Kew Gardens’ Own Bob Dylan

In Memory of Al MayoAlMayo

There is an official obituary about our friend Al Mayo that was written in the *New York Daily News and it was very accurate. However, I just don’t want people to remember him that way alone. It feels wrong to me.

The person who died, from my childhood neighborhood, was a lovely man, an old friend that passed away in January. A friend of mine called to tell me the horrible news of Al’s suicide. This was no ordinary death, it was a violent, brutal, grisly death. I don’t want this kind soul, the friend of everybody to be known by his suicide, or his obituary instead of his life, his cheery personality, his effusive grin, his loving and peaceful self.

I refuse to think of him in any other way than the newspaper’s photo that was published. It was a wonderful photo (above) where he is grinning, a twinkle in his eye, kind and sweet.  Al was all about peace and love, not violence, not to anyone. In his last years his body was ravaged by cancer, he couldn’t eat, talk, swallow; he had no life, he took his life, violently.

He said hello to everyone and he was like a fixture in our neighborhood, you knew that if you walked around the block you would most probably see Al Mayo smiling, leaning against a store, grinning widely, resting on his cane.

He didn’t have an easy life, he lost part of his leg in a motorcycle accident when I was young so he was probably in his late teens but nothing stopped him. He accepted what happened and moved on. He would be smiling and talking and spreading good cheer to all the neighbors in our little town. His lifelong friends stayed his lifelong friends.

Everyone was utterly shocked by the news but my friends M. and H. and I were shaken at the news, not as much that he had committed suicide but how. For a very peaceful man, he committed death in a very violent way, making sure that no one else would be hurt. Al, only wanted to end his life, never anybody else’s life. He wouldn’t harm a soul.

Al had cancer for a few years, unbearable, painful cancer that left him unable to eat, to swallow, to lead a normal life. If Al couldn’t lead a life that was close to normal, there wasn’t any Al left, he tried so hard and went through so much.

Now this sweet soul, friend to everyone is gone forever. We will all miss you Al and we will always remember your bright, warm smile.  We will miss our own elected “mayor.” You were Kew Gardens’ own, Bob Dylan, that’s how important you were to us, will always be.

Al Mayo, Rest In Peace.

Special thanks to Harry Klein, my friend and best friend of Al Mayo.

*Click on photo for NY Daily News Article

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Dear Alice,

Creamy Coconut Cake

Creamy Coconut Cake (Photo credit: 3liz4)

Hey, Alice, did you see? I wrote about another lunch, this time it had bread and cheese and red grapes which is my all time favorite lunch combination but knowing me I should have added dessert. Yes, I know I should say something like a square of dark chocolate but who am I kidding? First, it would be milk chocolate that would melt slowly, (and not just one piece, mind you)  but you know THE real answer, now don’t you? Well, I’m not going to bring THAT up again, that’s for darn sure.  I have to limit myself on sweets because once I start I can easily continue and that can get bad. I didn’t say I was going to do it but I sure would be tempted with ONE dessert. Oh, don’t even bring up my diabetes, it’s just borderline. Hush.

It’s been a nasty day here, cloud covering, humidity, thick as if holding the rain inside as a hostage, we want it to open up and pour so we can get some relief but there is no relief coming. Not today and not for several more days.  I can’t stand the freezing cold and I am miserable in the extreme heat, basically, I get about two to three weeks a year when I am comfortable but my old bones hurt anyway. Stiff and sore, swollen. I can barely walk now without using that darn walker too. What a pretty sight I am!

It does seem unfair that life is wasted on young people and of course, we were the same way, weren’t we? We knew everything and our lives were just beginning. What happened? Where did the years go?  My it was their first day of nursery school just a minute ago and now they are both all grown up. It goes by too quick doesn’t it Alice?

