Plinky Prompt: For Tomorrow, We Die.

Unidentified family, October 1951

Unidentified family, October 1951 (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

  • …for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation. See all answers
  • For tomorrow, we die
  • Dining companions? Setting? Conversation?
    Be serious.
    I wouldn’t move from my living room, food would be ordered in from wherever my family wanted, loads of it. My (adult) children would be with my husband and me, our dog would be in my lap, my mother would be with us. We would not talk about the end of the world but the memories we had. We would talk about the good times, the happy times and we would not be looking at any clock. Let the world end when it does, we are holding on to each other, some hold hands, others hug. We eat good comfort food, milk shakes, champagne, anything our hearts desired. No limit. Nothing fancy, nothing different, just a lot more of it. Now is the time to coax those less inclined to talk to share their feelings, to show emotion. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. You can’t change people you just have to accept them the way they are.
    No fights, no domineering, just balance. Love, kindness, support, appreciation. To have had what we did have, together. We close our eyes together and fall asleep. We give our thanks for what was. We have no control over tomorrow.

  • *I hope whoever this photo belongs to will somehow find their way to my blog
  • so I can help to reunite them.
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Just One More Hug

Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

Screenshot from a public domain film The Littl...

Screenshot from a public domain film The Little Princess (1939) starring Shirley Temple and Richard Greene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today would have been my dad’s 90th birthday, he died eleven years ago. I guarantee you it will not be an easy day or night for any of us. I’m trying to use this day to remind me of what a wonderful father he was, how he loved birthdays and presents and food and more food and little presents that cost less than a few dollars which we called “shmonsas.”

I miss him, those feelings stab at my heart and reopen wounds I thought had healed. Apparently, there is no complete healing from death and pain.  Since we have talked about my dad lately I feel the pain, as if it was fresh, wounds ripped open, knives sharpened and stabbing pain. Tears are spilling down my eyes, in the catch of my voice.

Of all times, the day before his birthday I found myself making his favorite, home-made pea soup.  I hadn’t even realized that his birthday was coming up because I was focusing only on 11/11 my favorite day and time. That meant today was 11/12 and I realized my husband and I are having dinner with my mom on Wednesday, not even conscious that Wednesday, 11/13 was my dad’s birthday. The world works in strange ways, I still believe there is a reason for everything.

Every Saturday morning when I was a child, my dad and I would watch Shirley Temple movies together, just the two of us. He would take his finger and wipe his eyes quickly and I once asked him if he was crying. He told me he had allergies but soon enough I learned the truth. Every week, another Shirley Temple movie, The Little Princess, Curly Top etc. was on. Saturday mornings were very special for me and my dad.

When I was older we would get bagels which was not technically stealing since the store was not open and once he and I got off the tram in Austria to buy bratwurst thick with golden brown mustard and rolls and left my mother and sister on the tram-car (not realizing they had no idea where they were and that we were gone.) As sorry as we were, he and I still held unto our sides remembering my mother’s fuming face, nostrils flaring. Luckily, he was the one who got in trouble, not me.

We would all go to Pathmark grocery shopping while I still lived at home and we would put ridiculous sized items in the cart while the other person wasn’t looking, 5 gallons of pickles, 10 gallons of ketchup, we thought we were hilarious. Sometimes someone had opened up a bag of cookies (No, it was not us) but we would help ourselves to samples. Once when my mother was away ( working) we went to a Spanish restaurant and got a little tipsy on Sangria, toasting wall paper hangers that did not show up. My kids will be shocked to hear this!  Another time, I was driving home from my married life in Boston, pregnant with my first child and he had come down as a surprise to direct traffic wearing an orange helmet with a bright orange sign with my name and arrows so that I wouldn’t get lost. If I had one sentence to describe him, it would be that one. When there were mice crawling over my bed and feet in my apartment he would pick me up and bring me “home.” Nothing was too much.

