Life, It’s All About Loss, Isn’t It?

Every day, we go through hundreds, thousands of small loses, I’m about ready to burst into tears so I know it’s true. It’s one of those instinctual, hit me in the gut feelings. My grown-up children left to go back to college today and even though I will see them in three weeks, it doesn’t matter. Children always leave you. People you love always leave you. Why is that not written in any manual so we can anticipate it?

From their first highly anticipated step, to their first day of nursery school

and first grade your child will always be leaving you. Yes, it is good and you have done a great job in raising them. You should be proud of their independence and pat yourself on the back. You have done a great job building their self-esteem and their confidence, but it still hurts like a knife twisting into your belly cutting bloody veins with a torture only known to parents.

We experience that hurt from the moment that they are born until the moment we die. Our children will never understand it until they, themselves have babies of their own. Don’t bother explaining it to them, my kids are used to my tears, they think I’m just the mushiest person in the world, and I am. But, in no way do they think that every time they leave I feel like I’m being stabbed or that my heart breaks a thousand different times, every time they leave, nor should they ever know.

You would think I would get used to it but it’s something I can never get used to. I remember my parents used to travel a lot when I was in high school, maybe even junior high and I would weep, standing at the kitchen table, looking down six flights as they stood waving until their taxi arrived.

I was inconsolable until they left. Then, magically, I was quite happy and calm and independent. Why the shift of pain so rapidly? I’m not really sure, I hated being left, abandoned. But, once they left, I was independent and had a great time. Freud anyone?

Once someone actually leaves, I’m fine. It’s the build up and the anticipation that always gets to me, always has. At my old age I don’t think my patterns will change but I always give it a shot. “I’m not good at good-byes” I say honestly to my children, they expect it, they know and understand. But, they will only truly understand when/if they have children of their own.

Maybe we will be lucky to be grandparents, to see our children have children. To see our grown-up kids do the precise things they chastised us for, that would be funny. Life is a circle, how we got so far in the game, I have no idea. I feel young, time escapes us, but as I watch my children grow into adults, I know too, we have aged accordingly.

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Living With Sweet Denial

I refuse to believe that in the next few days snow is in the forecast. Yes, I am in the ultimate denial stage. I’ve heard from multiple sources that the temperature is going to drop quickly and that the predicted heavy rain will fall and turn into snow. Yes, SNOW.

I am not going to believe it nor will I think about it.  Instead I am going to live in my world of fantasy for a few minutes, at least, and dream or reminisce about something nice that happened in my past. Let’s see how long I last with this new coping technique…

I once went on a trip to visit my grandparents with my dad in Vienna, Austria. ( Remember we always had free airline tickets.) Do I remember the time I spent with my grandparents? Honestly, no.I remember that my Opa was grumpy but he did love me best and Oma made incredible, moist schnitzel, the best I’ve had in my entire life. Naturally, I remembered food. I also remembered the desserts that my dad and I shared. Both of us had the worst sweet addiction in the world.

I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night but I do remember desserts I have had when I was a teenager. On that trip to Vienna we had a red currant pie that when you took a bite the currants would explode in your mouth. I’ve looked, searching for something similar now for forty years. The other dessert we called “The Swan” filled with vanilla cream, a delicate white meringue, shaped into a swan, covered in aluminum to take home.

Roasted pear creme brulee tart.

Many years later we would look at each other and just say..”remember the swan?” My father is long deceased but when I think of these moments that we shared together they make me feel close to him.  I have not disappointed him in my pursuit of sweets. In fact, I have carried that trait on to my now grown-up children.

My daughter is a chocolate fan, definitely inherited from her dad’s side of the family. It’s chocolate, dark chocolate and nothing else. It could be ice cream or cake but it has to be chocolate, once in a while they will have coffee mixed in but that’s all.