I just had my after dinner snack and I can hear you laughing.  I had a huge bowl of cereal,  four different cereals mixed together. Someone bought skim milk instead of one percent and frankly that milk looks gray-green to me. It really does taste the same but I find the color just disgusting. I did add some of that half and half and that sure made it more tasty. Like old times when we drank hot coffee with mostly cream and sugar in it pretending we were so grown-up.

Do you remember all the good food we used to eat at your house when we were little? You had the best food of all our friends.  That cake, the coconut cake your mom would make, oh my, that was the most delicious thing I ever ate in my life. Every time I’d go to a restaurant if they had coconut cake I would order it but none compared to your mom’s home-made cake. I begged you to get that recipe for me, but you never did.  I still hold a grudge for that, yes I do and I always will. Yes, always.

It was bad enough that you had the cancer and died on me when we had our plans to live next door to each other in the retirement home, sitting in our rocking chairs, side by side, that was bad enough, that was real bad, Allie. But the only favor I ever ask from you and you never gave me that recipe, for that coconut cake that I loved so dearly. Why Alice, why did you have to die and leave me here alone.

rocking chair

rocking chair (Photo credit: grimescene)

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

gratitude

gratitude (Photo credit: nathalie booth)

I’m still in my blue fleece pajama bottoms with cherries happily bursting on them and a 20-year-old mauve Cape Cod sweatshirt and I have no interest in getting dressed. This is my outfit today, I see no reason to change. It’s freezing outside, and if my tensed up bones need a break (no, not literally) I will give it to them. Cold weather is not good for people with chronic pain or Fibromyalgia. Trust me. I know. It’s too early to long for Spring.

The wind is howling outside, seeping in to our little house’s walls, windows. I am under a mountain of blankets with my dog. She could lie beside me or at the other end of the bed, but no, she picks the place over my feet to settle down. My dog, my mutt, was a wild puppy, I struggled bitterly with her biting and pulling and ransacking the house. How my friends encouraged me to “hang in there, she’s just a puppy.” At 8 months, she is still a puppy but a better one and most certainly a larger one. She no longer bites into my hand as if it was a cheeseburger. I’m not as steady on my feet as other people, because of balance issues, so I hope she behaves.

Our children have left for their respective colleges, the house is comfortingly quiet, and we are happy,  probably because I know the kids will be back in three weeks and because this happened to be a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. No fighting, NO DRAMA and a good time all around. My daughter didn’t even object when we told her she needed to see a doctor, she came home from her appointment with a package of antibiotics and a diagnosis of bronchitis. No, you cannot drink while you are on antibiotics. As my kids used to say “Nuff said.”

There are more leftovers to eat tonight, I’m not even sick of them yet. It’s hard to get sick of turkey, cranberry sauce, my Danny’s home-made, unbelievable stuffing and Polish rye bread “from the Homestead” in Kew Gardens, Queens where we both grew up. There is nothing like that bread, it brings back all sorts of childhood memories: standing in line, getting sandwiches made, deciding between the shrimp salad, or chicken salad, imported cheeses, home-baked desserts: cherry, apple and cheese strudel, chocolate layer cakes, and the traditional jelly doughnuts for New Year’s Eve.

Like last year, we won’t be exchanging gifts this Christmas. Everything is so expensive and times are hard. My husband has a job but I can’t work and I live in silent fear of him losing his job since the economy is so bad. If that happens, we will deal with it then. My present this year will be the memories of this past weekend, the family getting together at our house for Thanksgiving. The memories of the pretty amber lit candles that lined the middle of our long tables, my dog, lying on the green couch, the four cousins whispering together, the three grandparents still with us, childhood friends that I grew up with here, and the giant dessert spread we had, enough for 40 people not 14. We had a warm place to sit, food on the table, we were all grateful to be here, we escaped the worst from Sandy; we were very, very lucky. For this, and everything else, we gave and continue to give our thanks.