My mom, my husband and I will eat dinner at a restaurant and try to celebrate his life instead of mourning it.  I thought I might want to put a candle on my dessert for him but I can’t kid myself, I’d burst into tears before it even came. I think I’ll just say my own few words, privately. He was a wonderful father to both my sister and me: nurturing, warm, supportive. I still miss his warm hugs the most, a true loss. Prone to educational talks that were a bit too lengthy what would I do now to hear one again. I could count on to him to at least understand my side even if we didn’t agree, it’s been so long, eleven years, that I can’t even remember what that feels like anymore. We were so similar, he and I, my mother and my sister, exactly alike.

He has sent me messages from the other side except for a brief interruption which was partially my fault but now those messages will be back. I am sure of it. In fact, I just found an angel that I completely forgot about and now she is hanging happily from my crisp, new bulletin board. There are no more words, except to say, Daddy, I love you, I miss you, I’ll always miss the dad that you were to me. I miss your bear hugs where I knew I felt so loved and safe. I miss you being in my corner supporting me. I will never stop missing that. Happy Birthday, Daddy. Love, from “The Little One.(8)”

It’s Really Not About The Turkey

Folk Family, ca. 1940-1941

Folk Family, ca. 1940-1941 (Photo credit: americanartmuseum)

It’s Thanksgiving Eve’s Eve, if that is a holiday. It’s 11:30 pm and my husband and I are waiting for our two, college aged children to come home from their respective colleges, together. We like that they are traveling in one car; we like that they are getting along. For someone, with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain, I am usually in my sleep shirt as early as seven pm (okay, you got me, sometimes at 4pm) but I wait, dressed, until 12:30 am so I can greet them. There are a lot of things I can’t do for them, but this I can and I’m proud.

Those first sights, those first hugs are amazing but fleeting. My daughter’s friend came over to talk and my son left right away to go to the diner to meet up with his friends from college. His friends from college, you ask? I asked the same thing. “Yes” he replied, grinning widely, “I really don’t know why either, it just happened but I’m looking forward to it.” With our usual admonishment to “wake us up when you get home”( we are old-fashioned) he said “Wow, it’s going to be really hard to remember that.” We replied “Try.”

This morning, as I sipped my strong coffee in bed, deeply inhaling the fragrant aroma like a bouquet of flowers, I heard my daughter’s door open, (we have a very small house and she is right across our door) earlier than I thought. She walked in and sat on the bed and started talking about college and I was so incredibly happy. If that wasn’t enough to fill my heart up to near capacity, ten minutes later I heard familiar loud thumps coming up the stairs. It was that moment, when her older brother walked in, made himself comfortable on the bed and started joining in on the conversation that I was so grateful for my life.

I’ve realized with time, that it’s these special moments that make a life worthwhile. If only I had a better memory to remember them; I confess I seem to remember bad things easier, traumatic things, than the glorious moments I had this morning. At least I can look back here and visualize them.
After we talked for about fifteen minutes, my daughter decided she was hungry and I taught her how to make her favorite breakfast meal. While part of her wanted me to make it, at 18, I thought it best for her to do it herself with my help. So there was a little shell (okay a lot) in the eggs but I taught her how to take it out, so the avocado was not perfect, we worked around it, the flame was too high, she lowered it, I told her to ask her brother if he might want some, she did and he said “yes, please.” It’s all a matter of growing up, and if my children still want to come up and talk with me, I’ve done my job well.

(Easy) Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Avocado (for 2)

Crack 4 eggs in a bowl (remove shell if there is any, and don’t worry if there is-it happens to all of us)
Add a bit of milk (we don’t measure here, just a sip or two from the carton, any milk or cream will do nicely)

Prepare a frying pan with butter or cooking spray, enough to coat the bottom of the pan

Separately, slice the cheese (ANY kind) she used mozzarella and added it to the eggs

Pre-heat the pan and when it is warm, add the cheese and egg mixture

Prepare avocado (use 1/2 or whole depending on taste) slicing it. (I’m assuming you know to peel it and  throw away the pit?)

Do NOT put avocado in frying pan until the eggs and cheese are nearly done.

Once the egg and cheese mixture is almost done, add the avocado, stir gently and serve.

ENJOY!