Ah, but my son comes from my side of the family with the love of fruit, custard tarts, crème brûlée and all things vanilla. Sure, we won’t turn down a brownie but our main focus is definitely NOT on chocolate, just the opposite. We like pear tarts and apple crumbles, strawberry fruit tarts with vanilla custard, blueberry pies and for me, anything with coconut or lemon.

Dessert makes a sad day or a bad day happier. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be a large serving but in our family it does indeed have to exist. My husband and I, since the kids are in college, have a new ritual in the evening: after dinner and cleaning up, working/writing for a while around 8:30 we start to watch television on our bed. Our dog, Lexi is always at our feet. A half hour goes by and instinctively we look at each other and smile.

We know by our stomachs, not a clock, that it is time for dessert. My husband goes down to the kitchen and prepares two small bowls of ice cream, frozen yogurt or a combination, maybe a cookie with it and a few M & M’s. I think we both get the same amount of pleasure from it, I am thrilled with the anticipation and he is thrilled that he is doing something so incredibly kind and I appreciate it. (Not to mention the fact that we are about to have “D” the nickname for dessert in our house.)

We continue watching our show, we eat our desserts slowly (well, I do) and that makes the world a little brighter. Compared to some people it’s not a big deal but for us it’s not only  enough, it’s heavenly sweet.

In memory of my dad.

If You Ran Away To Join The Circus What Would Your Job Be? (Plinky Prompt)

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • If you ran away and joined the circus, what would your role be?Would you run a concession? Would you train elephants? Be a clown?Ringmaster? Why?
  • NO job at the circus??

    circus

    circus (Photo credit: fsse8info)

  • I’d probably be the one holding the sign saying that the Circus Is Cruel To Animals, although I never used to think that way. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to go to the circus with my parents. It was a dream. The mixed smell of peanuts blending in with pink cotton candy wafting in the air. The taste of the cotton candy melting on my tongue, where did it go? The flashlights we used to twirl around and around in the dark. The twinkling lights, the aura of suspense, where to look, the anticipation, ah, the ringmaster! The whole event was magical, I truly loved it.
    When I had children I couldn’t wait to take them to the circus, I was almost as excited as they were, maybe more. There is something about the circus that automatically transforms you into a child…until you grow up. Until you have watched a documentary or two and realized that tigers really don’t ride tricycles naturally and the elephants look old, and tired and do the monkeys really need to ride a motorcycle? Why are there so many whips around? My daughter, a vegetarian, realized it when she was older too and we never went to see a circus again. Why would we?
    It’s the same reason that I won’t wear a fur coat. I wouldn’t throw red paint on someone who was wearing one, I think that is extreme, but I choose not to wear one. No act of violence, to me, is acceptable. Now, it is my choice not to attend the circus, but if someday I have grandchildren and they look at me with those innocent eyes, jumping up and down and begging as only children can do, I can’t promise I wouldn’t take them if their parents wanted me to. In fact, most likely, I would, just to see their eyes shine, to hear the jingle of laughter long forgotten, to buy them cotton candy and a flashlight to twirl in the magical magnificence and innocence of childhood.

     

You Just Can’t Fight Crazy

Matti

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People don’t always get along, that’s a given. Some people cringe at confrontation and try to hide their heads under the mattress to avoid dealing with it or slither away to swimmingly escape the idea of a fight. I don’t mind verbal fighting as long as it is a fair fight. If the parameters are clear, I will not shy away; I don’t seek fights but I am willing to defend myself or anyone I love for the right reasons. Fairness and honesty are incredibly important to me. “Just don’t lie to me” I used to tell my children when they were teenagers (not that it was a hundred percent successful.) It’s the Libra in me, I’m sure, needing balance and honesty, hating dishonesty with a passion.

There are times when, as a friend of mine is experiencing, you find yourself in the middle of a situation where you have NO control. Her son and daughter in law have decided, without explanation, that  Grandma and Grandpa can not see their children anymore. No reason, no explanation. Grandma is absolutely heartbroken, confused and in shock. There was no explanation, that to me, is not a fair fight. She has tried numerous times, to try to talk to them, to understand what she did but they won’t talk. She took care of their two girls when they were both working full-time and when the parents picked up the kids, the kids would cry and did not want to leave their grandmother’s house. That is a key issue, in my opinion.