ramblings from a very tired person

"I Am Tired" - NARA - 558861

“I Am Tired” – NARA – 558861 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so tired I think my eyes are asleep, they are certainly half closed while i am typing this so forgive the e.e. cummings style, a wonderful poet.i feel like there are pieces of chalk in my eyes, the ones i used to use when I was a kid, outside on the street; thick pieces of multi-colored chalk sticks, pink, yellow, blue, white.  they always got on our hands and clothes but they were great for hopscotch games and messages to the world. hearts and balloons and your best friends names. when i was little we had a tight group of friends, 4 of us that played together every day; our moms were great friends too. we played in an alley and our moms sat together on a little wall, talking, smoking cigarettes back then. in the summertime, we would run like crazy when we heard frankie and the Good Humor truck coming around the corner, his familiar voice shouting “Hola Amigo.” our very first Spanish words.we were so proud.

out of the 4 of us, I am still friendly with all of them since we are all in our fifties and have known each other since we were born. our lives live in each others memories, moments that one of us remember, we fill in each others blank stairs; we’re all very different. one guy is not much of a communicator, he sends a joke or two on line once in a while and every ten years we see each other on his big birthdays in July which is fun. the next one will be 6o ,wow that sounds so ancient  yet it’s a mere jump. skip and dive into those frozen waters for me. I can’t just yet roll it around my brain or head and certainly not my tongue.not yet.

i could never understand people reading the obituary pages, what’s the point? my 85 year old mother started reading them with one of her friends a few months ago and now she does it every day. i looked at it once and the one time I looked i found our realtor dead, at a young age. or the age they said. she used to tell me about all the cosmetic surgery she would always have; there was no cause of death listed. I was shocked and saddened to see her familiar face on the page.you just don’t expect to know anyone when u glance at the page. i stopped reading after that one.

that’s what tonight has been like, looking at old photographs, too tired to get out of bed to pee, too lazy to go down to the kitchen and snack because i don’t want to change my feeling of warmth and safety from this 60 degree bonus day. we deserved this day, after super-s0aker  Sandy and the snowstorm that followed. this tiny neighborhood has outtages every single year, except for this one, we were so very grateful.

thanks for giving us a break this year. we sorely needed it and was much appreciated. i need to save this and then save draft. and then, right away before you say anything else, i will be dropping my head on my cool pillow and try to go to sleep. peaceful sleep. good night.

Happy Thanksgiving – On Gratitude

fall

It’s Thanksgiving and being with family and friends is a huge part of what I am grateful for; not to mention my sweet dog curled up, on our bed. It’s seeing my son’s first smile as he enters the room, home from college. It’s my husband giving me a cup of coffee and a kiss on the cheek. It’s watching my daughter sing to our dog and wrap her arms around the dog’s fur. It’s the little things. Those snapshot moments that will stay in my mind forever as a present for my future.

It’s been a rough year but I’m trying to put that in the past. We’re still house-less but when our family is together, we’re still at home. I know I need to focus on my own attitude; to count my blessings daily, instead of my losses. When you lose a family member, it’s harder to do this. It’s been ten years and I still think  “I wish my dad was here, I miss him.” I know my dad would not have wanted us to mourn every holiday but still his memory is deeply ensconced in my soul. I would love to see him heaping his plate with mashed potatoes (known as mashlers in our family) and constantly refilling his plate. That’s all gone, but I have the memories and I am grateful for all the Thanksgivings and Holidays we did have with him; I need to appreciate that.

When I am at my family’s house today, with my two teenagers, my husband, my niece and nephew, brother-in-law, mother and treasured older sister, I will be happy. Today I want to collect new memories to add to my collection of past memories. Things will never be the same, without my dad, and I have to accept this different reality. It just isn’t easy.

What I have to focus on is that the rest of the family and there is a great deal of love, together in one room.  I know I have to look forward and not back,  each and every day. I will try to concentrate on the next generation, my two kids and my niece and nephew, four really great young men and women, who love each other deeply. I am grateful they have each other.