Ringing in 2012

Really Not A HOLIDAY For Me

sleep

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, I hope to be sleeping, it’s not a joyous holiday for me. At 10:15pm I will be staring at the clock and remember in full detail, nine years ago when I received the call from my mom that my father had just passed away in the hospital. I was sitting on our bed, my legs crossed and I was crying, sobbing so hard I could barely breathe. My children were little then, my son was ten and he burst into tears just looking at my face and he screamed “no, no, no” and rushed into my arms for a hug. My daughter was even younger, she was eight and I’m not sure she understood what was really happening or if she did, she couldn’t handle her emotions. To this day, she keeps her emotions tucked inside of her like a well ironed handkerchief.

My husband gathered me in his arms and just let me sob. Years ago, my son told me that he thought I would sob like that forever. That’s what it felt like to him, it must have been very scary, for that I am so sorry.

I don’t think I slept that night or for many nights thereafter. If I did finally fall asleep it would be for two hours at a time and I would wake up with a start and that horrible feeling that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Then, I would remember and start crying again.

We generally go out for an early dinner on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I. Tonight we are going to my favorite restaurant “The Flying Pig” (see post) that is also closing it’s doors, forever, tonight. My son will join us for dinner and leave and my daughter will  be working there tonight. It all seems like an appropriate ending to the night, when my father died, nine years ago.

If I can’t sleep at midnight, I hope to be lying next to my husband, with his arms around me until I get tired enough that I will eventually fall into an exhausted sleep. Tomorrow will not be better either, my parents’ wedding anniversary is January 1st. I think, we will all cry together, alone, wishing for the day to pass quickly even as the moments drag for what seems like hours.

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Because Love Has No Religion

Roses

Image via Wikipedia

I am slowly, very slowly and intensely taking off pink nail polish from my finger nails as if it was the most important task in the world. I feel like a surgeon scrubbing in to make him/herself totally antiseptic. It feels like that to me but I don’t know why exactly. I don’t know the codes or rules for going to a wake but I know, for myself, I have to wipe away every sign of sunshine from my hands because that feels right. My hands look plain, wrinkled, weather-beaten and bare. I’ve stripped off every clue to color because my friend Dawn is dead and the world feels color-less and grim.

I didn’t know what to expect at the wake; I had only been to one wake before in my life and that was thirty-five years ago. We arrived before the official hours and already the room was packed. I saw her husband, John first, and I hugged him, then their oldest daughter who hugged me as if to comfort me. Her middle son  sat tall and straight next to his friends and did not move, his eyes riveted to his mom’s casket. The youngest child was the most heartbreaking of all, he belonged to no one in that room. He was in his own world, going to the casket, returning to his seat, going to the casket and returning to his seat, his eyes on no one, alone in his private world. He sat neither with family or friends, he was in his own fragile bubble, looking younger than his years.

I thought in death, Dawn would look more like herself than she did in the last stages of her life. I somehow expected to feel comforted that I would see my friend as I had remembered her. I went slowly  up to the coffin although I was terrified; I knew it was something I had to do. But, inside my head, like an unrestrained child, inside my head I was screaming with disbelief and anger “this is not OUR Dawn” I thought, “THIS IS NOT OUR DAWN.”  In the coffin lay a woman I didn’t know, an old woman, with too much makeup. They had prayer cards with a picture of Dawn at her finest: natural, loving, with one of her great big smiles and that is what many people said they wanted to remember her by. Even though I felt the same way, the images for the next three nights when I tried to sleep were of Dawn in the open casket, someone I didn’t know, a stranger.

There were flower arrangements everywhere. A huge arrangement made from roses, dark, crimson roses that formed into a heart; it must have stood six feet tall. There were many other flowers, yellow, white, pink, every color you can imagine and as tall as one can dream.

Her husband John, then came over and put his arm around me to show me something. “I hope you don’t mind” he said but we used your letter to Dawn as our prayer.” In front of me, I saw a piece of paper with the words I had written FOR Dawn, many months before she died. It was called “Praying For Dawn” and somehow after writing it, I thought I would take a chance to drop it off at their house. It was meant for Dawn and her family, and yet here at the wake hundreds of people clutched the piece of paper that I had written.