Personally, I think, the mom was jealous of the kids’ warm and loving connection to their grandmother, maybe the daughter in law demanded that the husband make a choice between his mom and his wife? That is pure conjecture on my part but it seems feasible, doesn’t it?  The son, apparently used to be very close to his mother.”It’s either her or me” comes to mind and guess who lost? Grandma did and she was not even allowed to see or talk to her granddaughters again without knowing why. She had Valentine’s Day cards she had bought in advance and presents. Even worse, her daughter-in-law is pregnant with a boy and she fears she will never even meet this new grandchild.

They won’t talk to her, answer her e-mails, they literally have cut her out of their lives. It is an unfair, unbalanced fight. I think it is absolutely cruel. Intentionally cruel. They want to make her suffer and they have succeeded. Having loving, involved grandparents is an absolute gift and yet the parents won’t even TALK to the grandparents to make things right again. Not even an e-mail. Grandma and Grandpa don’t even KNOW what they have done wrong, ( or more likely if they have done anything wrong.) This was a large, connected and loving family, celebrating birthdays and holidays together, now it is in fragments; all the rest of the family on Grandma’s side.

There are times in all our lives when things are unjust and even Libras like myself have to accept, take it in and let it go. Life IS unfair sometimes. We have to accept that people are sometimes too stubborn or too sick and too hurtful to be rational. Apparently, the couple are not even thinking about their own children who must feel abandoned by their grandmother and grandfather who loved them and cared for them daily. Grandma has no way of telling them that she still loves them and misses them. As hard as it is, she has no choice but to accept this horrible deal. There is nothing else she can do. They won’t let her. It is literally breaking her heart, she cries endlessly and can only talk about this one topic. She knows “she can’t fight crazy” but that doesn’t mean she has stopped fighting and has accepted her life.  I almost wish she would.

Carry on Tuesday: Fear not for the future, Weep not for the past

My Grandparents

My Grandparents (Photo credit: protoflux)

“John, you listen up, I’ve been trying to talk to you all morning. Now sit down next to me you old fool and stop teasing me. I’m just having one of my worrying spells. Oh, stop shaking your head back and forth, you old buzzard, you knew I had these spells back when you married me.

What’s it been now, almost 40 years we’ve been together? So long that at night, my breathing slows down to yours, even when that darn snoring of yours wakes me up, why I just push you over and fall back asleep.

We’re old badgers but we’re lucky cause we got grandchildren now.  Stevie’s third child is due in two months, imagine that. Why I still remember when our own babies were born, like it was yesterday. I don’t remember lots of things, but I remember that clear as day. We had two babies running around in those cotton messy diapers, oh my, all the washing and cleaning in the tub.

Do you remember when the kids went to college? Sure, we were proud as can be but I was sad deep down, all the time. I still had their baby photos up all around and I just had to take them down cause they hurt me to see them, all loving and sweet and innocent. I had me a stabbing pain that caught my breath and wouldn’t leave. The kids didn’t seem to need us anymore. All they wanted to do was be with their friends and drink, least that’s what it felt like to me.

We had each other though, so we could talk between us but those weren’t good years. You remember those years? Of course you don’t, you remember nothing. Don’t pinch me old man, I can still laugh at you, I’m your wife, you best remember that.

I do look forward to when the kids visit. Seeing our babies with their babies. People used to tell us how great it was to be Grandparents and they were right. Those grandchildren are pure magic, fat, cuddly babies with sticky faces but I sure hope I’m still alive to see them as teenagers. I’m laughing and shaking my head thinking bout how bad our kids were in their teens and early twenties. Why I’d enjoy our grandchildren acting up to their parents like ours did to us. Wouldn’t you?