I am grateful for all my family, my friends, both old friends, new friends and cyberspace friends, my dog and the gracious blessings that we have in our lives. To ALL THE READERS OF HIBERNATIONNOW, I AM GRATEFUL FOR YOU!!!

Be kind, be grateful and love one another.

Things I Remember

Faces

Image via Wikipedia

I Will Remember You

I’m amazing at remembering people’s faces. I once rain into a Junior High School friend 40 years later–and in a different state. I walked into the bakery with my husband, took one look at this woman and asked if her name was Nora. It was. She was certainly out of context, in a different state and far from the miserable school building we attended 40 plus years later.

I may not remember something that was said ten minutes earlier if there is a lot of noise around me but your face? That lives on…..

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The Moment ( HS Graduation 2011)

Cap Toss

Image by Herkie via Flickr

I never knew how high and wide the big white High School graduation tent was until I stood under it. I didn’t realize how massive it was until I wandered through it.  I walked through the aisles under the tent saying “Hi” and “Congratulations” to people I hadn’t seen in years.

I didn’t know how I would react when my son’s name was read over the microphone yet instinctively we stood and clapped and cheered and roared. I saw a young man walk back to his seat in slow motion; I didn’t realize it was my son; his face  looked so grown up. Teenagers age, I think,  once they put on their High School graduation caps and gowns; he looked six inches taller and six years older too.

It’s all a blur, the speeches and the people you smile at, familiar faces that you have seen in elementary school recitals or a middle-school play. The friends that you hug warmly are the best, closest friends that you have, that you have talked to all year, day in and day out, wondering anxiously if you and your child would ever make it to this grand day. We hold on to each other for an extra minute, sharing this surreal moment, not believing we are actually, finally, here.

They officials on the podium made an announcement to please refrain from clapping until all the students names have been read. Yeah, right. I felt sorry for the first few kids whose last name started with “A.” Those parents were very well-behaved; it just took one family to start…  There were further instructions from the podium to NOT clap for each student so I felt perfectly justified playing my silly game of selection. I did NOT clap for the kids that had ever been especially mean to my son (starting with kindergarten through 12th) and for the mean-spirited moms, dads and kids that everyone knew, were the culprits of spreading ill-will. It was like a silent victory lap for moms and dads; besides we all did the same thing.

I was proud of my self-control, all my sadness, tears, and sobbing began months before the actual event. On the day of graduation I smiled and laughed and was so proud of my son and the amazing young man he has turned out to be.  I was also filled with pride when his three best friends names were called, we shouted and clapped for each one. I will, undoubtedly, miss my son when he leaves for college but also, I will miss his friends, “the posse” as I called them or “The Entourage.” I have no doubt that they will see each other when they come home from college, but this long, lovely chapter of best friends and video games, parties, dinners, dates and diners has ended. I will miss that and my special group of “The Moms.”

Just when I thought the ceremony was over, the President of the High School, told the students that they had officially  graduated. The blue caps were flung in the air with unbridled joy and excitement. There was a deafening roar from the students and all my self-control evaporated in that moment; I burst out crying. It was so emotionally intense; it was captured in my mind and heart forever.

The graduates beamed so much that it looked like they were lit up from inside with joy and pride.  They were shining, like new copper pots or brand new pennies, excitement dancing in their eyes. Congratulations to my son and to all his friends and classmates; Congratulations to the Class of 2011!

How (NOT?) to Remember Names

Vraagteken

Image via Wikipedia

Names? NO. Faces? ALWAYS.

No tricks, no memory, just really good and prompt improvisation. I have met many people and I used to have a very good memory and would remember someones name immediately and forever. Not Any More. Whether it is age, Fibromyalgia fog, hormones or any combination, it is really hard for me to remember someone’s name (unless they have made a really, special impression on me.)

When my son was little and I got introduced to a team of little guys “Hey, Buddy” worked well. “Sometimes “Hon or Sweetie” came in handy for my daughter’s little girlfriends. But now? I can meet you, shake your hand AND repeat your name out loud and there’s a good chance that in two seconds I will have forgotten it.