Her family members wanted to meet me, they said they had all read it many times, I had no idea. I do remember that after I dropped it off I got a voice message in the back of my answering machine from Dawn, thanking me and telling me she loved it. I could barely make out her words but I never erased that message.  I gave my condolences to Dawn’s mom and she said “Oh, do you like that prayer, one of her friends wrote that!!!”  Somehow through my trembling lips and tears I managed to say that ‘I was that friend.’ I swear her eyes lit up and she thanked me and told me how often the family loved reading it. She asked ME if she could introduce me to Dawn’s father who had wanted to meet the friend that had written that poem. After the introduction, he hugged me, and then took my face in his hands and said “God Bless You”  “Thank you for writing that about Dawn, you captured her the way she really was. ” He told me he had wanted to meet the person who wrote it and knew I was a neighbor but didn’t want to walk into the wrong house and be embarrassed.”  I told him where I lived and told him that he and his wife were welcome to visit me at any time.

The emotional intensity for me was overwhelming. I was honored that they used my piece of writing at the same time I was in total emotional shock. People were complimenting me on something that I forgot about since I have written many pieces about Dawn in my blog. I looked at many of my earlier blog posts and I practically have a whole book about Dawn.

My husband practically had to drag me out of the door since we needed to get our daughter to her afternoon class. I saw an old dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time and we wrapped our arms around each other crying. “I feel so lost” she said, “I just feel lost.” We all felt that way, I think. Lost without a piece of sunshine in our lives, deprived forever more of this gift of a person who brought enjoyment to everyone she met. Dawn was our fighter, never giving up yet she still lost the fight to this horrendous disease. Dawn was our light, she was our strength, there was no one she didn’t like…..well, with the exception of a little dog in the neighborhood….We all laughed remembering that and it felt good.

Two days later I arrived at the church forty-five minutes before the service and again, there were many people inside. The church was beautiful, I had never been there before. The stained glass windows shone from the morning sun, the polished wood seemed inviting and homey. There were many new flowers, everywhere. So many people from our little community were there, every religion was represented, people from all parts of Dawn’s life were there to show their respect: sports teams, education, friends, family, neighbors, some of  the neighborhood kids, friends and their parents for all three children and the middle school Principal. Our community sometimes gets a really bad reputation but when something happens to one of our own, we come together as one. Our little town becomes so protective and so loving of one of its own; it’s happened before. Many years ago when a young boy had cancer, the town rallied together as well.

Both Dawn’s daughter and husband spoke at the funeral. Her daughter is a young woman with the most grace and poise I have ever seen. This young woman will be famous one day, I guarantee it. Everyone was either wiping their eyes or just letting the tears stream down their faces like leaks out of a rusty, old faucet. After the service the pallbearers brought the coffin out to the hearse. I saw a random pink flower on the ground that escaped and as much as I wanted to pick it up and touch it I couldn’t. It didn’t seem like the thing to do, it belonged to Dawn.

One thing I did not know was the tradition of the hearse and all the cars attending the cemetery making a final good-bye to the house where Dawn lived with her family. We drove around the loop as well and all I could think of was Dawn’s enormous Christmas wreath that she was always so proud of, hanging still around the front door. It seemed to me so heart-wrenching to do that, to watch her family ride in the car passing their house where their mother would never again live. Maybe it’s for closure too, I can only guess.

After that, we all went to our individual homes, sighing, looking at the ground, crying, solemn and gloomy and still, feeling that we were in a different world, a new reality. I don’t know how long it takes before the death of someone really hits you and takes its toll but I do know that it does take a while. After the company, the distractions, the food and the flowers, the only thing that matters is that there will be an empty chair at their kitchen table that no one can ever replace. And, at all her children’s’ games, their mom will not be there to encourage them and support them. Whatever condition Dawn was in, good or bad, in a wheelchair or not, Dawn was always there for her children, rooting for them, happy for them until the very last breath she took to say a peaceful “good-bye.”