How much time left you think we got left, Johnny? Come on what do you think? I know you can’t say for sure, not asking for sure. You KNOW I sometimes think on these things. I got to admit, I’m still a little fearful of the future though I’m not afraid to die. I know you say just don’t think about it but sometimes I  do anyways. I can’t help it. Or what if you die first? I don’t want to sleep in this bed alone and be cold and lonesome. Why, you’d miss me if I was gone too. Who would do your cooking and cleaning up and make the bed look so pretty, just the way you like? I know you wouldn’t say it but I know you’d miss me; I see that little smile there, John, don’t try to hide it.

Now, let’s take each day as it comes, we not look back and weep for it, what good is that gonna do? We had all those times and now our turn is over; it’s time to pass them on to new generations. It’s their turn, let them enjoy it. We’re just jealous is all, because we didn’t appreciate it when we had it and time speeds by us like a quick burst of chilly air.

Take my hand, husband we’re going walk over to our garden now, gonna water the tomatoes, going to pick some of the cucumbers and you can help me with the corn. We’re gonna do it together, old man, and then we’re going to eat dinner, and for dessert I made you your favorite, a blueberry crumble. Why yes I did. We’ll sit on the porch eating our supper, for as long as the good Lord above will let us. I pray that it’s gonna be a really long time.”

Carry on Tuesday: Wishful Thinking

The Waitress

The Waitress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s one of those dreary, black, rainy nights and I have gone food shopping for what seems to be the eleventh time in a week to buy food for my family. I’m so tired that my legs ache and they sure are swollen. I’ve been on my feet all day working at the coffee shop waiting on customers. I’m so tired I could sleep in this old car, for sure. I load the groceries in the car, rubbing my back the whole time; I stop in the card store to buy a birthday card for my sister. We share one old computer at home, not a fancy one like the orange or the apple, whatever it’s called, but we bought it second-hand and the kids use it for homework. This “e-mail” may be convenient but when it comes to good friends or relatives, I’m old-fashioned, I still buy cards and stamps even though the stamps will soon be the same price as the cards sooner or later.

I go to the register and as I am about to pay for my card when I decide, last second, to buy a lottery ticket, quick pick just for some fun. It’s a guaranteed few hours of playing our favorite game: “what would we do if we won the lottery?” Tonight it gives me some happy time while I soak my bones in a bubble bath. We don’t have much but we do have a tub and some bubbles, heck, even Oprah took bubble baths and she could have gone to a fancy spa. While I am soaking I’m going to imagine me wining all those millions of dollars and then I’m gonna spend that money in my mind. First thing I’d buy would be a new truck for my boys, brand, spanking new. You got to make your own happiness sometimes and since I am blessed with my family and our health, this is sure good enough for me.

My own momma and poppa used to call this “wishful thinking” they never believed in it because they said that” it’s no sense in dreaming if you are never gonna win anything anyways.” They wouldn’t let me dream, I just had to work on the farm but now as a grown-up, I can do what I want. I will NOT deny my children of dreaming, no sir. People have to dream, dream big even, that’s what I tell our children. Work hard, study hard and your dreams will come true. I don’t tell them what their grandparents always said to me, I learned what not to do from my parents so I set it right for my own children. Dream big because I believe in you. I tell them that because no one ever told that to me.

Carry On Tuesday: “So good to be be believed in once, so good to be remembered…..”

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The dreams of childhood – its airy fables, its graceful, beautiful, humane, impossible adornments of the world beyond ; so good to be believed in once, so good to be remembered when outgrown.

I am the mother of two children. “Children”, I laugh to myself, “children, no more!” My daughter is a skip away from eighteen, my son, soon to be twenty in a few months. Once I was everything to them, now, nothing much. Yes, they still come to me when they are hungry but they do not come with sticky kisses and hugs that curl around my knees like sloppy green caterpillars. No, it’s been many years since that has happened.  They yell throughout the house “what’s for dinner” or “I’m hungry” and even though they are fully capable of cooking their own meal but it is still nice to be needed, once in a while, in this small, insignificant way, although I am quick to reprimand them. It ‘s something. I know they love me, they just don’t show it; my husband and I have done a good job bringing up two wonderful, independent young adults. It’s not their fault that once in a while I feel so lonely.

