Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quick Note About a Bird, a Father and a Mother.....

We were just standing in the kitchen, putting the final preparations on our dinner for the evening when I looked into the next room and saw a bird flying by.

We are assuming that it flew in through the open door in our bedroom which opens up to become our fire exit.  How long it had been flying around, we do not know but it appeared to be fairly familiar with part of our house as it flew from corner to corner of the dining room. We were surprised and totally at a loss for what to do.

I first noticed the little visitor as I was dialing the phone to do a daily routine call to my father.  The call is usually made earlier in the day but I decided to take a break and postpone so that I would not have to answer the inevitable question "so, what are you going to do today?".  This is one of those questions that leave me feeling confused, guilty perhaps.  I never know the correct answer so I just say "I don't know yet".
So, I called the number and as he answered, I blurted out "there's a bird in the house" before I even got to saying hello.  My dad would never get how ironic it was that the bird had just flown over and landed on the table that holds an empty birdcage, an antique that I purchased for Joe for Fathers Day.  I tend to think there are a lot of things he no longer "gets" so I avoid many conversations.  I keep telling myself that it's okay to give up.

Without missing a beat, clear as a bell, sharp as a tack, my father came through, just as he always really has.
In his most New York Police Department voice he simply said "open a door and it will fly out".
And it did exactly that, and he was very pleased to hear that.  I could almost see his smile.  I heard the lilt in his voice, a little chuckle as I watched my mother fly off to a tree outside the door.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Here, There and Everywhere

Is it the heat wave that has so deftly wrapped itself around the Northeast that has driven me to this?  Or, maybe it is the audacious front cover of Rolling Stone that has placed the face of a man who, in but a very few seconds changed the body images of a dozen innocent people.  Whatever it is, I'm here writing about that very topic.  Body image.  Summer.  Lots of bodies revealing their secrets.  Heat. Humidity.  Relief.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about something similar.  The change in the seasons, forcing me to find shelter from no, not the heat but from my own body.  I used the words "slim" and "fat" a few times.  My objective at the time was to locate the "cover-ups" that had been packed away at the end of last summer.  This is a new week.  I've done some serious thinking during the many hours I have spent luxuriating in the cool caresses of the swimming pool that is one half mile from our home.  I love being in the water for so many reasons.  Not only is it positively refreshing to the body, but I find it does the same for my soul.  I'm reminded of a favorite hymn, one  that invites us to "come to the water".  Coming to the water, so basic, so refreshing.

O let all who thirst

Let them come to the water

And let all who have nothing

Let them come to the Lord

Without money, without price
Why should you pay the price
Except for the Lord?

It has come as a surprise to me, since returning to the Cape as the parent of "adults" rather than as one of young children, that so many of my friends do not ever, ever go to the beach as we all did when we our children were with us.  Why?  Because, I'm told, they don't want to be "caught dead" in a swimsuit.  And, I'm not exactly talking about mammoth people.  I'm talking about women who have lovely bodies, afraid to let their perceived "flaws" be shown.  I've even had a friend ask me point blank "do YOU go to the beach and wear a bathing suit?".  The tone of her voice implied that she was wondering if I would shame myself in such a way.  I'm sure, that as I responded,"why yes, I DO" she conjured up the image of ME in a swimsuit and was aghast.  She doesn't.  And I do not understand why.  She's perfectly lovely in every way and I'm sure she's mistaken about her bathing suit appeal.  Another friend, gorgeous in every way, told me just the other day, that she also would not be seen in swim attire, her own body image so bad for so long.  Another victory for a former husband who never allowed her to see her great beauty in her own eyes.  Body image. Paying the price. I really do understand.  All too well.

Body image is one of those things that does not improve with age.  We don't outgrow it.  We allow it to enter into our thought processes, dictating many of our most important moves, robbing us of pleasures, many that cannot be spoken of here or anywhere.  We never see ourselves as others see us, do we?  Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad.  If only we could.  If we could, the procession of people en route to work in Manhattan, for example, might look quite different.  Almost every single day, during my commute, I would ask myself "does she know what she looks like in that outfit?".  Maybe she did and maybe it was just fine.  Just maybe, she was totally happy with herself and not afraid to let the world see that pleasure.  Just maybe someone, back at the house said, "you look great today" and that was all she needed to hear.  Or, perhaps that lovely faced young woman, her visible body parts covered with tattoos and piercings,  never heard those words.  Maybe.