The only thing that makes me feel better is that I will always remember your face. Always. Even if I have not seen you in 35 years. My husband still cannot believe that we went to a bakery when we lived in Massachusetts, walked in and I said “Nora?” The woman turned around, she seemed a little flustered, but sure enough she had been my teenage friend in seventh grade back in New York. It had been about 35 years since I had last seen her; at a sleepover birthday party in her parents’ apartment.

So, before you get insulted that I do not remember your name, rest assured when I see you 20 years in the future, in a different state or country, I will know that I know you, by your unique, impressionable, face.

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Snail Mail

Sheriff's Badge

Image via Wikipedia

WHEN THE WORLD WAS A BRIGHTER PLACE…..

 

I sent a handwritten letter with photographs of my children to a wonderful man, earlier this month. We adore this gentleman and I dubbed him The Sheriff, many years ago when we lived in a small suburb of Boston. The Sheriff, and his wife Louise lived down the hill from us on a cul de sac. My children were young, 2 and 4, back then and The Sheriff was very much a part of our lives. He invited us to his July 4th bbq where my daughter sat on my husband’s shoulders, seeing fireworks for the first time, covering her ears and screaming. The Sheriff was invited to my son’s fourth birthday party and he arrived bearing a plastic green dinosaur that still lives lovingly in our basement; I cannot part with it.

I received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Sheriff last week thanking us for the photos. The Sheriff was so touched we remembered him and that we still thought about him after all these years. We had kept in touch, though not often and once we even paid him a surprise visit but it had been a few years since we had communicated.

The two and four year old little kids he had known were now 16 and 18. When the children were young I bought a Sheriff’s badge for him and he wore it proudly; every time we ran into him he had it with him. It was plastic and silver and if it wasn’t attached to his shirt, he had it in his pocket. I know in my heart, he still has it, tucked away somewhere, in an old green address book or in the corner of a dusty bedside table. Even if it is missing in action he would never throw that sign of honor away. If we never saw him wear that badge again, he will always be The Sheriff to us, the one person who made the whole neighborhood “home.”

Dedicated to George

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When Old Friends Become New

"Golden girl" – Horses (unknown bree...

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I’ve known my friend Meryl for as long as I can remember. We lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools starting with elementary school; we had what is now known as “playdates.” We had mutual friends but we grew apart over time, there was never any fighting, we just drifted apart.   That was over 30 years ago; just recently we reconnected.

Meryl, is my history and I am hers. How wonderful for her to remember that my dad, now deceased, had a telescope and would let us look through it; how heart-warming to hear her say ” your dad was so kind.” We talked about horseback riding (which terrifies me) and I suddenly flashed back to a strong image of pictures that she drew. I hadn’t remembered it or thought of it in at least thirty  years. The memory came back to me like a flash:”You drew horses, didn’t you?”  She smiled widely “Yes I did.”

I  remembered a cold winter day, in third grade, wearing a gray parka and walking from my apartment building to her beautiful white house. Her house definitely had better snacks than my house did, and that is something that you don’t forget! Her room was huge and I remember sitting on her bed and us talking.

Now, my husband and I are now very good friends with Meryl and her husband, Paul. It’s very hard sometimes to make new friends, especially close friends that like each other equally. We’ve all had friends where one or two people don’t get along; it’s very awkward. We feel so lucky, so blessed to have another couple where each one likes the other equally, not to mention that we all like to eat good food….together.

There’s a comfort level with an old friend, history, school pictures, adventures we had together. There is history with having a sibling (and we each have a sister) but there is no fighting, resentment, emotional baggage that comes along with it.  Meryl has become my sister without being a sibling. It is both incredibly comforting  and exciting to have a new, old friend: someone to confide in, someone who supports you, someone who really knows the adult and the child within.

*Dedicated to Meryl and Paul