When they were three and five, it was a magical time. A time for believing in Batman and monsters, pink princesses and glitter pixie dust. An innocent time and I was the one they truly believed in for anything. I could right any wrong, make any hurt feel less painful. I could vanish fears before bedtime or sing them lullabies, sitting exactly equally between their rooms so they could fall asleep. It was a truly special time, it felt “so good to be believed in once.”

Now, that is all left in the past. We are all moving on, this childhood home will be child-less come late August with two teenagers headed to college. Yes, there is a small part that wonders what my husband and I will talk about, what do we have in common except our off-spring? Perhaps we will talk about the puppy I adopted to avoid the complete empty nest. I don’t know, I will have to wait and see; we are all in this together. Together but alone.

Last year we adjusted when our first born son went to college and the three of us shifted in our dynamics, making more time to chat with our daughter, our “baby” and watched her grow an incredible amount. Dynamics between siblings are often fraught with competition and jealousy. It was nice to see our daughter for one year sans her older brother. I am the younger sister too, I understand her feelings.

We will watch them grow up through tales of college and on vacation, perhaps they will see us in a different light, slightly removed. It’s not a bad thing, it can be a very positive and mature thing. Maybe they will appreciate us more or understand one day in the future, what it is like to be a parent. To love a child so unconditionally, with every fiber of your being that while the umbilical cord is cut, the attachment is forever. I hope they understand one day what it is like to be a parent and even more, I pray that I am alive to see it. I hope to be sitting on the lumpy beige sofa with matching fluffy yellow and red pillows with you, my dear husband, chatting, joking and whispering to each other about what OUR children were like, joking with our grandchildren: because once your own parenting days are over it feels “So good to be remembered when outgrown.” It is their job now to parent, not ours any longer, we have moved out of the inner circle to the outer circle and we need to accept that as graciously as we possibly can. It all falls under the circle of life. People change; we all do, we must accept it, not fight with it, with God’s blessings. Amen.

Carry On Tuesday: “I Had A Dream”

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, S...

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, Sr.), Richard Thomas (John Boy), and Michael Learned (Olivia Walton) from the television program The Waltons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream, when I was younger, that all families were like the ones I  watched on television: Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best and most importantly, The Waltons. Everyone always got along, the siblings were close, sure they bantered back and forth but I could just feel the love between them and the mutual admiration they had for one another. I grew up thinking that life was fair; good people got good things and bad people got what they deserved: punishment. Life was about giving and taking, things always worked out in the end, or so I thought.

I certainly don’t believe in that as much as I used to, hell, I’m not sure I believe in it at all.  There are too many bad people getting away with too much horrible crap and too many good people are given way too much stuff to handle that they don’t deserve. Think about it for a minute, I bet you can think of a few, truly good and kind people who don’t deserve what they have and a few unkind, bad and selfish people you wish had more of the same, negative karma that they give out,  if only to teach them a lesson or two. Does it happen often? No, it rarely happens if at all.

I know I started  my youthful fantasies, back when there was a Santa Claus, and an Easter Bunny and if you had a bad day, the next day was a promise with a kiss to be better. It was a world when moms and dads could tell you things and you believed them in your child-like innocence. Parents weren’t flawed people, they were just, well…parents. Apparently, life is not based out of old episodes of a television series. Reality hit me when I was an adolescent and those innocent years of childhood ended abruptly.