Body image.  I look down at my hands now, as I am typing and I swear that they belong to someone else.  An older woman.  A larger woman.  Ungroomed.  One without as much as a nail clipper or a jar of jewelry cleaner.  I have as many body images problems, if not more, than anybody else.  But, I have to tell you, It's another hot and humid one so far today and I'm going to get into the swimsuit and I'm going to the water.  No one, here, there or anywhere, is going to deprive me of one of life's joys.  There isn't a person on Earth with the right to do that.

Think about it.  If you're reading this, you are beautiful.  Here, there and everywhere.  Forever. And, if you have not heard that in a while or in "ever", allow me to share that news with you.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July Third

The last conversation I had with my mother's doctor, a woman who had been her trusted personal physician for more years than I can count, happened slightly more than one year ago.  It was sometime before my mother left her home for the last time.  It probably was during a crisis, when we needed answers,.  The last words  from her doctor were "she'll probably not make it to the fourth of July".  My mother gave up the fight on the third  in a beautiful hospice center, surrounded by the most remarkable people in the universe.  She was not alone and she was not in pain.  Her two final wishes, completely fulfilled. She died with dignity, just as she lived for the past eighty eight beautiful years.

I've written so much during that and the time following her death.  It has been a unique year, filled with  emotion and responsibility.  Mother was cremated.  Her ashes sit in a beautiful blue box in the T.V. room where my father can see them, every moment of every day.  But for the times he ventures away from his home to do a few local chores or to take his rides to the canal in Sandwich, he sits and does little else in that room.  I wonder if he is still communicating with her, if he finds solace in his self-imposed solitude. Perhaps he feels safe and protected from the outside world if he remains in close proximity to that blue box.  I've given up trying to encourage him to be social, even to the point of no longer inviting him to our home for dinner or out to lunch. He simply refuses, as if he has a full calendar and can't take the time......away from her.

I'm still haunted by the images; the sights and sounds of a loved one dying are too painful to bear in real time and impossible to carry in one's heart after as a reflection.  If I stop and allow myself to replay the little parts of the whole experience, I start to cry and need the comfort that only a mother can give. And she no longer can. So, I try not to do that.  I took care of a lot of the initial grieving in Italy. For one entire month, in my own self-imposed solitude,  I allowed myself to feel the sadness and to remember the bits and pieces. In my mind,  I framed so many little memories and went as far with them as I could.  For my own benefit, I consecrated my mother's life and death.  She was a beautiful woman. She was smart and strong.  A woman of principle who stood by her convictions.Right was right and wrong, very wrong.  One very hard act to follow, let me tell you.

Often, people who are in the act of grieving, apologize for their "moments".  My answer always is the same.  As unique as people are, so too is the process.  Its okay to be sad, to realize a loss and a heart's emptiness that follows.  Imagine if we spent time on the earth and when we left, we were not missed?  I think of that all the time, about how grief validates one's living.  Be sad.  Cry.  Do whatever you need to do. We owe that much to our late loved ones. My mother's absence from this world is profound.  She was here and she made a difference.  She gave life, she gave love and she bore her suffering, never blaming, never demanding, never even asking anything of us and always, always, showing my father that he had a very special purpose in life. Together, they remained, hand in hand until she took her last breath on July 3rd.

My mother's cousin, who is my contemporary, called last week.  She lost her own mother, my mom's dear sweet Aunt Tina, just a few months before I lost mine.  She asked if my mother had attempted to contact me yet.  I wasn't sure of what to say.  I am in constant contact with my mom, every day.  She guides me and gives me answers to questions in ways that I would never have imagined during her life on Earth.  She has, I believe, reconnected me with her cousins and now I have a constant source of love and support from people who know who I am and where I come from.  It is a gift beyond compare.

 It has rained for days on end, making the end of June a somber one.  Tears from the sky.  Maybe my mother saying "this is it, the last bit". Today,  the sun is already shining and the sky showing the first shade of blue in a very long time.  There is a breeze and a feeling of lightness and hope for a brilliant summer day from start to finish.  The hydrangeas are in bloom and the grass is verdant.  I can see the ducks on the pond again.  I can hear the occasional plane in the sky and on a day when I thought I would be shrouded in sad memory, I am lifted and free of pain.

Yes, Cousin Marie, my mother has contacted me.  She's telling me, "no more tears". As I write this, the sun is growing brighter and the day is becoming more beautiful just as her life did from the day she was born.

One tiny tear left as I remember.  She was that great and so much more.