and over crowded room, at a birthday party, wishing that God was better at  division, fractioning off time, as I watched the faces of those of us who had lost our own mothers, knowing what their thoughts were, and I cried all the way home.

This week would have been the week of my mother's ninety first birthday and I'm mad at everyone in my family who has forgotten her and everyone who tells me to "move on" in what direction I do not know. And I wish there were some way to bring her back to the Earth for one day, if only to give her a party.

It's going to be a rough week.  If you've lost a mother, you know what I'm talking about.

Friday, March 13, 2015

HIPPA, HIPPA, HORROR STORY

What good would a Friday the Thirteenth be without a little ranting and raving?  I was in such a Zen place last week at this time and find it hard to remember that feeling.  I write essays and opinions, the Zen just helps me flesh out more of what I want to say.  Knowing my thoughts and trusting myself are very Zen-like but there's nothing like a bee in this woman's bonnet to really keep me moving on life's conveyor belt. So, today, I do breathe in....hold.....breathe out.....repeat and an idea pops into my head very easily because it has been brewing, just waiting its turn to come out and hop onto this page.

You know all those papers you have to sign when you are at your doctor's office?  There are even more of them when you are admitted to the hospital.  I remember the days before that HIPPA stuff all started. For those of you who may not know, this is the abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  It is a federal regulation that essentially says that your medical records and all information regarding your health is private will be protected and that healthcare workers may not, under penalty of law, disclose anything about you.  In other words, years after the concept of medical confidentiality was embraced, it was revisited on a higher level, assuring Americans that the most intimate details of their medical histories were not going any further than their treatment centers of choice.  No faxes, no emails, no phone calls, no discussions. Nothing. You're protected and your healthcare systems are more careful than they have been in history, safeguarding your privacy.

If you are in the business of health care of have ever been, then you know about medical confidentiality. It probably wasn't even something that you had to be taught.  Common courtesy or common sense dictates that you don't go around discussing what you have learned about anyone's health matters.  I can recall being a young teenager, preparing for my Red Cross Nurses Aide certificate, being warned against about the harm that could be done should two little Candy Stripers discuss the "Man in Room 221" while on an elevator or even worse, on a public bus.  For God's sake, Mrs. Man in Room 221 could be within earshot and maybe she thought her Man was on a business trip. Or even worse, maybe she didn't know he was as gravely ill as you did. So, young ladies about to enter the nursing world were taught to never discuss anything for any reason and it stuck.  

My lessons in holding in confidence everything I saw or heard served me well when I became a corporate nurse.  Oh, the temptation to tell "all" has been a great one but I can't forget that Red Cross instructor, her sharp pointy finger aimed right at our heads. And, I won't. And, I never did, not even when my own job seemed to be hanging on the tread of disclose or disembark from your lovely position.  My answer always was "now you know I can't tell you that!" But geesh, if my walls could talk or yikes if the crew from "The Enquirer" ever showed up with a big wad of cash for a little story.  I held my ground and upheld the confidentiality banner, stopping many an email trail of "concern" for a sick or injured employee somewhere in some part of the Colgate Palmolive "family". We just needed to know our employee was safe, under care, getting better, transported to a facility.  We did not have to know all the details, and trust me, there were details.

So, today I emailed a well-meaning friend who has put us on a list of other well-meaning friends, asking him to please remove us from the list, to not send any more updates our way. A friend has taken ill.  He has been ill for the past seven weeks, in a hospital in Paris.  Mutual friends who are in Europe have been sending the updates. Here's the latest in what we do not need to know from people who, mind you, are not doctors:

 His color is almost back to normal and the swelling in his left arm has greatly receded such that his hand is looking almost normal in skin texture and color. 


I'm left wondering if the poor man has any idea that these people have violated his privacy to such a degree?  Do we need to know this much about his illness? Wouldn't we be pleased to know that he is progressing?  Why do we need these intimate details? I suspect that the reporters have some kind of a need to make themselves feel more important, to be on the inside, connected in some special way.I'm surprised they did not add "We walked on water to get to his bedside." And I'm left feeling very, very sorry for the man in the hospital bed, so far away from home and from his rights and I'm wondering if his friends who have done the deed ever gave a thought to HIPPA or just plain common courtesy and true compassion.  By the way, that which I cut and pasted from the email is NOTHING compared to what they have already disclosed.  All in the name of friendship? I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy.  I know that if I did, that very mean Red Cross lady would have me arrested. Isn't that what HIPPA is supposed to do?