Families, like The Waltons all lived together in one big house; sure they were poor but they all got along and loved and trusted one another, three generations living under one roof. We can’t even have a dinner with the “adults” in my family before someone’s childish drama and selfishness rears its dysfunctional head, loudly and inappropriately, within a matter of minutes. At my mother’s  birthday celebration, one member of my family made it all about her. I wasn’t shocked or surprised it happens that way all the time. I just shook my head, looked at my poor husband who had just been delivered a stern lecture and saw his flushed cheeks and his bewildered, hurt brown eyes; he was very upset. After that, just looking at his body language he had checked out. There’s always one victim, usually it’s me, now it was both of us, but I don’t feel defeated anymore, I just felt disgusted.

Here is what I have learned:  people do not change. The most “enlightened” sounding people can be the most disturbed and do not know themselves at all; they need professional help. As much as we are all in this together with our friends, family, neighbors,  ultimately, we are alone. We are born alone and we will die alone. The most important thing to have is strength in yourself. We all need that wisdom and courage it takes to go to bed and wake up the next day knowing that even though it is hard to put one foot in front of the other, we have no choice but to continue. That even in uncharted territory we must force ourselves to go on and that family is not necessarily defined by blood lines but by goodwill, caring, kind, well-intentioned, love. Pure and simple. Love should not be that complicated, and if it always is, there is something very, very wrong.

Sadly, The Biggest Fibromyalgia Fog Ever (And Food)

Stairs.

Image by ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN via Flickr

A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning, my husband woke us up from a deep sleep at 7:45 am, which on the weekends is basically the middle of the night. We went to meet his parents for brunch “in the middle” of our two houses in two different States. What I thought would be a one hour drive ended up being two hours for us. Two long hours, coiled like a bright pink hair scrunchy  in the front seat of a very small car. I didn’t move around in my seat, didn’t ask to stop the car so I could stretch, I just sat there like a block of white marble. Why? What was I thinking? Apparently, I was NOT thinking.

During the trip there I totally forgot that I had Fibromyalgia. How could I forget that I had a chronic illness? I really don’t know but that is exactly what happened. It didn’t occur to me until I felt locked in place and could not get out of the car. I couldn’t turn, I couldn’t extend my legs out, I couldn’t move and finally, the long, first step from the car to the pavement was pure agony.  It was the greatest Fibromyalgia Fog of all:  Blissfully forgeting I had Fibromyalgia…until we got there.  Had I remembered the illness I would have stopped every half hour to get out of the car, stand up and stretch. I should have been prepared, physically and mentally but I wasn’t. I just wanted to arrive at our destination. When we got there every inch of my body hurt like thousands of razor blades performing a pain symphony.

We walked up a long winding, flight of stairs, my new arch-enemy, to get to the restaurant we were going to for the brunch buffet. I looked up the winding staircase and had no idea how I would be able to get up. Being stubborn and independent I clutched the banister with the strength I had left, my stiff legs and knees protesting at every step; I walked like a small child, one step with both feet at a time. I realized anew that Fibromyalgia is a horrible, debilitating disease and forgetting about it entirely was a terrible burden for my body and my feelings; I felt stupid and embarrassed. “Loser” I muttered to myself.

Finally upstairs we were treated to a lovely meal. The brunch was a buffet, a man played the piano, my teenagers were well-behaved, there were mimosas available and it looked festive. We feasted on made-to-order omeletes, mine with mushrooms and cheese. On display were cinnamon buns with drizzled, sweet vanilla icing. They served eggs benedict. an array of cheeses and fresh vegetables and Belgium waffles with a vat of whipped cream and another close by filled with bright red, plump strawberries. They had croissants and rolls and blueberry muffin tops coated with brown sugar. They had serving stations of steak with horseradish mayonnaise and grilled sirloin, all too carnivorous for me so early in the day. There were smoked salmon platters and my personal favorite, a lovely poached pear, the color of burgandy, with brie and walnuts.

Once we were finished I dreaded walking down my nemisis, the evil staircase. I had to take a deep breath with every painful inch that I could move. Each step sent electric shocks down my legs, my hands were red and swollen, as if arthritis had landed in my body unannounced. I stayed behind the family this time and managed with one hand to clutch the banister down and with the assistance of my husband holding on to my other arm. I felt like a 95 year old grandma and while I appreciated my husband’s help, I loathe that I need it. I don’t like feeling dependent, at all. The food cheered me up, it was lovely and presented gorgeously. I tried to remember that and not getting there or going home. Next time, please, someone remind me so I can avoid a Fibro Fog as stupid as this one.

Happy Birthday Daddy

Wiener Schnitzel

Image via Wikipedia

November 13th is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 88. He passed away almost 9 years ago but the pain on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, is the same raw pain as the day he died.  It’s a pain that is hard to describe for people who have never lost a parent. Believe me, I know.

Instead of wallowing in depression this year I am going to try to remember and honor the man I loved so dearly. His blue-gray eyes, child-like qualities, generosity, pep-talks and his warmth. I miss the soft yet sturdy hugs as if a limb of my own had been amputated. I miss the familiar smell of his after-shave cologne that he sprayed with enthusiasm. My dad and I were very similar; he and I had an amazing connection and a strong emotional bond. We thought alike and we completely understood each other. The day he died, my heart was gauged with intense pain, my heart missing an essential beat.

My dad and I had so much fun together when I was younger. We traveled to  Vienna, Austria, where my grandparents lived. We ate sugary-sweet meringues that were shaped like delicate white swans and sipped hot chocolate with “schlag”  (whipped cream). We ate exploding red-berry sweet and sour tarts in Viennese cafes. My grandmother would fry up her famous wiener schnitzel,  served with plump lemon wedges every single night.

I was in first grade when my mom couldn’t come to open school day but my dad came. I think he was the only father in the class and I was so proud, so happy that he was there. I remember sharing my milk and cookies with him and I felt so important. At a shared birthday party with a friend he surprised me by coming home from work early, sneaking into the party like a secret surprise. It was a joy so innocent and so intense that I remember the feeling to this day. I was shocked and delighted as I wrapped my arms around his tall legs like a clinging, furry animal. Back then dads’ weren’t as involved in their children’s’ lives as they are today but he always had time for me; his little one, his mouse, his baby.

We had adventures, the two of us. My mother worked a great deal, she traveled the world being a tour director and translator. One night my father and I went out to a Spanish restaurant and sipped sangria, with glistening, beaming chunks of bright oranges and green apples bobbing in the rich, red wine. We toasted people we knew with every sip we took. The more we sipped the stranger the toasts were. I remember we toasted a wall -paper hanger guy that never showed up to our house, people we barely knew and random people from the past.

We went to the bagel store together, early on a Sunday morning and the store was closed. However, the fresh, warm, doughy bagels had already been delivered to the store in huge paper sacks. My dad happily took some and we left, an experience a teenager doesn’t forget! We would go grocery shopping at a huge Pathmark store with my mom and he and I would find the biggest size jars of silly things: three-pound troughs of peanut butter and dill pickles, tubs of mandarin oranges and hide them in the cart as a joke. My mother would roll her eyes and shake her head, clearly not amused, but my dad and I would laugh hysterically. Often, there would be open boxes of cookies or candy and we would help ourselves to free samples. Back then, we weren’t worried about poison or germs or anthrax.

My father spent his entire life working for TWA,  getting free airline tickets for our family.  My father, mother, older sister and I flew to: France, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. First class seats were a mere eight dollars extra but that was a lot of money years ago and a very special treat.

This Saturday on my dad’s birthday my husband and I are going to visit my mom and take her out for lunch, we don’t want her to be alone. I know that spending the day with my mom would make my dad very happy.  He loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. Later, that night, my kids and I will remember him with his own, signature and messy concoction, “Papa’s game”: a “mixture” containing  little bits of everything that is leftover on our plates and in our glasses, swirled together with a spoon and a smile. This year, I will toast to his memory.